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Succeeding in postgraduate study
Succeeding in postgraduate study

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3 Showing evidence of your ability to think critically

Remember, critical thinking requires critical reading and critical writing skills. How you present and communicate your critical thinking, using appropriate language, avoiding generalising or unsubstantiated statements, are key skills at postgraduate level.

When reading critically, before delving into the detail, make sure you have a clear grasp of the basics first. Read the Conclusions, and the first and last passages of the Introduction, Discussion or Abstract of an article to get an overview of the arguments - we explored this in Activity 1. Look out for recommendations, critiques or challenges put forward by the author, and for evidence supporting their argument. Is it credible? Is it biased? Does it serve its purpose? Does it advance knowledge or understanding? Are there any flaws?

When writing critically, you must support all of your ideas with evidence, and explain (communicate) your reasoning clearly. To do this you will need to research and read widely around a topic (provide context), plan your argument and select relevant supporting evidence. Consider alternative perspectives, theories and evidence, develop your ideas, explore relationships and links, and question your own assumptions as much as those of other authors. Why is it that you agree or disagree with a particular view? Does the argument match with what you know about the subject already? Does it fit with what others have said? Is it relevant and useful to your purpose? How does it add value to previous work in the area? Use tentative language in academic writing (unless your assignment requires you to do otherwise), and make sure that you don’t generalise from a single study.