Training categories explained Training categories explained

The ESRC guidelines divide PGR training into four distinct categories. PGR students, they suggest, should receive high quality core training in: (1) Research Methods; (2) Subject-Specific and/or Relevant Theoretical Issues; and (3) Research and Transferable Skills. This core provision should be supplemented by relevant (4) Advanced Training in areas appropriate to the specialist and continuing needs of the individual student. Brief definitions of these four training categories are provided below.

Training Category 1: Research Methods

Whatever the subject and focus of your doctoral research, the expectation is that you will graduate possessing basic skills and abilities in a range of quantitative and qualitative research methods and techniques of the type that are commonly used across the social sciences. You should also understand how to combine them through mixed methods research. More specifically, you should understand the basic principles of research design and strategy, the connection between research questions or hypotheses and the methods required to address them and you should, as a consequence, be able to formulate researchable problems on your own initiative. In completing your doctoral research and by accessing appropriate training opportunities you will gain direct practical experience of analysing data, using a range of methods and tools, including appropriate computer packages, and be capable of managing, conducting and disseminating research in a way that is consistent with both professional practice and the ethical principles of your discipline. Finally, we hope you will also demonstrate a collegiate appreciation of alternative epistemological positions and approaches to research.

Training Category 2: Subject-Specific and/or Relevant Theoretical Issues

The aim here is for you to possess a competent and well-rounded understanding of the debates within disciplines which inform your field of study. This knowledge will help you to appreciate the potential use and impact of your research within and beyond academia and to engage and communicate effectively with relevant stakeholders and users at all points in the research process.

Training Category 3: Research & Transferable Skills

You need to combine the specific skills required to complete your doctoral work with a portfolio of more broadly based skills that will equip you to manage your future career. Generic research skills include: (a) bibliographic and computing skills; (b) teaching and other work experience; (c) ethical and legal issues; (d) skills for engaging with users and for maximising the impact of research; and (e) exploitation of research and intellectual property rights. Transferable skills include: (a) communication, networking and dissemination skills; (b) leadership, research and relationship management skills; and (c) personal and career development.

Training Category 4: Advanced Training

You might need to master the use of an unusual research method or piece of software in order to complete your doctoral research or find yourself in need of very specific work experience relative to your chosen career path. All of these examples present opportunities for advanced training. Advanced training takes you beyond the skills or knowledge that are typically expected or considered to be ‘core' within a particular discipline or interdisciplinary training pathway (as outlined in Categories 1, 2, & 3 above), but which is nonetheless very necessary for you if you are to complete your studies successfully.

If you have any questions you would like to ask about the above training categories or your own training needs, please feel free to contact Dr Simon Watts, the PGR Training Coordinator for SSF (, who will be happy to help.