An introduction to the standard expected, the kind of skills that students will need to have or acquire, and how support and guidance is provided by the department, is amongst the most valuable information that can be offered to new students.
Many students will be anxious about the level of attainment expected of them. One approach to addressing this is to use the experience of current or recent students who can give an insight into their experiences of adjusting to the level of work required. Examples of previous dissertations, both PGT and research, might also be useful in illustrating what students should be aiming for. In addition, an experienced member of staff might offer a session on the typical challenges which may face students, and sources of support and guidance in times of difficulty.
The Medical Sciences Division uses this approach in its induction programme for new students with a session on ‘A current research student’s experience’.
Support with academic skill acquisition
Needs will vary according to previous academic background but these are generic skills with which some students might need help early on in their studies:
Using PGR teaching, some departments also give introductory sessions on research to both their taught Master’s and PGR students.
New students on the MSc Mathematical Modelling and Scientific Computing are required to attend ‘Additional Skills’ sessions throughout their first term, which cover topics such as the use of mathematical software and the web, sources of numerical software, literature searches, communication and career development.
Although the supervisor is responsible for supporting their supervisee, the department can (and in many cases does) offer a programme for the PRS or research student cohort. This has the advantage of bringing the cohort together: peer support is particularly beneficial in research studies.
Some of the MPLS DTCs (Systems Approaches to Biomedical Science IDC/ Systems Biology DTC/ Life Sciences Interface DTC) provide a programme for the PRS/research student cohort, comprising:
- What is research? (induction programme)
- Presentation skills (induction programme)
- Managing your supervisor (second year)
- Planning to write a DPhil (third year)
- Interview techniques (third year)
- Completing your DPhil (fourth year)
- Non-academic careers (fourth year).