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Three top tips on moving from undergraduate to postgraduate study

26 May 2021 | by Guest

Making the transition from being an undergraduate student to a postgraduate researcher, or a taught postgraduate student, can be tricky. While they may look similar from the outside, the experience of being an undergraduate versus a postgraduate are markedly different in a number of ways. PhD researcher Maddi Pownall, chair of PsyPAG (the Psychology Postgraduate Affairs Group) gave her advice for managing the transition.

1. Network with your peers – they’ll be the ones to see you through!

Often at ‘professional development’ events and talks, we are told the importance of networking. It’s true, networking is important. However, it is perhaps more important to first consider the ‘why’ and ‘who’ of networking, before diving in.

It can be tempting to make a beeline for the established researchers and Professors at conferences or networking events. But while it is great to chat with these ‘big names’ in your field, your fellow postgraduates are going to be your biggest sources of support, guidance, and friendship throughout your postgraduate studies.

Fellow postgraduates are the ones who are going to ‘get it’ and be able to lend a helpful ear when you’re finding things tough, and groups such as the Psychology Postgraduate Affairs Group (PsyPAG) can be really useful at helping you to ‘network’ with a pool of likeminded postgraduates in psychology who know exactly what you’ll be going through.

2. Establish an online presence early

If Covid-19 has taught us anything, it’s that an awful lot can be done solely online, without the need for face-to-face meeting.

There are useful online ‘spaces’ that are particularly useful for facilitating an online presence when you’re early in your postgraduate career, particularly Twitter where using hashtags such as #AcademicTwitter and #PhDChat can help you to find groups of people who are working on similar projects to you.

Twitter can also be a great space for keeping up to date with new papers, upcoming conferences, and calls for papers in journals.

3. Suss out your ‘academic systems’ early

In a more practical sense, it is incredibly useful to spend some time at the beginning of your postgraduate studies thinking about how you’re going to navigate, manage, and update your ‘research systems’ (as I call them).

These systems may include things like referencing (How are you going to manage your references? Will you use a referencing software?), literature reviewing (Can you sign up to get alerts when new papers are out? Where will your store your papers?), and files (How will you label your files? What will be most helpful to you?).

From experience, the earlier you think about these kinds of processes, the easier a time you’ll have later in your postgraduate studies. No one wants to be writing up their thesis and trying to locate references from the past three years from scratch!

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