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Critical Thinking for Strategic Intelligence

Critical Thinking for Strategic Intelligence

Second Edition

November 2016 | 408 pages | CQ Press
The Second Edition of Critical Thinking for Strategic Intelligence provides a basic introduction to the critical thinking skills employed within the intelligence community.  This easy-to-use handbook is framed around twenty 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.  Drawing upon their decades of teaching and analytic experience, Katherine Hibbs Pherson and Randolph H. Pherson have updated the book with useful graphics that diagram and display the processes and structured analytic techniques used to arrive at the best possible analytical product.

List of Tables, Figures, and Boxes
About the Authors
Introduction to the Second Edition
Part I. How Do I Get Started?
1. Who Are Your Clients?
2. What Are the Key Questions?
3. What Is the Broader Context for the Analysis?
4. How Should I Conceptualize My Product?
5. What Is My Analytic Approach?
6. Can Collaboration Contribute to a Better Answer?
Part II. Where Is the Information I Need?
7. How Do Models Help My Analysis?
8. What Types of Information Are Available?
9. Can I Trust the Sources?
10. How Should I Assess the Reliability of Internet Information?
Part III. What Is My Argument?
11. Are My Key Assumptions Well-Founded?
12. Can I Make My Case?
13. Did I Consider Alternative Hypotheses?
14. How Do I Deal With Politicization?
15. How Might I Be Spectacularly Wrong?
Part IV. How Do I Convey My Message Effectively?
16. Is My Argument Persuasive?
17. How Should I Portray Probability, Levels of Confidence, and Quantitative Data?
18. How Can Graphics Support My Analysis?
19. How Do I Present My Message in the Most Compelling Way?
20. How Do I Know When I Am Finished?
Part V. Case Studies
I. Countering the Iranian Nuclear Threat: Stuxnet and Its Broader Implications
II. Puzzling Food Poisonings in Germany
III. The End of the Era of Aircraft Carriers
IV. Financial Crises in the United States: Chronic or Avoidable?
V. Yemen: An Expanding Security Threat?
Glossary of Terms
List of Names
Recommended Readings
US Government Publications
The Analyst’s Roadmap (Inside Back Cover)

Critical Thinking for Strategic Intelligence is engaging, easy to read and understand, and provides support for the needed learning objectives. Additionally, these readings highlight the role and value of critical thinking in the intelligence process. The “Key Takeaways” sections are a great way to summarize the learning for the individual chapters. I could see it useful in discussion of the intelligence community, intelligence analysis, and the critical thinking skills required for many other courses.” 

Scott Winegar
Concordia University

Critical Thinking for Strategic Intelligence does an excellent job of teaching college students how to look at an issue; they figure out what is needed, find and evaluate information sources, and then put it all together in a coherent product which has facts, assumptions, implications, and conclusions. The book makes all these processes clearly identified.” 

Kenneth Stiles
Virginia Tech University

Critical Thinking for Strategic Intelligence is easy to read and presents complex technical information in a format which is engaging and easy to follow. I love the marriage of theory and practice, including the exercises like the analysis of case studies which shows the student what a real analyst does and what that process looks like.”

Mary Manjikian
Regent University

With Critical Thinking for Strategic Intelligence, Kathy and Randy have continued to make significant contributions to the development of the profession of Intelligence Analysis.  Their work has been focused on improving the skills and the professionalism of the practitioner.  They have through their consulting, their training, and their publications set a standard for all of us to follow who are committed to the same goals. Their model is impressive.”

Dit Talley
John Hopkins University

"Pherson & Pherson’s Critical Thinking for Strategic Intelligence is the best example of applying critical thinking I've ever found. The book actually provides the "how to" do the things formatted according to the phases of the intelligence cycle other books present conceptually."

Dighton (Mac) Fiddner
Indiana University of Pennsylvania
Key features
  • New material includes:
    • A chapter on working with statistics and probabilities at an introductory level;
    • A discussion of how to work with social media;
    • A look at managing the “big data” phenomenon;
    • How to generate analytic products in the digital age;
    • Using structured techniques to combat cognitive bias and intuitive traps;
    • How to identify effective research strategies; and
    • A look of the role analysis plays both at the front and back end of utilizing information.
  • Revised and updated case studies:
    • Yemen: An Expanding Security Threat?
    • The End of the Era of Aircraft Carriers
    • Countering the Iranian Nuclear Threat: Stuxnet and its Broader Implications


  • Each of the book's chapters is organized in four sections–Setting the Stage, Looking More Deeply, Key Takeaways, and Considering the Case Study.
  • The “Analyst’s Roadmap” provides an at-a-glance “map” for readers depicting the best practices involved in perfecting the analytical product.
  • 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.
  • "STOP!" feature boxes challenge readers to rethink an issue and invites them to question basic assumptions before proceeding to the next steps.
  • "What SAT's Apply?" feature boxes tie critical thinking methods to formal structured analytic techniques for solving problems.

Preview this book

Sample Materials & Chapters

Chapter 5

Chapter 12

For instructors

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