Being a researcher...where to start?


Hi (again)

Well, three years on from first posting on here asking ''how on earth do I get a job in a university', I've achieved that aim and from September will be a lecturer in a university education department. My main role is training teachers, however they also want me to research. The former I'm ok with, the latter...I don't know where to start. I don't have a doctorate, only a masters and have no publications to date. I'm on a fixed term contract for two years, so I need to get stuck into it. The head of my department has basically said to me already that it's what I make of it, and I so want to do well and turn this into a proper academic career. But I don't really feel like I know the rules of the game. It's all a bit intimidating because it's a Russel group uni and they're talking about research of national and international level. Obviously they think I'm capable of it, but I'm not so sure. What should my first steps be?


Avatar for Pjlu

My advice would be to combine your research with a doctorate. I think to stay in academia a doctorate would be regarded as essential. I've known many teacher educators employed initially at universities based on professional experience and generally a Masters. Those that stay begin a doctorate and while it might take around 6 years to do part-time, again those who stay and progress have a doctorate behind them as they progress up the ranks.

The doctorate will be a major research project, or a combination of two or three so you would be achieving both outcomes with the one, I would think. And will most likely be well supported by your employer. So the place to start might be to think about what you are really passionate about and begin reading around this area to see where there might be a possible project you could initiate or use for a proposal. Congratulations on the new and exciting position. (Got to go and no glasses on so please excuse any typos).


I think that's good advice from Pjlu. If that's possible then you may be able to discuss ideas further with a potential supervisor as well.

If you can't register formally for a PhD, then I would see what training options there are for academics or PhD students that might help you - you need to be able to approach the research properly, otherwise it just won't work.


Thanks both. Yes, they're putting me on a training course of some sort in which I hope will help. I know some of my colleagues Are doing or have done doctorates...but they've been there a long time. My big boss did a phd by publication and has hinted that's could be a route I could take. I guess it'll all become clear in time, I'm just worrying.


I'd relax for now and settle in your role. You can casually think about possible ideas for research and then make some concrete steps for how to achieve it once you've established yourself in the department. It may be that as you are training the teachers, you find yourself thinking about some interesting questions or possibilities, or you wonder if something that you are doing is evidence based. Similarly, you may read a piece of published research and think you'd like to do something similar. Maybe a bit of informal research (e.g., based on questionnaires with your trainee teachers) could end up being something a bit more formal and lead to a publication.

While settling in, you could also talk to your manager to find out a bit more about what their expectations are, or is it less defined and just "what you make of it", and if so, if there is any research training that would be available to you. Or indeed, if it could be a possibility in the future for your contract to be extended while you completed a PhD by publication part-time.

I don't know if this is helpful but just to share it in case... The head of my department has mostly teaching and clinical experience, and she hasn't got a PhD unlike most of her colleagues (she has a Masters). She conducts small research projects and presents them at the staff/research group meetings in our department. They are mainly to do with things like course satisfaction, challenges facing teaching staff, etc. They are small but interesting. I don't think she publishes them although she puts academic posters of the findings on the walls for staff, students and visitors to see. Here, it is more a case of some in-house research that is of interest to colleagues.

Hope this helps!


Thanks Tudor Queen, that is a help. There is some training available, and a possible contract extension...I guess I'll just have to see how I do. onion.


Sounds a fantastic role! Let us know how it goes! : )