Critical Thinking/Problem Solving

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Critical Thinking/Problem Solving

Critical thinking is the process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluating information to reach an answer or conclusion. This is one of the most prominent skills you will develop as a burgeoning researcher/professional throughout graduate school at Notre Dame. 

Assessing Your Level of Competency

Graduate School is a time to reflect on the process you use for problem solving and seek out new or supplemental ways to make your process more adaptable with this competency. Reflect on experiences related to the following questions to dive deeper into your self assessment:

  • Think about a paper you recently wrote, how did you go about analyzing the topic?
  • Do you find it easy to evaluate conflicting information?
  • What is your process for formulating an argument to support a conclusion?
  • Do you critique a proposed solution with data or facts? How?
  • Have you helped resolve a problem in your group/lab, department, or a student club?
  • When solving a problem, how do you assess the situation and integrate varying information to find a solution?
  • Are you able to analyze data or information and draw conclusions from these?
  • How do you generate a hypothesis to a research question based on the data available and determine next steps for testing your hypothesis?
  • When making large data sets accessible to others, in what ways do you organize it to allow for optimal usage?

Building Your Level of Competency

Build on your level of this competency through the following:

  • Engage in a professional development opportunity that provides training on analyzing data.
  • Suggest new resolutions to solve a problem your group/lab, department, or student club is having.
  • Read the news or a news aggregator and identify patterns and trends behind a statistical/quantified statement. 
  • Write a critique paper on a viewpoint / issue / policy that you do not necessarily agree with.
  • Apply a problem solving technique you use in one research project, class, or topic to an entirely different project, class, or topic.
  • Present your critique of an idea or author in a class discussion, seminar, symposium, or other presentation.
  • Utilize your research or capstone project to tackle a challenging topic that requires evaluating and synthesizing.
  • Analyze and recommend organizational solutions through students groups such as the Graduate Student Government, NDGCC, Black Graduate Student Association, or your Departmental student groups (e.g. Biology Graduate Student Organization)

Communicate this Competency

There are many opportunities to communicate your ways of critical thinking and problem solving to others; through your resume, cover letters, interviewing, 30-second professional introduction, networking, giving research talks, research communication events like 3MT, etc. Start with statements like the samples below:

  • Organized a panel of alumni to share about their career paths to 75 graduate students, receiving positive feedback from the audience and facilitating multiple student-alumni connections.
  • Evaluated candidates for the departments’ faculty search and made recommendations regarding new hires.
  • Explored the possibility of using constant power levels and adding energy storage to heavy machinery with large diesel engines.
  • Developed and presented a modified policy that integrated student and administration concerns.
  • Designed a hypersonic vehicle ground test model and plasma flow-control system to predict and reduce the high aerothermal heating loads experienced by hypersonic flight vehicles, achieving up to a 55% reduction in surface heating rates.

Career Ready Competency Tracking Tool

Download the Career Ready Competency Tracking Tool one time from the main Career Competencies webpage, and utilize one document to track the development of all your competencies.