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COUPS Critical Skills Workshop

7th December 2019, Hills College, Hills Rd, Cambridge CB2 8PE
Online booking has now closed, please contact cambridge@oups.org.uk for availability.

Do you sometimes get feedback from your tutors telling you to focus more on the question, or to include more critical evaluation? Or do they sometimes say that your essays need more structure or need to include more research evidence to support your points? Do you sometimes feel that your method of note-taking could be more effective and constructive? Feedback on your assignments can be invaluable and it is important to use it in order to learn and move forward but although we sometimes know what we are doing wrong it is not always easy to know how to improve it.

COUPS ‘Critical Skills’ workshop is designed to advise and support you in improving these skills and developing your understanding. It will help you make the transition from lower to higher levels of study, understanding and performance. The sessions are suitable for all levels of study.

The day will offer a selection of lectures and practical workshops on academic writing, which will be held in a supportive and friendly environment. Numbers will be limited to 30 students in order to give sufficient support and help.

Structure of the day

Registration will take place from 9.30am, with lectures starting at 10am. The day should finish around 4pm.

The day will consist of 4 sessions:

Writing skills for Psychologists 1

  • Communicating effectively in writing
  • Deciding which material is important and which is secondary
  • Making a clear and coherent argument
  • Connecting theories, evidence and conclusions
  • Forming effective paragraphs

Writing skills for Psychologists 2

  • Some process terms in essay questions
  • Writing concisely
  • Some basic grammar
  • Good written expression - Words and phrases to avoid
  • Effective checking and editing
  • Clever conclusions
  • The 10 commandments of good writing

Focussed reading and note-taking

Research has shown that reading and note-taking are active, meaning-making processes and you can use your time much more efficiently when you learn techniques to quickly engage with your module materials and how to make notes which work for your own learning style.

  • Reading with a purpose
  • Making notes – why?
  • Making notes – how?
  • Making notes that make sense to you
  • Getting stuck and unstuck

Thinking and Writing Critically 

  • Six ways to make your essays scholarly by critically examining both theories and evidence.
  • Mottoes to write by!
  • Seeking and using feedback
The workshop is run by Dr Brenda Todd, who has many years of experience teaching with the OU and at OUPS events and she has a particular interest in effective communication and is expert in explaining things clearly. She has taught OU Child Development courses with the OU at both Undergraduate and Masters level and has also been an exam marker. Brenda is a Chartered Psychologist and is an Honorary Senior Lecturer at City University, London, specialising in researching and teaching Developmental Psychology; previously she was a researcher in the Infant Study Unit and tutor at The University of Sussex. She has published papers on developmental topics and has a particular interest in intergenerational transmission of trauma in refugee populations.

Registration will take place from 9.30am, with lectures starting at 10.am. The day should finish around 4pm.

A flier for the event is available from Critical writing skills day 2019 flier 2.pdf


Lunch is not provided, but there are outlets nearby where you can purchase food and drink [alternatively please bring your own].


This event will be held at the Hills Road Sixth Form College, Hills Rd, Cambridge CB2 8PE. The venue is 10-15 minutes walk from Cambridge railway station and is also on several bus routes. Please follow the link below for a map and more information on travel.


For any questions about this event please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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