ECONOMIC & SOCIAL RESEARCH COUNCIL
Getting inside the mind of an expert management researcher
Your learning through the two-way process of academic discourse
Who do we think you are?
Who do you think your audience is?
What’s distinctive about researching management?
Induction into a western tradition of academic scholarship
What’s your ‘academic comfort zone’, and how could you expand it?
Official expectations that you will develop your critical frame of mind
Expectations check-up
How well does your work match-up to your assessors’ expectations?
Are you a more critical thinker than you realise?
Experiences of thinking critically in your academic work
Helping yourself learn to think like an expert management researcher
Comparing lists of Dos and Don’ts
Maximising your learning by linking critical reading with self-critical writing
Your learning through the two-way process of academic discourse 


Academic enquiry is pursued by an increasingly global community of scholars. You are as much a member of this global community as the most famous academic expert. Scholars exchange ideas and try to advance knowledge across this community through the verbal and written language of enquiry, debate and challenge. In other words, through academic discourse.

You have two complementary roles in academic discourse, like any scholar. Learning to perform these two roles effectively is essential for students and academics alike.   

1.    As a listener and reader, you are expected to engage with and evaluate the arguments of others who try to convince you. (For students, these people include students and academics in your classes and the authors of texts that you read relating to a particular management field that you. For academics, they include colleagues in seminars, authors of texts, and speakers at conferences.) 

2.    As a speaker and writer, you are also expected to develop your own verbal or written argument about what you have found out from your discussions, reading and empirical research that will convince others. (For students, these people are principally your fellow students and your academic tutors, assessors or supervisor. For academics, they include academic reviewers of your articles for publication or your research proposals.)

While you are learning to carry out these two roles, the two-way process of listening and reading, speaking and writing that you take part in as a student or a novice academic mirrors the discourse of experienced academics. Their discourse is expressed in their written papers, chapters and books that you read, and in their lectures, seminars or conference presentations that you may attend.

The sequence of experiences offered in postgraduate or doctoral studies is designed to support students’ learning by giving opportunities to practise (with feedback) the skills of active listening, thinking, putting forward ideas, critically reading and self-critically writing in the way that experienced researchers do. When starting out as an academic, there are opportunities for developing these skills further through seminars and conference activities ranging from poster sessions, through roundtable discussions, to presenting papers.

Many students and not a few academics become so concerned with developing their own understanding and writing down their own ideas that they lose sight of the two-way nature of their involvement in academic discourse. Does this observation apply to you? 

  • Whenever you are reading, do you keep in mind how your text was written by particular authors, for a particular purpose, to communicate with and convince their imagined audience about whatever argument they were developing? (This imagined audience may or may not include you, of course. For example, the authors might have been writing for other experienced academics in their own field.) 
  • Whenever you are writing for assessment – whether by your tutor, supervisor, or other academics, do you keep in mind the fact that your text is going to be read critically, so you need to ensure that you communicate well and develop an argument which will convince your sceptical readers?