Analysis is a higher-order thinking skills that demonstrates your ability to compare, contrast, organize, and distinguish information. This can help us to come to well-informed conclusions and evaluations.
Analytical thinking refers to a range of higher-order cognitive processes and skills. For instance, Spaska et al. (2021) identify the key components of the cognitive function of analysis as:
“…in-depth search, data analysis and evaluation, problem-solving, and decision-making.”
These comments are essential to:
“…reasoning, planning and conducting a learning inquiry process, interpreting the yielded data and findings followed by drawing conclusions” (p. 880).
1. Classifying or Categorizing
Classifying or categorizing involves arranging data, information, or objects into groups based on their shared attributes or characteristics. This process aids in understanding and organizing vast amounts of information, making it easier to analyze and interpret.
Example of Classification
You have a list of different animals. You classify them into categories such as mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians based on their specific characteristics.
Prioritizing requires identifying the order of importance of tasks, problems, or potential solutions. It’s a valuable process in effective time management and decision making, ensuring that limited resources are used efficiently.
You have several tasks to do: complete a project report, answer emails, attend a meeting, and organize your workspace. You decide to prioritize by the deadline, starting with the project report because it’s due earlier than the other tasks.
3. Sequencing Events
Sequencing refers to the practice of arranging information or events in a specific order. This process is crucial in understanding timelines, processes, or standing the order of procedures in a system.
In a recipe, you sequence the cooking steps from the first – such as chopping the vegetables, to the last – like sprinkling on the garnish and serving the dish.
4. Identifying Patterns
Identifying patterns involves recognizing and discovering recurrent events, behaviors, or numbers. The capability to identify patterns aids in predicting and understanding future occurrences or trends.
While studying monthly sales data, you identify a pattern where sales increase during the holiday seasons and decrease directly afterward, helping you predict future sales trends.
5. Drawing Conclusions
Drawing conclusions entails making an inference or a final judgment based on the gathered data or facts. This process is an essential part of decision-making and problem-solving.
You conduct a survey on customer satisfaction and find that the majority are satisfied with the product but dislike the customer service. You conclude that to increase customer satisfaction, the quality of customer service needs to improve.
6. Making Predictions
Making predictions involves speculating about a future event or outcome based on the available information or observed trends. It is an essential aspect of strategic planning and decision-making processes.
Based on the rising trend in your website’s traffic over the past few months, you predict that the site will hit a specific number of visitors by the end of the year.
7. Evaluating Evidence
Evaluating evidence requires assessing the reliability, validity, and relevance of the data or evidence related to a situation or problem. This procedure is vital in critical thinking, research, and decision-making processes. We may also engage in self-evaluation, where we reflect on ourselves and rate our behavior or performance in a recent task.
Before writing a scientific research report, you evaluate the data collected from experiments and studies, assessing precision and validity.
8. Deductive Reasoning
Deductive reasoning is a logical process where conclusions are drawn from a set of premises or beliefs which are generally accepted as true. It is used in problem-solving and decision-making processes.
Example of Deductive Reasoning
All fruits contain seeds (premise 1), apples are a type of fruit (premise 2), therefore, apples contain seeds (conclusion drawn by deductive reasoning).
9. Inductive Reasoning
Inductive reasoning is a type of reasoning where general conclusions are drawn from specific examples. The results are probable, based upon the evidence given, and provide a basis assertive conjecture.
Example of Inductive Reasoning
In all your previous experiences, birds have always had feathers, so you conclude that all birds have feathers (conclusion drawn by inductive reasoning).
Brainstorming is a creative process used to generate multiple diverse ideas as a response to a problem or question. It encourages free-thinking and uninhibited idea generation to explore all possible solutions or concepts.
Example of Brainstorming
While developing a new product, your team engages in a brainstorming session, suggesting several product designs, features, and marketing strategies.
11. SWOT Analysis
A SWOT Analysis is a strategic planning tool utilized to identify and analyze the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats in a project or business venture. It provides an organized listing of a company’s characteristics, providing a framework for understanding its capabilities and potential.
Example of SWOT Analysis
A tech startup conducts a SWOT Analysis – Strengths: innovative technology, expert team; Weaknesses: lack of brand awareness, limited financial resources; Opportunities: emerging markets, partnerships; Threats: competitive market, changing technology.
12. Root Cause Analysis
Root Cause Analysis (RCA) is a systematic approach to identify the root or fundamental underlying causes behind a problem or incident. The goal is to find and fix the cause rather than merely dealing with the symptoms.
Example of Root Cause Analysis
After a data breach, a business conducts a Root Cause Analysis and discovers a flaw in their cybersecurity system was the primary cause.
13. PESTLE Analysis
A PESTLE Analysis is a framework that focuses on the Political, Economic, Sociological, Technological, Legal, and Environmental factors influencing an organization or project. It helps to identify external forces that could impact a business’s performance.
A car manufacturing company does a PESTLE Analysis and realizes the stringent laws on emission standards (Legal) and the trend toward eco-friendly solutions (Environmental) in some markets may impact their production and sales.
14. Five Whys
The Five Whys technique is a straightforward issue-solving technique that explores the cause-and-effect relationships underlying a specific problem. The strategy involves asking “Why?” five times to get to the root cause.
A company’s project is delayed. Through Five Whys, they discover the root cause is a miscommunication regarding the project’s starting deadline.
15. Gap Analysis
Gap Analysis refers to the method used to identify the difference between the current state and the desired future state of a business or a project. It helps to understand what steps should be taken to drive the improvement and meet the set objectives.
A hotel conducts a Gap Analysis between their current guest satisfaction rates and their desired rate, revealing areas like room service quality and check-in process need improving.
16. Cost-Benefit Analysis
Cost-Benefit Analysis (CBA) is a process used to weigh the potential costs of a decision or investment against its possible benefits. The goal is to determine if the proposed action is financially viable and will bring about desirable results.
Example of Cost-Benefit Analysis
An organization conducts a Cost-Benefit Analysis before deciding to purchase new computers, considering factors such as the cost of equipment, installation, and training against the productivity increase.
17. Mind Mapping
Mind mapping is a visual method used to structure, classify, and represent ideas. It encourages brainstorming by illustrating connections between thoughts, furthering the understanding and generation of new concepts.
Planning a company event, you create a mind map. The core idea or goal is in the center, with branches illustrating different components such as venue, attendees, and catering, offering a clear visual overview of the project.
18. Surveying or Polling
Surveying or polling is a data gathering method, typically in the form of a questionnaire sent to a specified population. It’s useful for collecting statistical data, gauging public opinion, or gathering feedback.
Your business conducts a customer satisfaction survey, reaching out to recent consumers to gather data on their experiences, their likes, and areas where improvements are needed.
19. Questioning or Interviewing
Questioning or interviewing involves collecting information, insights, or opinions from individuals via direct questioning. It’s a useful tool in research, job recruitment, and journalistic processes.
As part of a market research strategy, you interview your target audience to understand their needs, preferences, and purchasing behaviors.
20. Testing Hypotheses
Testing hypotheses is a part of the scientific method involving the formulation of propositions, conducting an experiment to test them, and analyzing the results. It aids in confirming or disproving assumptions, furthering knowledge and understanding.
Example of Hypothesis Testing
You hypothesize that promoting a product on social media will increase sales. After a month of running the campaign, you analyze the sales figures to test the hypothesis.
21. Simulating or Modeling
Simulating or modeling involves creating a virtual representation or model of a system or scenario to predict outcomes, study processes, or conduct experiments. Simulations offer a safe and cost-effective way to analyze complex systems or high-risk situations.
For city planning, a 3D model of the city is developed to simulate the effects of implementing various traffic control methods.
22. Correlating Data Points
Correlating data points is a statistical method used to determine the relationship between two or more variables. It allows for the prediction of one variable based on the value of another and aids in identifying patterns.
After correlating weather data and ice cream sales, you find a positive correlation: as temperature increases, so do ice cream sales.
23. Synthesizing Information
Synthesizing information is combining data from multiple sources to draw conclusions, create new ideas, or generate knowledge. It is a critical process in research, problem-solving, and decision-making.
Example of Synthesis
Writing a literature review of several research papers on climate change, you synthesize the information to provide a broader understanding of the topic.
24. Interpreting Visuals (like charts or graphs)
Interpreting visuals refers to extracting and understanding information represented visually, such as in charts, graphs, or images. It aids in transforming complex data into understandable and digestible information.
By interpreting a line graph depicting monthly profit, you can grasp the trend and fluctuations in the company’s profit over time.
25. Finding Anomalies or Outliers
Finding anomalies or outliers involves identifying data points that deviate significantly from the norm or expected range within a data set. This process can highlight errors or unique situations, which are crucial considerations in data analysis.
In a medical trial, most participants show improved health after a new treatment. However, a few show severe side effects – these are the anomalies or outliers.
Sampling is a statistical method where a subset of a group is selected to represent the whole population. The results of the sample can help make inferences about the larger group.
A food company wants to test a new product. Instead of giving it to all their customers directly, they select a sample of customers, offering a comprehensive and manageable way to gauge reactions.
27. Reviewing Literature
Reviewing literature involves critically reading andsummarizing scholarly articles, books, or other resources relevant to a particular field or topic. It highlights trends, gaps, and controversies within the field and offers a foundation for further research.
Example of Literature Review
As part of a psychology research project, you review literature on cognitive behavioral therapies, understanding its efficacy, application areas, and limitations reported in previous studies.
28. Summarizing Findings
Summarizing findings is the process of condensing information, data, or results into a brief, accessible format. It aids in communicating the essence of a study, research, or procedure without delving into intricate details.
After running a sales campaign, you summarize the findings to report to stakeholders, detailing the increase in sales, customer behavior, most successful strategies, and areas needing improvement.
29. Comparing and Contrasting
Comparing and contrasting involves identifying similarities between two or more items (comparison) while also noting their differences (contrast). This analysis helps in making informed decisions, understanding relationships, or emphasizing unique characteristics.
Example of Compare and Contrast
You compare and contrast two mobile phones before purchasing. Similarities may include both having high-resolution cameras and differences might be in battery life or screen size. This comparison helps inform your purchasing decision.
30. Identifying Patterns
Identifying patterns involves observing the repetitive occurrences or trends in a dataset or behavior. Recognizing these patterns helps in anticipating future events or making decisions based on the repetitive or predictable nature.
Example of Pattern Recognition
A stock market analyst identifies a pattern in a stock’s performance over several years, noticing that it dips in January and rises in April, providing valuable insights for investment decisions.
31. Problem Decomposition
Problem decomposition, also known as problem-breaking, is the process of breaking down a complex problem into smaller, more manageable parts. This facilitates easier analysis and problem-solving.
A software developer breaks down the problem of a faulty software into component issues: coding errors, user interface glitches, and database connectivity issues, each then addressed individually.
32. Evaluating Solutions
Evaluating solutions involves assessing various solutions to a problem concerning their effectiveness, potential impact, and feasibility. It is crucial in decision-making processes and ensuring an optimal solution is chosen.
Your business has a profit reduction problem. After generating various solutions, you evaluate each one considering factors such as cost, time, and potential impact to select the best approach.
33. Bias Identification
In a psychological study, you identify a selection bias as the study’s participants are all from the same city, potentially skewing the research results.
34. Statistical Analysis
Statistical analysis encompasses the collection, analysis, interpretation, presentation, and modeling of data. By applying statistical techniques, we can extract meaningful insights and make informed decisions.
An ecommerce company uses statistical analysis to understand customer behavior, looking at purchase rates, return rates, and cart abandonment rates to improve their strategy.
35. Decision Trees
Decision trees are graphical representations of potential outcomes or decisions, structured in a tree-like model. They help visualize complex decision-making processes, highlighting possibilities and consequences.
Planning the launch of a new product, you map out a decision tree, detailing decisions like pricing strategy, different marketing approaches, and potential market reactions.
36. Cause-and-effect Analysis
Cause-and-effect analysis, also known as the Fishbone diagram or Ishikawa diagram, is a tool to identify potential factors causing an overall effect or problem. This process assists in deep diving into root causes of a problem.
Example of Cause-and-Effect Analysis
Production quality has dropped in your factory. A cause-and-effect analysis identifies several causes such as outdated machinery, untrained staff, and inconsistent raw material quality.
37. Use of Scientific Methods
The use of scientific methodsinvolves systematic observation, measurement, experimentation, and testing to create or revise knowledge. It’s a cornerstone in fields like psychology, biology, physics, and others where hypotheses need rigorous testing.
Example of the Scientific Method
Researchers using the scientific method to understand a disease might start with an observation, develop a hypothesis, conduct experiments, analyze data, and then affirm or modify their hypothesis.
38. Critical Reading
Critical reading is an active, analytical way of reading that involves questioning the content, assessing the evidence provided, determining the implication, and judging the effectiveness of arguments.
In reviewing a scientific research paper, you critically read, looking at the methodology, evaluating evidence, identifying potential biases, and verdicting the soundness of the conclusions.
39. Logical Reasoning
Logical reasoning entails using reason, logic, and systematic steps to arrive at a conclusion from one or more premises. It is a crucial aspect of problem-solving, decision-making, and academic studies.
If all dogs bark (premise) and your pet is a dog, then logically, your pet barks.
40. Scenario Planning
Scenario planning is a strategic planning method used to forecast different futures and how they could affect an organization or situation. It assists in designing flexible long-term plans.
An insurance company practices scenario planning, examining potential situations such as natural disasters, economic downturns, and changes in regulations, planning their strategies accordingly.
41. Data Visualization
Data visualization is the representation of data or information in a graphical format. It makes complex data more understandable and accessible, revealing trends, correlations, and patterns that might go unnoticed in text-based data.
In a business meeting, you present a colorful, interactive dashboard that visualizes sales data, making it easier for the team to comprehend the sales performance.
42. Inferential Thinking
Inferential thinking involves making inferences or conclusions based on evidence and reasoning but without the direct confirmation of a statement. It is often used in situations where an immediate or clear-cut judgment cannot be made.
Example of Inferential Thinking
A physician uses inferential thinking when diagnosing a patient. Based on the patient’s symptoms, medical history, and lab results, the doctor makes an educated inference about the likely cause of the patient’s illness.
Assessing refers to the process of appraising or evaluating something, often to determine its value, importance, size, or other qualities. By careful and systematic consideration, assessing aids in decision making and problem-solving.
A teacher assesses a student’s project, evaluating the accuracy of the content, the clarity of presentation, creativity, and the quality of research to give the project a final grade.
Critiquing involves thoroughly examining and interpreting a situation, concept, or work, followed by giving constructive feedback or evaluation. It provides a thorough understanding of the work and valuable insights for improvement.
An art critic critiques a painting by analyzing its elements — composition, color usage, subject matter, and paint application — then provides an assessment of the piece’s impact and effectiveness in achieving its purpose.
Deconstructing is a critical strategy that involves breaking down a concept, narrative, or structure to understand its underlying assumptions, ideas, or themes. By understanding these elements, it’s possible to have a more profound understanding of the whole.
A literature professor deconstructs a novel with her students by examining its narrative structure, character development, themes, and stylistic devices to uncover underlying messages and cultural contexts.
Analysis and Bloom’s Taxonomy
A popular method of conceptualizing the concept of analysis is Bloom’s Taxonomy, which demonstrates where analysis sits on a rank order of cognitive processes:
Here, we can see that analysis requires a degree of effortful processing that is more complex than mere remembering, understanding, or applying, but sits below evaluation and creation on the tiers of cognition.
According to Bloom, analysis verbs can include:
- Break down
Analysis is an essential skill for developing deep understanding of subject matter, and for students, is essential for demonstrating your depth of knowledge – especially in essay writing. To achieve analysis, consider using strategies such as compare and contrast and frameworks such as SWOT analyses, which can give you a structured way to achieve an analytical degree of thinking.
Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]