Training Plans for Research Students

The training plan is something that research students on PhD, MD, PsyD, and MPhil programmes should discuss and agree with their supervisory team. Your supervisors will want to ensure that your training plan fits in with your overall work plan and that any immediate training needs are addressed as soon as possible.

Your training plan will reflect your specific needs - no two research students have the same training plan. Your plan should reflect your skills needs over your research degree as well as your longer-term personal and professional development goals.

We would suggest that your initial training plan covers the period up to your probation review. Following the probation review you can prepare and agree an updated plan to cover the remaining period of the research degree programme.

Training Needs Analysis

A training needs analysis is a self-assessment of your current skills levels and knowledge. It can also be used to start thinking about your skills development needs and how these might be prioritised.

Research students are encouraged to complete a training needs analysis before going on to develop a full training plan.

You can use the Doctoral College's online training needs analysis form.

The template is based around the domains and descriptors of the Doctoral College framework to help you think about the full range of skills and attributes that characterise an effective researcher.

For each descriptor, indicate your current skill level and then think what priority your development of that skill might have. It is important that you are realistic as you do this. If you are unsure how to prioritise your skills needs, discuss this with your supervisory team. If you find it difficult to assess your current skill level, try to think about a situation where you have used that skill and how well you were able to do so.

Skills and Career Development Objectives

You can use the information obtained from the training needs analysis to formulate some basic objectives for your skills and career development.

To be effective, your objectives should follow the SMART model - that is, they should be:

  • Specific - Exactly what is it you want to achieve?
  • Measurable - How will you know you have achieved it?
  • Agreed - Does your supervisory team agree with your objectives?
  • Realistic - Can your objectives be achieved given the time and resource available to you?
  • Timed - When do you expect to have met each objective?

We would suggest that you try to formulate three or four objectives that are focussed on the initial stages of your research degree - developing or refining your research question(s), undertaking a literature review, preparing for the probation review, etc.

But you should not forget your longer term personal and professional goals - are these reflected in your objectives?

Training Plan

Once you have identified your training needs you can start thinking about the development opportunities that are available and begin matching the two up in a training plan.

In your training plan you will need to set out:

  • what training you will need to undertake to fill the skills gaps identified in your training needs analysis, and
  • when you plan to undertake this training

You can use the Graduate School's Word training plan template.

Cohort Skills and Career Development Training Programmes

At the heart of your plan should be the appropriate cohort training programme. There are three types of cohort programme:

  • Research Council Doctoral Training Partnership/Centre for Doctoral Training Programmes
  • College Research Student Development Programmes
  • Professional Doctorate Training Programmes

Doctoral Training Partnership/Centre for Doctoral Training Programmes

Research Council sponsored research students based in one of the four Doctoral Training Partnerships/Centres for Doctoral Training in which the University is a partner will undertake a structured inter-disciplinary training programme designed to support their effectiveness as a researcher.

Usually these programmes will involve opportunities to make use of training events delivered by other partner institutions in the region and to develop practical experience through training or placements at external partners.

College Research Student Development Programmes

College programmes are similar to Doctoral Training Partnership/Centre for Doctoral Training programmes in that they focus on inter-disciplinary training relevant to your development as a researcher. However, they usually also include more opportunities to develop the understanding and skills you will need to complete your research degree - skills such as finding and using academic literature, presenting research to different audiences, and planning for your career beyond your degree.

These programmes are open to all PhD/MPhil students within the College, including those who are Research Council sponsored.

Professional Doctorate Training Programmes

On professional doctorate programmes such as the EdD and the DSocSci the focus is more likely to be on completion of assessed components or professional practice requirements. The assessed components excluding the thesis are designed to provide research students on these programmes with the same sort of research skills training that PhD/MPhil students receive, but in within a framework more suitable for those based away from Leicester or who are working within a professional setting.

Details regarding your cohort training programme will be circulated at the start of your degree/ the start of each academic year; if you are unsure about which cohort programme you should be following, please speak with your supervisors.

Graduate School Skills and Career Development Programmes

The cohort training programmes will cover the essentials skills that you will need over your research degree. However, to ensure your training plan supports your ongoing personal and professional development, you should also make use of other training opportunities provided for the Graduate School as a whole:

for help with ...... speak to the
transferable skills, career development planning, academic writing support, thesis submission and examination Researcher Development
finding and using academic literature, literature reviews, bibliographic software, managing references Library Research Services
using MS Office and other software, research computing services, managing files and folders IT Services Training
improving your spoken and written English language skills (if English is not your first language) English Language Teaching Unit
learning another modern language Languages @ Leicester

To help you put your skills into practice and provide opportunities to meet with other research students, there are a number of Graduate School events that take place throughout the year in which all research students are encouraged to get involved. The emphasis is on providing a supportive environment in which research students can gain confidence presenting and discussing their research, but also these events are places to share experiences and make new friends:

For a complete list of up-coming events, see the Events Diary.

You should also make time to consult relevant e-resources and study guides.

Key Points
  • Your training plan should cover the full range of skills and career development activities to be completed
  • It should specify the "what" (type of skills), the "how" (type of development activity), and the "when" (expected completion date)
  • Start by auditing your existing skills - a training needs analysis
  • Work with your supervisory team to develop and agree your training plan
  • The training plan should normally be finalised within the first month (full-time) or first two months (part-time) of initial registration
  • Use the Researcher Development Framework to ensure that your training plan covers an appropriate range of skills

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