Thinking critically

Although the delightful comic above has more to do with reviewers’ comments on a paper submitted for publication, it still has to do with “critically appraising” one’s work — from the very assumptions guiding a study, to the methodological choices made by the authors, to the appropriateness of the conclusions that have been drawn from the study’s results.

One of the key skills we are expected to develop during our PhD years is the ability to “think critically” and show an “in-depth critical analysis” of what we read and cite in our work. This skill is likely to develop over time and with experience, as we get to know the main authors in our research area, their theoretical views and common methodological practices. But even early on, in course papers, presentations, Comprehensive Exams and our proposals, even when absorbing what is presented to us at conferences, we are required to “critically evaluate” research. The idea is that we can’t simply buy into everything that is presented to us, without using our intelligence, our knowledge of other relevant work, and our careful reflections of whether or not the authors’ arguments and methodology seem sound.

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