You’ve toiled for three (or more) years. You’ve studied for exams and essays. You’ve loved summer holidays and drowned under textbooks. And finally, you’ve got your BSc. Well done! This is a huge achievement.
What’s next? If you’ve decided to carry on studying and move into the mysterious world of postgraduate work (whether that’s as a master’s student or a PhD), you might be wondering what this new life holds for you.
Fortunately, PGPR is here to help. Here are some of the challenges you might encounter when you transition from undergrad to postgrad work, as well as a few ways we can make that journey smoother for you.
Transition to solo learning and decision-making
Although undergrad studies are a big step on from GCSEs and A-Levels, they are still, to a large extent, tutor-led. You go to lectures and seminars where the agenda has been set by the teacher who is standing at the front of the room. You can pick which essay to write from a list of titles, but those titles are set by someone else. You’ll have a reading list and a revision timetable, term dates and reading weeks.
Things get a little different once you’re doing postgrad work. As a master’s or PhD student, it’s your job to set the script. You will be the one deciding what you need to read and when. You’ll be making decisions about where your research should go. This might feel daunting at first, but when you get used to it, the freedom can be liberating and inspiring.
Of course, you won’t be flying entirely solo, as you will have a supervisor who is experienced in your topic area and can mentor and guide you…
Undergrad work is a step up from A-levels, but postgrad studies can feel like a big leap into the unknown!
Relationship with supervisor
The relationship you have with your postgrad supervisor is unique. Ideally, they will be experts in either the methodology you’re using for your research project or the topic area of your research question – or both, if you’re lucky. Your supervisor’s job is to guide you through the postgrad process, helping you to identify and overcome challenges, and giving you advice about your research and writing.
You should have regular research meetings with your supervisor and be able to email or call them with questions when they arise. Eventually, you and your supervisor are likely to co-author peer-reviewed papers together. It’s common for supervisors to take an interest in and help the careers of their students for a long time after the postgrad course has ended (I benefitted hugely from my supervisor Jonathan A Smith’s mentorship long after my PhD had ended), so it’s worth staying in their good books!
It is not your supervisor’s job to give you a grade, as you will have been used to up until this point, to rewrite your work or give you ‘the answers’. Something to bear in mind is that supervisors are often busy, stressed-out members of university staff, so they might not be able to stick to the deadlines that have been originally set or give you as much feedback as you want.
Of course, if you’re doing a qualitative social sciences project and would like more feedback than your supervisor can give you, you can always book a VC or some written feedback with PGPR. Our friendly team of experts is always happy to help.
They might be vastly different from your teacher at school but your supervisor should be on hand to guide you through the postgrad process.
One big project
Undergrad courses are made up of lots of modules, essays, exams and projects. In contrast, a postgrad course tends to be one big research project, based on a single research question. While an undergrad degree is about getting a good grounding in all aspects of your discipline, postgrad work is about becoming an expert in the specific area that interests you the most.
This means it’s worth thinking carefully about what you want to research for your postgrad work. Is your potential topic something that genuinely fascinates you? Postgrad work can be gruelling and lonely, so if you’re working on a project you find boring, it might be hard to stick with it. Your postgrad findings are likely to set the stage for your academic career, if that’s the direction you decide to go in.
Your outputs will be your thesis plus the research papers and conference presentations you create based on your findings. If you need proofreading help with any of these pieces, we’re here for you.
Presenting at conferences and publishing papers
Some undergrads disseminate the findings from their research projects, but this is rare. However, once you become a postgrad student, turning your findings into papers and presentation conferences is par for the course. We’ve got some helpful blogs about writing up papers which you can find here, here, here, here, and here.
Sharing your findings with the world is exciting but can also feel scary at first. You are likely to encounter rejections and tricky feedback from reviewers, which can feel upsetting when this is work you’ve poured your heart and soul into. It’s OK to find this difficult, but it might be useful to remember that every single academic has faced the same problem. I’ve been publishing papers for many years now (you can see my Google Scholar page here) and I still get tough reviews. These days, they bother me a lot less as I know I can either action the suggestions that have been made to genuinely improve the paper, or make a convincing argument for why I disagree.
If you’re struggling to turn your lovely, detailed findings section into a shorter research paper, you can contact PGPR for some feedback, proofreading and/or word reduction help.
Presenting your findings can be nerve-wracking! But it’s all worth it in the end, we promise!
Changes to deadlines
Something that can be hard to get used to when you transition from undergrad to postgrad is that deadlines become a lot more flexible. When you’re studying for a BSc, exam days, essay deadlines and term dates are set in stone. It’s not like that when you’re a postgrad. Sure, the university will be closed over Christmas, but otherwise you’re unlikely to be taking long breaks from your work. (However, you can decide to set your own holiday dates, which is a big bonus.)
You also might have a beautiful timetable written out for exactly when you plan to recruit your participants, do your interviews, analyse your data and get feedback from your supervisor – but real life doesn’t tend to pan out so beautifully. It might take longer to get ethics approval than you’d hoped. Your supervisor might go off sick and take longer to get back to you than initially planned. You have to learn to roll with these punches.
This flexibility in postgrad deadlines is why we don’t book clients’ work in advance – we have learned from experience that students often struggle to meet the deadlines we have worked out between us. That’s absolutely fine and as it should be. Once your work is ready for proofreading and/or feedback, send it over to us and we’ll work on it and get it back to you as soon as we can.
If you need help with feedback, proofreading or word reduction, get in touch with us via the box below to ask any questions or book a service.