Just as the first step in learning basketball, tennis, soccer, or indeed any sport is to learn the most fundamental elements of the sport, the first step to learning critical thinking is to learn the most basic elements of thinking. These are the bread and butter of disciplined thinking, for if we cannot accurately analyze the parts of someone's thinking, we are in a poor position to assess it.
Analysis of the elements of thought is a necessary, but not a sufficient, condition of evaluation. To evaluate requires knowledge of the intellectual standards that highlight the qualities signaling strengths and weaknesses in thinking. For example, it is a strength in reasoning to be clear, a weakness to be unclear; a strength to be accurate, a weakness to be inaccurate. We shall focus on standards such as these in the next chapter, explaining and illustrating how they apply to the elements of thought.