Advice on what we mean by critical thinking, and further reading and resources.
It affects your academic success: if you wish to achieve higher grades, being able to take an informed and analytical approach to your studies is very important. Simply memorising and explaining concepts and ideas will not be sufficient for a strong pass at masters level. You need to be able to demonstrate in-depth knowledge of your subject and give your opinion(s) supported by evidence that you have judged to be appropriate.
It affects your employability: one of the main reasons students undertake postgraduate study is to improve their employment prospects. Higher-level thinking and reasoning skills can be applied across many areas of work e.g. strategic planning, trouble shooting, problem solving, and critical evaluation of projects and processes. They are therefore essential to develop and demonstrate to prospective employers after graduation.
Being ‘critical’ does not mean just being negative, or pointing out what is wrong about something. At masters level, ‘critical’ means “Fully informed, capable of supporting in-depth analysis and assessment” (Scottish credit and qualifications framework, level descriptors).
You can find out more about the framework at :
Taking a critical approach in your studies and professional development can include behaviours such as:
You can find out more about being critical in your studies in the following factsheets:
Critical’ in University work means being thoughtful, asking questions, not taking things you read (or hear) at face value. It means finding information and understanding different approaches and using them in your writing.
The Open University (2009) outline a useful ‘stairway’ to help students understand the skills in thinking critically.
The lower steps are the basics that support moving to the higher-level thinking skills that can underpin taking a critical approach.
Source: ‘Critical thinking: online guidance’, the Open University (2009) - no longer available. The current version can be found at
You may find it useful to review some of our webpages: