About the Graduate School
Embarking on a Master's level course or a research degree is an exciting and challenging experience.
In addition to getting to grips with your subject and getting to know your tutors and fellow students, you will need to learn how to plan and organise your research and how to present your research findings effectively and according to academic convention. It is also important that you establish ways of managing your time effectively and of achieving a workable balance between study, career, family, friends and other commitments.
Developing Study and Research Skills
Studying at postgraduate level often requires the development of new study and research skills, and if you have not studied for some time, you may also need to revisit and refresh skills you acquired at undergraduate level or on other postgraduate courses. Your requirements will differ according to your subject discipline and your own background and study practices but the key areas you will need to consider tackling include:
- Time management
- Using online search engines (and particularly SOLO, the main library search engine for Oxford University)
- Managing computer files and data bases
- Managing and presenting references and bibliographies (including using an online referencing system such as RefWorks or EndNote)
- Reading critically and effectively
- Taking notes effectively
- Using statistical and modelling techniques
- Planning a research project
- Writing a research proposal
- Planning and conducting a survey
- Planning and writing a dissertation or thesis
- Developing an academic writing style
- Giving presentations (including the use of PowerPoint)
- Preparing for a Doctoral or Master's viva
Developing the study and research skills needed at postgraduate level takes time and effort. Some need to be acquired at the start of your programme while others are best developed over a longer period. Guidance and assistance will be supplied on your course programme, by your tutors or your supervisor, and in your course handbook. Your Faculty or Department may also provide guidance on its website or run training courses and workshops. The Bodleian Libraries Group runs workshops in finding, using and referencing library resources. The Oxford University Computer Services run a wide range of skills workshops for postgraduate and other students and also provides access to the Skills Hub (requires student login) and the Research Skills Tool Kit.
Research Guides and Websites
There is also a wide range of published textbooks and guides providing advice on postgraduate study and research skills. A list of some of the guides available appears below. Some of the books listed are available for loan in the Rewley House Library.
There are also a number of websites that provide guidance on postgraduate study and research skills. These include:
- http://www.intute.ac.uk/humanities/ (Please note: this site contains useful resources but they are no longer being updated)
If English is not your first language, you may wish or need to develop your fluency beyond the entrance requirements for your course. If your research needs to be conducted in a second or other additional language, you may need to acquire or improve your language skills. Advice and tuition for both can be provided by the Oxford University Language Centre. Advice and support for developing subject-specific skills, for example palaeographical skills for studying history or advanced statistical techniques for analysing evidence-based healthcare data, will be provided by individual courses.
Some recommended guides for studying at postgraduate level
Allison, B. (1996) Research Skills for Students, Kogan Page: London.
Bell, J. (1995) Doing Your Research Project, 2nd edn., Open University Press: Buckingham.
Kearns, H. And Gardiner, M. (2009) Time for Research: Time Management for PhD Students, 2nd edn. Thinkwell: Adelaide, S.A.
Craswell (2004) Writing for Academic Success: a Postgraduate Guide, Sage: London.
Cryer, P. (2006) The Research Student's Guide to Success, 3rd edn., OUP: Maidenhead.
Davies, W. (2008) Study Skills for International Postgraduates, Palgrave Macmillan: Basingstoke.
Greenfield, T. (2002) Research Methods for Postgraduates, 2nd edn. Arnold: London.
Oliver, P. (2003) The Student's Guide to Research Ethics, Open University Press: Maidenhead.
Oliver, P. (2004) Writing Your Thesis, Sage: London.
Orna, E. and Stevens, G. (2009) Managing Information for Research: practical help in research, writing and designing dissertations, 2nd edn. Open University Press: Maidenhead.
Philips, E. and Pugh, D.S. (2009) How to get a PhD: a Handbook for Students and their Supervisors, 5th edn., Open University Press: Maidenhead.
Potter, S. (2002) Doing Postgraduate Research, 2nd edn., Sage: London.
Powell, S. (2008) Returning to Study for a Research Degree, 2nd edn. OUP: Maidenhead.
Shephard, K. (2005) Presenting at Conferences, Seminars and Meetings, Sage: London.
Tinker, P. and Jackson, C. (2004) The Doctoral Examination Process: A handbook for students, examiners and supervisors, Open University Press: Maidenhead.
Wallace, M. And Wray, A. (2011) Critical Reading and Writing for Postgraduates, 2nd edn. Sage: Maidenhead.
Wilkinson, D. (2005) The Essential Guide to Postgraduate Study, 2nd edn. Sage: London.
Wisker, G. (2008) The Postgraduate Research Handbook: Succeed with your MA, MPhil, EdD or PhD, 2nd edn. Palgrave: Basingstoke.