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Postgraduate Research Information Skills Modules for coursework

Develop research skills during your postgraduate studies that will continue to benefit you throughout your academic and professional career.

Module 1: How courses work

1.1 How courses work

The purpose of this introduction is to briefly overview the focus, structure and academic expectations of postgraduate courses and to describe how PRISM for Coursework Postgraduate Students can support your academic achievement in across your postgraduate studies. Most students enrol in a higher degree by coursework to advance their knowledge and skills in a specific field of professional practice. Students who have been practicing professionals for some time may be seeking advanced professional development to engage with current and emerging issues, bring themselves up-to-date with evidence-informed practice in their field or to develop their expertise in a specialised field or discipline.

Typically, course designers begin by formulating statements of course aims or learning outcomes. These statements specify what course designers consider to be the most important or key learnings that students should expect to achieve by the end of the course. These aims usually specify essential knowledge that students should acquire in a discipline or field of study (what students should know) and skills relating to that field (what students can do with what they know).

Course learning outcomes are mapped generally according to Bloom’s (1956) taxonomy of educational objectives. Bloom identified 6 cognitive processes that increase in their level of complexity and which correspond to specific sets of cognitive skills. They are:

  1. Knowledge (recalling relevant facts, information and procedures)
  2. Comprehension (summarising or rephrasing ideas or concepts)
  3. Application (applying knowledge and concepts to novel situations to solve problems)
  4. Analysis (identifying the component parts of a phenomenon or issue and the relationships between the parts)
  5. Synthesis (combining elements in novel and creative ways and in new relationships)
  6. Evaluation (Critical appraisal or judgement of quality or fitness for purpose based on internal coherence or external criteria).

A useful way of describing the expectations of postgraduate courses is to compare them with the undergraduate degree courses using Bloom's Taxonomy. While undergraduate and postgraduate degree courses will state learning outcomes across all levels of Bloom’s taxonomy, postgraduate courses tend to be weighted towards developing more advanced cognitive skills, particularly the ability to analyse, synthesise and evaluate. This focus tends to be reflected in the selection of reference material that students are expected to engage with. In the case of undergraduate courses, the emphasis is generally on secondary sources of information including text books, unpublished reports, policy documents and professional journals. In contrast, the focus for postgraduate courses is usually on primary sources, particularly research papers published in peer reviewed journals

There are specific characteristics of knowledge that is acquired through engagement with research that point to its key role in supporting advanced skills professional development.

  • Findings of research are reliable in that they are derived through systematic investigation using established methods and procedures appropriate to the field or discipline;
  • Research and research findings are interrogated through a rigorous process of review by experts in a field, prior to papers being accepted for publication;
  • In the case of empirical research, there is an evidence base that supports claims made by researchers.

Exposure to research and research training equips students with the skills to conduct small-scale research projects to better understand workplace issues or to improve professional practice.

Finally, a grounding in research training through postgraduate coursework prepares students wanting to extend their research careers by undertaking higher degrees by research at masters and PhD level.


1.2 How courses integrate into the greater program 

Each course within your masters program is building to cover all facets required to attain a masters and write a dissertation.

The key to university study is the application of theory to practice, the practice can be in the form of new research and gathering your own data or testing a theory within the data from the existing research

The key focus on 7016EDN is to get you to understand the research process, how to locate literature and how to evaluate this literature

Further courses will show you how to conduct good original research, quantitative and qualitative research methods and the linkages of original research to existing theory and practice

1.3 Assessment to course content

The assessment in this course has been developed to allow you to build your knowledge in your chosen subject area, the annotated bibliography and the associated research methods assessment have been developed to give you an opportunity to build your research skills, to build your knowledge base and to begin to show you the breadth of research available and how specific research projects can be.

In practice, how the assessment connects to a course is an opportunity for you to show your understanding and comprehension of the course content, your understanding of and application of the content delivered in lectures and course readings.

Assessments such as Annotated bibliography’s and literature reviews are double-barrelled, they are designed to assess both your research and content comprehension skills.

1.4 Readings to course content

The course readings are supplied to add context and background to the lectures. Course readings are set to be read prior to a lecture, the readings add background and context to the materials delivered in the lecture and direct the content and discussion of the tutorials. Readings are divided by Required and Recommended, the required readings will be directly related to the course content. The readings are helping you to build your background knowledge, to help you apply the theory and ideas being presented in practice. This is why sometimes the required reading for the course seems a bit out of place, they are building future knowledge for you to apply.

To get the most out of your reading, take notes. For the best notes you need to apply a structure or system to your note taking, simply highlighting sections or underlining quotes is not always enough. You will need to set out a who, what, why and when to ensure the notes collected can be re-used and applied in your assessments.

Taking notes will lead to better questions, often questions raised by the readings will be answered through the course of the next lecture. If not, it can be addressed in the tutorial or direct to the lecturer.

Have a look at the following links for effective reading and note-taking tips.

1.5 Lecture notes

With lecture notes, you need to identify what is important, note the key elements of the lecture and the context around them. Your notes are to help you recall the information, when slides or other materials are provided, your notes are to add extra details and examples to the information provided.

In conjunction with the materials provided, listen for verbal ‘signposts’ that key concepts are about to be delivered. Lecturers will emphasise key points with phrases like: “There are four main aspects” or “To sum up”. Listen out for when lecturers slow down, change their vocal tone, or repeat information as these markers will indicate key points are being communicated.

Where no lecture materials are provided you will need to actively listen and use your critical thinking skills. When taking your notes think about:

  • What aspects of the topic are being discussed, and equally what is not discussed?
  • What are the main concepts and key points? Listen for ideas that are repeated or emphasised.
  • Note how these ideas fit with the course readings, the content of the tutorials and what has already been covered.
  • How the concepts in the lectures fit into the course assessments.
  • What questions do I have? What do I find difficult to understand?

1.6 Expectations

What is expected of you

The expectations the lecturer will have for your are pretty minimal, at a minimum you will be expected to:

  • Read the course profile
  • Turn up to lectures and tutorials
  • Do your readings
  • Hand in your assessments on time - and if you cannot, get in touch with the teaching staff
  • and finally, to ask questions. If you do not understand something, chances are someone else is thinking or feeling the same thing, so ASK!!! The more you put in to the course, the more you get out of it!

What you can expect from your Lecturer

In return you can expect the following from the academic staff:

  • Lectures
  • Tutorials
  • Readings and activities
  • Answers to your questions
  • Their time – individual meetings with your lecturer will be discussed throughout the term, there will most likely be visiting hours to meet your teachers
  • Assistance – this will be structured and unstructured, remember that your lecturer is more than likely teaching in multiple courses and will have to balance their workloads accordingly. They will give you time frames for response for emails and feedback on assessments. And again – if you disagree or do not understand, ask questions.