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African Studies Training

What Skills & Knowledge Do You Need to Perform Your Research?

As a Master's student you will have arrived at Cambridge equipped with knowledge and skills that will be invaluable for your research. 

These may have been gained from previous educational qualifications, employment, or both!

As part of your session, you were asked to contemplate which skills you thought would be most relevant to perform your research and inform your dissertation project.

Please see the padlet below which captured your thoughts and sparked our discussion. 

Feel free to continue to add to this on your research journey!

Efficient Reading & Note Taking

Some great advice via Wolfson College Academic Skills LibGuide, as well as some apps/software for note-taking:

 Screenshot OtterAI

Training Online

Conducting Interviews - Qualitative Research - GDPR & Data Protection

Online Resources

  • Remote Research & Virtual Fieldwork -  Some excellent resources (blogs, videos, notes) from workshops and researchers, specifically tackling qualitative methods in a pandemic curated by Harvard Library Support for Qualitative Research - let me know if any of the ebooks listed can't be accessed, I can recommend for purchase
  • Interview Skills - Again from the same LibGuide at Harvard, some relevant resources to help you conduct successful remote interviews (remember this is aimed at Harvard students, some items will refer to their campus facilities)
  • GDPR Compliance - resource pages from Cambridge  
  • Data Protection & Ethics - resource pages from Cambridge - includes FAQ
Training available via SSRMP & Inkpath

Managing Your Resources - Data Management - Referencing & Bibliographies

Keeping track of online resources can be hard... Get in to the habit of organising your data and files with a robust system.  Using a Reference Management Software system is invaluable!  The most supported packages are:

  • EndNote
  • Mendeley
  • Zotero
Online Training

Books To Support You - Click on the Images to Take You to IDiscover

Succeeding with your Master's dissertation - cover

A very thorough guide to dissertation planning and writing.

Chapter 2 "Developing your i-Skills" examines the information skills needed to complete your dissertation, and addresses
the many areas that we have discussed, including:

  • Information needs
  • Organising skills
  • Literature search techniques
  • Databases
  • Using social media for research
  • Speed reading
  • Critiquing skills
  • Communication skills & mind-mapping

This well-structured title takes you through the process of dissertation writing (and report writing).  Chapters are grouped by the various stages:

  • Pondering
  • Preparing
  • Planning
  • Pausing
  • Producing
  • Polishing

Dissertations and project reports - book cover

A great guide walking you through the dissertation process.  Chapters discuss topics that we have touched on, including:

  • 'Where do I start?' 
  • What makes a good dissertation or research project?
  • Project manage your dissertation
  • Using time effectively
  • Working with your supervisor
  • Choosing your topic and title
  • Literature search and review 
  • Principles of good research
  • Interpreting your findings
  • Your writing strategy
  • Getting the structure right
  • Fine-tuning your writing.... and many more


Planning your dissertation

A compact guide for those short of time!  This short but sweet title groups the information you need in to the following areas:

  • WHAT'S IN A DISSERTATION? (examples by subject) 

The Benefits of Reflective Practice

Critically assessing and revisiting your skills and knowledge are important components of 'reflective practice'.

If you haven't used reflective practice as part of your research and learning process, watch this short video on the "Gibbs Reflective Cycle" ((Oliver Johnson, September 21st, 2018) by the 301 Academic Skills Centre, University of Sheffield, as part of their Study Skills Hacks series)


Work On Your Reflective Practice Skills

If you want to find out more on how to develop your reflective writing and thinking skills, there is fantastic guidance via the Reflective Practice Toolkit developed by Research Skills Librarian, Claire Sewell:

Work through the components and become a reflective writer and practitioner! 

As highlighted by the resources, incorporating critical reflection as part of your learning, is not only beneficial to your research practices and outcomes, but for job applications and the workplace.

The toolkit is designed to be used in the following ways:

  • As an entire resource walking you through the basics with exercises and tips to enable you to use reflective practice as part of your research journey.
  • Or you can also choose the 'beginner' or 'intermediate' pathways if you're short on time.

If you want to look deeper in to reflective learning and writing, the following book available at the UL and Fitzwilliam College helps you to understand how you can use a 'personal learning journal' for your research and career development.

Online Guides to Help You Further Develop Your Skills

Now you have successfully identified your strengths and weaknesses, utilise other resources to make sure your core skills are on point...

Talented Librarians from across Cambridge have developed a multitude of online LibGuides and the 'CamGuides for Master's students' resource to help you with all aspects of your research and information literacy journey!

Areas covered include:

  • Note taking
  • Time management
  • Referencing
  • Finding literature
  • Critical thinking
  • Software 
  • Data management....  The list goes on!

Check out the dedicated guides below

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