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Audit Your Dissertation Research Skills

Before you make any decisions about the content of your dissertation, take a good look at your own strengths and weaknesses in the “art” of research. UK research councils have produced guidelines for postgraduate students to help them audit their research skills.

The following checklist adapts some of the research councils’ ideas and adds others to make the guidelines relevant to undergraduate students doing dissertations. The exercise is useful for helping you choose a suitable research method and talking your method through with your supervisor.

Think about each question and rate yourself from 1 (little knowledge and experience) to 5 (plenty of knowledge and experience) for each point. After finishing this exercise you’re likely to have pinpointed the areas in which you feel confident and areas that need improving.

  • Research skills and techniques:

    • I can recognise problems in my field

    • I can demonstrate original, independent and critical thinking

    • I have the ability to develop theoretical ideas

    • I understand relevant research methodologies

    • I’m able to critically analyse and evaluate research findings

    • I can summarise, document and report my findings

    • I can reflect constructively on my progress

  • Background to research field:

    • I’ve a reasonable grasp of the national and international context in my field

    • I have some knowledge of recent ideas within my field

    • I’ve thought about how people may be affected by my work

    • I’ve considered ethical and health and safety concerns from my research project

  • Managing research:

    • I’m good at setting myself short-term and long-term goals

    • I can prioritise activities effectively

    • I’m good at planning ahead

    • I know where to find appropriate bibliographical sources and archives (in hard copy and electronic format)

    • I’m confident at using IT to manage my work

  • Personal effectiveness:

    • I’m keen to learn new techniques

    • I’m willing to acquire new knowledge

    • I’m good at finding creative solutions to problems

    • I’m flexible and open-minded

    • I have self-awareness

    • I’m well disciplined

    • I’m well motivated

    • I know when to ask for help

    • I’m an independent worker

  • Communication skills:

    • My writing is clear and informative

    • I can write for a target audience

    • I can construct coherent arguments

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