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Critical Thinking for Strategic Intelligence

Critical Thinking for Strategic Intelligence

Third Edition

September 2020 | 464 pages | CQ Press
With Critical Thinking for Strategic Intelligence, Katherine Hibbs Pherson and Randolph H. Pherson have updated their highly regarded, easy-to-use handbook for developing core critical thinking skills and analytic techniques. This indispensable text is framed around 20 key questions that all analysts must ask themselves as they prepare to conduct research, generate hypotheses, evaluate sources of information, draft papers, and ultimately present analysis, including: How do I get started? Where is the information I need? What is my argument? How do I convey my message effectively? 

The Third Edition includes suggested best practices for dealing with digital disinformation, politicization, and AI. Drawing upon their years of teaching and analytic experience, Pherson and Pherson provide a useful introduction to skills that are essential within the intelligence community.

The Critical Thinker’s Checklist
List of Figures
About the Authors
Introduction to the Third Edition
Part I: How Do I Get Started?
Chapter 1: Who Are Your Clients?
Chapter 2: What Are the Key Questions?
Chapter 3: What Is the Broader Context for the Analysis?
Chapter 4: How Should I Conceptualize My Product?
Chapter 5: What Is My Analytic Approach?
Chapter 6: Can Collaboration Contribute to a Better Answer?
Part II: Where Is The Information I Need?
Chapter 7: How Do Models Help My Analysis?
Chapter 8: What Types of Information Are Available?
Chapter 9: Can I Trust the Sources?
Chapter 10: How Should I Assess the Reliability of Internet Information?
Part III: What Is My Argument?
Chapter 11: Are My Key Assumptions Well-Founded?
Chapter 12: Can I Make My Case?
Chapter 13: Did I Consider Alternative Hypotheses?
Chapter 14: How Do I Deal With Politicization?
Chapter 15: How Might I Be Spectacularly Wrong?
Part IV: How Do I Convey My Message Effectively?
Chapter 16: Is My Argument Persuasive?
Chapter 17: How Should I Portray Probability, Levels of Confidence, and Quantitative Data?
Chapter 18: How Can Graphics Support My Analysis?
Chapter 19: How Do I Present My Message in the Most Compelling Way?
Chapter 20: How Do I Know When I Am Finished?
Part V: Case Studies
Case Study I: Uncharted Territory
Case Study II: Russian Disinformation
Case Study III: Blackout on the Eastern Seaboard!
Case Study IV: The End of the Era of Aircraft Carriers
Case Study V: Puzzling Food Poisonings in Germany
Case Study VI: The Case of Iraq’s Aluminum Tubes
Glossary of Terms
List of Names
Recommended Readings
US Government Publications
The Analyst’s Roadmap

“This is a wonderful resource for those beginning to master analytical writing techniques. It's thorough, complete and engaging. [The text is] an excellent resource for beginners who want to learn how to conduct intelligence analysis.”

Mary Manjikian
Regent University

This is exactly what I have been looking for to use for the advanced analytics course, as it combines techniques with application and has some examples. It walks the new analyst through the process and discusses the techniques for success. Best book I have found on the practical aspects of intelligence analysis.”

William O. Waddell
Liberty University

“Many instructors of undergraduate students complain that their students do not possess the tools and skills for problem solving, research, analysis, and writing demanded for their academic programs. Deployment of this text, in any academic field or context, can help solve that problem.”

John Hodgson
Pennsylvania State University

“The Phersons have produced a clear and detailed guide to the application of critical thinking in the preparation of effective analytical presentations. This book should serve as essential reading for analysts everywhere, especially students and young professionals.”

Gregory Moore
Notre Dame College
Key features


  • New source categories for cyber issues and suggesting best practices to deal with digital disinformation and deep fakes, which help students understand how media has evolved and the importance of recognizing how it can hamper as well as enhance analytic conclusions.
  • Discusses how humans and machines can best work together—with humans using the strengths of the machine without being intimidated by it and recognizing when its programming might be susceptible to error or bias.
  • Further stressed that analysts must be prepared to produce and tailor products quickly and succinctly. Book has included resources on different presentation styles and advocates for the increased use of online training to build skills and expertise.
  • Added material on politicization in a polarized world as well as thinking about the future, where data for deductively accurate point predictions does not exist.
  • Clarified what is meant by “critical thinking” by discussing how it relates to other kinds of thinking, including creative thinking, design thinking, computational thinking, and visual thinking. Incorporated how concepts like “mindfulness” and “self-awareness” fit into the critical thinking process.
  • New Case Studies,
    • "Uncharted Territory: Conflict, Competition, or Collaboration in the Arctic"
    • "The Downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17"
    • "Blackout on the Eastern Seaboard"
    • "The Case of Iraq's Aluminum Tubes"


  • Each of the book's chapters is organized in the same four-section structure – Setting the Stage, Looking More Deeply, Key Takeaways, and Considering the Case Study.
  • A set of carefully crafted case studies on national intelligence, homeland security, finance, defense, and law enforcement issues illustrate how to apply critical thinking skills directly to end-of-chapter questions and provides a valuable self-assessment opportunity.
  • The Analyst’s Roadmap provides an at-a-glance “map” for readers depicting the best practices involved in perfecting the analytical product.

Sage College Publishing

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