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Settling In: The Researcher's Guide to Your University

Introduction

It can be challenging commencing at a new university - particularly if you wish to build or maintain your research momentum.

A new staff member needs to acquire many areas of knowledge about how the university and its research practices operate - know how, know who, know when - but it is not always easy to draw out the right information from those around you. In fact, you should allow up to 6 months to develop a sense of how things work. This time can be somewhat frustrating, but very necessary.

This induction module has been designed to help you understand how research works in your university. It suggests an efficient way of identifying the key people, services, and university strategies that are available to support you in your research.

The module operates in two stages:

  • First, this written material provides a quick overview of the key research issues with which you need to be familiar. It is designed to provide you with a 'virtual tour' of your university's research context. It will also assist you in identifying the people, services, and knowledge that will be critical to your success.
  • Following your review of this material, you will be supported with an orientation program that will personally introduce you to some major agencies and individuals. The program will also foster regular networking with other researchers.

By the time you finish this module, you will have a good understanding of how research operates in your university. Hopefully, you should be able to get down to work in a strong, focused, and efficient manner. This module (including the workshop component) should take approximately 8 hours to complete.

This module is designed for all newly appointed research or academic staff in the university. It is the capstone module to the 'Future Research Leaders Program' suite of 8 project management modules that focus on your research management skills. This module, on the other hand, explores ways by which you can optimise your research strategy.

This module comprises online learning material and a workshop.

You are expected to devote time to reading the online material and carrying out compulsory activities before attending the workshop. This module should take about 3 hours to read and you may need to devote up to another hour and a half to carry out the compulsory activities.

The workshop is based on the assumption that you have completed the reading and carried out the compulsory activities.

This introductory module comprises 7 topics that explore settling into a new research community. Each of the topics explores issues or strategies and offers you guidance on how to consolidate your approach. The topics are very practical and applied. You may find it useful to read the module at this stage and then to refer to it on an ongoing basis as you settle more fully into your university community.

The topics may vary in their usefulness, depending on your prior experience in university research settings. If you are a highly experienced researcher, Topics 1, 4, 5, and 7 may be the most useful to you. Those new to research or with limited exposure to university research are advised to work through all 7 topics.

Feedback from our pilot group indicated that the module was also seen as valuable for later reference as well as for immediate use. You may find it useful to bookmark particular pages that are good sources of information.

This module (and all other modules in the Future Leaders Research Program) comprise the online material you are now reading and a workshop. For all modules, the completion of the online material is necessary before you attend the workshop - the workshop builds on your engagement with the online material and your responses to the activities within it.

Aims

Settling In therefore aims to:

  • Explore the research context in your university
  • Clarify the university's expectations for researchers and their activities
  • Provide some useful tips and strategies to help you settle in
  • Assist you in planning your meetings with significant support people
  • Introduce some other elements of development that can greatly enhance your performance as a researcher.as a researcher
Learning outcomes

After completing this module you should be able to:

  • Relate your research to the wider university and national research context
  • Identify and be familiar with the different aspects of research practice
  • Clarify your immediate research needs with respect to information, contacts, and resources
  • Develop and implement an induction strategy to ensure you have all of the necessary networks and information to get started efficiently and smoothly
  • Identify suitable mentors who will be able to assist you, and manage a mentoring relationship to meet your current and future needs
  • Commence the process of positioning yourself and your research in your new research community
Content overview

The module comprises the following topics:

  1. The national research context. Your university strives to generate high-quality research. As an employee you will be expected to support its quest to maintain its reputation, position, and profile. This first topic therefore provides you with a brief outline as to the current national and institutional research context. As a researcher you will also be expected to reflect the strategic priorities, protocols, and practices that have been established in your university. The services which provide the necessary guidance are also introduced.
  2. Settling into your local research community. The process of orientation operates at two levels: within the university context, and within the local organisational unit (which might be a faculty, research centre, medical facility, regional hub, etc.) This section of your induction module explores the things you need to ascertain within your organisational area. It outlines the questions you will need to ask of your supervisor and colleagues, and the ways in which you can establish your presence. A checklist for your first discussion is offered as a useful tool to assist your initial orientation to your workplace. This section also includes a guide for supervisors to encourage them to adopt better practices aimed at helping new researchers.
  3. Your role as a researcher. The third topic delves a little more deeply into the research role you may play in the university. You will be encouraged to identify the knowledge and expertise required to successfully work in this university. This section draws on current practices to identify the capabilities that are expected by your employer. By reflecting on these desired capabilities, you may be able to identify areas that require further development either now or in the future. This section also explores the roles, functions, and responsibilities of researchers in other contexts. If you are already a senior researcher you will find this section valuable in exploring the development needs of more junior staff under your care. This topic might bring to light areas of development that you might usefully pursue.
  4. Managing your research priorities. This topic is important for all researchers. It is a challenge to meet daily demands while also allowing time for long-term priorities. This module provides an overview of how to identify the priorities which must be met and to manage the time spent on them. Career management strategies are also overviewed. The final section of the module outlines some principles for participating in a performance management discussion – a significant mechanism for managing your work role. The topic includes some practical tips which should prove useful.
  5. Research mentorship. Successful researchers consistently note the importance of mentorship in their career management. This section explores the nature of research mentorship and outlines how a sustainable relationship can be established. It provides guidance on how to identify suitable mentors and the process of establishing the new relationship. This section is very important for all researchers entering a new work setting – whether experienced or novices. A good mentor makes a real difference to your successful entry into the research community.
  6. Progressing your research career. This introductory module offers you some practical strategies and guidance to assist your initial settling in. However, it is only a small part of what you need to know in order to fully manage your research role. This final section introduces you to the 8 other short modules within the FRLP. It also explores the nature of research management in more detail.
Acknowledgements

Professor Shelda Debowski, University of Western Australia

The topics on Researcher Development; Mentorship; Work Role Management; and Settling in to Your Local Research Community are drawn and adapted from: Debowski, S. (in press). The New Academic. OUP/McGraw-Hill, Philadelphia

With contributions by

Maree Magafas, University of New South Wales
Dr Campbell Thomson, University of Western Australia
Wanda Jackson, University of New South Wales
Dr Delyth Samuel, University of Melbourne

Educational developers

Bill Potter, Monash University
Wanda Jackson, University of New South Wales
Dr Delyth Samuel, University of Melbourne

Educational developers

Bill Potter, Monash University
Associate Professor Len Webster, Monash University

Web developer

Rob Andrew, Monash University
Jane Liang, Go8

Project management

Group of Eight Future Research Leaders Program

Accessing the module material

Now that you have read this introduction, you can access and navigate your way through the module content via the "Settling In" Organiser link in the navigation bar at the top left of this page or in the bar below. If you wish to print this page you can generate a pdf file via this printer icon [ ]. A pdf file for each topic in this module can be generated using the printer icon to the left of each topic title on the Organiser page.

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