The PGR Development Programme - Getting Started
A big welcome to all postgraduate researchers, and especially to those joining us this year. My name is Richard Marshall, and as the Researcher Development Officer, I thought it might be helpful to introduce the Researcher Development programme and suggest some training opportunities that might be useful in the first year of a PhD or MRes.
I should stress that the word ‘useful’ in the previous sentence covers a multitude of possibilities – useful to your research, useful to your professional development, useful to your potential career, useful for meeting people and making new friends, useful, even, for providing an excuse to get out of your lab/office/library for a couple of hours a day!
First things first, however. Research Integrity. This is a mandatory course for all PhD and MRes researchers (except those studying for an MRes in Arts and Humanities). If you are working towards a PhD, this course should be completed by your first Annual Progress Review. We strongly suggest that you take this course as soon as is convenient (rather than signing up for a session a week before your progress review!), as it provides guidance on what constitutes best practice and will steer you clear of some of the issues that can arise in planning and conducting research, and in academic publishing.
The second mandatory course is Data Management (mandatory ONLY for Science & Engineering and MVLS; optional courses exist for Arts and Social Sciences). This course will tell you how to store and record your research findings securely, and ensure that you comply with any funder requirements. It will also prevent your thesis from being lost if your laptop is stolen or a fire destroys your lab!
There are specific Research Integrity and Data Management courses for researchers in Science & Engineering and MVLS, and in Arts and / or in Social Sciences. Please make sure you have the correct course codes (which can be found in your College Handbooks / websites) when you enroll on MyCampus!
Equality and Diversity training (accessible via Moodle) is the third and final mandatory requirement for postgraduate researchers. UofG is committed to promoting equality in all its activities, and researchers need to be aware of their individual and collective responsibilities in relation to equality, diversity, and inclusion.
Beyond these requirements, your college offers a range of development opportunities. The choice might appear bewildering to those embarking on a research degree, and you should definitely discuss your training requirements with your supervisor! Training opportunities that might be useful in the first year of a PhD or MRes include:
1. Academic Writing: Establishing a Writing Practice
2. Academic Writing: Literature Critiques / Reviews
3. Academic Writing: Effective Writing 1
The three courses above will help you get started on writing your thesis. From personal experience, the sooner you start writing, the better: like any other skill, practice makes perfect! As for the mandatory courses, the Academic Writing workshops are tailored for the requirements of particular research specialisms; please make sure you have the correct course codes (see your College Handbooks / websites) when booking via MyCampus.
4. Project Management – An Introduction (RSDC 6001)
5. Presenting with Impact (RSDD 6002)
6. Introduction to Social Media (RSDD 6078)
7. Postgraduate Leadership Programme (RSDB 6001)
These courses develop your organisational and engagement / impact skills: it’s no good having great ideas and insights if they never escape your own head (this is a variation on the ‘what sound does a tree make when it falls in the wilderness?’ problem!). The project management course introduces techniques that will help with the planning and execution of your research and writing-up, while ‘Presenting with Impact’ provides tools to improve your oral delivery and combat nerves- great for both future conference presentations and if you’re planning to enter Three Minute Thesis competition!
For some researchers, the ‘Introduction to Social Media’ course may also be useful – this provides hints and tips on how to use social media to disseminate research. For those who have been on this course, or are already social-media savvy, the ‘Digital Content Creation’ course (RSDD 6066) is a more advanced option: this provides training on how to create and edit videos for sharing your research.
You might also consider applying to attend the Postgraduate Leadership programme. This course is a bit different because it results in accreditation from the Chartered Management Institute; it also requires a big investment of time and attention – not only is the course held over several days across several weeks, but you also need to produce a piece of written work for assessment at the end of it all. For this reason, we ask potential candidates to demonstrate their commitment and obtain their supervisor’s permission before they can book a place; if you are interested, please keep a lookout for the emails that will be sent out later in the calendar year (the programme starts in semester 2).
Besides these courses, a range of less formal opportunities are also available to improve your skills. Keep an eye on the Careers Service and their Internship Hub, or perhaps offer to give a paper at a postgraduate or departmental seminar. Are there any conferences you’d like to attend? You don’t have to present yet – networking is itself an important skill to practice, and there are informal opportunities to explore through PubHD and the newly-created PhD Society! Could you even volunteer to shadow a member of staff for a week? The possibilities are not quite endless, but if you look around, there are certainly more than at first meet the eye!
You can’t expect to take all the courses I’ve mentioned – if you tried, you’d never get any research done! But do think seriously about taking two or three of the above lists in addition to your mandatory requirements. Though it may not seem like it now, it’s easier to find time in the first year of your PhD than later, so make the most your opportunities to learn skills and good habits that will serve you well beyond your PGR journey. Don’t just look for development training and opportunities that you think will be useful for some future career (things rarely turn out as planned!), but do what you enjoy doing, and even look out for things that might be a little bit challenging – research degrees are meant to stretch your mind, after all, and you might just discover a hidden talent! And remember, your fees have already paid for your training whether you take it up or not – don’t let someone else eat all your training cake! Sign up now to avoid disappointment (there are some courses I’d like to have included in this post, but they’re already fully booked!).