Thinking about doing a postgraduate research course? Here are five key skills you will develop while undertaking your research.
A postgraduate research degree is about making an original contribution to knowledge. By definition, postgraduate researchers are innovative and creative thinkers.
There are many ways that researchers are innovative. It may be by thinking about a topic in a new way, using a different research method or investigating different sources. Over the course of your research, the project will develop as you come up with more creative and innovative ideas about your topic. As an expert on your area of interest, you may well be the first person to ever think about that area in that way.
In completing your research, you will have harnessed that creativity and innovation, decided on the best ideas to take forward and refined your thinking into a project that says something new and interesting about your topic.
In conducting your own independent research project, you will develop your analysis and critical thinking skills. You will need to understand the existing research in your field and identify the gaps in the existing knowledge. Depending on your research, you may need to analyse sources, data and qualitative interviews.
A key part of any research project is to look back at the information that you have gathered and identify patterns, as well as areas that would be interesting to look at in more detail. It may be that there are connections between your own research, previous studies and the work of other researchers.
You will develop your ability to analyse all this information and understand what that means for your research and the impact that could have on the wider world.
Whilst you will have the support of your supervisors, a postgraduate research degree is a major, independent research project. You will therefore develop the skills to manage your own time in completing that project.
As you go through your project, you will work with your supervisor to develop objectives for you to reach that will culminate in your thesis. You will need to adhere to a plan to enable the project to be completed, but be flexible enough to adapt to change where necessary. As your project evolves, you may need to critically evaluate your project plan and identify opportunities to improve it.
Being able to manage a long-term research project like this will demonstrate to potential employers your ability to take ownership of a project and manage your own time.
In its simplest form, a research question is a problem to solve. By utilising different research methods, you will be demonstrating your problem-solving skills in order to answer your research question. Over time, your project is likely to evolve as you try different solutions to solve that problem.
But as well as answering your research question, you will also develop your problem-solving skills as you adapt your project to change. It may that there is research in the field that comes up over the course of your research which changes some of your assumptions of your research. Or your research means you identify something that you were not expecting. Equally, as we have all seen over the past year, external events may mean that you have to change your research methods or working practices.
Your ability to adapt to these changes will demonstrate and develop your problem-solving skills.
Over the course of your project, you will develop the ability to communicate your research to a wide range of audiences. Through your formal written thesis, you will demonstrate your ability to coherently construct an argument based on your research aimed at experts in the field.
Throughout your studies, you may also have the opportunity to present your research to different audiences. In order to do so effectively, you will develop the ability to communicate the complex ideas and research in a way that is accessible to people who are not specialists in that area.
This is a really important skill as it will enable you to show why your research matters and inspire others to care about your findings.
The University's Careers Network provides expert guidance and activities especially for postgraduates, which will help you develop your skills and achieve your career goals. The College of Arts and Law also has a dedicated careers and employability team who offer tailored advice and a programme of College-specific careers events.
Read the University of Birmingham's PGR Development blog for more information on the skills you can develop as a postgraduate researcher, with tips on how to improve your research skills and guest blogs from some of our current students.