Studying Effectively

Creative and critical thinking

How do successful university students think?

Studying at university can change the way you look at the world and the way that you think about your subject.

Developing your ability to think academically and in a way that complements your subject does take practice. You will have many opportunities to hone your thinking skills in seminars and tutorials, in debate and discussion, and in writing assignments and projects.

Your academic tutors can provide a variety of models for demonstrating how to put creative thinking into practice, and how they will encourage your intellectual curiosity.

Tutors will use questions to clarify and establish the facts; they will test assumptions and challenge viewpoints; and they will seek evidence to back-up any position or argument. Adopting these approaches will help you to develop your own thinking skills for independent study.

During your time at Nottingham you are likely to hear reference to:

  • Critical and analytical thinking
  • Evaluation and judgement
  • Creative and exploratory thinking.

You are likely to encounter this sort of academic terminology in your feedback as these are qualities often assessed in marking criteria.  However, it is important to note that terms such as 'critical thinking' do have different meanings in different academic disciplines. Always check with your own School's guidance for clarification and advice on how best to demonstrate critical thinking in your subject area. This makes it a good topic for a discussion with your tutor as creative and critical thinking are likely to be important throughout your studies.

Demonstrating creative and critical thinking is likely to be especially important when producing longer assignments such as dissertations, projects and theses.

Creative thinking


Further reading


Reading and interpreting sources and data

Practical strategies for critical analysis

  • Writing critically 
  • Relevance tree - to help with dissertation topic planning

More from Academic Support study resources


Studying Effectively

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