This skill is the ability to envision the desired goal (the desired end state of the analysis in terms of providing a useful inference that can be acted on with confidence in a timely manner) and to use that vision to guide and limit the analysis to tasks that will achieve the desired goal. This critical thinking skill constitutes an overall check on the process and products of thinking to ensure that it is moving the analysis forward along the right path.
There are many circumstances and reasons why an analyst might head down the wrong path, particularly early in an analysis. The directions given at the outset for conducting the analysis might be vague and confusing; the volume of information might be so great as to provide many opportunities to head in the wrong direction; and some types of information might be more compelling than others, even if not as helpful in meeting the analytical objectives. Consequently, particularly early in the data collection and integration efforts, the analyst must expend effort to envision the goal of the analysis and maintain that vision during the analytical process.
Fig 4. Critical thinking skills
Critical thinking is required to distinguish between relevant and irrelevant information, and valid and invalid information, relative to the desired end state, purpose or goal of the analysis. This skill is obviously related to envisioning the goal, because the analyst needs a well-defined goal before being able to determine what information is likely to be relevant in meeting that goal. The principal skill involved here is the assessment of information for its potential relevancy to the objectives of the analysis; once relevancy has been determined one must then assess validity to provide assurance that it will contribute positively to the analysis.
Assessing and filtering information contributes to intelligence analysis during the assessment and integration stage. If one of the objectives of the analysis is to determine the relationships among entities of various types (for example: individuals, organizations, places, and vehicles) the information most relevant to the analysis would be linkages among entities. For this objective, information that does not provide linkages would be considered not relevant. Thus, in addition to critical thinking skills, the analyst needs to understand and be proficient in the application of specific analytical techniques such as link analysis or financial profiling.