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Succeeding in postgraduate study
Succeeding in postgraduate study

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4.1 Key skills required for postgraduate study

By now you should have a fairly good idea of the different types and the purpose of Master’s degrees, be able to appreciate some of the main differences between postgraduate and undergraduate study, and recognise the basic requirements for studying at this level. Knowing what to expect ahead of taking on your Master’s should make the actual task seem less daunting. It will allow you to plan and better prepare for your prospective studies. Let’s take a look now at some of the key skills that you will develop further at postgraduate level. Pause here to consider your own thoughts on this topic, based on your experiences and what we have covered so far in this session.

Activity 2 Key skills for postgraduate study

Timing: Allow approximately 10 minutes

What would you consider to be the ‘key skills’ required at postgraduate level?

You may wish to structure your thoughts and jot these down. We will return to this topic shortly.

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You may have noted down some of the following as key requirements:

  • reflection and reflective analysis
  • critical thinking, appraisal and evaluation
  • ability to demonstrate advanced scholarship and research
  • communication and presentation skills to suit purpose and target audience
  • effective writing skills and proficiency in the use of the English language
  • ability to demonstrate independent, self-directed learning
  • ability to source (identify), retrieve, appraise and make use of a variety of scholarly and research literature to support your opinion, judgement or argument
  • self-organisation, time management and planning
  • ability to work collaboratively with others (e.g. within a group or as a team).

Many of these skills and competencies will probably be familiar to you from your previous studies for your first degree, particularly if you have successfully developed them as part of a Bachelor’s with Honours degree. However, a key difference at Master’s would be the level of proficiency in these and other skills and competencies expected of you, and those that you will continue to develop as you make progress with your studies. Don’t worry if you feel that you lack confidence in some areas – this is perfectly fine at this stage. After all, you are not expected to demonstrate full mastery of all of these skills before you begin your postgraduate studies! You should be aware that these are skills that you will continue to build on and develop throughout your chosen degree.

Students starting a postgraduate degree for the first time can sometimes feel overwhelmed. We want you to be well-prepared, to ease your transition to postgraduate study, and for you to have the confidence to build on and develop your capabilities, and avoid feeling overwhelmed. Having a clear idea of what is expected of a successful Master’s degree graduate, and reflecting on the skills you need to develop, before you begin your postgraduate studies is invaluable. It will allow you to monitor and plan your own development needs as you make progress, and work towards achieving these goals.