Understanding researcher skills and expectations

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Understanding the competencies required and the expectations associated with being a researcher is crucial for the success of a PhD. This understanding not only guides the development of necessary skills but also assists in setting realistic and achievable goals. Importantly, it allows for the cultivation of a researcher identity, which is important for navigating the challenges of the research process effectively and confidently.

Identifying the skills of a researcher

Researchers cultivate skills across multiple areas, including intellectual agility, professional conduct and collaboration. The Vitae Researcher Development Framework identifies key research skills across four domains: (i) knowledge and intellectual abilities, (ii) personal effectiveness, (iii) research governance and organisation, and (iv) engagement, influence and impact.

As a PhD or Masters by research candidate, you will develop your skills in these areas. Depending on your research field, the skills you’ll need as a research student may differ. However, there are key skills that research students generally should develop in order to successfully complete their research degree.


In the quiz below, identify the skills that are crucial for research students to develop by marking the statements as either true or false.


Knowing what is expected of you

As a research student, you will engage with your discipline, read key texts, work with your supervisors and develop research skills in the process. Even though you’ve already developed skills in previous study, you may find that some need honing or that you need to develop new expertise. Please note that each discipline requires the application of skill sets to varying degrees of sophistication at Masters and PhD levels.

Familiarise yourself with the RMIT Higher Degree by Research examination process, which outlines the criteria against which your final PhD or Masters submission will be examined.

Below you will find two activities that help you gain insight into the expectations of your PhD or Masters thesis. Complete the one that applies to you.

Activity: Examination criteria for PhD

Activity: Examination criteria for Masters by Research



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Research and Writing Skills for Academic and Graduate Researchers Copyright © 2022 by RMIT University is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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