An Introduction to Critical Thinking


In print, online and in conversation, we frequently encounter conflicting views on important issues: from climate change, vaccinations and current political events to economic policy, healthy lifestyles and parenting. It can be difficult to know how to make up one’s own mind when confronted with such diverse viewpoints.

This course teaches you how to critically engage with different points of view. You are given some guidelines that will help you decide to what extent to trust the person, organisation, website or publication defending a certain position. You are also shown how to assess others’ views and arrive at your own point of view through reasoning. We discuss examples of both reasoning about facts and the reasoning required in making practical decisions. We distinguish risky inferences with probable conclusions from risk-free inferences with certain conclusions. You are shown how to spot and avoid common mistakes in reasoning. 

No previous knowledge of critical thinking or logic is needed. This course will be enjoyed by those who relish the challenge of thinking rationally and learning new skills. The skills and concepts taught will also be useful when studying other areas of philosophy.

Programme details

Term Starts:  23rd April 2024

Week 1: What is critical thinking? What is the difference between reasoning and other ways of forming beliefs?

Week 2: What is a logical argument? How do arguments differ from conditionals, explanations and rhetoric?

Week 3: Certainty versus probability: the distinction between deductive and inductive reasoning.

Week 4: Deductive validity and logical form. 

Week 5: When do arguments rely on hidden premises? A closer look at probability. 

Week 6: Inductive generalisations: Reasoning from samples. 

Week 7: Reasoning about causes and inference to the best explanation.

Week 8: Practical reasoning: Reasoning about what to do.

Week 9: When is it appropriate to believe what others tell you? What is the significance of expertise?

Week 10: Putting it all together: We analyse and assess longer passages of reasoning.

Digital Certification

To complete the course and receive a certificate, you will be required to attend at least 80% of the classes on the course and pass your final assignment. Upon successful completion, you will receive a link to download a University of Oxford digital certificate. Information on how to access this digital certificate will be emailed to you after the end of the course. The certificate will show your name, the course title and the dates of the course you attended. You will be able to download your certificate or share it on social media if you choose to do so.


Description Costs
Course Fee £257.00
Take this course for CATS points £10.00


If you are in receipt of a UK state benefit, you are a full-time student in the UK or a student on a low income, you may be eligible for a reduction of 50% of tuition fees. Please see the below link for full details:

Concessionary fees for short courses


Dr Andrea Lechler

Andrea Lechler holds a degree in Computational Linguistics, an MSc in Artificial Intelligence, and an MA and PhD in Philosophy. She has extensive experience of teaching philosophy for OUDCE and other institutions. Her website is 

Course aims

To help students improve their critical thinking skills.    

Course Objectives:

  • To help students reflect on how people reason and how they try to persuade others of their views.
  • To make students familiar with the principles underlying different types of good reasoning as well as common mistakes in reasoning.
  • To present some guidelines for identifying trustworthy sources of information.

Teaching methods

The tutor will present the course content in an interactive way using plenty of examples and exercises. Students are encouraged to ask questions and participate in class discussions and group work. To consolidate their understanding of the subject they will be assigned further exercises as homework.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course students will be expected to:

  • be able to pick out and analyse passages of reasoning in texts and conversations
  • understand the most important ways of assessing the cogency of such reasoning
  • know how to assess the trustworthiness of possible sources of information.

Assessment methods

Assessment is based on a set of exercises similar to those discussed in class. One set of homework exercises can be submitted as a practice assignment.

Students must submit a completed Declaration of Authorship form at the end of term when submitting your final piece of work. CATS points cannot be awarded without the aforementioned form - Declaration of Authorship form


To earn credit (CATS points) for your course you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee per course. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.

Please use the 'Book' or 'Apply' button on this page. Alternatively, please complete an enrolment form (Word) or enrolment form (Pdf).

Level and demands

Students who register for CATS points will receive a Record of CATS points on successful completion of their course assessment.

To earn credit (CATS points) you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee per course. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.

Coursework is an integral part of all weekly classes and everyone enrolled will be expected to do coursework in order to benefit fully from the course. Only those who have registered for credit will be awarded CATS points for completing work at the required standard.

Students who do not register for CATS points during the enrolment process can either register for CATS points prior to the start of their course or retrospectively from the January 1st after the current full academic year has been completed. If you are enrolled on the Certificate of Higher Education you need to indicate this on the enrolment form but there is no additional registration fee.

Most of the Department's weekly classes have 10 or 20 CATS points assigned to them. 10 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of ten 2-hour sessions. 20 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of twenty 2-hour sessions. It is expected that, for every 2 hours of tuition you are given, you will engage in eight hours of private study.

Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS)