Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Master of Research degree

New research students start this week, the PhD students and the MRes students. I was asked to speak to the year's cohort of seven MRes students to give them a retrospective assessment of the MRes experience and its worth to the PhD.
  1. It's worth it. After one year, you have a degree, whether or not you go on to a PhD in the OU, elsewhere or never again if you realise research is not for you. If you go on to a PhD, you start at a run, which means you can take six months to hone other interesting skills in other areas.
  2. MRes students may feel like second class citizens; they are not. You have to join in and remind people that you exist and want to learn.
  3. Take each step at a time and enjoy the process rather than worry about the big thesis at the end of the year. I told them three stories from my MRes year. The first was about writing essays and what an awfully low mark I got on my first assignment, and how I learned better. The second story was of my supervisor's encouragement in June. The third story was about the Friday before the thesis was due in, when I'd already printed three copies, and received a letter one of my participants withdrawing permission for me to use anything she'd said. Aagh! The first question the director and my supervisor asked when I ran for help was: "Did you get ethics approval?" Yes - the MRes doctoral training workshops had trained us on ethics. The point is that a research process is about planning, and constantly adapting to cope with problems.
Several academics who run the MRes course presented and I listened to it all, including what would be covered in their advanced qualitative module, which I couldn't do because my faculty requires the MRes students to do a business module. What was interesting is that the advanced qualitative module includes details of interviewing, analysing transcribing and analysing interview data and the use of qualitative analysis software - all stuff that I have needed and used, teaching myself by reading or getting on other workshops. Had I realised its value, I might have asked to join as an unofficial participant on the advanced qualitative research module in my first year PhD. Some people did that to gain the advanced quantitative skills, and now I'd advise a first year OUBS PhD student who intended to research qualitatively to negotiate access to that module.

There are only five OUBS MRes students and only two of them were at this morning's general session. Tomorrow we OUBS students meet the new OUBS PhD students, and on Thursday we meet the OUBS MRes students. The two I met were surprised to realise they have a desk waiting for them, with a cupboard, a pedestal, a phone and a brand new PC. We get well supported here so I hope they all turn up to use the support.

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