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Posted by blogpmm on April 7, 2010


 It takes a positive approach to the opportunities available to us and is an indispensable guide for all postgraduate students

A Review by


Jabatan Perdagangan,  Politeknik Merlimau

Author                  : Lucinda Becker

Publisher               : Palgrave MacMillan, New York

                               First Publication, 2004 – 188 pages

ISBN                     : 1 – 4039 – 1656 – X

PMM Library         : LB2371.B43 2004

Postgraduate study can provide a rewarding and exciting route to developing ourselves personally, academically or professionally. There can be a whole host of reasons as to why those who decide to take up further study choose to do so at different stages of their lives.

Postgraduate study is different from undergraduate study in many ways. This book will help us make the transition from a first degree or the work place to a postgraduate course. It focuses on the management of the processes involved in a gaining a postgraduate qualification, rather than just outlining the mechanics of study and research. International in its approach, the book encourages us to assess, in a systematic way, the transferable skills that we can develop as part of the course – an area of personal development that is increasingly important.

The author, Lucinda Becker teaches at Reading University within the arts and humanities, social sciences and management. She is also a professional trainer, devising, developing and delivering courses at postgraduate level. Her other books include How to Manage your Science & Technology Degree, How to Manage your Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities Degree and How to Manage your Open & Distance Learning Course. 

This is an-eleven-chapters-zero-graphic-book, in which I found so magnetic due to the contents discussed. Varies from Choosing and Beginning your Postgraduate in Chapter 2, Your Skills Base in Chapter 4, Working with your Supervisor in Chapter 5, Managing your Course in Chapter 6, Teamwork and Networking in Chapter 8, Presenting your Ideas in Chapter 9 and as well as Writing up Your Research in Chapter 10. Each and every issue is discussed in detail, as a useful guide for those intending to further studies. As forewarned is forearmed, therefore the tips, guidance and information received in advance can help one prepare for oncoming problems.

I believe that one main question that frequently lingering in your mind (and me, too!) is whether to proceed or not the application to pursue study. According to Lucinda Becker, first and foremost; never assume that we are under qualified for a course. Just ensure that the chosen course has full and meaningful accreditation. If we have many demands upon the time, make sure that the course is flexible. Therefore do the research and find out as how much as we can about the course in advance. Even if we do not think that we will get it, still look into applying for funding. Also, think about supervision even before beginning the extended research.

Working in a fog of confusion is the worst possible to tackle a post graduate course, yet sometimes we might feel as if we cannot help but be confused, because we are unclear about the demands that will be made upon our time and the input that will be expected of us. Therefore, alert to any opportunity. Attend every seminar that is open to us and be prepared to contribute. Lectures are opportunities to meet academics and see the wider implications of the subject. If there is no discussion group in the department, start one of our own. Bear in mind that tutorials are not to be feared, they are to be exploited. Work-base projects need time and care and can bring coherence in the vocational course. Also be updated that e-learning is on increase; we can make the most of it.

During school life, brilliant students are the top flying colors achievers. But this does not necessarily apply in postgraduate course. We must know our own strengths and weakness. In order to smooth up the postgraduate course, analyse our existing skills base and assess our needs in terms of skills development. Learn how to read productively, improve the ways in which we articulate the ideas and learn how to write persuasively. Oral presentation must be mastered. Thinking creatively, laterally and as widely as possible is essential. Writing and presenting ideas are the part and parcel involvements in postgraduate course that are very impossible to avoid.

Working with a supervisor can feel rather strange in the beginning. It is not a working partnership that we can neglect, as we will need the help of the supervisor in so many ways. If we can choose the supervisor, check his/her area of expertise, track record, availability and most importantly, enthusiasm. Try to broaden the range of research and learning opportunities with the help of the supervisor as we are not expected to be an expert in every aspect of the course. Find out how best to communicate with the supervisor, and try not to take criticism in supervisions personally. Try to be flexible about the practicalities of the supervision. If we change direction significantly in the research, tell the supervisor fairly promptly. Occasionally, let the supervisor know that we are enjoying the research!

Manage the course, rather than letting it manages us. Be an active note-taker, the initial notes are just our starting point. Keep reading notebooks and update them periodically. Do not shy away from exploring other disciplines occasionally and produce research sheets for each area of research. Develop study partnerships if we can and join discussion groups. Time management is crucial so do develop strategies to master the time. Create own timetable and use it to manage all the elements of the course.

What if things go wrong? Everybody is essential to the occasional bad day. Identify the root cause of the problem before we feel too demoralized. We will spend much of the time feeling in control and focused on the course, but there will be stages of the journey when we might feel less sure of ourselves and the study, when the path is unclear. Use the support services that exist within the university. Try not to suffer in silence. Work with the supervisor to resolve problems, never assume that we are alone in the difficulties we are experiencing. Be proactive by tackling issues as they arise.

Overall, a postgraduate course is more than simply a period of study and research. It is also, crucially, a time for reflection and self development. As a postgraduate, we are embarking on a journey that will be exciting, satisfying and challenging.  In this way we can make the most of this chance to develop our skills base, maximize our learning opportunities and widen our understanding, both of ourselves and the subject area with which we are engaged.  When we feel that things are going well, it helps us to assess our success and analyse that success. When we feel isolated, confused or just plain demoralized, our difficulties are both a normal part of the postgraduate experience and entirely surmountable.

Personally, reading the book inspires me to get in life of postgraduate course. Theoretically it widens the horizon of furthering study, in spite of for instance, enjoying the glory of carrying “Dr” at the beginning of the name – the symbol of virtue after passing through all aspects of self reflection, self development as well as the intellectual, emotional and mental survival.  

I guess that the author might be in future revise the contents by adding extra elements like the tips on how to manage postgraduate course for working, married  couples and parents in focus; as sometimes, truth is stranger than fiction. The value of postgraduate study can be measured in the hardship that some people are prepared to bear in gaining an additional qualification. This can be challenging enough if the course is less than a year in length full time; but a sustained period of scrimping may be required to get through part-time taught courses, full-time research degrees and, longest of all, a part-time PhD.  However, never say die before we try. Let’s strike while the iron is still hot, for opportunity seldom knocks twice. Allah Ta’ala helps those who help themselves.   Wallahu’alam.

Just seeing which way the wind is blowing,


Wednesday 31 /03 /10


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