Friday, 17 June 2022

Critique and write

When we seek to undertake sound academic research and writing, we need a "critical" perspective (Tourish, 2015, p. 137); to take an arms-length view of the evidence; to weigh it against some some type of independent measure; to make sense of source material from the writer's standpoint, or primary data from the participant's viewpoint; to understand the context. We may not agree with a writer's conclusions, but we should be able to comprehend how they got there. We need to use our critical eye to spot both errors in argument and superb argument. A way to approach this type of work is that “critical thinking is ‘the art of thinking about your thinking while you are thinking in order to make your thinking better: more clear, more accurate, and more defensible’” (Cournoyar, 2010, p. 52; after Paul, 1993, p. 462).

Then, when we write, we need to write as humans for other humans. We can embrace humour; we can aim to avoid density and obscurity; and we can allow ourselves to write "differently" and "well" (Tourish, 2017, p. 3). Our writing will hopefully have a low Gunning Fog factor (1968; read more here), and be digestible for our audience. We can write in short, punchy sentences. We must simplify, simplify, simplify. And, as the French Mathematician, Blaise Pascal, so ably said: "Je n'ai fait celle-ci plus longue que parce que je n'ai pas eu le loisir de la faire plus courte"; "The present letter is a very long one, simply because I had no time to make it shorter" (1656, p. 205). We must make time for editing, for editing is time-hungry. 

Collectively, this should assist us to deliver research which truly "matters" (Tourish, 2019, p. 1) to our intended audience.



  • Cournoyer, B. R. (2010). Chapter 3: Critical Thinking, Scientific Inquiry, and Career-Long Learning. In The Social Work Skills Workbook (pp. 51-88). Brooks Cole.
  • Gunning, R. (1968). The technique of clear writing (Rev. ed.). McGraw-Hill.
  • Pascal, B. (1656). Letter XVI: To the Reverend Fathers, The Jesuits. In The Provincial Letters of Blaise Pascal (McCrie trans. 1875, pp. 284-306). Chatto & Windus, Piccadilly. 
  • Paul, R. (1993). Critical thinking: What every person needs to survive in a rapidly changing world (3rd ed.). Foundation for Critical Thinking.
  • Tourish, D. (2015). Some announcements, reaffirming the critical ethos of leadership, and what we look for in submissions. Leadership, 11(2), 135–141.
  • Tourish, D. (2017). Introduction: writing differently about leadership. Leadership, 13(1), 3-4.
  • Tourish, D. (2019). Making a difference: doing leadership research that matters. Journal of Management & Organization, 25(03), 1–6.

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