UROP: Study Advice and Students’ Attitudes to Masters Education

My name is Scarlett and I have just finished the second year of my undergraduate degree in History and Politics, and I just felt like this summer would be the perfect opportunity to get some experience on my CV!

At the beginning of June, I started my placement with Study Advice and the purpose of the research was to look into Masters education but from the perspective of final year, undergraduate students. Study Advice had already researched what skills and strategies would be needed by Masters students, but spoke to students who were at the end of their Masters degree. By speaking to prospective Masters students before they start their degree, this new round of research wanted to assess the perception versus the reality of doing a Masters. It is from looking at the skills gap of prospective Masters students, that Study Advice can make their support more specific and pitch messages in ways that Masters students will be more receptive to it.

At the start of the project I had to fill out a form and really think about the ethical considerations that should go into my research; writing out the ethics form was an invaluable experience as it made me realise the type of scrutiny any research project should be under, right from the start. Once we had contacted and got enough participants for our focus groups and telephone interviews, the questions had to be formulated in a way that they were not leading but specific enough for the brief.

For me, the telephone interviews got better as the week went on. I gained confidence after each telephone call and could make it more conversational and less scripted, which actually improved the type of responses that were given by the participants. It felt the same with the first focus group; it was a bit nerve-wracking as it was a totally different experience. However, once the focus group started I gained more confidence and when I got to the second focus group I felt confident enough to be able to lead it alone. It was an enriching experience to be able to handle and then analyse the raw data.

I had to then compile a report that would discuss the research and make recommendations. I really felt like my report would make a positive contribution to how the University delivers support to Masters students. Being able to think about the learning development of others has made me questions my skills and think about different strategies I should use.

This UROP placement could be one of the most valuable things that I could have done (obviously beyond my degree) since studying at Reading. When I graduate next year, I can go into the job market confident in myself and what I want to do.