Studying Effectively

Creative and exploratory thinking

Enhancing your creativity and your ability to think laterally will aid your problem solving and investigating abilities. Coming up with 'new' and 'surprising' interpretations or innovations may not be required for undergraduate study, but creative approaches, analyses and explorations could be rewarded.

Check with the marking criteria for assignments to see if marks are awarded for this, and make sure you still work through checklists on evaluating your evidence, analysis and argument.

It is important to remember that a common criterion for postgraduate research (e.g. a PhD) is to produce 'original work' that 'makes a significant contribution to the field'. However, do think about what that means for your particular discipline or area of study as what your research adds to the knowledge of the topic may not to need to be major or revolutionary in all aspects. 

Using exploratory thinking can help build confidence and a willingness to take an intellectual risk in developing and working through ideas. 

One creative thinking technique commonly recommended is to draw or sketch your ideas. This suggestion is based upon the notion that using language predisposes our mind to certain ways of thinking and that freeing it from those constraints can open us up to different ideas.

Visually mapping your ideas can be another creative way of exploring and organising your thoughts. Mapping often minimises textual information and uses imagery to convey key information, ideas and concepts. A variety of computer programmes can help with mapping.

Exploratory thinking techniques


Further reading

Reading and interpreting sources and data

Practical strategies for developing critical analysis

  • Preparation and planning - including mind-mapping 
  • Writing critically

More from Academic Support study resources

Mapping your ideas

  • Information for accessing MindView software accessible via UoN networked software (UNUK only)

Recommended by Academic Support

More from Academic Support IT skills

People who can help

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Studying Effectively

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