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Researcher Development

Researcher Development

Academic thinking

“Academic thinking to me is about…”

What does “academic thinking” mean to you? Think about what it is and what it is not.

Jot some ideas down/do a mind map to explore.


This is what my thinking journey looked like a couple of weeks ago:

I was on the M4 the other day, driving down to Bournemouth, and I started thinking about my next thesis chapter …

As this quote illustrates, “thinking” is not always planned – it can happen at any time. But there are times when we will consciously switch our thinking caps on and start engaging with the task ahead.

One of the fundamental steps to adopt would be to think academically. It would be a fallacy to suggest that a person can “write academically”, without considering thinking. So, it is essential to get into the right frame of mind and know the standards and norms that are expected.

‘good academic writing’ is totally dependent on good academic thinking: you cannot simply follow rules, lists and guidance on how to write – as you have to be in command of strong intellectual ideas and mastery of the domain you are writing about. Many students spend too much time trying to write well, when they would benefit more from developing their thinking.

Professor of Education, University of Exeter

If you had to think about the following, what would you say for each one?

  1. The purpose of your writing e.g. assignment, chapter, etc.
  2. Justifying any assumptions you make
  3. Citations
  4. Bringing it all together

This list has been extracted from the following resource Cracking academic thinking and writing by UCL.

Select a piece of your own writing, e.g. thesis chapter. Next, download the Thinking worksheet and complete it, making sure you give yourself time for self-reflection.

Once you have completed the Thinking Worksheet, write about 100 words on what you have learnt that is most striking.

This video is a short teaching session, titled “Thinking as you write”. It discusses three strategies for thinking/learning during writing: 1. Writing to prompts, 2. Free writing, 3. Generative writing

You can also download a transcript of this video.

The rest of my thinking episode is below:


I was on the M4 the other day, driving down to Bournemouth and I started thinking about my next thesis chapter… and what I needed to include to prove my research is worthy to my supervisor and examiners – how could I best communicate all of this, I wonder?

This neatly ties us into the next section on expectations – who am I writing for? What do they expect from me? How should I write?….

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