One of the most sought-after, and yet misunderstood, attributes of a social science essay or dissertation is originality. To achieve a grade in the 90s range here at Edinburgh (that is, an A++, an exceptionally good mark), for example, according to our marking descriptors, your essay needs to display ‘an exceptional degree of insight and independent thought’, ‘flair’, and indeed ‘originality’. Independent analysis and originality, however, should not just be a consideration for the higher grade ranges. Rather, this blogpost suggests to think of it as a scale ranging from complete unoriginality (to be avoided) to very high degrees of originality (to be pursued, but within the limits of good scholarship). Below are suggestions how to avoid the former, and how to work towards the latter.
Studying any social or political science, you will inevitably come across the idea of a critical analysis, a critical approach, critical thinking, a critical awareness, or simply critique. Indeed, the title of this website is a play on it. But while the concept of critical seems to be omnipresent in the social sciences, there is not always much of an explanation of what it actually means. This blogpost attempts such an explanation, and makes suggestions for how to integrate critical-related skills into your essay writing practice. I suggest two components for this, a common-sense-plus element, and a social-science-proper component.