When I studied Investigative Journalism in college, it was a basic requirement. For journalists in general, the WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN, WHY and HOW are the tools of the trade.
But everyone, especially writers, should use these question words all the time: when researching background information for a book, when questioning and editing their novels or non-fiction books, when participating in a writer’s critique group and most important: when looking for publishing possibilities.
Global Digital Citizen Foundation
Luckily I found this organization that set up the ultimate cheat sheet for critical thinking – showing a fantastic list of critical questions. I get so many emails from authors, who are approached in emails or social media from businesses of all sorts – including the dreaded Vanity companies, trying to steal their publishing rights or trying to fleece them in any other way. Now I will not answer anymore in lengthy emails with lists of tips, rather send the GlobalDigitalCitizen organization’s graphic (above).
Questions to Ask:
Before you spend any money or time on people, businesses, organizations, try to answer these questions:
WHO benefits from this the most? WHO would be the best person to consult?
WHAT is an alternative? WHAT is the best /worst outcome?
WHERE can I get more information? WHERE are areas of improvement?
WHEN and HOW will I know I have succeeded? HOW can I measure success
WHY is this a problem? WHY is there a real need for this today?
HOW is this similar to …? HOW does it really benefit me / others?
HOW can this harm me or others?
The Internet Helps a Lot!
If you see offers to publish your book, to help you with author platform (I am not talking about advertising!) or offers a new phone plan for example – don’t jump on the offer and sign up or pay. Your first step needs to be to research the offer, the person or the corporation. Many companies are very good to swamp the internet with dozens of websites/blog. They use bots to inflate views and to get on page one at Google. Scroll down to page 10 or 20 to find other websites that report on them. Use the keyword: “complaint”. Go to the Better Business Bureau (BBB) site, or to the Ripoff-Report. Add the word “forum” to the name of the company, and find all the forums where people talk about it. You might be in for a surprise!
Make a long list of questions, and watch if and how they answer your questions as a potential customer. Get it in writing, don’t trust any call center employees (who might be on commission).
What Can Critical Thinking Help You With?
- 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
How Critical Thinking Will Help You
… to stay out of trouble – in business and private life. It will save you not only time but also money and happiness. Children are often better than adults in this aspect. Don’t be annoyed when children frequently ask “why”. Applaud them rather for asking questions. Critical thinking is often misjudged as criticism, but rather it focuses on the ability to follow logical steps. Critical thinking is an incredibly important skill. Critical thinkers rigorously question ideas and assumptions rather than accepting them at face value.
Social tagging: asking questions > BBB > Critical Thinking > Internet research > investigative journalism > Ripoff-Report