How should I approach my postgraduate coursework studies?

Undertaking postgraduate studies is different in many ways from your undergraduate experience in terms of your lecturer's expectations, and in terms of greater academic freedom (see What's the difference between undergraduate and postgraduate?). Of course, this can be both liberating and constraining.

Orient yourself

Take your time to orient yourself to the specific requirements of your course and individual subjects. You will be expected to 'know the ropes' of your field of study. This means you will know how to reference correctly, how to format and prepare your assignments, how to undertake literature research, and to some extent, what the discipline requires in terms of an argument. You may need to adapt your current experiences of writing (reports in the workplace, for example) to meet the specific needs of your postgraduate subject.

Your Unit Guide for your subject will lay some of this out for you. However, you can refer to our Rough Guides to gain a quick overview of key resources for your field of study. The Writing section in Language and Learning Online contains many examples of writing in different disciplinary areas to re-orient you to the expectations of your study. Look at Writing for academic success: a postgraduate guide Opens in a new window (Craswell 2005) on our recommended reading list Opens in a new window for more on the different types of writing common to graduate study and research reports and research proposals' and 'research essays'.

In postgraduate coursework, the focus will be on dealing with current issues and those important to the field. And it is this approach that will give you more freedom to pursue those areas that interest you and to clarify and articulate your point of view.

Fellow travellers

Take the opportunity to engage with your learning community via the MUSO discussion boards for your subject. It is also important to engage with your field of study - the literature, perspectives, issues and so on, that inform it. Both these actions will help you develop, clarify and articulate your perspectives on your research area. This, in turn, will help you improve your academic outcomes.