First Year Inquiry.........

Universal Intellectual Standards

(Edited material from Linda Elder and Richard Paul)

Universal intellectual standards which must be applied to thinking whenever one is interested in checking the quality of reasoning about a problem, issue, or situation. To think critically entails having command of these standards. The ultimate goal, then, is for these questions to become infused in your thinking, forming part of your inner voice, then guides you to better and better reasoning. While there are a number of universal standards, the following are the most significant:
    CLARITY: Clarity is the gateway standard. If a statement is unclear, we cannot determine whether it is accurate or relevant. In fact, we cannot tell anything about it because we don't yet know what it is saying.
    • Could you elaborate further on that point?
    • Could you express that point in another way?
    • Could you give me an illustration?
    • Could you give me an example?

    ACCURACY: A statement can be clear but not accurate, as in "Most dogs are over 300 pounds in weight."

    • Is that really true?
    • How could we check that?
    • How could we find out if that is true?

    PRECISION: A statement can be both clear and accurate, but not precise, as in "Jack is overweight." (We don't know how overweight Jack is, one pound or 500 pounds.)

    • Could you give more details?
    • Could you be more specific?

    RELEVANCE: A statement can be clear, accurate, and precise, but not relevant to the question at issue.

    • How is that connected to the question?
    • How does that bear on the issue?

    DEPTH: A statement can be clear, accurate, precise and relevant, but superficial (that is, lacking in depth). For example, the statement "Just say No" lacks depth because it treats an extremely complex issue, the pervasive problem of drug use among young people, superficially.
    • How does your answer address the complexities in the problem?
    • How are you taking into account the problems in the question?
    • Is that dealing with the most significant factors?

    BREADTH: A line of reasoning may be clear, accurate, precise, relevant and deep, but lack breadth (as in an argument from either the conservative or liberal standpoint which gets deeply into an issue, but only recognizes the insights of one side of the question.) Ask:
    • Do we need to consider another point of view?
    • Is there another way to look at this question? What would this look like from a conservative standpoint?
    • What would this look like from the point of view of…..?

    LOGIC: When we think, we bring a variety of thoughts together into some order. When the combination of thoughts is mutually supporting and makes sense in combination, the thinking is "logical." When the combination is not mutually supporting, is contradictory in some sense, or does not "make sense," the combination is not logical.
    • Does this really make sense?
    • Does that follow from what you said?
    • How does that follow?
    • But, before you implied this and now you are saying that; how can both be true?