Critical thinking and writing are skills that are not easy to acquire. The term ‘critical’ is used differently in social and clinical contexts. Nursing students need time to master the inquisitive and ruminative aspects of critical thinking that are required in academic environments. This learning module outlines what is meant by critical thinking in academic settings, in relation to both theory and reflective practice. It explains how the focus of a question affects the sort of critical thinking required and offers two taxonomies of learning, to which students can refer when analysing essay requirements. The module concludes with examples of analytical writing in reference to theory and reflective practice.