Whilst my degree is a taught masters rather than a research masters (one tailored specifically to doing a research project) there is still a strong research element to the programme. So in today’s blog I wanted to cover a few of the avenues for research I engage with from day-to-day as part of my life as a postgraduate student.
First and foremost, when writing assignments I’ll almost always be using the library services, and what’s great about studying in this day and age is that for the majority of the time I can do that all from the comfort of my house (even my bed, if I’m feeling particularly lazy). The University spends a lot of money so that students can access a wealth of research articles from all of the major academic journals, and pretty much all of them can be viewed and downloaded through the library online portal. If I need to find papers on even the most obscure topics, all I need to do is search with the appropriate keywords, or an author’s name if I know it, and I can be reading the article in seconds, which is invaluable for studying.
When working from home isn’t enough, the library itself is open 24/7 which means I can easily plan when I want to do work around my other commitments without being tied down to a particular set of opening hours. The library itself has thousands of books to refer to (as you’d expect), but on top of that there are open access computing facilities (handy when I don’t want to lug my laptop onto campus) and a café to keep fuelled up on coffee and snacks (the essentials). Furthermore, the postgraduate-only study rooms in the library are a really great space to work in if you want that extra bit of peace to concentrate whilst you’re working.
Another important element of research on the Planning programme in particular, is going on field visits out and about around the city. This is the opportunity to put into context the theories and ideas we are being taught in lectures, and to start evaluating and critiquing the way streets are designed and laid out, or the way public spaces and the people within them work and interact, as we would in the profession in later life. It is the chance to conduct research directly ourselves, rather than reading about the results of other people’s research, and it is really beneficial and enjoyable to engage with planning on the ground whilst also trying to draw our own conclusions and link these back to what other academics might have noted themselves. Having the city of Plymouth as our laboratory is invaluable for the variety of planning and urban design matters that it can offer up for us to study.
The final element of research in postgraduate life that I enjoy is taking the opportunity to attend evening talks and presentations from guest speakers either at the university or in the wider city. These are entirely optional, but are a great way to tap into additional topics or subjects that relate to what we are learning on the degree, and a source of ideas and case studies for assignments which might not be in the text books or journals.
Usually these talks are delivered by leading people in their fields, they might be from an academic or a professional/industry background, but they are generally very good at presenting and informing about a subject. They can be a different but enjoyable way to spend a weekday evening rather than sitting in front of the television, and I try to sign up to them whenever I can.
There are a lot of opportunities to engage with research at postgraduate level and these are just a few examples. I’m sure I will be using all three methods a lot more in the coming months as I begin work on my dissertation and embark on the final leg of my studies…!