With so much to do in the first weeks, it can be difficult to know what to do first to start your research. This page will guide you through the process, giving you the information, contacts and advice to make sure you have the best start.
Checking the Doctoral College induction resources and information from your Graduate Schools is a great place to start in getting you set up and settled in. The Induction and Welcome page offers more guidance and resources.
Graduate School contacts
Your Graduate School is normally the first point of contact for queries specific to your programme. For the full list of contacts, please go to Contact Your School and scroll to the bottom of the page for the Graduate School contacts.
As a guide, the checklist below gives you the main things to consider when getting started with your postgraduate research (PGR) studies. These might be covered in your induction resources and information, but more links are provided below for guidance where relevant:
Registration – the registration process is essential and must be completed. If you need guidance, please read the Registration webpage or contact your Graduate School for help.
Setting up your first meeting with your supervisor(s) – make contact with your supervisor(s) to discuss getting started with your research. You might find it helpful to have some written questions with you for your first meeting so that you don’t forget to ask anything important. More information is provided further down the page under the heading of “Get started with your research”.
Find out about School and Faculty buildings – induction events/resources provided by your School, Faculty or Graduate Schools should cover these. Ask your supervisor(s) or Graduate School about buildings on campus that will be relevant to you and your studies if you are unsure and ask about PGR working spaces that may be available to you.
Access – some buildings/study spaces/facilities might have key or fob entry only. This should be covered by local inductions if it is relevant to you but contact your Graduate School for help if you are unsure.
Equipment – talk to your supervisor(s) about any equipment you might need or have access to during your research and find out how to arrange this.
Health and Safety induction – some PGRs will be required to complete a local health and safety induction(s) before they start their studies. This usually includes those PGRs who will be working in laboratories and/or other types of research facilities. Please make sure you complete any health and safety inductions you are asked to. If you think you should have one and you have not been asked, contact your supervisor(s) or Graduate School.
Campus – if you are in Leeds, get to know campus by taking a self-guided tour, discover the interactive map or simply wander about and explore it yourself or with new friends!
Libraries – familiarise yourself with the University of Leeds Libraries and consider attending any Library induction sessions if they are available. Go to the Library webpage for more information.
Support and wellbeing
Please take some time to read about the support and wellbeing services offered for all students, including PGRs. The Postgraduate research training and development webpage has a helpful video guide to highlight the support available across the University. In addition, on the Support and Wellbeing pages you will find information on key contacts, counselling and wellbeing, harassment, healthcare services, mental health and what to do if you are unwell. There are also specific webinars for PGRs hosted by the Student Counselling and Wellbeing service, which you can find more about on their Groups and Workshops page.
If you are disabled then please consider registering with Disability Services for support throughout your studies. Disability Services are a specialist team who can recommend available support and any adjustments you might need.
The Student Life pages offer a wealth of information covering living in Leeds, family and childcare, working, council tax and faith based support.
We will email you on your University email account in most instances, rather than any personal email addresses. You are expected to regularly check your University email account for communications from the University. These communications will include important updates and information relating to your programme, working arrangements, finance and sponsorship, etc. It is very important that you do not ignore University emails and you make sure you read them carefully and act on any information or advice in a timely manner. Other forms of communication from the University, including the Doctoral College and your Graduate School, might come from Microsoft Teams, newsletters, social media, etc.
The ‘Leeds Doctoral College PGRs’ Microsoft Team is where you will find the latest news and information on events, opportunities, support, careers, training and other general topics relevant to the PGR community at Leeds. Members consist of all PGRs at the University of Leeds and some members of staff. You should be automatically enrolled shortly after your official start date but if you find you are not then don’t worry, just request to join. The Team is split into different channels so that you can browse content by area of interest. You will also find useful general PGR information such as contacts and website links under the “General” channel.
Doctoral College Handbook
As well as the Code of Practice for research degree candidature, PGRs also have a handbook called the Doctoral College Handbook, or ‘PGR handbook’ as it is also known. The handbook is there for you to refer to at any point in your candidature. It offers guidance on topics including:
Getting started with your studies
What you need to know during your research
Beyond the viva
The Doctoral College handbook is a key source of information for all PGRs at the University and does not just cover formal policies and procedures. You can find information on PGR reps, Support and wellbeing, council tax, fieldwork, holiday entitlement and more.
You should be able to access your handbook here or via your Graduate School Minerva organisation. If you cannot find a copy of the Doctoral College Handbook or require it in an alternative format, please get in touch with your Graduate School.
Get started with your research
Remember, your student experience as a PGR will be quite different from your experience as an undergraduate or postgraduate taught student. In terms of your studies, as a PGR you generally will not have timetabled lectures and seminars (unless there are taught elements to your candidature or you choose to enrol on modules). You will also not have exams in the same way as you did as a taught student so the University exam periods will generally not apply to you. Your work as a PGR will mostly be independent but you will have your supervision team with you along the way to guide and support your research.
When you begin your research degree you should discuss your research in detail with your supervisor(s) to clarify such matters as the experimental design, methodology, research ethics and the resources needed as well as undertaking a training needs analysis.
Your supervision team will normally be the same throughout your research. However, for some, there may changes to the supervision team for reasons outside of the University’s control. This could include your supervisor becoming ill or leaving the University. Graduate Schools must put alternative arrangements in place as soon as possible.
You can see details of your supervisory team on the Graduate Record of Achievement and Development (GRAD)
All PGRs and their supervisor(s) must use GRAD system to organise and record supervision meetings, to create a training plan, to organise and record progress monitoring meetings (first formal progress review, transfer, and annual progress reviews), and to manage ‘change requests’ including annual leave, authorised absence and change of location. Discuss using GRAD with your supervisor at your first meeting if you have any questions. It is good to get familiar with using GRAD as soon as possible in your candidature. You can access GRAD training on the Postgraduate research training and development page.
Selection of subject/research project
During the process of applying and being offered a place to study for your research degree at Leeds you should have had the opportunity to discuss the project you will be undertaking with your supervisors. Indeed, some of you will have applied for a specific project, maybe with an industrial partner where the project’s aims and objectives are clearly defined from the outset.
The research must not be so large that it cannot be mastered within the standard period of study for the degree and should not be so limited that it gives you insufficient scope for the necessary originality and aptitude for research which you will be required to demonstrate during your period of study.
When undertaking your research, you should guard against the danger of becoming so engrossed in the detail of one aspect of your research that you neglect the wider aspects of the topic and the discipline as a whole, so losing a sense of proportion. If, as your work proceeds, you contemplate a change in its scope or emphasis, you should seek the opinion of your supervisor(s) at an early stage.
Having an effective training plan will help you to complete your research degree on time and with minimum stress. It is worth taking time to plan, review and revisit your plan. PGRs arrive with us with different levels of experience so our training and development activity is tailored to your needs. Please discuss your needs with your supervisor(s) and agree a training plan within three months of starting your studies. Your supervisor will monitor your progress regularly. The GRAD training plan pages list offers further guidance on the type of training to consider such as data management, academic integrity, ethics and English language support. You can also read further guidance on the Postgraduate research training and development page.
Postgraduate research development opportunities
The University’s primary training and development provider is the Organisational Development and Professional Learning service, who provide training and development to support academic, professional and organisational development, both centrally and on a bespoke basis for individual faculties, schools and services. This includes support for staff and postgraduate researchers through short courses, longer programmes and credit-bearing programmes, networks, one-to-one advice, coaching, mentoring, personal development planning and online resources. There are also further training opportunities and guidance on the Postgraduate research training and development page.
Your school/faculty will also offer support. You can also ask to meet with the Director of Postgraduate Research Studies for your school to review progress and any matters of concern.
During your candidature there will be reports made on your progress. You do not need to think about preparing for these in your very first supervision meeting, however, they are important milestones that you need to keep in mind and be clear on what is required of you. More information on progress monitoring and the different reports that will need to be completed is on the Progress Monitoring webpage and in the Doctoral College Handbook. Please take the time to read the information provided.