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An online short course to equip you with the skills to benefit from using academic literature in your research or professional practice.

Learn from experienced researchers and tutors in our School of Education, with a great track record in research to underpin best practice.

A great route to the professional skills to develop, choose or change your career, with all the convenience of learning at your own pace, in any location, and fitting around your work and personal commitments.


A short course designed to equip you with a working knowledge of how to critically read and use academic papers in journals and other similar material, and to be able to present a reasoned argument based on evidence.

You’ll learn to demonstrate a critical understanding of the principal theories and concepts of the topics you’ve studied, together with the major policy issues involved. You’ll learn to search complex academic, policy and other papers, critique and write about them, and use this to boost your skills and career. And you’ll be able to analyse evidence and arguments to support professional judgments.

You’ll find this course extremely helpful as a new graduate beginning or considering postgraduate study which requires a good standard of critical reading and writing skills, or if you need a refresher.

This is also designed for professionals, including teachers, and others working in all areas of the public, third and private sectors who want to bridge the divide between academic theory in their professional area and their own working practice – and may often have to tackle large and complex documents such as government publications and policy papers.

You’ll learn from highly experienced tutors and researchers in our School of Education, and benefit from our strong reputation as a university driven by research and its application in every area of our lives.

Why Aberdeen for this course?

The combination of reputation, breadth of expertise, long experience, teaching and research strength, and strong international outlook makes Aberdeen the obvious provider of first-class education to grow your skills in using of academic literature whatever your field of interest.

We combine over 500 years of rich academic heritage with 21st century innovation and dynamism to create and deliver world class programmes, all underpinned by our inclusive and welcoming learning environment.

Aberdeen is highly rated for the quality of research across all disciplines. Over three-quarters of our research was deemed ‘world-class’ or ‘internationally excellent’ in the most recent national Research Excellence Framework (2014) which assesses research strength across UK universities.

Aberdeen’s School of Education is recognised as a national and international centre of excellence for creative and innovative thinking and practice, with a long and distinguished record in evolving theory and practice in learning in a culturally stimulating, hi-tech, creative environment.

You will benefit from a range of interactive methods and approaches to learning that will enhance your critical thinking, presentation and interpersonal skills, combining this with all the advantages of learning in an international online community to suit your location, employment and personal commitments.

You can study this credit-bearing online short course standalone, or as a taster to continue your professional development with a PGCert, PGDip, and progress to a full online Masters programme in our wide-reaching postgraduate portfolio.

What you'll study

The essential aim of this short course is to help you develop a working knowledge of what is required to appraise journal and other material, and be able to present a reasoned argument based on evidence.

You’ll receive plenty of material and support from your tutors to guide you through the course, which will consist of the following three units:

In unit 1 your tutors will select a single article of general interest and prepare two independent reviews as ‘exemplars’ of critical appraisal. They will also select a further three significant journal articles from the subject areas of Care and support, Learning and innovation leadership, Social policy and new directions for the public services (chosen to cover likely areas of interest for all participants).

For your first ‘formative’ task you’ll write a short critical review of the single article (for which exemplars are available). Having completed this task, you will see the two independent exemplars prepared by your tutors, and be asked to reflect on your own work against the exemplars. This is to demonstrate that there is no single ‘right way’, and a critique often depends on the background and immediate interests of you as the reviewer.

In unit 2 you will be asked to choose one article from the group of three subjects in unit 1 and which is of particular interest to you. In light of what you have learnt in task 1, you’ll prepare a critical review of the article you have chosen. For your formative task at the end of this unit you’ll work as a pair to exchange your reviews and comment in a moderated discussion forum.

For unit 3, and your final summative assessment, you’ll prepare a comparative review of the three articles from the subject areas you were given in unit 1.

How you'll study

This online, distance-learning short course offers all the flexibility and convenience to study when, where and how you choose, and to fit your learning around your location, employment and personal commitments.

Our online courses are delivered through our Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) as self-contained units of learning taught and assessed to the same quality as our degree programmes, and developed specifically for an online audience using a range of learning materials and assessment activities.

We aim to create an international online classroom experience and student community which enables you to enjoy the same learning experience as students on our full degree programmes, including access to a suite of learning resources and support.

You’ll be expected to contribute around 150 hours of effort, including studying online resources, taking part in 3-4 sessions online with your course tutor, and contributing to discussion boards with your online classmates.

Our first-class support structure will ensure that you are not alone in your study. Wherever you are in the world, as you enjoy the convenience of online distance study, you will still feel part of our very special Aberdeen family and learning community.


Formative assessment is an important component of your programme, evaluating your learning at the end of each specific unit by comparing it against a standard. You will have two formative assessments during your course, Each is worth 25% of your final mark.

Your summative assessment is worth 50% of your final grade, and will take the form of a 3000-word comparative review of three journal articles, chosen to reflect different research methodologies and data collection techniques. 

This is described more fully under 'What You'll Study' above.

Entry Requirements

Applicants will be graduates and will be qualified teachers or other professionals working in a school setting. They must be able to undertake studies related to their own practice in their workplace setting.

Applicants for admission will normally be expected to hold a relevant Honours degree with a 2:2 or above from a recognised university or body. In exceptional circumstances applicants without this qualification may be admitted at the discretion of the Programme Director subject to having an alternative qualification, or an approved level of experience, appropriate to the field of study.

All students entering the University, including online courses, must provide evidence that they can use English well enough to study our programmes effectively. Details of our English language entry requirements can be found on our English Language Requirements webpages. For details of our pre-sessional English courses see our Language Centre website.