Group of Eight Australia
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Settling In: The Researcher's Guide to Your University

Topic 3: Your role as a researcher

There has been considerable research recently on the nature of research work and the way it influences the development of a researcher. This topic will explore the research role you may play in the university. You will be encouraged to identify the knowledge and expertise that you currently possess and the development you will need to undertake to work successfully in this university. The section draws on current research in universities to identify the capabilities that are expected by your employer. You are encouraged to reflect on these capabilities to identify areas that may require further development now and in the future. This section also explores the roles and functions of researchers at other levels of responsibility. 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 is particularly useful in identifying areas of development that need to be pursued.

Learning outcomes

After completing this topic you should be able to:

  • Explain the general capabilities which all researchers should be able to demonstrate
  • Describe the different contributions early career, mid-career, and research leaders might make to a research community
  • Pinpoint your current needs for research development using the Research Career Continuum
  • Identify current and future development needs.

Topic Content

Read the following notes.

3.1 Working as a researcher

3.2 Researcher roles and contributions

Optional activity: Self reflection

Take some time to think about your current skills and capabilities. How well are you suited to the roles described here? Are there particular areas you would like to develop further? Make a note of these so that you can discuss them with your supervisor following Topic 6. Use your Induction Interview Checklist to record your thoughts.

If you have ready contact with research centre leaders or senior researchers, you might like to interview them and explore how they manage their leadership role and research output. Explore the career process that brought them to this role. What were their influences? What skills would they like to develop further? What advice would they offer you in planning your next career step?

Pursuing the topic further

You may be interested in exploring the roles of researchers more fully. A more detailed overview of the various roles can be found at:

Debowski, S. (2004) Cultivating hidden assets: the developmental needs of university career researchers. Research and Development in Higher Education 27: 127–135.

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