Sample research paper on creative vs critical thinking

This paper strives to discuss the concepts of critical and creative thinking. Critical thinking can be described as a deliberate and conscious process which is mostly used to evaluate or interpret experiences and information with a distinctive set of reflective abilities and attitudes that amply direct thoughtful actions and belief. Creative thinking leads directly to novel approaches, new insights and fresh perspectives. Attempts have been made in the paper to identify and present the nature of relationship between critical and creative thinking, whether they are opposite or complementary in nature.

Critical Thinking

The global movement of the society towards information age has extensively focused on good thinking as a significant aspect of successful life. This dynamic scenario demands new concepts, for instance critical thinking, to be more discussed, taught and applied. There is a significant and new development in the concept of critical thinking especially in the last decade. Initially, the dominance of cognitive philosophers and psychologists, behaviorally-oriented psychologists as well as content experts has currently joined the wide-spread discussion about critical thinking.

Critical thinking is a capability to analyze phenomena, generate as well as organize ideas, make comparisons, defend opinions, evaluate arguments and draw inferences. It is, in fact, an acknowledgeable way of reasoning that requires appropriate support for the belief of an individual and open willingness to be convinced unless help is forthcoming. (Fisher, 2001)

Critical thinking has also been described as a deliberate and conscious process which is mostly used to evaluate or interpret experiences and information with a distinctive set of reflective abilities and attitudes that amply direct thoughtful actions and belief. It is a systematic and active process of evaluating and understanding arguments. Such arguments explain the features of some object or any specific type of relationship or interconnectivity between two or more elements.

The rational reflective thinking primarily focuses on deciding about certain beliefs. It is, in fact, an intellectually and logically disciplined process of skillfully and actively applying, conceptualizing, synthesizing, analyzing and assessing information generated by or gathered from experience, observation, reasoning, reflection or communication as an authentic guide to action and belief. (Fisher, 2001)

Different and diversified groups have made noteworthy and significant contributions to the concept of critical thinking. Experts of cognitive psychology delineate distinctive set of procedures and operations that are included in critical thinking. They strive to establish the differences between creative and critical thinking. However, experts on philosophy highlights that the process of critical thinking is about thinking a standard. They firmly believe that solely being involved in the critical thinking process is not sufficient, rather it should be done appropriately and guide the formation of beliefs, influencing individual’s action or behavior. (Fisher, 2001)

Experts on behavioral psychology support in creating operational definitions related with critical thinking. They define different subtask related with final results and methodologies that could be used to form initial attitudes towards the ultimate outcomes. Whereas content specialists demonstrate the way in which critical thinking can be exclusively taught in various content areas like literature, reading, mathematics, social studies and science. This is particularly significant contribution as it seems that critical thinking is, in fact, best developed as individuals struggle with particular content instead of learning absolutely as a distinctive set of skills. (Butterworth, 2005)

Critical thinking is a significant attribute for achieving success in the twenty first century. Therefore it is essential that the theme of critical thinking should be understood with due care and delineate if from other similar themes such as creative thinking. In this regard the anticipated subtasks and behaviors related with critical thinking should be identified and emphasized to complete different task analysis, determine intermediate goals and ultimately developing specific evaluation methods. (Myers, 2005)

Critical thinking is a multilateral and complex activity and as such it should not be expected that a sole process, technique, way of teaching or methods can prove sufficient for the purpose of developing each of its essential components. In order to gain knowledge about critical thinking and its impact on the minds of individuals, various components of the concept, being separate skills, can be used and developed best when understood in relation with a particular domain of knowledge, for instance auto mechanics or teaching. It is pertinent to mention that people should regularly use and utilize the required skills for critical thinking. These effective, supportive but complex skills cannot be developed without particular, explicit expectations along with their measurement. (Fisher, 2001)

It is necessary that the skills, mentioned above, and related to critical thinking are also discussed. There is a list of cognitive skills which include; being at the core of critical thinking; analysis, interpretation and inference etc. Interpretation is to express and comprehend the significance or meaning of much wider variety of data, experiences, situations, events, judgments, beliefs, procedures, criteria and rules. (Butterworth, 2005)

Interpretation comprises sub-skills of classification; clarifying meaning and decoding significance. Analysis, included in the above-mentioned list, means to identify the actual and intended inferential relationships among questions, concepts, statements, descriptions and different other types of representation required to express judgment, experiences, belief, reasons, opinions or information. (Butterworth, 2005)

The experts describe evaluation as specific meaning to assess the related credibility of statements and different other representations which are descriptions or accounts of an individual’s experience, perception, judgment, situation, opinion or belief; and also to assess the rational robustness of the intended or actual inferential relationships among questions, statements and different other forms of representation.

Inference is to secure and identify different elements required to draw logical and reasonable conclusions; to form hypothesis and conjectures; to consider the related information; to educe the consequences streaming from statements, data, evidence, principles, beliefs, judgments, concepts, opinions, questions, descriptions and different other forms of representation. (Butterworth, 2005)

Creative Thinking

Creative thinking is the type of thinking that directly leads to novel approaches, new insights, fresh perspectives, entire new ways of perceptions and understanding of things. Creative thinking includes some significant elements such as poetry, dramatic literature, dance, technical and other innovations. The concept of creative thinking is based on two prime elements; novelty and quality. Novelty can be described as offering an exclusive way of doing something and possess quality if this exclusive way is also adequate and proper for the scenario. But every novel act does not comprise a pure qualitative merit, nor can every proper solution be considered as exclusive action that gets the job done particularly in creative manner.

Creative ideas are original by nature and as such may not be viewed as suitable to those people who are utilizing existing, no longer suitable, criteria to evaluate such ideas. The main problem with the novel criterion is that it would not have identify and recognize people highly creative in nature until long after they had become popular or gained acceptability. Certainly, most of the highly creative people around the world have not been accepted or recognized for their specific creative talents and capabilities till long until after their departure.

Most of the current theories discussing creative problem resolution emphasize the significance of the reorganization and combination process. This divergent construction of ideas could result in a particular phenomenon identified by most of the people as insight. Instead of being dependent upon massive knowledge of a specific sphere, creativity could be the outcome of exploring memory types to apply diversified information to a specific problem.

The environment is also significant in determining the phenomenon about encouraging creativity and development of understanding that creative ideas are appropriately nurtured to fruition. A range of environmental elements have been identified by the researchers that impact the critical thinking including; goal setting and motivation; management and leadership style; group influences; and organizational features. Creative thinking involves appropriateness as well as originality, although not at same time.

Creative and Critical Thinking are Complementary Themes

Creative and critical thinking, as per experts on the contemporary creative problem solving system, are complementary, matching and interrelated themes. Creative and critical thinking can be narrated as qualities of superior thinking processes. As the theme of creative thinking is normally considered to be linked with the generation or creation of ideas, experiences, processes or objects, critical thinking is primarily related with their evaluation. Therefore, both types of thinking are interconnected and interrelated. (Warburton, 2007)

Creative and critical thinking being complementary and interrelated aspects of thinking signifies that almost entire thinking undertaken by a person contains creative as well as critical aspects. For instance when a person strives to resolve the complexities in a real life, the mind wanders between critical and creative reflection as different solutions or developed consequences relating to any specific solution are weighed. It is pertinent to mention, that any endeavor to improve the abilities of thinking requires attention to both creative and critical aspects of thinking. (Yang, 2004)

Both creative and critical thinking processes are blend of knowledge, abilities, attitudes, values, processes and skills. As the knowledge base needed for creative and critical reflections varies significantly from concept to concept and subject to subject, attitudes and values required in every concept and subject are same for their ultimate execution. Creative and critical thinking contribute to accomplishing goals by the individuals who work towards generation or creation of better and superior social justice, use the right to disagree with responsibility and eventually act as per ethical framework reflecting certain qualities like integrity, honesty and compassion. (Butterworth, 2005)

People having capabilities required for undertaking quality creative and critical thought but utilize them just to their particular benefits are creative and critical, but in weaker sense. However, strong sense creative and critical thinkers, are committed to utilize their capabilities to search for the most fair and accurate positions, irrespective of their own specific desires or interests. Such types of thinking, in fact, take into consideration the viewpoints, arguments and needs of others, and are established upon exclusive analysis of person’s own motives. The significance of developing strong creative and critical thinking capabilities is related with the foundations required for a democracy and also with different tools required for autonomous and life-long learning. Critical thinking is essential for analyzing certain arguments and also for logical decision making, whereas creative thinking is essential for the purpose of developing a variety of alternatives to certain ways of life which are not regarded to be desirable. (Yang, 2004)

The final decade of the twentieth century witnessed many programs of commercial thinking designed to present thinking particularly as generic skills that could fundamentally be developed from the analysis of underlying beliefs and values. However, most of the experts today argue that creative and critical thinking processes are more than just technical skills. (Butterworth, 2005)

It is, therefore, necessary to describe technical skills. Technical skills are developed without involving basic feelings, motives or beliefs in any significant manner. Then only, technical skills can be developed, irrespective of whether a person is compassionate or fair-minded or whether person has some sort of foundational knowledge. Creative and critical thinking differ significantly from such types of skills. They, rather, are developed as thinking abilities that extensively involves desire or will on the thinker’s part to go far beyond what is required and to make certain endeavors for understanding the self as well as questioning the motives of different other persons. This type of thinking is exclusively dependent upon individual’s purpose. (Butterworth, 2005)

While creative and critical thinking mostly contain similar elements, it is pertinent to highlight that both take some unique shapes in unique areas. The criteria for best creative or critical thought depend upon different methods that are developed in the particular area for the purpose of establishing the phenomenon of its claim. The interconnectivity of critical and creative thinking can also be explained by describing both concepts in a distinctive way. Creative thinking can be narrated as communicating and making connections to; think and experience in different ways and utilize diversified points of view; think of different available possibilities; think of unusual and new possibilities; and also guide in selecting and generating alternatives. Critical thinking, on the other hand, may be described as developing and analyzing possibilities to; contrast and compare different ideas, refine and improve ideas; execute effective decisions; make in-depth assessments; and provide a solid basis for effective action. (Myers, 2005)

The assertions made above, explaining the themes of critical and creative thinking can be used together in a problem-solving process. The steps of this process signify the relationship between both thinking. The steps of process comprise; searching for problems and complexities- it is made in a situation that requires immediate attention; finding of data- regarding knowledge, feelings, thoughts and opinions to clarify and sort the problem more specifically; problem finding- after data collection, it is essential to formulate a specific ‘problem statement’ that could present the core of situation and problem; idea finding- it is a state in which brainstorming sessions are held to generate maximum alternative or ideas to deal effectively with the problem statement; solution finding- after generating maximum ideas that can effectively serve as probable solutions to the problems, a systematic evaluation should be made on the basis of certain criteria including cost, pleasure, expediency and time involvement and also identify strengths and weaknesses of alternative applicable solutions; acceptance finding- ultimately a plan of action should be formulated to implement the solution by determining the type of support required, identifying obstacles and highlighting different short as well as long term steps required to solve a problem. (Yang, 2004)

Experts on the contemporary creative problem solving system firmly believe that the cognitive dimensions related to creative thinking certainly present correlations with multilateral dimensions of critical thinking. This is particularly obvious when individuals are thinking in the perspective of problem solving. Consequently, cognitive processes have a mutual fundamental basis and certain aspects that impact each other to comprise a predictor for each other. When the individuals are thinking in a stated context, they extensively utilize different thinking processes and it is the interrelation and interconnection between both thinking that yields the desired results. (Yang, 2004)

It is, however, pertinent to mention that features of critical thinking appears to be more related to the creative capabilities during the process of problem solving instead of problem finding. The performance of individuals in the creative task related in the span of problem finding is relatively more autonomous as compared with their overall performance shown in critical thinking. As such, the context within which individuals are thinking seems to activate parallel intellectual processes of critical and creative thinking, which are not autonomous. It is emphasized that thinking should be transformed from the exercise of different and diversified forms of thinking to conducive environments where the thinking is holistically cultivated and specifically measured in relation with the expression during a particular learning experience and not just in terms of stable capacities.

The creative and critical thinking, as interrelated and complementary theme, should commence by initiating a process that could support in developing unique interests, desires and character of a person. Creative and critical thinking can nurture a love particularly for learning, supporting individuals to recognize and subsequently act upon their abilities. Moreover, both thinking working mutually can establish a favorable environment based upon mutual respect and regard. It is also believed that critical thinking supports in navigating the logical framework and to utilize creative thinking as and when required which, in fact, supports the opposite theme of both thinking being complementary. (Warburton, 2007)

A person striving to confront a problem and searching for possible solutions should strive to develop the utilization of creative and critical thinking. In the process, the person should analyze the entire thinking process while remaining open-minded. The positions should be changed as evidence warrants. The person should create and search opportunities to identify a wide range of solutions by exhibiting genuine curiosity, interest and commitment to learning. Ethical, imaginative and appropriate solutions should be found and implemented while remaining sensitive to other people’s level of knowledge, feelings and degree of sophistication. (Browne, 2003)

Both critical and creative thinking warrants that thoughtful decisions and judgments should be made based on understanding and empathy by valuing authenticity and originality. In this context, difference of opinion can also be used to encourage a thoughtful analysis. More specific strategies and activities for the purpose of improving and enhancing thinking abilities should be developed to foster creative and critical thinking in the short and long term. Perhaps the most significant aspect in developing a favorable environment for creative and critical thinking is to increase the motivation level of individual to behave reflectively. (Yang, 2004)

Critical and Creative Thinking as Opposite to Each Other

A segment of scholars is of the view that creative and critical thinking are mostly stereotypes as opposite and incompatible with one another. In this section, arguments are presented based on this belief that both thinking, critical and creative thinking, are not the same. The use of logical framework demands critical thinking. There is a certain place within the context of applying creative thoughts, but is an integral part of the logical system. As such when a focus is needed to be placed on creative thinking, judgment or assessment is suspended temporarily. However, judgment can be utilized to define the exact needs of the scenario, clarify the issue, and avoidance of narrow thinking. Moreover, judgment can also be made after using creative thinking to select as well as improve the best available idea and to implement an action plan. The reason of poor decision is normally due to poor habits of thinking. People fail to understand the scenario, fail to determine appropriate solutions, fail to define entire critical needs and ultimately fail to develop supportive ideas.

Bloom (1956) along with his colleagues presented one of the most important documents used for establishing educational results. In the ‘Taxonomy of the Cognitive Domain’ they hypothesized that knowing is, in fact, composed of six levels arranged in a hierarchical order. They are: Knowledge; comprehension; application; analysis; synthesis; and evaluation. (Bloom, 1956) Research conducted since then has confirmed the phenomenon that the four levels form a true hierarchy. It means that knowledge at the level of knowledge is much simpler than the comprehension level. However, there are mixed results or conclusions on the relationship existing between synthesis and evaluation; it is most likely that these two could be separate or are reversed, even though equally complex, activities.

Although synthesis and evaluation are two almost similar types of thinking but they are quite dissimilar or different in purpose. For instance, evaluation could be considered more equivalent or corresponding to critical thinking and focuses on making a judgment or assessment purely based on analysis of a proposition or statement. Whereas, synthesis, that seems to be more complementary to creative thinking, ultimately requires that an individual should observe relationships, parts or analysis and then to combine them together in an original and new way. Some evidence present in the available literature suggests that the above-mentioned different-but equivalent relationship existing between creative/synthesis and critical/evaluative thinking is much adequate. Certain techniques have been identified by some experts that could be used to classify decision-making and problem-solving into two different groups with low chances of having relation between creative and critical dichotomy. (Yang, 2004)

One set of techniques seemed to be more serial and linear, structure, analytical, rational and goal oriented; such techniques are mostly taught as an essential part of exercise related to critical thinking. The second set of above-mentioned techniques seemed to be more parallel, holistic, intuitive, emotional, visual, creative, kinesthetic and tactual; such techniques are mostly taught as a component of exercises related to creative thinking. This distinction or difference relates to what is at times referred to as serial, objective, analytic or left brain thinking as compared with global, emotional, subjective, parallel or right brain thinking.


The paper has explored the themes of critical and creative thinking. Creative and critical thinking are often stereotyped as opposites and incompatible with one another. Conversely experts on contemporary creative problem system argue that creative and critical thinking are complementary and mutually interrelated. The creative and critical thinking has been deeply analyzed and the nature of their relationship has been explored from both perspectives. It is, therefore, concluded on the basis of arguments presented in the paper, that since creative and critical thinking are the qualities of a high-standard process and kinds of thinking, both are complementary and interrelated themes.


Bloom B. S (1956) Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. Retrieved October, 22, 2008 from

Browne, M. (2003) Asking the Right Questions. Prentice Hall Publishers.

Butterworth, J. (2005) Thinking Skills. Cambridge University Press.

Fisher, A. (2001) Critical Thinking: An Introduction. Cambridge University Press.

Myers, R. (2005) Learning from Nature: Cross-Curricular Activities to Foster Creative and Critical Thinking. Zephyr Press.

Warburton, N. (2007) Thinking from A to Z. Routledge.

Yang, S.C (2004) The Relationship among Creative, Critical Thinking and Thinking Styles in Taiwan high School Students. Journal of Instructional Psychology, 31(1), 33-46