Critical thinking – question your analyst!

If you’re the client for analysis, insight or research, keep these questions in mind when you get results presented back to you.

Analysts and researchers try to tease out useful information from data, whatever their methods. But their interpretation is in the end just one interpretation of what they have looked at.

Being critical doesn’t mean you’re saying ‘this is garbage, you’re wrong about everything!’ Being critical means being curious and having a healthy skepticism when information is presented to you as fact. In science, you learn to have your work ruthlessly pulled apart in order to have your ideas tested so you can improve what you’re doing. In non-profits people are often unsure of their data knowledge and that makes them too timid and too damn nice! Here are some questions to get your critical juices flowing. You don’t have to understand the data, you understand your work and you’re an intelligent adult who can form valid opinions based on information your are shown.

Being curious about alternative stories
Is there another explanation for that?

Debating findings
That’s the opposite of my hunch! That’s really not what I would expect, is it right?

Limits and assumptions of the analysis
How robust is this analysis?
How reliable and consistent was the data?
How did you get to your findings?

Insisting on clarity
What exactly does this show?
What does this mean for us? What can we do with this?
I didn’t get what you said – can you explain that again in English? (see There are no stupid questions)

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