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Research Student Handbook

Research, Training and Skills

Research, Training and Skills

Within the first 8 weeks of your programme, you and your supervisor(s) must complete a Training needs analysis form (TNA).

When you have completed the form, you will be given the option to 'Print or save as pdf'. Click this, and a printing dialog box will load. Change the printer name to 'Save as pdf', then save your responses and upload them to MyPGR. You must upload your TNA to MyPGR within the first 6 weeks of study and then annually thereafter. 

The Training Needs Analysis form should be reviewed on at least an annual basis. Amended forms should again be signed with the original kept by the student and uploaded to MyPGR.

If you are to complete a thesis successfully and in good time, then it is important that you get good research training. The College is fully committed to research training which is relevant, useful and which contributes to positive outcomes for its students, not least in enhancing their post-thesis employability. Although the award of your degree is based on the examiners’ assessment of your work and the examination, students graduating with research degrees from UK universities are increasingly expected to have acquired a wide range of skills by the time they complete their research studies. It should also be remembered that failure to undertake the necessary research training for your project could jeopardise your ability to progress in your programme.

In order for you and your supervisor to know what training is appropriate to your needs, you will complete a ‘research training needs analysis’ at the start of your research programme which will help you analyse the training that you have already undertaken, and relate that to the training which is available here at Exeter. The audit will enable you to prioritise your training requirements and direct you to the appropriate modules, workshops and sessions. However it should be remembered that research training, especially relating to research methodology, is most relevant when you are clear about your research question and the type of research you intend to undertake. A research question needs to be answered, and your methodology is the means by which you answer that question. So if you do not have a research question, you will not know what path you need to take. It is thus of paramount importance that you focus on clarifying your research question in order to maximise the benefit you gain from research training.

Research training can be considered in the following categories:

  • Project-focused skills
  • Discipline-specific skills 
  • Generic / transferable skills

Project-Focused Skills and Discipline-Specific Skills 

The research training needs analysis should alert you to your strengths and weaknesses relating to research in general, and the priorities that you have for undertaking new training. The specific methodology and skills requirements of your own research project will be dependent to a large extent on your research question (see above), so you are encouraged to clarify this as soon as possible. In discussion with your supervisor, you should agree on a programme of skills development which covers your needs. These needs will develop as your research project develops, but it is useful to follow more general training modules at the beginning of your research programme if you do not already have a thorough grounding in methodology and theory.

Postgraduate research students may be able to 'audit' taught modules offered within the University.  If you are interested in auditing a particular module, you should contact the relevant Discipline office and/or the module leader as some modules may have a maximum capacity.  Discipline Offices will be able to advise on module timetables.  These modules are credit-rated modules, but by auditing them no credits need to be taken.  Please be aware that you should not sign up for too many modules, as this will take up time that you would otherwise be spending on your research project.  Discussion of the appropriate modules to take should be one of the subjects of your first supervisory meeting.

To begin that discussion you should first obtain a copy of the full module description of the module you think you would like to study from the University website or discipline in question.  For your registration to be agreed however, you must agree it first with your supervisor, and then seek approval from the appropriate Education Team.

When you are more advanced in your research project and are clearer about the methodology you need to apply, you may require more specific training in techniques or tools. You supervisor may be an expert in such methodology and it is worth having a discussion about this. Otherwise, the University endeavours to provide advanced training, sometimes delivered at College level, and sometimes at University level, and where this is not possible, there are opportunities to attend research training events externally. Research and Training Support Grants can be used to cover such events where necessary.

MPhil/PhD Psychology students

Students with a Masters degree (or equivalent):  If the Masters programme was completed at Exeter, students would be exempt from attending MSc modules unless a new module was appropriate.  If the Masters programme was completed elsewhere consideration should be given to whether taking one or more modules here would provide useful research training lacking in their previous MSc programme.  Participation in MSc modules may be particularly helpful for students whose content, coverage, or level of Masters programme was different from that offered at Exeter, as will be common for students from abroad. It may also be recommended in the case of students who need a 'refresher' because of time spent out of academia since their Masters degree.

MPhil/PhD Sport and Health Sciences students

Postgraduate research students will be expected to undertake research methodology training, which should be agreed with their supervisors.  It is strongly recommended that students (on campus) undertaking the MbyRes/MPhil/PhD in Sport and Health Sciences attend the module SHSM024 Research Methods and Analytical Procedures from the MSc in Sport and Health Sciences during their first year of study (attendance is mandatory unless there are exceptional circumstances).

Generic / Transferable Skills

As well as the skills and training that are vital to the success of your specific research project, we encourage our research students to involve themselves in a variety of other skills and training opportunities. Researcher Development at Exeter provides sessions on a variety of skills which will help you become a more rounded and effective researcher, as well as setting you up to make a successful move into the world of employment. Researcher Development provides help in many areas, such as how to start your research project, how to finish it, how to give a conference paper, how to write at Doctoral level or how to prepare for the viva examination and life beyond your research programme.

As you commence your studies, you will be required to undertake some mandatory training in line with University policy. This training will be online, and includes:

  • Health and Safety
  • Equality and Diversity
  • Research Integrity
  • Data Information Security
  • Information Security for Research Data

Depending on your research area, you may also need to attend some of the following workshops:

  • Research Integrity and Ethics (HASS/STEMM/Health and Social Care)
  • Fire Safety
  • Risk Assessment
  • Radiation Protection

Engaging with the academic culture of the discipline, and research groups, you are embedded in is also a vital part of your training and academic development. You are strongly encouraged to attend the seminar series that take place within each discipline. There will often be visiting speakers from external institutions. Details of seminars will usually be circulated by email within your home discipline.

As a postgraduate research student you will be expected to deliver seminars about your research. Typically, students should give at least one presentation to their research group or department as part of their upgrade process. Later on in their candidature, students might also want to present their accumulated research as part of the process of drawing things together into a thesis. Such seminars provide a very important opportunity to discuss your research with members of staff and fellow research students. They are designed to be supportive and to provide feedback on your research ideas and progress. Seminars also provide useful opportunity to practice presentation skills.

You will be encouraged to reflect on your academic progress and broader personal development in a variety of ways during your time at Exeter. However, a particularly important feature of the ‘structure and support’ we provide for PDP is through the opportunities you have to talk about your progress with your supervisors throughout your programme of study.

Your supervisory meetings should provide a supportive environment in which to discuss your development, so you should feel free to be completely frank about your progress and achievements. Where appropriate, your supervisor may refer you to other sources of help and guidance.

Students can create PDP records using the electronic tool accessed via the Student Record pages on your iExeter portal pages, known as ePDP. This resource provides a structure for you to (i) conduct a self-appraisal, and (ii) produce an action plan, and you can share your ePDP records online with your supervisor.

You will need to record all training events that you attend on the ePDP facility accessible from iExeter. Simply ‘Add an Academic Experience’ on ePDP to record details of all training – including any conferences or seminars that you have attended or presented at.

The University Ethics Framework recognises and requires research to accord with the commonly accepted ethical principles of autonomy, beneficence, non-maleficence, confidentiality and integrity, other than in exceptional circumstances requiring approval from the Research Ethics Committee.

If your research involves one of the following, it will normally require ethical approval:

• Research involving human participants or the use of material derived from human participants (this includes questionnaires and interviews).
• Research involving the use of any personal data.
• Research involving animals (this applies to all animals, including invertebrates, fish and other non-protected species, and includes behavioural and observation studies).
• Research that has the potential to raise social issues or have any environmental impact.
All Ethics applications are made via the E-Ethics web-based system. This can be found at

Ethical approval should be carried out prior to starting research.

If you have questions about the formal process of applying for E-Ethical approval please contact your research supervisor in first instance.

Staff and students working with children or a vulnerable group need Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) clearance (previously known as CRB checks). It is necessary that new clearance is obtained for each different 'group' that an individual works with, i.e. clearance cannot be carried from one location to another. It is important to remember that obtaining clearance can be time consuming and therefore sufficient time should be allowed prior to the start of a study. Further information can be found here.

If you are undertaking research outside the UK, you must inform the University about your destination and the duration of your trip. Clearly, you will discuss this with your supervisor, though this will probably be in a more informal way. The formal means by which you inform the University of your plans is through completing the International Travel Form.

International students should report any absences from the UK for more than 3 months to Student Immigration Services for immigration advice ( The University will then be reporting a change of study location to UKVI so that we can reduce the risk of facing any problems with immigration when you return to the UK as the reason for your long absence from the UK is explained. We will also provide you with a letter so that there is clear evidence for the Border Authorities.


All postgraduate students travelling abroad on University business (such as research fieldwork) are covered by the University’s Insurance Policy provided that you inform us about your travel plans. This insurance cover is paid for by the University. All international travel (even if to your home country) should be registered on the International Travel Form. International travel is considered as travel anywhere outside England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland.

The insurance policy includes a 24 hour helpline and assistance services in the event that a student requires advice or assistance whilst abroad. See the Insurance cover and claims section of the Finance Services pages for more information. The travel insurance policy includes cover for travel to potentially dangerous parts of the world. However there will be an extra charge for travel to some high risk countries eg Iraq and Afghanistan (which will be paid by the College). This must not be taken to mean that the University condones the undertaking of unnecessary risks. Travellers should ensure that there is an up-to-date assessment of any health and safety risks that their trip may expose them to before commencing their travel. If, after undertaking a risk assessment, any unacceptably high risks are identified, further advice should obtained from  Health and Safety Office, as this does not necessarily mean that the travel cannot take place. The Insurance Office, in some instances, may also seek confirmation from a College Manager that the College has given permission for the trip to take place.

A health and safety risk assessment may also be needed if field work is being undertaken. Please talk to the Insurance Office about whether a risk assessment will be needed 01392 723087. Failure to provide details of proposed travel and undertake a risk assessment may invalidate insurance cover and contravene health and safety regulations.