How to improve critical thinking skills under limited supervision?

Welcome to the newly redesigned Science Careers Forum. Please bookmark this site now for future reference. If you've previously posted to the forum, your current username and password will remain the same in the new system. If you've never posted or are new to the forum, you will need to create a new account.

The new forum is designed with some features to improve the user experience. Upgrades include:
- easy-to-read, threaded discussions
- ability to follow discussions and receive notifications of updates
- private messaging to other SC Forum members
- fully searchable database of posts
- ability to quote in your response
- basic HTML formatting available

Moderator: Dave Jensen
Advisors:   Ana, PG, Rich Lemert, Dick Woodward, Dave Walker
Meet the Moderator/Advisors

How to improve critical thinking skills under limited supervision?

Postby Linda » Wed Jan 12, 2005 8:02 am

Hi I have found this forum extremely helpful, especially for people who don't obtain much support from the university.

I have been working in a lab for three years and am going to start a PhD soon (in the same lab). What I found frustrating was my critical thinking skill hasn't improved much from my working experience despite I have been writing manyscripts and making posters. I only received limited interaction with my supervisor for the past years and there was no post-doc in the lab. I become aware that critical thinking is major part of PhD training so I would really appreciate any advice for me to improve my ability on critical thinking, reasoning and reading a scientific paper.

Your help is much appreciated


How to improve critical thinking skills under limited supervision?

Postby Ken » Wed Jan 12, 2005 9:40 am

Well, I'm sure someone will ask, so it may as well be me: why are you doing your PhD in the same lab as you've been working for three years, get no interaction with the PI, no help from postdocs, and feel that you aren't getting any critical reasoning skills?

You could broaden your skills, and have a nice looking CV after your PhD if you start in a new lab, and gain a new skillset.
Posts: 509
Joined: Tue Jan 10, 2012 11:28 pm

How to improve critical thinking skills under limited supervision?

Postby Emil Chuck » Wed Jan 12, 2005 10:25 am

A couple of things first... if the difference between your situation before and your impending situation is that you will be entering a PhD program, then I will only hope that your interaction with other faculty and students through classes will help you with honing your critical thinking skills.

That said, Ken asked why you were staying in your lab, but I think you're comfortable with the work environment. You just need to be sure your relationship with your supervisor changes so that he can give you more critical thinking skills than what you have had before. Going from "technician" mentality to "predoctoral student" is hard not only for you but will be an adjustment for the supervisor.

I strongly suggest seeking another faculty member to whom you can also develop critical thinking skills.

My suggested exercise: critical thinking is first reflected (in my opinion) in the form of asking questions about papers during journal club presentations or research presentations; during a presentation, take a little notepad with you, and write down questions you come up with as the presentation goes on. Then listen to the Q&A sessions and see what questions other people ask; how well do they match up to what you were thinking? Furthermore, if you note what questions the others were asking, how important in your opinion were the questions they asked? Seeing how others and your peers dissect papers and comparing their thought processes to your own will help you a lot. The more you learn how to ask questions, the better your critical thinking skills are. Period.

Eventually, you'll have to do that in classes with papers you read and you present, then papers and grants you review. But you'll be forced to doing that in no time. :)
Emil Chuck
Posts: 2981
Joined: Tue Jan 10, 2012 11:28 pm

How to improve critical thinking skills under limited supervision?

Postby Madison » Wed Jan 12, 2005 12:08 pm

Start a student-run journal club in your scientific area of interest. Read and discuss papers with the other students. Pick out the stuff that you think is \"bad\". Try to outline the logical flow of the paper and the way the scientific arguement was put together.

My grad advisor did a weekly one-on-one \"journal club\" type thing when I was working on crafting my thesis proposal. We both would pick 3-4 papers for that week that were relevant to my research field, and we would discuss them together. This went on for about 8 months, and I found it to be an invaluable experience. Perhaps you should suggest this with your PI.

How to improve critical thinking skills under limited supervision?

Postby Doug » Wed Jan 12, 2005 1:47 pm

Check out


How to improve critical thinking skills under limited supervision?

Postby John Fetzer » Wed Jan 12, 2005 10:38 pm

It depends on what critical thinking you want to grow in. Most research advisors do not teach how to think in a structured manner. In fact, most graduate programs do little. The best they might do is teach you a few skills aimed at reviewing a manuscript.

Winnowing through the literature to get creative ideas and to get guidance away from poor ones can be taught and practiced, though. I have published a few papers on scientific skepticism, creativity, synergies acrodd disciplinary boundaries, and reviewing manuscripts.

User avatar
John Fetzer
Posts: 588
Joined: Tue Jan 10, 2012 11:28 pm

Thank you for the advice!

Postby Linda » Thu Jan 13, 2005 4:56 am


In addition to my feeling towards the environment, the project is very interesting to me. I thought about going to other lab for my PhD but haven't come across anything that interests me yet. Therefore I chose to stay. I will also have another supervisor within the same department. I will be learning new skills and broadening my knowledge into another field, where my second supervisor's expertise is.

We tried to have a weekly journal club but it didn't really work due to my supervisor's busy schedule. That's why I am trying to find some way to overcome this problem.

I will probably just email my supervisor about my opinions about the articles I read and see if it will help.

I really appreciate all the advice.


Return to Science Careers Forum

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Bill L. and 15 guests