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Critical Thinking in Practice: Key Skills for NEAs and EPQs

Boost your critical thinking skills to support your Non-examination Assessments (NEAs) and Extended Project Qualifications (EPQs).

676 enrolled on this course

Two people examine graphs and charts together
  • Duration

    6 weeks
  • Weekly study

    2 hours

Enhance your critical thinking and writing skills

Critical thinking allows us to observe and analyse data to construct logical conclusions or arguments. The skills used in critical thinking are central to academia.

This six-week course from the School of Media and Communication at the University of Westminster will guide you in understanding the key factors and processes behind critical thinking.

With this knowledge, you’ll develop the critical thinking and writing skills required to complete NEAs and EPQs to the highest quality.

Discover research methods to support your projects

Your ability to conduct research successfully is an essential component of your NEA or EPQ.

This course will provide you with a framework of research and cognitive skills to help you fully explore your chosen topic area.

You’ll also examine the benefits of different forms of research and data collection and find the right approach to support your work.

Explore data collection and analysis methods for your sources

Data collection and analysis allow you to evaluate the quality of your sources and interpret bias across a wide range of work.

You’ll develop the skills to critically examine sources for validity and find valuable data to inform your project.

Learn with the experts at the University of Westminster

The School of Media and Communication within the University of Westminster has extensive experience in working with schools to develop resources and workshops to support NEAs and EPQs.

With the expertise of experienced staff and a chartered teacher, you will be fully supported in developing your critical thinking skills and mastering your NEAs and EPQs.

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Skip to 0 minutes and 12 seconds Doing independent research can be one of the most exciting and interesting parts of your studies. It can also be one of the most daunting and scary things to do in this short course. We will teach you the skills you need to become a highly skilled researcher. Whether you’re doing coursework, the extended project qualification, or any kind of non examination assessment. This course will provide you with everything you need to excel in your work. Designed to be undertaken alongside your other studies, you will meet world class researchers and academics from the communication and Media Research Institute and the School of Media and Communication at the University of Westminster.

Skip to 0 minutes and 47 seconds They will guide you step by step through the processes of developing research ideas, undertaking them and writing them up. Please do join us on this exciting journey into the world of research.


  • Week 1

    Introducing independent research

    • Welcome to the course

      Welcome to this course on critical thinking and writing skills. Throughout this course you are going to work with members of the School of Media and Communication at the University of Westminster to learn a range of key skills.

    • What is research? And why does it matter?

      The term 'research' can describe a range of activities. In this section we will define what research means for you, and will ask why it is important.

    • Evidence, evidence, evidence

      Researchers spend much of their time looking for evidence or reviewing other people's evidence. In this section we will look at what evidence is and who produces it.

    • Wrapping things up

      We have already learned a lot on this course. Let's take a moment to review what we have looked at so far, and to check our understanding.

  • Week 2

    What makes a good research project?

    • Your research interests

      Doing research about the things that you are interested in can make it much easier, but finding a topic that interests you and is suitable to research can be tricky. Here we look at how the have the best of both.

    • Developing research questions

      Once you have a research topic in mind, the next stage is to develop this into a research question. These are much more focused than the topic alone, and will guide the direction of your work.

    • Creating a proposal

      To formalise our research plans we produce a research proposal. Whether this is required by your assessment or not writing a proposal will really help you excel with your research project. Let's find out how to make one.

    • Wrapping things up

      We have now started to become a researcher, and have developed our research topic into a question and have started work on our proposal. Let's take a look back at what we have learned and check our understanding.

  • Week 3

    Critical analysis and reading

    • What do we mean by criticality?

      Being asked to be more critical in your reading or writing can be very frustrating as it is not always clear what this means. In this learning unit we will define criticality and look at how you might use this skill.

    • Selecting sources

      A key part of critical reading happens before you even get to open your first book. Before you can do that you need to select your sources and ensure that you have used your critical skills in choosing what to read.

    • Reading critically

      The first step in becoming a critical thinker is learning how to undertake critical reading. In this section we will introduce you to some advanced reading techniques to help you in your work.

    • Wrapping things up

      You are now a high quality critical reader. Let's take a moment to reflect on what we have learned so far to check our understanding.

  • Week 4

    Locating open access resources

    • What do we mean by open access?

      Find out about different publishing models and why you are able to access some resources, but not others.

    • Locating articles and books

      In this section we introduce you to a wide range of databases where you can find free to read articles and books to help with you research and projects.

    • Finding statistics and data

      Sometimes we need to find raw data to support our work, or perhaps to give us some inspiration. In this activity we will explore a range of free to access databases and find out how to use their data in our work.

    • Using images and videos

      Videos and images can be a really powerful research tool, helping us to see how stories and history have been documented. In this section we look at how to access a range of contemporary and historic videos and images.

    • Wrapping things up

      In this section we have looked at a very wide range of sources of information and how to access them. Let's reflect on what we have learned and how we can use this in our projects.

  • Week 5

    Critical writing and reporting

    • Critical writing, an introduction

      Let's start by introducing you to what we mean by critical writing rather than descriptive writing. We will also look at what is expected from you in your assignments.

    • The process of writing

      Now we know what is expected of you, let's take a look at how the process of writing works.

    • Referencing and citations

      One final thing you need to learn to do is referencing and citations. This is how you show what you have read, and where your ideas come from.

    • Wrapping things up

      You should now be an expert critical writer. Let's take a look back on what we have learned and check our understanding.

  • Week 6

    Bringing it all together

    • Organising and planning your work

      In this section we will look back over the course and see how we can bring together all the things we have learned along with good planning to make great research projects.

    • What next?

      You are now a full researcher with all the skills you need to complete your work. Well done! If you want to continue this kind of work, why not consider joining us at the University of Westminster.

    • Close

      Just before you leave, we would like to say goodbye, and give you the opportunity to share what you have learned.

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Explore Secondary research methods, including access to open access peer-reviewed works
  • Critique and evaluate a wide range of research conducted by others
  • Demonstrate the collection of data from a wide range of secondary sources
  • Synthesise ideas developed through secondary research
  • Design a research project

Who is the course for?

This course is designed for post-16 learners undertaking NEAs as part of the A-Levels or who might be working on an EPQ.

It will also be useful to first-year students or those who are interested or need a refresher in critical thinking.

Who will you learn with?

Doug Specht is the director of teaching and learning in the School of Media & Communication at the University of Westminster. He a researcher and writer focusing on geography and knowledge production.

Who developed the course?

University of Westminster

The University of Westminster, one of the most diverse institutions in the UK, has been helping students from a variety of backgrounds to realise their full potential for over 180 years. The University has an excellent track record for practical teaching and students have access to a variety of workshops and mentoring schemes to develop transferable skills, network with potential employers, and prepare for the graduate job market.

Find more here.

  • Established

  • Location

    London, United Kingdom

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