Taking PhD skills as read

October 9, 2014

We were interested to read “On the PhD quest, the first step is always an open book” (Careers intelligence, 2 October), emphasising the role of extensive reading in the establishment of an appropriate research question – a point of view that we heartily endorse.

However, in our experience many research students starting out have little idea how to “read” in this context, let alone how to judge the quality of the material, organise the results of their reading, set boundaries to what can often appear an unending process, and pull it all together to identify a research question.

For this reason, some years ago we introduced into the Master of Research degree at the University of Gloucestershire a taught module called “Reading for research”, the objective of which is to help students develop these skills. Assessment for the module takes the form of a structured literature review. It has proved popular even among PhD students for whom it is not mandatory.

We are convinced that “reading” for research is a skill, the acquisition of which needs facilitating – it can’t be taken for granted.

Clare Morris
Emeritus professor

Ros Jennings
Head of postgraduate research
University of Gloucestershire

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