Originality and critical analysis

A classic postgraduate research project presents aims/hypotheses of a particular study, and then demonstrates arguments that clearly addresses these aims/hypotheses. Postgraduate research projects must demonstrate a degree of originality and analysis. This can cause anxiety as it is difficult to determine what constitutes original work. For this reason, it is best to address the concept of originality when you are choosing your research topic.

Originality in an academic context.

Originality does not mean re-inventing the wheel. New inventions or discoveries come very rarely in reality. The idea is to ensure you are not simply repeating what another researcher has done before. Producing an original piece of work simply means moving an idea forward by an incremental amount for the next generation to continue developing.

Critical analysis

At postgraduate level it is important to demonstrate an ability to critically analyse your data/evidence. You need to look beyond the raw data and ask yourself ‘what does this mean?’

So, analysis can mean:

correlation and interpretation of experimental or survey data
comparison of data and results with previous findings
analysis of uncertainties and errors in data
discussion of why methods/procedures should be changed (e.g. for an unforeseen circumstances)
weighing up factors affecting strategic decisions
critical comparison of information from an extensive range of literature sources


You should be able to demonstrate critical thinking and analysis. Do not take anything you see or hear for granted, put it all into context, and ask yourself whether the whole picture makes sense. If there are things that don’t seem to fit, ask yourself why.

Your finished dissertation, thesis or presentation should be predominantly your own work. While it is important to put your work into the context of previous studies, examiners are interested in what you have done and what you are thinking, and therefore the bulk of your work should be demonstrably identifiable as your contribution to the subject.

See our webpage for further information on Critical thinking 


The next section describes the strategies and models used in research.

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