How can my postgraduate success be guaranteed?
This is the third and final lesson about Master’s Degrees. To complete this course, read each lesson carefully and then unlock and complete our materials to check your understanding.
– Discuss four tips for the successful completion of university-level master’s degree programmes
– Introduce six self-study habits for improving organisation
– Provide activities to check progress and understanding
Postgraduate students commonly report that undertaking a master’s degree can be one of most intensive but rewarding periods of their lives. This may be because they’re now balancing a combination of studying, working and a well-established personal life, but it may also be because the expectations of a postgraduate student often greatly exceed what was expected during a bachelor’s degree.
The amount of reading, research, writing and participation required is often substantial – and with the focus perhaps now more firmly on career outcomes rather than experiences, the stakes can feel higher too. This third and final lesson therefore offers four key tips to help students succeed at master’s degrees with the minimum of stress.
Tip 1: Expect Change
Undertaking any postgraduate degree will likely result in any and all leisure time being consumed by reading, research, and writing. As a result, it is recommended the students take the time to consider how such commitments may impact personal and professional relationships and obligations. By informing family and friends about the responsibilities of a master’s degree, they may be better placed to offer support and understanding. If employed, it may also be worth informing managers so that they too are aware of the extra responsibilities you are undertaking. Finally, if working hours are reduced or a student is no longer able to work, then it is important that students are able to prepare for this loss of income.
Tip 2: Be Prepared
Being a successful master’s student will likely depend on the use of autonomous study skills such as critical thinking, notetaking, planning and drafting, avoiding plagiarism and collusion, and of course research. The first step in this autonomy is to start reading before the programme begins. All courses will almost certainly provide a reading list for each module, and studying the core and introductory texts in advance can save valuable time during the semester. Preparatory reading can also provide a student with confidence when entering into those first seminars and lectures, particularly for those students whose bachelor’s and master’s majors are different.
Another step to improving autonomy is to make sure that you understand the resources outside of the university that are available to you and that you use these resources to practice and improve your skills. A successful student also knows that they will have to purchase and prepare certain study tools such as laptop, a bag, books and transportation passes, and that they will have to create and guarantee a comfortable and quiet study environment. By preparing as best as you can before the course, you’ll be better able to concentrate on your studies in the long run.
Tip 3: Be Very Organised
As was previously mentioned, the amount of information a master’s student is expected to learn and apply in such a short course is considerable. The following learning habits could therefore be the difference between just passing an MA qualification and passing with the highest mark in the cohort:
Keep a Diary: Deadlines should be noted as soon as a course begins, as should self-set deadlines for research and first drafts.
Make Lists: Keep a list of small but productive tasks so that (a) you don’t feel too stressed about the looming deadline, and (b) you can feel good about completing those smaller tasks.
Design a Schedule: Consider dividing your day into specific tasks (academic and personal) and sticking to that routine wherever possible.
Find Extra Time: Take advantage of any spare moments that could be spent studying. This could be reading during a commute or a lunch break, waking up an hour earlier each day, or swapping your nightly leisure reading for a journal article or textbook.
Write Meticulous Notes: This means always having a laptop on hand, whether in class or studying alone. Don’t forget also to accurately record the reference details of any sources you use as master’s courses are far more scrupulous about following academic conduct.
Know Your Tutor’s Office Hours: Don’t be afraid to drop in on your tutor to talk about an assessment or research idea as that’s precisely what those office hours are designed for.
Tip 4: Think Like an Academic
The final tip in this lesson is closely related to the point that was made back in Lesson 1 regarding the fundamental difference between bachelor’s and master’s degrees. Because master’s students are expected to be independent and more mature in all aspects of their studies, students that wish to succeed should:
- Apply what is learned in seminars and in assessments, thinking critically about how that knowledge relates to existing literature.
- Recognise that a master’s cohort is likely mature and motivated, and that they can make an excellent support network and study group for discussing ideas.
- Participate in the academic community wherever possible. This may be in the form of postgraduate workshops, lectures from visiting professors or opportunities to present.
- Build a relationship with department faculty. Professors may, for example, have additional research to offer students as dissertation topics or be able to provide unique connections into your field.
Well done for completing this short course on master’s degrees. Hopefully you now feel confident in understanding, selecting and succeeding in postgraduate courses and are ready to complete our Lesson 3 activities and progress on to another topic.
There are currently no PowerPoint activities, additional teacher resources or audio and video recordings created for this topic. Please come back again next semester.
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