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The University of Southampton

HUMA5014 Critical and Contextual Thinking for Masters Study (12 weeks)

Module Overview

The Critical and Contextual Thinking module is a core component of the Masters with Integrated Preparatory Study programme. The aims of the module are: (i) to establish the grounds for thinking critically and explore what contextual thinking means; and (ii) to encourage students to think about and discuss concepts and ideas in a critical fashion, which includes demonstrating appreciation of the times and places in which those concepts and ideas originated, what their purpose was, and how subsequently they have been and are employed. Students will be introduced to a range of critical thinking and research skills that will enable them to work as active and independent learners at Masters level, who are capable not only of following complex arguments but who can also formulate their own persuasive lines of reasoning. The module will focus on developing critical and contextual thinking in relation to reading, writing, listening and speaking skills and will include both individual and group work activities and tasks.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • Explain why students in higher education are expected to be critical and contextual thinkers and how these skills will help you to become a more active, independent and reflective learner.
  • Critically reflect on your own work in order to produce persuasive and sustained lines of reasoning in which your points are effectively supported with evidence.
  • Critically engage with texts such as journal articles as well as extended and fairly complex speech in which writers and speakers adopt particular attitudes or perspectives.
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Analyse, interpret and contextualise complex ideas from a range of sources.
  • Extract, paraphrase and synthesise key information from written and spoken sources.
  • Present and discuss ideas in a reasoned, structured and rigorous way, both orally and in writing and both individually and as a member of a group.
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Present reasoned and structured arguments, both orally and in written form.
  • Identify, select and critically draw upon a range of printed and electronic sources.
  • Summarise and discuss key ideas and concepts from written and spoken sources.
  • Organise information effectively.
  • Demonstrate interpersonal skills whilst working with others in the investigation of problems, and in the presentation of arguments and evidence.


The programme comprises of 5 elements: 1) Critical & Contextual Thinking 2) Research Skills & Critical Reading 3) Critical Writing 4) Critical Listening 5) Group Work The interconnectedness of skills will be stressed. In particular, the importance of broad and deep research that involves reading sources and engaging with ideas critically and contextually will be emphasised. This will serve as a basis for developing robust lines of reasoning (arguments) that can be presented either orally or in terms of written texts. Throughout, practice in the skills to be developed will be crucial. 1) Critical and Contextual Thinking Crucial to the capacity to analyse and evaluate texts and arguments is an ability to think critically. In this element of the module we will:  - Establish the epistemological grounds for thinking critically and contextually considering different types of thinking and why critical and contextual thinking are required at university level in the UK.  - Apply our reasoning skills to identify and distinguish some basic components of arguments, for example, premises, reasons, conclusions/intermediate conclusions and explanations. - Evaluate arguments by considering the assumptions on which they are built, inconsistencies and contradictions. - Recognise that for any argument there are likely to be at least one counter-argument based on a different perspective. - Explore what thinking contextually demands. - Consider what counts as evidence and what is meant by neutrality, bias, expertise, corroboration and selectivity. 2) Research Skills and Critical Reading An underlying principle guiding this module is that reasoning is research-led. That is, the ability to produce coherent, consistent and convincing lines of reasoning, is dependent upon having first conducted appropriate research and having engaged in critical reading to a degree that our arguments are then sufficiently informed to make them robust and plausible. Beyond the basics of familiarising you with library and online resources, which will be done elsewhere on the programme, this element of the module will seek to develop an awareness of how to employ resources effectively in your arguments. We will broaden our understanding about how to evaluate concepts and ideas by examining their origins, relevance, and currency as well as their relationships to each other. 3) Critical Writing Critical writing is a core element of the module. We will review the basics of academic writing style that you will be familiar with from themes covered elsewhere on the MIPS programme. We will then consider what a line of reasoning is and how paragraphs should drive an argument to its conclusion. We will explore how a line of reasoning typically moves from description through analysis to evaluation. Methods for incorporating other people’s voices into our writing using, for example, paraphrase and/or quotation will be considered as will the ways in which we can signal our agreement or our disagreement with other people’s ideas and theories. Crucially, we will explore what including our own voice in a written text or oral presentation means and how this can be achieved. 4) Critical Listening The capacity to understand, analyse and evaluate debates, talks and presentations lies at the heart of successful postgraduate study. This element will explore the process from initial encounter with material, through to the construction of critical and comparative assessments of the arguments revealed. We will consider fairly complex speech and how different speakers’ ideas relate to each other revealing either agreement, disagreement or more subtly, divergence at certain points. 5) Group Project Critical reading, listening and thinking will be essential to the work you produce and will help you to articulate ideas and express yourself clearly and with confidence, both individually and as part of a group, orally and on paper. We will review the basic features of working effectively with others, which should be familiar to you from themes addressed elsewhere on the MIPS programme. Building on this, we will then consider how critical thinking can enhance group work helping us, for example, to place ideas and concepts in context and construct persuasive lines of reasoning. Themes likely to be covered will include: - Identifying the task your work must address (‘interrogating the question’)  - Thinking critically and contextually  - Building a line of reasoning  - Using quotations as well as non-verbal information effectively  - Reviewing and assessing your contribution to team work

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include • One lecture per week • Four hours of seminar work per week Learning activities include • Attending lectures and seminars • Contributing to discussion in lectures and seminars • Engaging in seminar tasks • Preparing the assessed work

Independent Study60
Total study time120

Resources & Reading list

Institute of Ideas.

Cottrell, S. (2011). Critical Thinking Skills. 

Cottrell, S. ( (2008). Study Skills Handbook. 

Greetham, B. (2016). Smart Thinking. 

Moon, J. (2008). Critical Thinking: An Exploration of Theory and Practice. 

Thomson, A. (2009). Critical Reasoning: A Practical Introduction. 

Moral Maze.

Thompson, G. (1994). Reporting. 

Godfrey, J. (2013). How to Use Your Reading in Your Essays. 




MethodPercentage contribution
Essay 50%
Group project presentation 30%
Listening test 20%


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal

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