Analytical thinking is reasonable, reflective thinking about a problem that focuses on deciding what to do or what to believe and the relationship between that problem and the world at large.
The distinguishing feature of this type of thinking is that it breaks the object of study or problem into smaller parts that are separately identified, categorized, and analyzed to obtain an answer or solution, transfer it, or apply it to the whole.
But before diving into analytical thinking, it is necessary to define the concept of thinking as such. Thought is every activity of the human mind produced thanks to its intellect. It is used generically to name all products generated by the mind, whether rational activities or abstractions of the imagination.
According to cognitive theory, there are several types of thinking (such as critical thinking, creative thinking, deductive, inductive, etc.), and analytical thinking is one of them.
Although there is a tendency to think of applying analytical thinking only to mathematical or scientific problems, it is widely used in all areas of knowledge and even in everyday life.
Characteristics of Analytical Thinking
He is detailed and methodical. It develops the ability to investigate and allows you to organize your thoughts precisely and clearly.
Furthermore, analytical thinking implies being able to break down the parts of a problem to understand its structure and how they interrelate, being able to identify what is relevant and what is irrelevant.
In the search for the solution or conclusion, several instances are crossed, such as the formulation of hypotheses, the reformulation of the problem, the reflection and the approach of new strategies, to finally select the most appropriate one. This works for decision making, scientific problem solving, conflict resolution, etc.
As its name implies, it is analytical, as it divides the parts of a whole to analyze the meaning of each one, being more interested in the elements than in the relationships.
It is sequential, since it follows sequential stages of analysis, studying each part linearly, without leaps or changes, and increasing them until reaching or approaching the solution.
It is decisive or convergent, because all the time it is focused on finding a solution; analytical thinking is little given to going through the branches or investigating alternative scenarios.
All thinking – and analytical thinking is no exception – is made up of eight basic elements. When thinking, questions are asked and information based on data, facts, observations and experiences is used.
You think of a purpose with a point of view or frame of reference that is based on assumptions, that is, assumptions that are taken for granted. These assumptions lead to implications and consequences.
In the concepts of the thought process, theories and definitions are used that allow interpretations and inferences, that is, conclusions or solutions.
Functions of Analytical Thinking
search for truth
Analytical thinking involves applying the rules of logic and seeking truth through inferential processes.
Develops thinking skills
In addition, it develops logical thinking skills, reinforcing the skills of reasoning in order, analyzing, comparing and synthesizing. To carry out this process, tools such as the mind map, the synoptic graph, the word clouds and the timeline are useful.
Analytical thinking is functional for problem solving, as it allows seeing different angles and perspectives, reflecting and learning new strategies.
In decision making, the analytical thinker collects information, analyzes it looking for different solution alternatives and selects the most appropriate one according to his/her criteria.
Putting analytical thinking into practice
With all this, you can create a practical analytical thinking framework applicable to problems in any area of study, work or everyday situation. The steps of the analytical process are listed below and the reader is invited to associate each step with the topic of choice.
As an example, two practical cases that are very common in everyday life are proposed: a vehicle in the garage and a customer service executive of a cell phone company.
1- Think about the purpose : fix the vehicle / solve the problem of the customer who doesn’t turn on the cell phone
3-Collection of information : know since when the failure occurred, how it worked (the vehicle or the cell phone) before presenting the failure, what was the last thing that was done with it, if there are other problems in parallel, when was the last thing time maintenance / service etc.
4- State the points of view : engine noise is typical of carburetion problems; It could also be an electrical problem / the cell phone is old; the battery has a limited lifespan; the power button may be damaged.
5-Check the premises : check the carburetor / change the cell phone battery.
6-Think about the implications : if the carburetor is fixed, the spark plugs should also be changed / if a new battery is inserted and the problem persists, the on/off button should be changed.
7-Concepts (knowledge) are used to make inferences.
8-Reasonable conclusions must be accurate, with sufficient evidence, relevant : the carb was in bad condition / the cell phone’s battery and power button were fine, but the customer didn’t know how to turn it on.
Although the conclusions are based on evidence, this does not necessarily mean that the evidence is accurate, sufficient or absolute. Simply reflecting on this leads to a deeper analytical thinking process.
Examples of analytical thinking
The boy who is always late for class
1- Solve the problem of a child who is always late when he goes to school.
2- Ask yourself why the child does not arrive on time.
3- Analyze from when this problem occurs. Investigate if any aspect of the boy’s life has changed, possible domestic problems, etc.
4- Present possible causes of delay, starting from the most obvious to the least likely: the child wakes up late, misses the bus, the child gets distracted on the way to school, the child wants to attract attention, etc.
5- Talk to the child so that she tries to explain the problem; if she doesn’t respond or avoids the topic of conversation, talk to the parents. If they don’t know the answers either, come up with a plan to find out what’s going on.
6- The next day, the boy is followed to see which way he takes to school and what he does on the way.
7 – It is discovered that the child stops for some time every day to feed an abandoned puppy. She gives him some breakfast and continues his journey to school.
8- It follows that the child is not lazy or distracted, only that to solve his punctuality problem he must stop seeing the puppy or follow his routine so as not to be late for class.
The blind man who doesn’t go up or down
Analytical thinking to clarify the problem of the broken blind would be as follows:
1- Repair the blind
2- Ask yourself why the blinds of the blind do not go up or down.
3- Find out when the curtain stopped working properly. Think about who might try to increase/decrease it, whether they exerted too much force or not, etc.
4- Position possible damage, starting from the most common to the most uncommon: Was the blind guide packed? Does the roller rotate correctly? Is the stand connected correctly? Did the rubber break? Are the slats rusted?
5- The protection plate is removed and possible failures, failures or deterioration are analyzed.
6- It turns out that the problem is that the roller has moved out of its position, and it is necessary to put it back in its place.
7- Analyze what could have caused the roller to move out of its position, in order to prevent this from happening again.