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Why does research need creativity?

The need for creative thinking keeps cropping up in research - and to some extent in all project work and in everyday life. Research, after all, is a journey into the unknown and it is often not immediately obvious how to handle what turns up.

Two particularly important needs in a postgraduate research programme are in recognising and focusing on significance and originality and in developing a fall-back position or safety net if the project looks unlikely to finish on time. Both these have their own page. They are by no means, however, the only reasons for learning about and practising creative thinking techniques.

Some techniques which facilitate creative thinking are well known and well practised because they are common sense, second nature or fundamental to good research. The best-known example, which tends not even to be thought about as a creative thinking technique, is talking things through with other people. Other techniques are not widely known, which is a pity because they can be very helpful.

General information

There are three pages of creative techniques on this website. Some of them will probably suit you better than others, but it is best not to dismiss any of them immediately. Practise them from time to time, and see which ones prove their worth. You only need one really good solution to a problem or one really good idea to set your research off in a viable direction.

Creative thinking techniques on this website

The following pages give creative thinking techniques which can be useful in research:

© Pat Cryer


* 'Supervisor' is a shorthand for 'research degree supervisor', 'advisor' or 'tutor', and applies to varying extents for all research degrees: PhD, DPhil. MPhil, Prof Doc and even undergraduate and masters' projects. In some countries, notably the USA, a 'supervisor' is known as an 'advisor'.