This week I ran a workshop for newly registered research degree students entitled “The Beginner’s Guide to the Doctorate”. What I set out to do was to lay bare the road ahead when it comes to a research degree, to get the participants to consider aspects of the journey that, perhaps, they had not yet thought about.
I always enjoy this kind of workshop because I am always enthralled by the enthusiasm and diversity of the new researchers who are embarking on their journey of discovery in research; the topics sound fascinating.
I started by introducing the concept of the journey from a skills development point of view, although I offer many workshops to researchers, very few of them are about upskilling researchers, more about changing the perspective of the researchers themselves toward their own development. It’s about helping them to understand what they have as a consequence of following a research degree path.
It also gave me the chance to talk about the Researcher Development Framework (RDF) which is a relatively new way of being able to describe the incredibly rich skills set that researchers have (I have written a separate blog post about the RDF as there is a lot to talk about).
Vitae have recently released an online tool to help researchers navigate the RDF, to encourage them to plan their development. The full details about that tool can be found here: http://rdfplanner.vitae.ac.uk/
I asked the participants to talk about motivations to undertake a PhD, I think it’s important to understand what drives you so that you can remind yourself when the road becomes a bit more difficult to negotiate – that’s the infuriating thing about a research degree, it rarely if ever goes smoothly. The words of Einstein ring true here, “If we knew what we were doing, it wouldn’t be called research”.
The day was loosely structured around the sharing of hints and tips for new researchers and I used the following powerpoint slides to give the day a format although we explored lots of different areas of the RDF.
Here’s a few more resources that I think are useful:-
UWE Graduate School webpages – Everything you need to know about the support available to doctoral students from UWE.
The Thesis Whisperer blog – A fantastic resource for all doctoral students from Dr. Inger Mewburn (Director of research training, Australian National University). A comprehensive coverage topics relevant to doctoral students covered in this blog site.
Patter; Pat Thomson blog – A blog from Professor Pat Thomson, Professor of Education at the University of Nottingham, focussing mainly on the topic of academic writing. This blog is a goldmine for advice on finding your academic voice.
The Graduate School development events diary – The online events diary for all events relating to researchers – a chronological list of events with booking forms. Any of the events I talked about today, you’ll be able to find them here.
www.vitae.ac.uk A first port of call for a wide range of useful materials relating to postgraduate research study especially on assessing how you are developing your skills throughout the process.
Researcher Development Framework The collation of the skills, knowledge, behaviours and attributes that make up a successful researcher.
The RDF Planner An online application to better enable researchers to self-audit their competencies against the RDF and help direct them to resources for professional development. e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in taking advantage of a trial subscription to this.
www.phdcomics.com Light relief following grad students through their journey in the form of a comic strip.
– A discussion and support group for people who cannot seem to finish their dissertations or theses.
I'm a former researcher into the microbiology of the mouth who now runs a skills development programme for other researchers.