Skills Hub

Study skills for taught postgraduate students

If you have already completed an undergraduate degree programme you will probably already have developed many of the skills needed for postgraduate study. However, PGT students often find it helpful to browse through the Skills Hub website pages in order to refresh their study skills.

If you are new to studying in the UK you may also like to visit Study skills for international students.

Ask for help

If you are struggling with any aspect of your course talk to your tutor. Most academic staff will have office hours when you can drop-in to see them or you can arrange a meeting by email. Master's courses are often only a year in length so it is best to ask for help as soon as possible.

Student Perspectives

Listen to postgraduate taught students talking about their experiences of studying at Sussex:

Postgraduate study

At MSc / MA level you are expected to do similar things to those undertaken by academic staff, i.e. research debates, evaluate the work of others and produce your own well–considered position. Below is a collection of online resources to help you develop the skills you will need. The university also provides a range of face-to-face workshops, tutorials and support with study skills, see workshops and events and people to talk to.

Time management skills

Advice on time management can seem like stating the obvious. However, as a postgraduate student you are likely to be juggling a busy life with your university commitments. Even if you have recently studied at undergraduate level you may find that postgraduate study brings new challenges of self-motivation and self-discipline, as you will be required to work more independently.

  • Time management  provides some advice and strategies for self-organisation, prioritising tasks, planning your time and dealing with distractions.

Research skills

At postgraduate level you will be expected to develop a deeper understanding of your subject by reading beyond the core texts and finding and selecting relevant materials yourself. If you have not used academic journals before now is the time to visit the library (online or in person) and become familiar with the journals that are relevant to your discipline. 

  • Skills Hub will show you how to find resources and evaluate information online and give you advice on various referencing systems. The Library also provides one-to-one and group training sessions.
  • At postgraduate level you will be expected to demonstrate your skills in critically analysing your readings. This means that you are able to evaluate the sources that you use and show how the work of others contributes to your own understanding. For help with 'critical' or 'active' reading visit Reading and research, in particular look at Questioning as you read and Critical thinking.
  • It's a good idea to keep a record of your references as you do your reading especially when you're writing a long assignment or a dissertation. To help with this you may want to use a bibliography management system such as EndNote or Zotero. For more information see the Library webpage: Managing citations and EndNote.

Evaluation and data analysis skills

As part of your postgraduate study you may be required to conduct your own research and collect and analyse your data. Your course may include classes providing subject specific advice and you should ensure that you attend these classes. If you are new to a particular discipline and are unsure of what is required ask your tutor for advice.

  • Collect This is an online tutorial introducing basic principles of data collection using a range of methods. The tutorial looks at quantitative and qualitative data collection, with some practical examples and advice on effectively collecting data.
  • Analyse This is an online tutorial to guide you through the analysis of your data. The tutorial looks at quantitative and qualitative data analysis, with some practical examples and advice on effectively analysing your data.

Extended writing skills

It is likely that you will be required to produce a long piece of academic writing (an essay or report) or deliver a presentation to present the findings from your postgraduate study. This may take a lot longer than you are used to for shorter undergraduate work. Make sure that you allow enough time for all stages of the writing process (planning, drafting and proofreading). It's a good idea to write a plan as soon as possible (this may be a requirement) and discuss your ideas with your tutor to make sure you are heading in the right direction.

  • Writing Dissertations: a Graduate Resource gives support and guidance on the process of writing a dissertation or thesis. It was developed by Andrew Ward and Peter Wood as part of the work of The Royal Literary Fund.
  • Reports  covers the principles of academic report writing. If you have not had experience of writing university reports before you may find these pages particularly useful.

If this is the first time you have studied in the UK make sure you understand the UK referencing requirements and how to ensure academic integrity (and avoid plagiarism).

turnitin logoTry using the Turnitin - Originality Reports tool in Study Direct to check your draft assignments for any text matches. 

Here are some links and resources you might find useful

Skills for OU Study-Postgraduate study skills this site developed by The Open University provides some useful general study skills advice for taught postgraduate students.

Careers and Employability Centre - for taught postgraduates. The Careers and Employability Centre provides a range of career development support including online and face-to-face.

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