What is research?
Many students, but not all, may have undertaken some research as part of their education, training or employment to date. While similar to these experiences, a research degree in itself is likely to be very different to any other training or degree you may have undertaken previously - such as an undergraduate degree or a taught Master’s.
What is research block
To start your journey within your degree, it is important to remember the essence of research:
- Research: The systematic investigation into and study of materials and sources in order to establish facts and reach new conclusions – Oxford English Dictionary
- Research: A careful study of a subject, especially in order to discover new facts or information about it – Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary
Research, in all its forms, academic or industrial, is innovative and hypothesis driven:
- Hypothesis: A supposition or proposed explanation made on the basis of limited evidence as a starting point for further investigation – Oxford English Dictionary
- Hypothesis: An idea or explanation of something that is based on a few known facts but that has not yet been proved to be true or correct – Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary
"Successfully undertaking a research degree requires certain abilities, such as initiative and the capacity for critical but constructive thinking, as well as a thorough understanding of the relevant academic discipline and competence in relevant techniques." - Learning to Research, 2009
Studies undertaken as part of your research degree will be based on pre-existing knowledge and will raise scientific questions aiming to solve your hypothesis. Knowledge will be gathered from a variety of sources such as your supervisors, journal articles, books and conferences. You may use this knowledge to challenge accepted ideas or decipher a problem not investigated currently.
Your research degree will primarily be driven by solving your hypothesis but will be complemented by journal clubs, scientific and professional skills workshops, training, and discussions with colleagues or collaborators. Your degree may also be complemented by attending lectures and taught courses.
It is important to understand what the requirements of your degree are. The majority of research degrees do not have a formal taught component but there will be some requirements and this may differ from one department to another. These requirements are often self-driven and will require you to actively manage your research and learning, with the support available to you. Please refer to the Essentials Checklist to ensure you are fully aware of what is expected of you while studying for your research degree at Imperial College London.