Critical Reasoning in Contemporary Development Studies

Key information

Start date
End date
Year of study
Year 1
Module code
FHEQ Level
Department of Development Studies

Module overview

This module provides students with a foundational introduction to core social science skills, as applied in a development studies context. It explores how social scientists think, engage in critical reasoning, and put forward arguments based on theory and empirical evidence. It does this through using examples and cases drawn from development studies. Students will explore the ways that engaging with literature through particular lenses, such as gender, class and race, change the ways in which arguments are perceived and understood. The module examines what is meant by evidence, and students on the module will learn how to evaluate, engage with and use different types of evidence (such as qualitative and quantitative), before turning their attention to how to put these core social science skills to use in preparing for and writing essays and defending their arguments. Finally, the module explores key study skills, both within the institution of the library, but also study skills for fieldwork. Through this latter part, students will understand how evidence is generated, and be better able to critically 'read' presentations of that evidence in the literature. By the end of the module, students will have gained key social science skills, with a particular focus on development studies, that will allow them to better engage with the literature and debates at a higher level in their Level 5 and 6 module.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module


On successful completion of this module a student will be expected to be able to demonstrate:

  • An ability to understand and engage critically with different perspectives and arguments within the literature;
  • An ability to understand how gender, class, race, etc, shape the ways in which texts are interpreted; and through those lenses evaluate the presence and reason for gaps in the literature;
  • An understanding of how evidence is generated, what different types of evidence can and cannot do, and how to find and critically engage with evidence for their own arguments;
  • An understanding of agents of change in development;
  • An ability to use study skills effectively




Teaching will take the form of a two-hour seminar each week.


Scope and syllabus


The module is split into 6 sections, each consisting of several lectures. The sections are:
Part 1: Critical reasoning
Part 2: Critical reading
Part 3: Critical approaches to evidence
Part 4: Writing critically, and convincingly
Part 5: Development and praxis
Part 6: Study skills


Method of assessment


100% Coursework. Each student will be required to submit:

A short discussion paper of no more than 500 words (worth 10%); An analysis of an editorial or TED Talk of no more than 1000 words (worth 25%); one article review of no more than 1000 words (worth 25%) and one essay of no more than 2000 words (worth 40%).


Suggested reading

  • Groarke, Leo and Christopher Tindale (eds.) (2012) Good Reasoning Matters!: A Constructive Approach to Critical Thinking. Fifth Edition, OUP. [NOT CURRENTLY IN LIBRARY]
  • Hedge, T., 2005. Writing (2nd ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Schafer, J., Haslam, P. A., & Beaudet, P., 2008. Introduction to international development: Approaches, actors, and issues. Don Mills, Ont.: Oxford University Press


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules