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. Outcomes of a PhD with commercial or industrial interest may require a different format, but all PhD theses must adhere to the requirements of the academic qualification and standards in question.
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.
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 circumstance or for artistic/aesthetic reasons)
- 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.