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SEE-I is a method of clarification and understanding.[1] It stands for State, Elaborate, Exemplify, and Illustrate. This method provides a way to better understand and/or clearly communicate a concept or topic. SEE-I also lends itself to a natural descriptive style of writing where important concepts or topics are described in a clear, repetitive manner. This same method is sometimes referred to as the “C-I paradigm”.[2] SEE-I was originated by Richard Paul and Linda Elder and further refined into the current form by Gerald Nosich.


SEE-I has the following four steps:

1. State the concept or idea in a single sentence or two.
  • Clearly and succinctly state the concept.
2. Elaborate on the concept in your own words. Explain it at greater length in a paragraph or two.
  • Clarify the concept in your own words. "In other words,. . ."
3. Exemplify the concept by giving concrete examples (and counter examples) of the concept.
  • Specify the concept by giving specific examples. "For example, . . ."
4. Illustrate the concept with a picture, diagram, metaphor, or analogy.
  • Draw something, find an existing picture, or create a picture-in-words, such as with a metaphor or analogy. "It's like ..."

As a process, SEE-I starts with a clear statement of the concept, followed by clarification in the person's own words. Next, the person goes to the specific with examples and counter examples of the concept. Finally, the person ends with a generalization of the concept, typically in the form of a metaphor or analogy. This illustration often represents a mapping to a more common domain of knowledge and helps the reader fully latch onto the concept. As the person works his or her way through the steps, previous steps often require revision. So the process as a whole is iterative, refining, and self-correcting, if explicit revision is employed. SEE-I is also an amenable method for small groups. A handful of individuals can work through the process to better understand the given concept and create a clear description for others.


SEE the concept "learning".

  • Learning is the gaining of knowledge, understanding, or ability.
  • In other words, learning is a process by which a person gains specific knowledge, understanding of this knowledge, or a specific skill (ability). Often learning involves gaining all three to varying degrees. The process occurs through a stressful repetitive perception that allows the underlying neural networks of the mind and body to adapt to the repetitive input. True learning involves internalization of the knowledge being learned. When I have learned something, I can not only say it back, I can also explain it, use it, and integrate it with my other knowledge.
  • For example, a child slowly learns to ride a bike by being guided, by practicing, and occasionally by falling down.
  • A counter example is someone that continues to repeat the same mistakes over and over again.
  • Learning is like a sponge that absorbs whatever liquid it comes in contact with, but hopefully never gets saturated.
  • Learning is like eating: what we eat becomes part of us.

SEE the concept "cellular metabolism".

  • Cellular metabolism is the set of chemical reactions inside a cell that maintain life.
  • Cellular metabolism is the set of chemical reactions representing the flow of matter and energy through the cell. These chemical reactions maintain homeostasis, allow growth, and keep a relatively constant level of entropy in the cell.
  • The citric acid cycle is a part of cellular metabolism.
  • Cellular respiration is another part of cellular metabolism.
  • A counter example is the production of humus in the soil.
  • Cellular metabolism is like the activity of the bees in a beehive. The worker bees, drones, and queen perform their separate tasks that together maintain a hive and enable it to grow.

SEE the concept "diffusion".

  • Diffusion is the dispersal or spreading out of something like matter, energy, or even ideas.
  • In other words, diffusion is a time-dependent delocalization of a collection of entities typically via a random (stochastic) process.
  • For example, when someone puts a drop of food coloring in a cup of water, the molecule(s), providing the color, spread out in the water via Brownian motion until an equilibrium concentration is reached.
  • Diffusion is like my roommate's clothes that disperse from his drawers across our dorm room between his quarterly laundry runs.


  1. ^ Nosich (2009) pp. 33-38
  2. ^ Paul and Elder (2005)


  • Nosich, Gerald M. (2009, 2005, 2001) Learning to Think Things Through: A Guide to Critical Thinking Across the Curriculum. Published by Pearson Prentice Hall. 3rd edition, pp. 33–38. ISBN 0-13-813242-9
  • Paul, Richard, and Elder, Linda. (2005) Critical Thinking: Tools for Taking Charge of Your Learning and Your Life. Published by Prentice Hall. ISBN 0-13-114962-8