Suspending Judgment

Learning Objective

  • Describe the importance of suspending judgment to analysis

One of the most important steps in the process of thinking and writing analytically is to suspend judgment about topics, artifacts, ideas, or whatever it is you want to analyze. Critical thinking yields the best results when you approach something with an open mind. When we bring our biases and presuppositions to a topic, we aren’t allowing a truly organic research process to happen. This isn’t to say that we can ever be completely objective or somehow erase our minds of prior knowledge; however, if we try to at least suspend judgments about that knowledge, we increase our likelihood of being open to new discoveries in the research process.

It is also important to suspend judgment when undertaking analysis so that we will not implicitly signal to our reader that our mind is already made up concerning the issue or object at hand. Implying this kind of rigidity, whether in the tone or the single-mindedness of our approach, suggests to our audience that our work is not really attempting to methodically discover or clarify anything. The result can be a paper or presentation that seems presumptuous, as if we do not have to do any work to convince our reader. This can be very off-putting, and will likely not result in a successful analysis.

For example, if you wanted to analyze how campus administration might identify problems with and make improvements to parking, and you have received numerous parking tickets over the past year, you might be tempted to enter your research process with preconceived notions of what should happen because of how certain changes could benefit you. Paying for parking tickets is no fun, to be sure, but your best approach to researching such a topic would be to look at the big picture, and to examine how parking impacts everyone on campus.

Thus, your goal would be to analyze all the problems with parking and how solutions might benefit multiple parties. Suspending judgment about the parking situation on this campus might help you make comparisons with similar campuses, for instance, and determine that the policies on our campus aren’t really that bad when you look at the bigger picture. Of course, you might find that we have a terrible campus parking situation, but the point is that you cannot examine the issue fairly until you step back and look at it as objectively as possible.

Watch It

This video explains the following five tips to improve your critical thinking, which will help you suspend judgment and analyze sources before you begin writing:

  1. Formulate your question
  2. Gather information
  3. Apply the information
  4. Consider the implications
  5. Explore other points of view

You can view the transcript for “5 tips to improve your critical thinking- Samantha Agoos” here (opens in new window).

Try It