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Developing critical skills

Page header banner for Critical Thinking Skills

The answers you get depend on the questions you ask. But how do you know you’re asking the right questions? Critical thinking is a key skill required at university, whether at undergraduate level or postgraduate. This page shares a range of advice and guidance on how to build skills and confidence in critical thinking, reading and writing, helping you develop a reflective and critical approach to your research and writing.

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Download a sample book chapter

Critical reading: getting started

In a free extract Mike Wallace and Alison Wray (authors of Critical Reading and Writing for Postgraduates) explain how to get started with critical reading. They look at how to focus with questions, evaluate what you read, understand what makes an argument convincing and using the Critical Synopsis technique.


Listen to a podcast about critical thinking

Putting critical thinking into practice

Listen to a podcast by Monica Gribben and download the accompanying activity to find out how to develop your critical skills and use them in your assignments.




Tips on how to think critically

Image of tips on critical thinking

Critical thinking means…

  1. Looking for the key ideas, themes and concepts in your research 
  2. Comparing, contrasting and linking the different ideas you identify 
  3. Understanding these ideas, and applying them to new questions or problems, rather than just memorising them 
  4. Contributing your own ideas to the academic debate; responding to the key ideas you’ve identified, not just summarising them for your reader. This is expected more and more as you progress through university 
  5. Questioning everything you read, whether it’s been written by a renowned academic or your favourite commentator on a topic. What was their purpose when writing their work? Do they explain their reasoning sufficiently? Are there alternative arguments and do they deal with them? Can you introduce anything from your wider research to contrast with or support this particular text?

Extract taken from Academic Writing and Grammar for Students by Alex Osmond

How do you define critical reading?

What’s the difference between an opinion and an argument?