Judgement

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You may want to see an article about spelling judgement - judgment. The article you have come to is about the skill of judgement in academic writing, and study skills.

Judgement is a key skill in any of the learned professions. The ability to offer a professional opinion about a matter with due consideration and authority is what professional judgement is about. A doctor has to judge what the problem is, then what its cause is most likely to be, and finally how to treat it; a teacher has to judge what method of instruction is most likely to involve the particular class; a lawyer has to judge the legality of a course of action, or weigh the chances of a court hearing, before judging how best to argue the client's case. And of course, judgment is the pivot of a judge's job.

As Higher Education is largely about preparing students for lives as professionals, it should help them to develop this skill. Fortunately, the process of study at higher levels in itself demands judgement. Writing any kind of essay involves evaluating evidence and forming a view by coming to a decision about its weight. AWE would like to suggest that judgement is at the heart of good writing. This does not mean that it has much to do with correctness (although judges should always be correct). Rather, it suggests that this part of professional skills involves making the best choice where there is no obvious single 'right' answer. (Judges earn their money when the answer is not obvious.)

OED (1989) gives, as meaning 8a (OED 2013 regards this area of meaning as sense I) of judgement: "The faculty of judging; ability to form an opinion; that function of the mind whereby it arrives at a notion of anything; the critical faculty; discernment," and at 8b) "Good or sound judgement; discernment, discretion, wisdom, understanding, good sense". It is the quality of good or sound judgement at a professional level that should be important to you in your studies in Higher Education. In the field of writing, this has several applications, including:

  • You need to learn to balance your own opinions against the ideas of others, particularly the orthodoxy in your subject, and to evaluate the different strengths of the views put forwards by different writers and teachers.
  • You need to learn to judge the value of evidence, and when to cite sources in your writing. This involves assessing what is 'common knowledge', and therefore needs no source.
  • You need to adjust the balance between what you know and the number of words expected in your assignment: don't leave out the important, and don't include the trivial. In other words, write relevantly and to the point. You will need judgement to decide what to leave out, and what to leave in.
  • You must balance time, effort and the reward of what you are doing. It is easy to get side-tracked into researching a small detail which may be fascinating - but is a waste of time for this week's work and submitting the assignment.

there are many areas in which all learners need judgement: these are just a few.