Assessing your skills
The Vitae Researcher Development Statement and associated Researcher Development Framework (RDF) set out the skills, knowledge and attributes of successful researchers and is a good starting point to identify many of the skills that every successful researcher needs. Bear in mind that you should also look to develop the broader, generic and transferable skills that employers value so that by the end of your research degree you are in the best position to pursue your chosen career.
We have put together a skills assessment form based on the Vitae Researcher Development Framework (RDF) to help you assess your current skills and identify areas for skills development. The RDF classifies the skills that a researcher needs into four domains:
Domain A: Knowledge and intellectual abilities
Domain B: Personal effectiveness
Domain C: Research governance and organisation
Domain D: Engagement, influence and impact
Because we recognise that not all Postgraduate Researchers will go onto careers in research, for the purposes of this skills self-assessment, we have added a fifth domain:
Domain E: Business
For each sub-domain in the skills assessment form (e.g. A1, A2 etc.) score your current level of ability from 1 to 5. If you hold your mouse on any of the highlighted criteria in the form and click, you can access further information. The score for each skill should be accompanied by evidence to support the score which you can list in column 3 of the form.
Developing a training and development plan
We recognise that each individual starts their research degree programme with a unique set of skills and knowledge and that a one-size-fits all training policy is not appropriate. Hence the emphasis is on you to develop a training and development plan which suits your needs, whilst bearing in mind that UEA has an obligation to research funders to ensure that research degree candidates develop the knowledge and skills set out by funding bodies.
When thinking about training and development, start by considering the skills needed to get your research underway. Completing the skills assessment and consulting the Vitae RDF should help indicate whether you already have sufficient skills for your needs or whether you need to develop certain skills or strengthen others. You may want to consult your supervisor for further guidance on which skills you need and whether your current level is sufficient. You will probably find that you want to develop in a number of areas. At the start of your research, you will need to devote time to getting your research established. Hence you will need to consider which skills are the highest priority at this particular point in your research journey. As you get established with your research, consider what broader research skills you should be developing to become a more rounded researcher as set out in the Vitae Researcher Development Framework. You should also assess your strengths in terms of the broader, transferable skills that employers look for and plan to develop, or strengthen, these skills.
If you have already done some research as part of undergraduate or master’s study, you will probably find that this gives you a good start but that you will need to develop these skills further for your doctoral studies and develop new skills and knowledge. We ask that you reflect on your training and development needs at least annually but, ideally, you should be considering your development needs on an ongoing basis.
Your supervisory team are in a good position to advise you on the skills and knowledge needed for your research and you should develop your training and development plan in association with them. We recommend that you carry out your skills assessment first and think about the skills that you would like to develop and then discuss this with your supervisors. This should help ensure that you develop the skills needed for your research but also that your own wants in terms of training and development are considered as part of your training plan.
Although your focus is likely to be on your research, do bear in mind that your research degree is a step on your career pathway. Look to develop skills during your research degree to put yourself in the strongest possible position for your chosen career. We encourage you not to leave it until you have finished your degree to think about your future career. If you are not certain what you wish to do after finishing your research degree, the Careers Service at UEA can offer advice on a range of careers, including careers outside academia. They also offer training courses as part of the PPD programme to help you to identify a range of possible careers and the skills that you will need and organise other events and opportunities to support you in thinking about, and preparing for, your future career. The Enterprise Team in CareerCentral offer training and advice to help you learn more about enterprise and, if you are interested, to support you in setting up your own business, including offering start-up funding.
Remember the words of Sir Gareth Roberts
‘“The product that the PhD [substitute ‘research degree’] student creates is not the thesis – vital though it is to their subject area through the creation of original knowledge; rather, the product of their study is the development of themselves.”
Plan your training and development so that you complete your research degree successfully but also so that you develop yourself.
 Hinchcliffe, R., Bromley, T. and Hutchinson, S. (eds) 2007, Skills Training in Research Degree Programmes Politics and Practice. Open University Press McGraw-Hill Education, England. p. ix.