creative writing and critical thinking

Writing to Think: Critical Thinking and the Writing Process

“Writing is thinking on paper.” (Zinsser, 1976, p. vii)

Google the term “critical thinking.” How many hits are there? On the day this tutorial was completed, Google found about 65,100,000 results in 0.56 seconds. That’s an impressive number, and it grows more impressively large every day. That’s because the nation’s educators, business leaders, and political representatives worry about the level of critical thinking skills among today’s students and workers.

What is Critical Thinking?

Simply put, critical thinking is sound thinking. Critical thinkers work to delve beneath the surface of sweeping generalizations, biases, clichés, and other quick observations that characterize ineffective thinking. They are willing to consider points of view different from their own, seek and study evidence and examples, root out sloppy and illogical argument, discern fact from opinion, embrace reason over emotion or preference, and change their minds when confronted with compelling reasons to do so. In sum, critical thinkers are flexible thinkers equipped to become active and effective spouses, parents, friends, consumers, employees, citizens, and leaders. Every area of life, in other words, can be positively affected by strong critical thinking.

Released in January 2011, an important study of college students over four years concluded that by graduation “large numbers [of American undergraduates] didn’t learn the critical thinking, complex reasoning and written communication skills that are widely assumed to be at the core of a college education” (Rimer, 2011, para. 1). The University designs curriculum, creates support programs, and hires faculty to help ensure you won’t be one of the students “[showing]no significant gains in . . . ‘higher order’ thinking skills” (Rimer, 2011, para. 4). One way the University works to help you build those skills is through writing projects.

Writing and Critical Thinking

Say the word “writing” and most people think of a completed publication. But say the word “writing” to writers, and they will likely think of the process of composing. Most writers would agree with novelist E. M. Forster, who wrote, “How can I know what I think until I see what I say?” (Forster, 1927, p. 99). Experienced writers know that the act of writing stimulates thinking.

Inexperienced and experienced writers have very different understandings of composition. Novice writers often make the mistake of believing they have to know what they’re going to write before they can begin writing. They often compose a thesis statement before asking questions or conducting research. In the course of their reading, they might even disregard material that counters their pre-formed ideas. This is not writing; it is recording.

In contrast, experienced writers begin with questions and work to discover many different answers before settling on those that are most convincing. They know that the act of putting words on paper or a computer screen helps them invent thought and content. Rather than trying to express what they already think, they express what the act of writing leads them to think as they put down words. More often than not, in other words, experienced writers write their way into ideas, which they then develop, revise, and refine as they go.

What has this notion of writing to do with critical thinking? Everything.

Consider the steps of the writing process: prewriting, outlining, drafting, revising, editing, seeking feedback, and publishing. These steps are not followed in a determined or strict order; instead, the effective writer knows that as they write, it may be necessary to return to an earlier step. In other words, in the process of revision, a writer may realize that the order of ideas is unclear. A new outline may help that writer re-order details. As they write, the writer considers and reconsiders the effectiveness of the work.

The writing process, then, is not just a mirror image of the thinking process: it is the thinking process. Confronted with a topic, an effective critical thinker/writer

  • asks questions
  • seeks answers
  • evaluates evidence
  • questions assumptions
  • tests hypotheses
  • makes inferences
  • employs logic
  • draws conclusions
  • predicts readers’ responses
  • creates order
  • drafts content
  • seeks others’ responses
  • weighs feedback
  • criticizes their own work
  • revises content and structure
  • seeks clarity and coherence

Example of Composition as Critical Thinking

“Good writing is fueled by unanswerable questions” (Lane, 1993, p. 15).

Imagine that you have been asked to write about a hero or heroine from history. You must explain what challenges that individual faced and how they conquered them. Now imagine that you decide to write about Rosa Parks and her role in the modern Civil Rights movement. Take a moment and survey what you already know. She refused to get up out of her seat on a bus so a White man could sit in it. She was arrested. As a result, Blacks in Montgomery protested, influencing the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Martin Luther King, Jr. took up leadership of the cause, and ultimately a movement was born.

Is that really all there is to Rosa Parks’s story? What questions might a thoughtful writer ask? Here a few:

  • Why did Rosa Parks refuse to get up on that particular day?
  • Was hers a spontaneous or planned act of defiance?
  • Did she work? Where? Doing what?
  • Had any other Black person refused to get up for a White person?
  • What happened to that individual or those individuals?
  • Why hadn’t that person or those persons received the publicity Parks did?
  • Was Parks active in Civil Rights before that day?
  • How did she learn about civil disobedience?

Even just these few questions could lead to potentially rich information.

Factual information would not be enough, however, to satisfy an assignment that asks for an interpretation of that information. The writer’s job for the assignment is to convince the reader that Parks was a heroine; in this way the writer must make an argument and support it. The writer must establish standards of heroic behavior. More questions arise:

  • What is heroic action?
  • What are the characteristics of someone who is heroic?
  • What do heroes value and believe?
  • What are the consequences of a hero’s actions?
  • Why do they matter?

Now the writer has even more research and more thinking to do.

By the time they have raised questions and answered them, raised more questions and answered them, and so on, they are ready to begin writing. But even then, new ideas will arise in the course of planning and drafting, inevitably leading the writer to more research and thought, to more composition and refinement.

Ultimately, every step of the way over the course of composing a project, the writer is engaged in critical thinking because the effective writer examines the work as they develop it.

Why Writing to Think Matters

Writing practice builds critical thinking, which empowers people to “take charge of [their] own minds” so they “can take charge of [their] own lives . . . and improve them, bringing them under [their] self command and direction” (Foundation for Critical Thinking, 2020, para. 12). Writing is a way of coming to know and understand the self and the changing world, enabling individuals to make decisions that benefit themselves, others, and society at large. Your knowledge alone – of law, medicine, business, or education, for example – will not be enough to meet future challenges. You will be tested by new unexpected circumstances, and when they arise, the open-mindedness, flexibility, reasoning, discipline, and discernment you have learned through writing practice will help you meet those challenges successfully.

Forster, E.M. (1927).  Aspects of the novel . Harcourt, Brace & Company.

The Foundation for Critical Thinking. (2020, June 17).  Our concept and definition of critical thinking .

Lane, B. (1993).  After the end: Teaching and learning creative revision . Heinemann.

Rimer, S. (2011, January 18).  Study: Many college students not learning to think critically . The Hechinger Report.

Zinsser, W. (1976).  On writing well: The classic guide to writing nonfiction . HarperCollins.

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Creative writing to hone critical thinking

Parag Dandgey shares creative-writing activities designed to improve students’ critical-thinking skills by developing their understanding of multiple perspectives

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Parag Dandgey

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Creative writing activities that help students develop their critical thinking skills

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Critical thinking is a popular concept in higher education, mentioned repeatedly in university and course literature, but teaching students how to do it is not easy. For students, it’s a confusing skill to understand, let alone develop.

Enter stage left: creative writing. Research shows creative writing brings students’ attention to the concept of perspectives, an important aspect of critical thinking.

I’ve adapted writing activities from available research to enable students to creatively explore the concept of perspectives. The result has been an improvement in the students’ academic writing. A student who grasps the concept of thinking through, or about, other people can develop their academic writing in terms of stance, points of view or evaluation.

Reflecting on your life

During events in our lives, we act as participants and our perspective is limited to the moment. However, when given a chance to reflect on the event at a later date, we take on the role of spectator. This concept of spectatorship can be developed into a simple activity that allows students to look back at events, moments or problems in their lives and reflect.

  • Students make a list of problems they have faced in their lives, how they solved them and how they felt at the time. This free writing phase lacks structure but is rich in ideas.
  • Students choose one event and write a short piece in the past tense and third person.

In the process of writing, they turn themselves into a character and reflect on the past. This allows them to explore different perspectives on their own life.

A much-maligned character

This activity invites students to write through the perspective of those marginalised in society. This activity raises students’ critical consciousness – the ability to take a step back from prejudices and observe situations from a wider perspective – according to research. The activity avoids the risk of controversy or tension by using a fictional being, in our case the Beast from Beauty and the Beast , instead of focusing on a marginalised person, like a criminal or political outcast.

  • Students read a short version of Beauty and the Beast .
  • They break down the narrative into scenes and write about how they think the Beast feels. As in the previous example, free writing provides space to explore thoughts.
  • They choose one scene and rewrite it from the perspective of the Beast in the first person.

This encourages students to think from an unconventional perspective.

A moral dilemma

This involves solving a problem widespread in society. It leans on research into narrative imagination, which refers to empathetically understanding another person’s story in order to better understand society.

  • Students are given a prompt such as, “You are a woman interviewing for a job. You have recently become pregnant. The employer makes it clear that they have misogynist views on women and work availability. Do you tell the truth about your pregnancy?”
  • Students ask the teacher questions in order to fully understand the problem.
  • Free writing – students make notes on what the woman could do, including her reasoning.
  • Students choose one scenario and write a short piece – this could be the interview scene or a monologue of the woman’s thoughts. The students could even include the perspective of the employer as another developed character.


This is ideal as a short warm-up exercise, requiring the least amount of set-up. It allows students to approach everyday problems from a different point of view.

1) Students are given a dice and the following table:

Roll-a-story table

2) The student rolls a dice and finds the number corresponds to an item in the Character column. They repeat this for Setting and Problem You Have . For example, if a student rolls a 2, 4 then 6, they will write a short piece about a parent in a mall dealing with the problem of their child wanting to change their degree subject.

The value of creativity

Creative writing is often perceived as something fun to do on a Friday afternoon, once the important academic work is complete. However, creative writing can be a valuable component of academic teaching, aiding critical thinking across disciplines. In a wider societal sense, empathy with individuals or situations will better prepare students for the real world.

Parag Dandgey is a language lecturer in the English Language Centre at Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University .

If you would like advice and insight from academics and university staff delivered direct to your inbox each week,  sign up for the Campus newsletter .

For more resources on this topic, go to our  Teaching critical thinking collection.

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For college students learning how to write on scholarly subjects, writing and critical thinking go hand in hand. And yet most books on these topics are categorized separately: writing guides and critical thinking handbooks. This book is different, offering a manual for developing reading, writing, and thinking skills in tandem. With short, practical chapters, Thinking through Writing helps readers learn to think critically about themselves and the world at large, read carefully and get the necessary literary support, write clearly and persuasively, stay on point, and finish their work as cleanly and compellingly as possible. Drawing on years of teaching critical thinking and writing, including almost a decade of teaching Harvard’s freshman expository writing course, the authors invite readers to consider the intimate relationship between thinking and the creative, critical, self-actualizing act of writing. • Interviews with some of the most interesting and brilliant writers working today • Advice on how to structure an argument, write for an audience, work through writer’s block and anxiety, and much more • Tips on how to make your writing unique and personal • Exercises and templates to help novice writers reach their full potential in practice

creative writing and critical thinking

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“With a unique, lively, and contemporary approach, the authors of Thinking through Writin g meet students where they are at both intellectually and personally, addressing them as partners and allies in the writing process.”—Douglas Dowland, Ohio Northern University

“Good writing involves ‘thinking against oneself’—questioning oneself—and this jargon-free, concise, witty book not only does an admirable job of showing the student-writer how to perform this magic trick but also vividly executes it page by page, line by line.”—David Shields, New York Times bestselling author of The Thing about Life Is That One Day You'll Be Dead

“Writing is thinking, not just a record of your thoughts—and this book exemplifies that truth on every page. With bell-ringing clarity, Thinking through Writing shows how to sort your thoughts out into arguments, and how to support those arguments firmly and concisely. It's a true writer's companion, and a must-read for students who want to move from idea to page.”—Leonard Cassuto, author of Academic Writing as if Readers Matter

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Enhancing Creativity and Critical Thinking Skills: A Comprehensive Guide


In today’s rapidly evolving world, creativity and critical thinking have become invaluable skills for navigating the complexities of life. Whether you’re a student, professional, or simply someone seeking personal growth, developing these skills can greatly enhance your problem-solving abilities, decision-making processes, and overall mental agility. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore various strategies and techniques to foster creativity and critical thinking, empowering you to approach challenges with a fresh perspective and uncover innovative solutions.

Table of Contents

Understanding Creativity and Critical Thinking

Creativity refers to the ability to generate original ideas, approaches, and solutions. It involves thinking beyond conventional boundaries, connecting seemingly unrelated concepts, and exploring new perspectives. On the other hand, critical thinking is the process of analyzing and evaluating information, arguments, and situations in a logical and systematic manner. It involves questioning assumptions, considering multiple viewpoints, and making informed judgments based on evidence and reasoning.

The Importance of Creativity and Critical Thinking

Creativity and critical thinking are vital skills that have a profound impact on various aspects of our lives. In academic settings, they promote deeper understanding, encourage independent thinking, and foster innovative problem-solving abilities. In professional environments, they enable individuals to adapt to changing circumstances, identify opportunities, and make sound decisions. Moreover, in everyday life, these skills empower us to navigate complex challenges, effectively communicate our ideas, and lead fulfilling lives.

Strategies for Enhancing Creativity and Critical Thinking

Embracing curiosity and open-mindedness.

Curiosity is the driving force behind creativity and critical thinking. Cultivating a sense of wonder and actively seeking knowledge about diverse subjects expands our mental horizons and stimulates new ideas. By maintaining an open mind, we become receptive to different perspectives and are more likely to challenge assumptions, explore alternatives, and arrive at novel solutions.

Engaging in Diverse Perspectives

Exposing ourselves to a range of viewpoints and experiences broadens our understanding and nurtures creativity and critical thinking. Actively seeking out diverse sources of information, engaging in discussions with people from different backgrounds, and embracing multicultural experiences can significantly enhance our ability to think critically and generate innovative ideas.

Practicing Reflective Thinking

Reflective thinking involves examining our thoughts, actions, and experiences with a critical lens. By intentionally reflecting on our successes, failures, and the lessons learned, we gain valuable insights that shape our future endeavors. Journaling, meditation, and engaging in meaningful conversations with mentors or peers are effective ways to cultivate reflective thinking.

Encouraging Brainstorming and Idea Generation

Brainstorming is a powerful technique for stimulating creativity and critical thinking. By creating a supportive environment that encourages free-flowing idea generation, we can unlock our imaginative potential. This process involves suspending judgment, allowing for unconventional ideas, and building upon the contributions of others. Collaboration and team-based brainstorming sessions can yield remarkable results by harnessing collective intelligence.

Seeking Feedback and Constructive Criticism

Seeking feedback from trusted sources can provide valuable insights and help refine our creative and critical thinking skills. Constructive criticism enables us to identify blind spots, overcome biases, and enhance the quality of our ideas and arguments. By actively seeking diverse feedback, we open ourselves to continuous improvement and personal growth.

Applying Creativity and Critical Thinking in Different Domains

Education and learning.

Creativity and critical thinking are essential for effective learning. Students who actively engage in these skills are better equipped to analyze information, develop logical arguments, and apply knowledge in real-world scenarios. Educators can facilitate creativity and critical thinking by designing interactive lessons, encouraging active participation, and providing opportunities for independent exploration.

Problem Solving in the Workplace

In today’s competitive job market, creativity and critical thinking are highly sought-after skills. Employers value individuals who can approach problems from different angles, propose innovative solutions, and adapt to rapidly changing circumstances. By leveraging creativity and critical thinking, employees can navigate complex challenges, improve efficiency, and contribute to the overall growth of their organizations.

Everyday Life Challenges

Creativity and critical thinking extend beyond academic and professional contexts. They empower us to approach everyday life challenges with resilience and resourcefulness. Whether it’s finding alternative routes during a traffic jam, coming up with unique gift ideas, or making informed decisions about personal finances, these skills enhance our ability to navigate various situations and seize opportunities.

Overcoming Barriers to Creativity and Critical Thinking

Fear of failure.

Fear of failure often hinders creative and critical thinking processes. To overcome this barrier, it’s important to reframe failure as a valuable learning experience. Embracing a growth mindset allows us to view setbacks as opportunities for growth and improvement. By acknowledging that failures are stepping stones to success, we become more open to taking risks and exploring new ideas.

Narrow-Mindedness and Biases

Narrow-mindedness and biases limit our ability to think critically and inhibit creativity. Recognizing our own biases and actively seeking diverse perspectives can help overcome this barrier. Engaging in empathy-building exercises, exploring opposing viewpoints, and fostering inclusive environments enable us to challenge our assumptions and broaden our perspectives.

Lack of Exposure to Diverse Ideas

Exposure to diverse ideas is crucial for stimulating creativity and critical thinking. Actively seeking out new experiences, exploring different cultures, and engaging with a variety of disciplines can break the monotony and expand our knowledge base. By embracing diversity in all its forms, we foster a rich environment for creative and critical exploration.

External Pressures and Time Constraints

External pressures and time constraints can stifle creativity and critical thinking. Prioritizing self-care, setting aside dedicated time for reflection, and establishing a supportive network can alleviate these challenges. Creating a conducive environment that allows for uninterrupted focus and creative expression is essential for nurturing these skills.

Cultivating a Creative and Critical Mindset

Embracing a growth mindset.

A growth mindset is the belief that intelligence and abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work. By adopting a growth mindset, we embrace challenges, persist in the face of obstacles, and see failures as opportunities for growth. This mindset fosters a sense of curiosity, resilience, and a willingness to experiment, ultimately enhancing creativity and critical thinking.

Developing a Habit of Continuous Learning

Continuous learning is the cornerstone of creativity and critical thinking. Cultivating a habit of seeking knowledge, exploring new fields, and staying updated with emerging trends nurtures our intellectual curiosity and broadens our perspectives. Embracing lifelong learning not only enhances our skills but also keeps us adaptable and open to new ideas and possibilities.

Engaging in Creative and Intellectual Pursuits

Engaging in creative and intellectual pursuits is an excellent way to exercise and enhance our creativity and critical thinking skills. Activities such as writing, painting, playing musical instruments, solving puzzles, or participating in debates and discussions provide avenues for self-expression, problem-solving, and exploring new ideas. By actively engaging in these pursuits, we unlock our creative potential and sharpen our critical thinking abilities.

Tools and Resources for Enhancing Creativity and Critical Thinking

Online courses and workshops.

Online platforms offer a wealth of courses and workshops designed to enhance creativity and critical thinking. Websites like Coursera, Udemy, and FutureLearn provide a wide range of options, from introductory courses to advanced programs. These resources offer structured learning experiences and opportunities to engage with instructors and fellow learners, facilitating the development of these skills.

Books and Reading Materials

Books and reading materials are invaluable sources for enhancing creativity and critical thinking. Authors such as Sir Ken Robinson, Daniel Kahneman, and Steven Johnson provide insights into the creative process, cognitive biases, and innovative thinking. Reading works from different genres, including fiction and non-fiction, exposes us to diverse perspectives and nurtures our intellectual curiosity.

Collaborative Platforms and Idea-sharing Communities

Collaborative platforms and idea-sharing communities foster a supportive environment for creativity and critical thinking. Platforms like GitHub, Stack Overflow, and TED Talks enable individuals to connect with like-minded individuals, share ideas, and collaborate on projects. Engaging with these communities not only provides exposure to diverse perspectives but also allows for valuable feedback and collaborative problem-solving.

Enhancing creativity and critical thinking is a continuous journey that opens doors to innovation, personal growth, and a deeper understanding of the world around us. By embracing curiosity, seeking diverse perspectives, practicing reflective thinking, and engaging in creative pursuits, we can cultivate these skills and apply them in various domains of our lives. Overcoming barriers, adopting a growth mindset, and utilizing available tools and resources further strengthen our creative and critical thinking abilities. Let us embark on this empowering journey of self-discovery, armed with the power of creativity and critical thinking.

Read More: For further insights into creativity and critical thinking, consider exploring the following resources:

  • The Harvard Business Review provides a wealth of articles and research papers on critical thinking, its applications, and its impact on decision-making processes.
  • TED Talks features engaging talks by experts from various fields, sharing their insights and experiences related to critical thinking and its significance in today’s world.

Q: How can creativity and critical thinking benefit me in my professional life? A: Creativity and critical thinking are highly valued in the professional sphere. They enable individuals to adapt to changing circumstances, identify innovative solutions, and make informed decisions. These skills can contribute to professional growth, open up new opportunities, and enhance problem-solving abilities.

Q: Can creativity and critical thinking be developed, or are they innate abilities? A: While some individuals may have a natural inclination towards creativity and critical thinking, these skills can be developed and nurtured through practice, exposure to diverse perspectives, and continuous learning. Adopting a growth mindset and actively engaging in activities that stimulate these skills can significantly enhance them over time.

Q: How can I overcome the fear of failure and embrace creative thinking? A: Overcoming the fear of failure requires a shift in mindset. Viewing failures as learning opportunities and reframing them as stepping stones to success can help mitigate the fear. Embracing a growth mindset and surrounding yourself with a supportive environment that encourages experimentation and risk-taking can also foster creative thinking.

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Reading & Writing Purposes

Introduction: critical thinking, reading, & writing, critical thinking.

The phrase “critical thinking” is often misunderstood. “Critical” in this case does not mean finding fault with an action or idea. Instead, it refers to the ability to understand an action or idea through reasoning. According to the website SkillsYouNeed [1]:

Critical thinking might be described as the ability to engage in reflective and independent thinking.

In essence, critical thinking requires you to use your ability to reason. It is about being an active learner rather than a passive recipient of information.

Critical thinkers rigorously question ideas and assumptions rather than accepting them at face value. They will always seek to determine whether the ideas, arguments, and findings represent the entire picture and are open to finding that they do not.

Critical thinkers will identify, analyze, and solve problems systematically rather than by intuition or instinct.

Someone with critical thinking skills can:

  • Understand the links between ideas.
  • Determine the importance and relevance of arguments and ideas.
  • Recognize, build, and appraise arguments.
  • Identify inconsistencies and errors in reasoning.
  • Approach problems in a consistent and systematic way.
  • Reflect on the justification of their own assumptions, beliefs and values.

Read more at:

creative writing and critical thinking

Critical thinking—the ability to develop your own insights and meaning—is a basic college learning goal. Critical reading and writing strategies foster critical thinking, and critical thinking underlies critical reading and writing.

Critical Reading

Critical reading builds on the basic reading skills expected for college.

College Readers’ Characteristics

  • College readers are willing to spend time reflecting on the ideas presented in their reading assignments. They know the time is well-spent to enhance their understanding.
  • College readers are able to raise questions while reading. They evaluate and solve problems rather than merely compile a set of facts to be memorized.
  • College readers can think logically. They are fact-oriented and can review the facts dispassionately. They base their judgments on ideas and evidence.
  • College readers can recognize error in thought and persuasion as well as recognize good arguments.
  • College readers are skeptical. They understand that not everything in print is correct. They are diligent in seeking out the truth.

Critical Readers’ Characteristics

  • Critical readers are open-minded. They seek alternative views and are open to new ideas that may not necessarily agree with their previous thoughts on a topic. They are willing to reassess their views when new or discordant evidence is introduced and evaluated.
  • Critical readers are in touch with their own personal thoughts and ideas about a topic. Excited about learning, they are eager to express their thoughts and opinions.
  • Critical readers are able to identify arguments and issues. They are able to ask penetrating and thought-provoking questions to evaluate ideas.
  • Critical readers are creative. They see connections between topics and use knowledge from other disciplines to enhance their reading and learning experiences.
  • Critical readers develop their own ideas on issues, based on careful analysis and response to others’ ideas.

The video below, although geared toward students studying for the SAT exam (Scholastic Aptitude Test used for many colleges’ admissions), offers a good, quick overview of the concept and practice of critical reading.

Critical Reading & Writing

College reading and writing assignments often ask you to react to, apply, analyze, and synthesize information. In other words, your own informed and reasoned ideas about a subject take on more importance than someone else’s ideas, since the purpose of college reading and writing is to think critically about information.

Critical thinking involves questioning. You ask and answer questions to pursue the “careful and exact evaluation and judgment” that the word “critical” invokes (definition from The American Heritage Dictionary ). The questions simply change depending on your critical purpose. Different critical purposes are detailed in the next pages of this text.

However, here’s a brief preview of the different types of questions you’ll ask and answer in relation to different critical reading and writing purposes.

When you react to a text you ask:

  • “What do I think?” and
  • “Why do I think this way?”

e.g., If I asked and answered these “reaction” questions about the topic assimilation of immigrants to the U.S. , I might create the following main idea statement, which I could then develop in an essay:  I think that assimilation has both positive and negative effects because, while it makes life easier within the dominant culture, it also implies that the original culture is of lesser value.

When you apply text information you ask:

  • “How does this information relate to the real world?”

e.g., If I asked and answered this “application” question about the topic assimilation , I might create the following main idea statement, which I could then develop in an essay:  During the past ten years, a group of recent emigrants has assimilated into the local culture; the process of their assimilation followed certain specific stages.

When you analyze text information you ask:

  • “What is the main idea?”
  • “What do I want to ‘test’ in the text to see if the main idea is justified?” (supporting ideas, type of information, language), and
  • “What pieces of the text relate to my ‘test?'”

e.g., If I asked and answered these “analysis” questions about the topic immigrants to the United States , I might create the following main idea statement, which I could then develop in an essay: Although Lee (2009) states that “segmented assimilation theory asserts that immigrant groups may assimilate into one of many social sectors available in American society, instead of restricting all immigrant groups to adapting into one uniform host society,” other theorists have shown this not to be the case with recent immigrants in certain geographic areas.

When you synthesize information from many texts you ask:

  • “What information is similar and different in these texts?,” and
  • “What pieces of information fit together to create or support a main idea?”

e.g., If I asked and answered these “synthesis” questions about the topic immigrants to the U.S. , I might create the following main idea statement, which I could then develop by using examples and information from many text articles as evidence to support my idea: Immigrants who came to the United States during the immigration waves in the early to mid 20th century traditionally learned English as the first step toward assimilation, a process that was supported by educators. Now, both immigrant groups and educators are more focused on cultural pluralism than assimilation, as can be seen in educators’ support of bilingual education. However, although bilingual education heightens the child’s reasoning and ability to learn, it may ultimately hinder the child’s sense of security within the dominant culture if that culture does not value cultural pluralism as a whole.

creative writing and critical thinking

Critical reading involves asking and answering these types of questions in order to find out how the information “works” as opposed to just accepting and presenting the information that you read in a text. Critical writing involves recording your insights into these questions and offering your own interpretation of a concept or issue, based on the meaning you create from those insights.

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The Peak Performance Center

The Peak Performance Center

The pursuit of performance excellence, critical thinking vs. creative thinking.

Creative thinking is a way of looking at problems or situations from a fresh perspective to conceive of something new or original.

Critical thinking is the logical, sequential disciplined process of rationalizing, analyzing, evaluating, and interpreting information to make informed judgments and/or decisions.

Critical Thinking vs. Creative Thinking – Key Differences

  • Creative thinking tries to create something new, while critical thinking seeks to assess worth or validity of something that already exists.
  • Creative thinking is generative, while critical thinking is analytical.
  • Creative thinking is divergent, while critical thinking is convergent.
  • Creative thinking is focused on possibilities, while critical thinking is focused on probability.
  • Creative thinking is accomplished by disregarding accepted principles, while critical thinking is accomplished by applying accepted principles.


About Creative Thinking

Creative thinking is a process utilized to generate lists of new, varied and unique ideas or possibilities. Creative thinking brings a fresh perspective and sometimes unconventional solution to solve a problem or address a challenge.  When you are thinking creatively, you are focused on exploring ideas, generating possibilities, and/or developing various theories.

Creative thinking can be performed both by an unstructured process such as brainstorming, or by a structured process such as lateral thinking.

Brainstorming is the process for generating unique ideas and solutions through spontaneous and freewheeling group discussion. Participants are encouraged to think aloud and suggest as many ideas as they can, no matter how outlandish it may seem.

Lateral thinking uses a systematic process that leads to logical conclusions. However, it involves changing a standard thinking sequence and arriving at a solution from completely different angles.

No matter what process you chose, the ultimate goal is to generate ideas that are unique, useful and worthy of further elaboration. Often times, critical thinking is performed after creative thinking has generated various possibilities. Critical thinking is used to vet those ideas to determine if they are practical.

Creative Thinking Skills

  • Open-mindedness
  • Flexibility
  • Imagination
  • Adaptability
  • Risk-taking
  • Originality
  • Elaboration
  • Brainstorming

Critical Thinking header

About Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is the process of actively analyzing, interpreting, synthesizing, evaluating information gathered from observation, experience, or communication. It is thinking in a clear, logical, reasoned, and reflective manner to make informed judgments and/or decisions.

Critical thinking involves the ability to:

  • remain objective

In general, critical thinking is used to make logical well-formed decisions after analyzing and evaluating information and/or an array of ideas.

On a daily basis, it can be used for a variety of reasons including:

  • to form an argument
  • to articulate and justify a position or point of view
  • to reduce possibilities to convergent toward a single answer
  • to vet creative ideas to determine if they are practical
  • to judge an assumption
  • to solve a problem
  • to reach a conclusion

Critical Thinking Skills

  • Interpreting
  • Integrating
  • Contrasting
  • Classifying
  • Forecasting
  • Hypothesizing

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Creativity and Critical Thinking

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The twenty-first century has seen a rapid growth of curriculum initiatives that consider the development of cross-curriculum competencies as a core issue, and significant for every discipline area. Both because of such cross-curriculum developments and because of the nature of STEM itself, the integration of the particular core competencies of ‘creativity’ and ‘critical thinking’ across the STEM disciplines has also grown rapidly in educational importance. Creativity and critical thinking in education are best viewed from the perspectives of both learner development and teacher expertise, with the attributes specific to each concept appropriately seen as increasing in sophistication or complexity over time. A broad examination of each of the two concepts and their interrelatedness, and the consequent implications for educational practice concerned with developing them, creates a lens through which to view the application of creativity and critical thinking across the complexity and diversity of the STEM disciplines and their integrated forms.

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4 Writing Strategies for Creative Thinking

4 Writing Strategies for Creative Thinking

When your students think creatively, they discover new, original ideas. They open their minds to possibilities rather than seeking expected answers. Creative thinking works hand in hand with critical thinking to help students deepen their learning.

The word creative comes from the Latin word crescere, meaning “to grow.” Creative thinking grows when students are interested, challenged, and motivated. You can foster creativity by encouraging your students to take risks and learn from mistakes. Also, you can use the following writing activities to help students develop four traits of creative thinking: fluency, flexibility, originality, and elaboration .

Writer and educator Dan Kirby states, “Fluency is the first consideration. It is the basis for all that follows.” By definition, fluency means “writing and speaking with ease.” It comes from a Latin term meaning “flowing.” This is why fluency is “the first consideration” for creative thinking. Until your students can write freely and get their ideas flowing, they'll struggle to unlock their most creative thoughts.

A simple writing strategy called  freewriting can help your students develop fluency. Freewriting is nonstop, rapid writing in which students freely explore a topic. Here's how you can teach freewriting:

  • Ask your students to write nonstop for three to five minutes about a topic. Time them. (Progressively increase the writing time throughout the year.)
  • Tell them that if they draw a blank, they should write about not knowing what to write about until something else comes to mind. (The point is that they should not stop writing.)
  • Tell them not to worry about making mistakes. You won't be grading them for correctness. (Instead, the point is for students to rapidly spin out as many creative connections as they can.)
  • Afterward, have your students count the number of words they have written. (Over time, their word counts should increase.)
  • Have them underline at least one idea that surprises or interests them (a creative idea!), or have them exchange their writing with a classmate to do this.

If you ask your students to freewrite every other day, their ability to write fluently will improve, as will their ability to think creatively.

View minilesson: Writing Freely and Rapidly

View minilesson: Freewriting for Writing Topics


The word flexibility comes from a Latin root meaning “pliant, easily bent.” When your students have to adapt or bend their thinking about something familiar and ordinary, they can discover creative ideas that are unfamiliar and extraordinary.

Artists, composers, poets, and authors apply flexible thinking in their creative projects, but so do scientists, engineers, and mathematicians. Albert Einstein says that flexibility is a “measure of intelligence.” The Common Core State Standards require flexibility, expecting students to “write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences” ( CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.10 ).

You can help your students develop flexibility by having them write the same piece to different audiences—perhaps one time to their peers and another time to senior citizens. You can also have them change a true story into a fictional one by changing a few key details. To do this, simply ask students to create an extra column in a 5 W’s chart like this. (The extra column fictionalizes some key details and can be the starting point for a short story.)

View minilesson: Writing a 5 W's Story


Originality is the ability to think creatively in an appealing way. The word originality comes from a Latin root meaning “source.” When your students think creatively, they come up with fresh, original ideas. They take risks and discover new territory. Some of their original ideas may work, and others may not. Help your students understand that taking risks and making mistakes is part of the creative process and can actually help them learn.

To help your students understand originality, contrast it to imitation. To imitate is to repeat what someone else has done. To be original is to produce something unique. It may be a cliché, but “do your own thing” is sound advice when it comes to creativity.

You can help your students develop original thinking by having them write a tumble-down poem. First, they create a sentence with well-chosen words and interesting details. Then they insert line breaks to let the sentence "tumble down" the page, forming a free-verse poem.

Marley’s proud head narrows to a spotted snout engineered for eager sniffing.

Tumble-Down Poem

Marley’s proud head

to a spotted snout

for eager sniffing

View minilesson: Writing a Tumble-Down Poem

You can also help your students develop originality by writing a family story and then turning it into a historical marker.

View minilesson: Writing a Family Story and Historical Marker  


Elaboration means “to explain something in greater detail.” It comes from a Latin word meaning “to work out.” Strong writing elaborates ideas with specific information; weak writing is sketchy and general. Just as diners are disappointed in a meal that lacks important ingredients, readers are disappointed in writing that lacks specific details.

Your students can elaborate details in their informational writing to explain their topics in full. The Common Core State Standards ask students to elaborate with “facts, definitions, concrete details, quotations, or other information and examples related to the topic” ( CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.5.2.B ). Your students can elaborate details in narrative writing to develop characters, establish settings, and create drama and suspense. The standards ask students to elaborate with “narrative techniques, such as dialogue, description, and pacing,” as well as “concrete words and phrases and sensory details” ( CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.5.3.B , D ).

To help your students check for elaboration, have them ask these questions:

  • Does my writing include a lot of specific details?
  • Are all of my details relevant and important?
  • Do my details answer my readers' questions about the topic?

You can also use writing activities to help students practice elaboration. For example, you could have them write a review of one of their favorite foods or meals. As they develop their reviews, remind them to look for places to elaborate their ideas with what they see, hear, smell, taste, and touch when they eat the food.

View minilesson: Elaborating in a Food Review

View minilesson: Elaborating Ideas Using Different Levels of Details

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This text offers instruction in analytical, critical, and argumentative writing, critical thinking, research strategies, information literacy, and proper documentation through the study of literary works from major genres, while developing students’ close reading skills and promoting an appreciation of the aesthetic qualities of literature.

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Have you ever thought why professors should only appraise students’ understanding of concepts taught in class through continuous assessment tests (CATs) and exams? Usually, such questions and related ones often transpire when you have a backlog of assignments and homework. For example, if you’re pursuing a science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) program, you might wonder why you should do courses or units in English 101 and/or 102, communication skills, and entrepreneurship to the extent of writing essays and research papers. Rather than helping you develop professional expertise such as writing cover letters and Resumes/ curriculum vitae, these disciplines contribute to you developing critical thinking. 

Nevertheless, how can essay writing help you rational reason for whatever you say, hear, or write if you struggle with doing non-technical assignments and research papers? In such a case, you don’t need to worry, especially with unlimited solutions on the Internet. For instance, you can google “professional essay writing service” to hire a specialist from EssayLib , who would be responsible for providing you with custom samples. You can use the materials you would have purchased not only to learn about logically putting down ideas on paper but also to make your college life easy. Besides the non-technical assistance you’ll receive, you can get reference materials in programming and calculations.  

4 ways essay writing will develop your critical thinking 

1. rely on scholarly sources .

If you read an essay completed with blogs and one that integrates journals, chapters of the book, and industrial reports, which of the two would be rich in ideas? Without a doubt, any scholar will appreciate the knowledge communicated in the latter. For example, when a journal presents the efficacy of a placebo drug on a patient with a life-threatening lifestyle disease like obesity, it will explain research on how it alleviates symptoms and corrects anatomical or physiological aberrants. However, such a study will indicate limitations on the medicine. For example, it might not be effective in pediatric patients. This information would provoke your critical thinking to the extent of including your verdict, like “an underlying rationale could be an underdeveloped immune system required to work with the drug.” Surprisingly, you can get an idea of conducting a scientific exploration upon noticing gaps and knowledge deficits.  

2. Refrain from unnecessary description  

When your professor informs you to argue “whether outsourcing of labor is ethically right or not,” how will you approach this question in your essay to boost your critical thinking? Even before answering this question, think about students who search for information on the Internet and start writing. In most cases, you’ll realize that they will begin describing how US companies that outsourced labor globally found them in unending litigation for violating established ethical policies. Whereas such an essay might have answered the question, it doesn’t contribute to knowledge progression. So, how can one avoid unnecessary descriptions of “whether outsourcing of labor is ethically right or not?” 

Ideally, you have a lot of angles to approach such a question. For example, you might rely on scholarly sources highlighting a US company outsourcing labor from specific countries. You can also identify a firm(s) retailing or wholesaling the same or substitute product as the one depending on foreign workforces. In this case, you can argue that outsourcing promotes unethical competition as it might lower the prices of its commodities. As a consequence, the one that doesn’t use foreign might shut down its operations even though it employs Americans. This simple explanation shows how opting to analyze rather than provide a general description stimulates critical thinking! 

3. Take advantage of the counterargument approach 

If you want to write an essay about “the implications of banning the use of polythene bags,” what comes to your mind? A significant proportion of students would focus on how this policy would contribute to improving the environment or reducing pollution. Of course, you’ll find a myriad of information supporting such an argument. For example, some sources would indicate that since these polythene papers don’t decompose, they tend to scatter when blown by the wind, creating an unpleasant environment. Of course, you’ll score with such points, but you won’t develop critical thinking skills. So, who can apply the counterargument approach? 

In one of the body paragraphs, you can state a controversial topic sentence, such as “The banning of polythene bags would reduce government revenue.” In this case, some can argue that the authorities spent a significant proportion of their budget cleaning the environment. However, you can raise a valid point of how the government collects corporate taxes and pays as you earn (PAYE) from companies and employees who produce polythene papers. What’s more, firms responsible for managing litters remunerate taxes. Such a counterargument approach indicates how you’ve developed critical thinking. 

4. Challenge authors’ arguments 

Whereas incorporating ideas from different sources boosts knowledge in your essay, it might be similar to intentional plagiarism, especially when you use a single source. In other words, it can be the same as paraphrasing your classmates’ work assignment and submitting it. So, who can make it differently? You should challenge the authors’ arguments. For example, if the source said that “the company made a dollar million profit in the ended financial year, making 5% increment from the previous year.” You can challenge this argument by saying that earnings per share remained the same even with the recorded upsurge in net income. This approach will increase your critical thinking on the view of profitability between internal and external stakeholders. 

In retrospect, you shouldn’t take essays as an opportunity to summarize previously written ideas. However, capitalize on this opportunity to expand your knowledge, challenge the existing status quo, and progress your knowledge in any discipline.  

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    This article builds on psychological research that claims critical thinking is a key component of the creative process to argue that critical-creative literacy is a cognitive goal of creative writing education. The article also explores the types of assignments and prompts that might contribute to this goal and simultaneously build bridges between creative writing education and other ...


    2 Thinking and writing clearly 11 3 Definitions 21 4 Necessary and sufficient conditions 33 5 Linguistic pitfalls 41 6 Truth 53 7 Basic logic 59 ... This is a textbook on critical and creative thinking. It can be used as a course text or a self-contained study guide. Since there are many similar textbooks in the

  8. Thinking through Writing

    Drawing on years of teaching critical thinking and writing, including almost a decade of teaching Harvard's freshman expository writing course, the authors invite readers to consider the intimate relationship between thinking and the creative, critical, self-actualizing act of writing.

  9. An Introduction to Critical Thinking and Creativity

    A valuable guide on creativity and critical thinking to improve reasoning and decision-making skills Critical thinking skills are essential in virtually any field of study or practice where individuals need to communicate ideas, make decisions, and analyze and solve problems. An Introduction to Critical Thinking and Creativity: Think More, Think Better outlines the necessary tools for readers ...

  10. a guide to creative and critical thinking

    Creative thinking is often contrasted with critical thinking. However, the two certainly have their overlaps. Thinking creatively often requires exploring new possibilities, finding unique angles, and using unconventional solutions. Critical thinking is more focused on a logical and rational process of evaluating that which exists already.

  11. Enhancing Creativity and Critical Thinking Skills: A Comprehensive Guide

    Engaging in creative and intellectual pursuits is an excellent way to exercise and enhance our creativity and critical thinking skills. Activities such as writing, painting, playing musical instruments, solving puzzles, or participating in debates and discussions provide avenues for self-expression, problem-solving, and exploring new ideas.

  12. TEDx Creative and Critical Thinking and Writing

    A short version of EssayJack co-founder Dr. Ledohowski's 2014 TEDx talk on unleashing critical and creative capacities for students. For the full talk click ...

  13. Fostering Students' Creativity and Critical Thinking

    A portfolio of rubrics was developed during the OECD-CERI project Fostering and Assessing Creativity and Critical Thinking Skills in Education. Conceptual rubrics were designed to clarify "what counts" or "what sub-skills should be developed" in relation to creativity and critical thinking and to guide the design of lesson plans and ...

  14. Introduction: Critical Thinking, Reading, & Writing

    Critical thinkers will identify, analyze, and solve problems systematically rather than by intuition or instinct. Someone with critical thinking skills can: Understand the links between ideas. Determine the importance and relevance of arguments and ideas. Recognize, build, and appraise arguments. Identify inconsistencies and errors in reasoning.

  15. What Is Critical Thinking?

    Critical thinking is the ability to effectively analyze information and form a judgment. To think critically, you must be aware of your own biases and assumptions when encountering information, and apply consistent standards when evaluating sources. Critical thinking skills help you to: Identify credible sources. Evaluate and respond to arguments.

  16. Critical Thinking vs. Creative Thinking

    Critical Thinking vs. Creative Thinking Creative thinking is a way of looking at problems or situations from a fresh perspective to conceive of something new or original. Critical thinking is the logical, sequential disciplined process of rationalizing, analyzing, evaluating, and interpreting information to make informed judgments and/or decisions.

  17. PDF Creative writing and Critical Thinking Enhancement at Higher Education

    Abstract. Currently, educational policy makers identify Critical Thinking (CT) as an essential driver for development and knowledge growth in any field and in the broad society. Peer interactions and writing activities are helpful pedagogical strategies for CT enhancement especially when supported by the use of technologies (Guiller, Durndell ...

  18. Creativity and Critical Thinking

    Critical thinking permeates every aspect of creative practice and creative development. Creative practice is catalytic in the acquisition and growth of the skills, dispositions, habits, values and virtues central to growth in complexity of critical thinking. The combination of the concepts of creativity and critical thinking in educational ...

  19. Creative Thinking

    The PISA 2022 Creative Thinking assessment introduces several methodological innovations: The assessment includes new, interactive item-types based on a visual design tool. For the first time in PISA, some items will require students to produce a visual artefact, rather than construct a written response or choose the correct answer.

  20. 4 Writing Strategies for Creative Thinking

    Creative thinking grows when students are interested, challenged, and motivated. You can foster creativity by encouraging your students to take risks and learn from mistakes. Also, you can use the following writing activities to help students develop four traits of creative thinking: fluency, flexibility, originality, and elaboration.

  21. Critical-Creative Literacy and Creative Writing Pedagogy

    Critical-Creative Literacy and Creative Writing Pedagogy. 91. 1. ABSTRACT: This article builds on psychological research that claims critical thinking is a key component of the creative process to argue that critical-creative literacy is a cognitive goal of creative writing education. The article also explores the types of assignments and ...

  22. Writing and Critical Thinking Through ...

    40355. Heather Ringo & Athena Kashyap. City College of San Francisco via ASCCC Open Educational Resources Initiative. This text offers instruction in analytical, critical, and argumentative writing, critical thinking, research strategies, information literacy, and proper documentation through the study of literary works from major genres, while ...

  23. PDF English Literatur E Critical Thinking and Creative Writing

    The skills of critical thinking and creative writing are the most required skills in the world of literary divergence and multiplicity of cultures. I congratulate the Text Book Committee on its efforts in the preparation of the material, which includes a variety of literarypieces, inculcates critical thinking and trains the students in story ...

  24. How to develop critical thinking skills through essay writing

    4 ways essay writing will develop your critical thinking 1. Rely on scholarly sources . If you read an essay completed with blogs and one that integrates journals, chapters of the book, and ...

  25. Studocu

    301 Moved Permanently. openresty