Research

Information for PGR students on conducting research at Sheffield.

On

Induction

Department induction

Departmental induction arrangements for PGR students commonly involve some or all of the following:

  • A meeting with, or presentation by, key staff in the department (eg PGR Lead and other relevant staff members such as key administrative staff)
  • An initial meeting with supervisors
  • A tour of the departmental facilities
  • Provision of a PGR handbook and the University's Code of Practice for Research Degrees
  • Presentations on issues such as health and safety
  • A meeting with PGR student representatives and/or a buddy/mentor
  • A welcome social event (often involving staff and existing PGRs)

Essential practice

Departments, rather than individual supervisors, should be responsible for the induction of new postgraduate research students, in order to ensure consistency (eg the PGR Lead, Departmental Manager, or other appropriate member of staff with a key PGR role should be involved in the induction of all students). All new postgraduate research students should be provided with a departmental handbook or equivalent at induction and a copy of the Code Of Practice for Research Degree Programmes.

All new PGR students should also be made aware of the structure of the department and introduced to key members of staff (eg Head of Department, PGR Lead, postgraduate administrators, etc), as part of their induction programme.

Desirable practice

It is desirable for existing PGR students to be involved in the induction of new PGR students (eg through a 'buddy' system or an open question and answer session). An induction session specifically dealing with cultural issues for international students could be particularly helpful, especially if such sessions involved existing international PGR students rather than academic staff.

It is helpful for new PGR students to be provided with an ‘induction checklist’ on which different aspects of the induction could be signed off when complete (the three-month review meeting for the Doctoral Development Programme (DDP) could be used as an appropriate opportunity to check that all requirements have been met). This could be particularly useful for cross-sessional students, whose induction may not be as structured as those starting in September/October.

Faculty induction

Links to faculty-specific induction programmes are available below:

Arts & Humanities
Engineering
Medicine, Dentistry & Health
Science
Social Sciences


Ethical approval

If a student plans to do research involving human participants, whether directly or indirectly (eg interviews, questionnaires, focus groups, observations), accessing personal data about individuals (including via social media), any human biological materials, then the research must be independently ethically reviewed and approved BEFORE the student begins data gathering.

The supervisor is responsible for ensuring that this takes place. Failure to gain ethics approval may result in the student's dissertation or thesis being failed or deemed ineligible for submission. Guidance on the different routes for obtaining ethics approval, and when each applies, is available from the University's central research ethics website. This site contains the University's Research Ethics Policy and broader guidance on ethical issues.

Research integrity and ethics

Research governance approval

Health and social care research involving the NHS or social care services is required to follow the University’s Research Governance Procedure, which ensures that appropriate approvals are in place in line with the UK policy framework for health and social care research. Further information about the Procedure, and when it applies, can be found on the University’s Research Governance website.

Research Governance (Student intranet)


Good academic practice

All research students are expected to comply with the University’s policy on Good Research & Innovation Practices (GRIP), which can be found on the University’s research ethics and integrity homepage.

The policy sets out the University’s expectations for how research should be undertaken, from start to finish, including the responsibilities of both students and supervisors. It sets out expected good practice in each key aspect of research from designing research projects to publication. It also includes information about practices that are considered to be unacceptable, and how to address concerns that students or staff may have in this regard.

All researchers, including students, are expected to raise concerns if they encounter something which concerns them.

Research ethics and integrity


Physical, social and research environment

Postgraduate research students must have access to the facilities necessary for them to achieve success in their studies. This does not necessarily mean that they will all have their own designated desk space within their academic department and it should be noted that the specific requirements of students do vary significantly between subject disciplines and even at different stages of their research project.

Departments commonly provide some or all of the following facilities for their PGR students:

  • Access to desk space and computer facilities (designated facilities are often provided where required by the student)
  • Laboratory space if required according to the discipline
  • Kitchen and social and/or meeting space
  • Access to secretarial (and, if relevant, technical) support
  • Access to shared printers, photocopier and phones
  • Access to storage facilities (including some lockable storage)

In addition, departments provide PGRs with a wide range of formal and informal mechanisms designed to better integrate them with other PGR students and with the departmental research environment, for example:

  • Regular departmental research seminars
  • Regular PGR student seminars at which students can hear about each other’s research and practice presenting their own work, and/or hear from internal or external speakers
  • Research training modules accessible to, or specifically for, PGRs (covering key research skills and/or skills for successful completion of a research degree)
  • Social events (eg induction drinks, informal coffee & cakes/pub meetings, Christmas parties)

Preventing harm in research (safeguarding)

All research students are expected to comply with the University’s policy on Preventing Harm in Research & Innovation (Safeguarding), which can be found on the University’s research ethics and integrity website.

The policy sets out the University’s duty of care to all individuals involved in or affected by its research activities, and sets a clear expectation that exploitation, abuse and harm are not tolerated. Researchers are required to consider the potential risks of harm to individuals involved in/affected by their research and to take appropriate steps to mitigate these, including ensuring that there are appropriate mechanisms in place for safeguarding concerns to be reported.

Research integrity and ethics


Research data management and Data Management Plans

The University’s Policy on Good Research & Innovation Practices (GRIP) sets out how all researchers, including PGR students, should manage data generated by research projects. Research data are diverse and vary enormously between disciplines, but broadly speaking, they are the evidence used to support or inform research conclusions. All students must plan how they will manage the data they will create and gather by writing a compulsory Data Management Plan.

Data must be recorded accurately and systematically, and managed appropriately throughout the research project. This includes (but is not limited to) the creation, processing, analysis, preservation, access to and reuse of research data.

Data should be shared with at least one other person (eg the supervisor) throughout the research process to minimise the risk of data loss. Most major funders, notably UKRI, the EU and major UK charities, require research data underpinning publications, including student theses, to be made publicly available for re-use (unless restrictions on the release of data are necessary for ethical or legal reasons). A statement indicating where the underlying data can be found should be included in all publications.

The University encourages all researchers to make their research data discoverable by recording details in its research data catalogue, ORDA, with a link to where it is stored.

ORDA

Data Management Plans are compulsory for all students who commenced their research programme from the 2019/20 academic year onwards and will be reviewed at Confirmation Review. Students should refer to the information on Data Management Plans and should consider using the DMP online tool.

DMP Online

For more information on Research Data Management please refer to the Library's website. 

For information on the University's Policy on Good Research & Innovation Practice (GRIP) please refer to the Research Integrity and Ethics website.


Rights and responsibilities of students

All students of the University have a number of rights and responsibilities and should take the time to familiarise themselves with the University’s expectations. 

Upon registration, all students must commit to abide by the University’s Regulations and to observe the Code of Practice relating to Health and Safety.

There are also expectations regarding acceptable conduct and behaviour of all students and the University reserves the right to take action against any student whose behaviour is judged to be unacceptable.

All students and University staff are expected to behave in a way that respects and takes account of the diversity of the University community and the values of truth, toleration and justice.

Students should familiarise themselves with the following documents:

Our Commitment

Student Code of Conduct

Statement of Expectations for Postgraduate Researchers and Supervisors

Social media guidance


Planning for time abroad 

The University has a duty of care to protect, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare of its staff and students. At times, due to the necessity to carry out activities away from the University, either in the United Kingdom or overseas, students might conduct work and other activities in locations not under University control, but the University still remains responsible for them and others exposed to their activities.  

As such, it is essential that students keep their supervisor and department informed of when they will be spending time away from Sheffield, and where they will be.

It is important that careful thought is given not only to the research data collection but also to the potential issues and problems that could arise. High standards of health and safety in fieldwork are paramount and therefore the University strongly advises that discussions should take place between the student, supervisor(s) and the department about measures that can be taken to ensure the student’s wellbeing. This should be in plenty of time before travelling to be able to plan appropriately.

A good starting point is to undertake a risk assessment such as that published by the Field Studies Council. Safety is the result of thorough planning, care and common sense and overrides all other considerations, including academic. Also, students and supervisors should consult the University’s guidance on fieldwork in 'The Management of Health and Safety on Fieldwork and Other Off-campus Activities Policy and Guidance'.

For periods abroad on University business lasting no more than 12 months students are provided with travel and personal accident insurance. Further information is available on the Student hub (login needed).

There is no charge for the insurance cover. Students who sign up for university travel insurance must complete a risk assessment for studying abroad.

Risk assessments

The majority of overseas travel and fieldwork will occur within areas deemed to be safe by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). The FCO website provides information on safety for your planned visit, however, it is worth undertaking a risk assessment for work off-campus because there will not be the same level of ready access to the support services of the University. For proposed work in areas deemed to be unsafe, students are required to provide a very robust risk assessment as part of the approval process for their trip. This includes work undertaken in the UK.

Risk assessment is the fundamental tool to ensure safety is effectively managed. The following are three steps to risk assessment:

  1. Identify the hazards;
  2. Evaluate the risks and decide on precautions;
  3. Review your assessment and update if necessary.

The risk assessment should be reviewed periodically and updated if any significant changes to circumstances, events or findings have emerged.

Other considerations

As well as a risk assessment, the following points might prompt thoughts and discussions about the planned study trip. While there may be particular issues to do with the specific location being travelled to, the following are prompts to consider about common and general issues.

Adapting to a new culture
  • Talk to students who are in Sheffield from the destination country
  • Attend cultural awareness training
  • Find out if any academics at Sheffield have done fieldwork in that country or type of location and seek their advice/information
Financial matters
  • Think about the costs of living and accommodation
  • Identify what rules there are concerning casual working if a period of employment is planned
  • Check that suitable insurance for personal belongings is in place
  • make sure all documentation is in place before departure, such as visas, drivers licence, ethics approval, etc.
Political and safety matters
  • Check UK government webpages and University website to identify existing or emerging problems
  • Note the contact details of the British Embassy/High Commission/Consulate in the destination
  • In an emergency situation, students should use the Facebook "check-in" facility to let people know they are safe.
  • Make sure the supervisor and student can maintain decent contact by phone, text, etc. as necessary
Health matters
  • Check that suitable medical insurance is in place
  • Make sure that any ongoing medication and treatment can be maintained while overseas if necessary, and take precautions if not
  • Check whether any specific immunisations are necessary and ensure the student has the appropriate vaccinations
Physical disabilities
  • If the student is disabled, check what facilities are likely to be available at the destination
  • Students should talk to their disability adviser

In anticipation of possible emergency scenarios, the department should set out procedures and steps to be taken in accordance with university guidelines. Advice can be obtained by contacting Student Support and Guidance or, out of hours, by calling the University’s control room.

Students should have a contingency plan in the event of an emergency and ensure that their supervisor knows of this prior to travel.

The University Control Room should be given the contact details of a person to be notified in case they are informed directly that a problem has arisen.

Wherever possible, students should have someone in the destination country as a contact point. When taking trips off campus to do interviews or other fieldwork, students should make sure that the local contacts know where they are (ie they should leave their phone number and take their mobile phone). Avoid conducting fieldwork within private homes or where there are no other people within easy reach wherever possible.

Immunisation against tetanus is recommended as a minimum for all persons working in rural environments and is particularly important for those coming into contact with soil/animals or if the fieldwork could result in exposure to certain pathogenic organisms. The University’s Occupational Health provider can offer advice and students can obtain a vaccination programme through the University Health Service. The University Health Service provides a full travel service to students and staff, including advice and immunisations. 

Downloads

Fieldwork risk assessment form (Word, 70KB)

Planning for time abroad (PDF, 1,271KB)

Find a PhD

Search for PhD opportunities at Sheffield and be part of our world-leading research.