Why and How to Change Fields for Postgraduate Work
Why move to a new field for postgraduate study? Perhaps a topic caught your eye during your undergraduate studies and you always wanted to pursue it further. Perhaps you're confident in your understanding of the essential facts of your field and feel that it's time for a change. Perhaps you want to broaden your skills and gain some variety to your studies. In any case, postgraduate study allows you to delve deeper into topics and to learn more independent research skills. If you're thinking of making a change, read on for advice on how to set yourself up in a new discipline for your postgraduate study.
When beginning work in a new field, it is vitally important to be well-prepared. You want to understand the basic concepts, terminology, and the hotly debated theories of your new field. The best way to approach this is through extensive reading – take advantage of local or university libraries if you can, to access journals and books. Don't worry if journal articles are difficult for you to read or if there are some sections which you don't understand. You want to familiarise yourself with the style and typical content of articles in your new field, so don't concern yourself too much with remembering factual information. Books can be excellent introductions to your field, however, be sure to check the publication date. Some fields (such as the sciences) move very fast, and the information in books is quickly out of date. For the latest news in your field, search online for topical blogs. Many academics and interested laypeople cover the latest research and news-worthy developments of their fields on blogs. These blogs are often written by one author and so should be taken as the opinion of just one person and not as a definitive objective view; however they will help to show you the ongoing developments and debates in your field.
If you are considering changing to a new field, you might feel intimidated by your lack of background knowledge and skills. Isn't it hard enough to start a postgraduate course, even harder if the course is in a field you don't know? A move can be challenging, but likely you already have many relevant skills from your undergraduate studies which will help you. Skills like critical thinking, essay writing, and clear argumentation will be useful and relevant in any area of academia. Similarly, your research skills such as reading comprehension and critique, or use of the library, will be helpful no matter which field you choose to pursue. You will have built up these crossover skills during school and undergraduate study, so assess the areas in which you excel (reading, writing, analysis, original / creative thinking, debate, and so on) and build upon these skills.
One technique that can help to build your confidence in a new field is to seek out undergraduate lesson plans or online courses. You can see overviews of the kind of topics which are taught, and identify any concepts or areas which are unfamiliar to you for further research. Universities will often put course outlines or even have video lectures on their websites, and you can make use of these resources to ensure that you have a solid foundation of understanding in your new field. Another important tip to remember is that it's ok to ask questions! When you are listening to a lecturer or another student and they mention a concept unfamiliar to you, do ask them to explain further. It can feel embarrassing to ask questions about basic concepts which other students are already familiar with – but it is the best way to learn!
In fact, moving to a new field can actually be an advantage for you. If you begin work in a new subject, you will posses skills and knowledge from your previous discipline which others do not. Pride yourself on your unique outlook and find ways to apply your previous knowledge or concepts to your new work. Interdisciplinarity is a hot topic in academia, so look for opportunities to do work which bridges both your old and your new fields. This can make you really stand out from other students who don't have the broadness of knowledge that you do. Keep an eye on INOMICS.com for the latest opportunities in a wide range of fields, to find the perfect postgraduate course for you.
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