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
Induction into a western tradition of academic scholarship


The advanced academic study of management is increasingly carried out from inside the contemporary western academic tradition. Amongst the conventions of this tradition are that:

  • originality and independence of individual scholarly thinking are highly valued
  • individual scholars are the owners of their original ideas and knowledge: their ‘intellectual property’. So other scholars must acknowledge this ownership when referring to individuals’ ideas and knowledge
  • while all scholars are entitled to others’ respect as people, their work may legitimately be challenged, exposed to criticism, and even rejected if there are strong enough grounds for doing so.

Whether as a postgraduate or research student or as a novice academic, you are probably being inducted into the western scholarly tradition. You may be encouraged to develop your own ideas, to indicate the ownership of other scholars’ ideas when you refer to them (and so avoid plagiarism), and critically to question any academics’ ideas that you come across in your studies (provided you can give convincing reasons for your view).

If your previous academic training was in the western tradition, you will already be familiar with the approach to scholarship it embodies. Hopefully, you will feel confident operating in this tradition. But if your previous academic training was not in the western tradition, you may find it confusing and uncomfortable at first. Until now, you may have been taught to accept rather different conventions, perhaps:

  • deference is expected towards the authority of established scholarly knowledge taught by academic experts, which is to be memorised and faithfully reproduced
  • this established body of knowledge is shared amongst the scholarly community, and so anyone may legitimately copy and summarise it without any acknowledgement 
  • expert scholars’ work is to be appreciated, and it would be disrespectful to check the validity of their ideas or to challenge their thinking

Clearly, such conventions are not wholly compatible with the western tradition. So it may take you some time to feel confident in legitimately expressing your own ideas, and engaging critically with the ideas of authority figures (who include senior academics).

Yet these conventions that you may have learned from outside the western tradition are still very valuable to you when learning from inside it! You may be expected to contribute something original through your work that builds on an existing body of knowledge. It is therefore important to be adequately informed about that knowledge in seeking to add something new.

Students and academics educated in the western tradition can easily forget to give sufficient importance to the work of other scholars. What they may think is their original idea could simply reflect their ignorance of what others have already done.

Whatever academic traditions you have experienced in your previous training, it is important that you develop your capacity to work inside the contemporary western tradition. As a student, the primary audience for your written work will be your tutors and examiners. As a novice academic, your primary audience will be experienced academics. They will assess the work you submit according to criteria that reflect the conventions of this tradition, so you will need to meet their assessment criteria as fully as you can.