Current Research Degree Students

Essential general information for enrolled/registered research degree students at Robert Gordon University.

The Research Degree Student Induction Programme

The Research Degree Student Induction Programme for new research students is held for each intake (October and February) and aims to provide you with the information and support you require to start your research student journey.

Attendance at the Induction Programme is compulsory for full-time research students, but an online version is made available for part-time students to complete.

For students commencing in February 2019, the Induction Programme will be held on 8 February 2019.

The Induction Programme includes information on:

  • Orientation
  • RGU and the research student journey
  • The Library/REF Works
  • Your Graduate School and Research Degree Co-ordinators
  • Research Student Association
  • Opportunity to meet research students from all over the University. 

All research  degree students should ensure their compliance with the University's approved 'Ten Instances of Expected Contact', regardless of mode of study. Adherence to this list will help to ensure regular and satisfactory progress with your research degree.

Ten Instances of Expected Contact (PDF 39KB)

Meeting your Supervisory Team 

You should arrange a meeting with your Supervisory Team during your first week. This will give you an opportunity to meet those who will support you and to discuss your work schedule for the first few months. Take this opportunity to ask any questions you have or to discuss work patterns, holidays and breaks.

At this meeting it is useful to discuss your understanding of your research area, and any interesting books/articles you have read relating to the research. Your Supervisor will guide you on the requirements of your literature review, and discuss a work plan or a way forward for the first few months of your study. It is important that by the end of the first month you complete the Research Student Progress Log Form, if appropriate, as this form allows both yourself and your Principal Supervisor to agree some preliminary targets for your research programme. 

Research Student Progress Log (DOC 30KB)

It's important that you and your Principal Supervisor discuss your project on a regular basis to ensure you are both happy with progress. Before the end of the first month you should have agreed with your Principal Supervisor how often these meetings will take place.

Research Degree Coordinator

As well as your supervisory Team (headed by the Principal Supervisor) your school will also have a Research Degree Coordinator, who it is useful for you to meet within your first two weeks of arrival. Your Principal Supervisor will introduce you to the School’s Research Degree Coordinator. Throughout your research degree, the Coordinator will play an important role by acting as an independent advisor.

Library Assistance

The Library will become increasingly important to you during your research and you should take time to visit the library at an early stage, introduce yourself to library staff and discuss your research programme with them. The Library has specialist staff who are familiar with the needs of research students and who can help provide information relating to journals and literature searches. The Library will also help you contact other libraries such as the British Library or the National Library of Scotland. During the first module of the PgCert Research Methods you will get an opportunity to meet a member of library staff to discuss particular issues regarding your research programme.

Research Student Association (RSA)

The Research Students' Association (RSA) is a dedicated society for research students. It offers you an opportunity to meet other research students and build up a network of friends on both an academic and social basis. You will get more information about this association when you attend the Research Degree Students’ Induction Programme, or by emailing

Information on the Pg Cert Research Methods

To submit for any research degree award, research students are required to successfully complete both modules of the PgCert Research Methods.

The course has been designed to facilitate the necessary methodological, philosophical and critical thinking skills for all postgraduate research students of the University.

The PgCert Research Methods offers an opportunity for the development of a proficient professional, well grounded in the theory and practice of research or evidence based enquiry.

The course is compulsory for all research degree students and includes seminars, workshops and interactive tutorials.

Any queries related to course delivery or assessment should be directed to the Graduate School in the Ishbel Gordon Building, Garthdee. You can also contact the PgCert Administrator on 01224 262301 or email

For students commencing in February 2019, the Graduate School Induction Programme will be held on 8 February 2019.  Module 1 will be delivered from  11-15 March 2019 and attendance is mandatory for all research degree students.

Future Delivery of Module 1

For students commencing in October 2019, the Graduate School Induction Programme will be held in November 2019 (date to be confirmed). Module 1 will be delivered again March 2020 (date to be confirmed) for those commencing in February 2020 and attendance at the PgCert Research Methods course is mandatory for all research degree students.

Module Descriptors

PgCert Research Methods Module 1 Descriptor (PDF 10KB)

PgCert Research Methods Module 2 Descriptor (PDF 10KB)

Research Governance and Ethics

As part of the Research Degree Registration (RDR) application process, all research students must consider ethical issues.

This includes completion of the Research Ethics: Student and Supervisor Appraisal (RESSA) Form (PDF 379KB) which is appended to the Research Degree Registration (RDR) Form (DOC 123KB).  The registration application must be endorsed by the supervisory team and School Research Degree Coordinator, before final approval by the Head of School.  The application is then submitted to the Graduate School.

Students should consider ethical issues on an ongoing basis throughout their journey, for example, at the annual monitoring or transfer stage.


Registering for a Research Degree - Process Explained

Around three months after you enrol as a research student, you will be required to prepare a registration application for your research degree. The central activity is completion of a:

This document records your topic title, project objectives, a summary of your overall research plan, plus your supervisory team.  This form together with supporting documentation is considered for approval by the Graduate School.

The RDR form requires you to provide details about your qualifications; your training and experiences; any collaborating establishment for the project; and details relating to the proposed research project (the title and the key objectives). The form also requires information about the intended programme of related studies (that is, details of any additional training or development you intend to undertake, such as the PgCert Research Methods and/or DELTA training courses). You should include:

A supervisory team will consist of a Principal Supervisor and one or two other supervisors, allowing the team to have a range of subject expertise sufficient to cover the research topic you plan to undertake. The supervisory team should also have a combined experience of supervising at least two research students through to completion. It is the responsibility of your School to propose an appropriate supervisory team, which complies with A6: Research Degrees, paragraph 4.

Approval of a registration application

The authorised form, along with supporting documentation such as the RESSA form, IPR form and any accompanying RDCVs, will be submitted to the Graduate School for final approval.

Applications might be approved executively, returned to the School for further clarification/ amendment or referred to the Research Degrees Committee.  Once approved, the student record will be amended and the registration documents uploaded onto Document Manager.

Below are additional research student forms for other aspects of the research student journey, once your registration is approved.

Research Degree Student Development

You may wish to make a request for approval of expenditure for attendance at conference or purchase of equipment/consumables.

Do not pay for anything in advance on the assumption it can be reclaimed at some future point.  You should always check with your supervisor as well as your host School to ensure that they agree the expenditure is appropriate to your studies and can be reclaimed from your host School budget.

Transfer Process

The Transfer Process Explained

After twelve months, and normally no later than 18 months of full-time study (or part time equivalent), students registered for MSc/MRes with possibility of transfer to PhD, or a Professional Doctorate programme, should apply for transfer.  For the DPT and DPsychPsych, the timelines are different and they should seek advice of the host School.  The assessment team will record your transfer outcome using the Transfer of Registration to Doctorate (RDT) Form available below, but the research student should prepare a Transfer Proposal (TP) Form for the assessment team to assess as part of a transfer application.  This document should also include a timeline.  These forms are available to download below.

As your research project develops, it is important that any ethical issues which arise are considered and dealt with at the appropriate time.  As part of your registration application, you will have previously considered ethical issues and completed a revised Research Ethics: Student and Supervisor Appraisal (RESSA) Form (PDF 379KB) However, ethical issues should be considered on an ongoing basis, for example, at Research Student Report (RSR) annual monitoring if appropriate, as well as the transfer process.

Assessment Criteria

The following Assessment Criteria is used by the assessment team in considering your transfer application - Assessment Criteria for Transfer - revised February 2019 (PDF 20KB)

Consideration of your transfer application

Once the paperwork has been signed off by the School, it should be forwarded to the Graduate School. Applications might be approved executively, returned to the School for further clarification/amendment or referred to the Research Degrees Committee. Once approved, the student record will be amended and the transfer documents uploaded onto Document Manager.

Writing Up

Prior to writing up, students must read Academic Regulation A6: Research Degrees, in particular Schedule 6.1 which offers generic advice on layout, font sizes etc as you finalise your thesis submission.

Turnitin UK

As part of the assessment process, you should undertake regular Turnitin checks on your draft thesis as you did during Module 1 and 2 of the Postgraduate Certificate (PgCert) Research Methods course.  It is recommended to review your draft thesis on a chapter-by-chapter basis utilising the Graduate School account set up with Turnitin UK. The Graduate School Moodle page has set up a unique doctorate thesis submission account. Please contact Nick Anderson if you are not sure where to source this account.   

As part of the thesis submission, all students must complete and submit a Research Degrees Self-Declaration (RDDECL) Form (DOC 120KB), as well as provide a Turnitin summary report which shows the major comparisons - usually the first few pages highlighting the largest comparisons.

Students should aim to submit their thesis for viva examination around half way through their final year of study.  During this stage, students will still be expected to comply with the six monthly monitoring activity (RSR forms) and continue to maintain regular contact with their Supervisory Team.

When the thesis is ready to be submitted, your host School will arrange for binding of the thesis for you pre-viva.


The viva examination is the part of your research degree programme which might cause you greatest anxiety.

This is not surprising since it is the formal method of determining if your research project is worthy of the award of a higher degree. By the time you have reached this stage you will have made a considerable commitment in time and effort, and the viva will determine your examination outcome.

The viva is also very important for a number of other reasons.  It provides an opportunity to judge the quality of your research.  It's a way of applying standards of professionalism in research to ensure you have met the necessary requirements.  It is also the method by which the University maintains its own standards of quality in higher degree research.  In order to minimise your anxiety about the process and to enable you to perform well in the viva it is important that you understand what is required of you.  The exam team will want to explore a number of key themes with you.  It may well include quersions around:

  • Why did you become interested in this topic;
  • What is your contribution to knowledge;
  • How have your values influenced the research design and interpretation of results or findings;
  • Why did you choose to design the research in this way;
  • How generalisable or transferable are your results of findings;
  • Looking at your recommendations, which 2 key elements would you like to see acted upon and why; 
  • Follow up research that you might undertake.

The following documents are essential for both students and supervisors in terms of approval of examination teams and submission of theses. In addition, you can sign up for the DELTA Viva Training Course when that is advertised and you should undergo appropriate viva training within your academic School, organised by your Principal Supervisor.

In completing the Examination Arrangements (RDE) Form, the Principal Supervisor should propose the name of an appropriate Internal Convener.  It will be their job to manage the oral viva experience for you and to ensure it adheres to University regulations.

Students and supervisors should also familiarise themselves with the University's Academic Regulations A6: Research Degrees, in particular paragraph 9 - Examination, as well as the University's Assessment Criteria. If you have any queries, please speak with your Principal Supervisor or contact the Graduate School.

Please note that a member of the student's supervisory team can attend his/her viva, but only if they have the agreement of the student in advance of the viva and this agreement should be forwarded to the Graduate School in the form of an email by the student.    The following guidance notes and forms are provided for both students/supervisors:

Monitoring and Evaluation

The University uses a number of mechanisms to monitor and evaluate research student progress. These are:

  • Annual Progress Form (RSR) Form and six monthly Interim Review Form - available via the web: RSR Form and Moodle Area
  • Participation in Postgraduate Research Experience Survey (PRES)
  • Regular meetings with research students
  • Induction Event Questionnaire
  • Module Evaluation Questionnaires for Postgraduate Certificate Research Methods
  • Year 1 Questionnaire
  • Submission of Thesis Questionnaire

This is in addition to a rigorous transfer processes. 

After successfully completing your research degree

After you have handed in your hardbound thesis, post-viva examination, it is important to keep motivated, and to keep your sights fixed on all the positive things which your degree has brought you.

You're now more experienced, more resourceful and more professional. You are also an expert in your field.

Apart from developing a great deal of expertise in one particular subject area, remember that you’ve also gained a set of transferable skills. These skills and qualities have become part of your qualifications - they, just as much as your subject expertise, may be invaluable to a future employer.  Not all research students go on to follow a career as professional researchers, and it is important to consider all the options. Taking time to think about what you are going to do next is also an important part of the learning process.

Seeking Careers Advice

Hopefully you will have been thinking about your career plans throughout your research degree. Friends at work and colleagues may be a good source of advice, but as the final decision about what to do next is yours, you should now begin to gather the most appropriate and up to date information about career and employment choices and job requirements.

Although a formal network of contacts may be available to you, such as the University Careers Service, you should also remember that your informal network of contacts can be just as important. This group is likely to include colleagues, experts in your field, and contacts made at conferences. Use this network to seek advice and guidance.

The University Careers Centre will be able to help and support you as you consider career options.  They can offer a personalised session tailored to your needs. 

Keeping in Touch

As your time as a research student nears its end with the University, we hope that you will want to keep in touch with us and with those colleagues you worked alongside during your time here.   The Alumni Team will be able to help you keep in touch with former colleagues, provide you with information on exclusive benefits and services and keep you up-to-date with news of what is happening in the University.   

Appeals and Complaints

The following guidance note is extracted from the University’s Academic Quality Handbook – Section 6: Research Degrees.

Depending on the nature of the appeal or complaint, research students are advised to consult the University’s Academic Regulations, in particular:

  • A3: Student Conduct and Appeals
  • A4: Assessment and Recommendations of Assessment Boards
  • A6: Research Degrees 

You can discuss your proposed appeal or complaint with University staff as appropriate to see if the problem can be resolved without the need for a formal process.

Change in Supervisory Arrangements

From time to time, it may be necessary to change the Supervisory Arrangements for a research student.

There can be a number of reasons for this such as:

  • Current Principal Supervisor leaves the University and is unable to continue in this role.
  • Adjustments are required to the Supervisory Team to take account of the evolution of the student's research project.

Please note that any changes in a supervisory team are not recognised until a completed Change in Approved Supervision Arrangements (RDS) Form (DOC 110KB) is approved by the Convener of the Research Degrees Committee.

Supervising a Research Degree

Information for Supervisors

The most important sources of information are Regulation A6: Research Degrees and the Academic Quality Handbook, Section 6: Research Degrees.  This information is for both students and supervisors and forms part of the University’s Code of Practice for research students.

All supervisors should attend Supervisory Training courses run by the University.  Both initial and themed workshops are offered throughout the year.  Please contact Nick Anderson for more information -  

Research Degrees Internal Review

Review of the research student experience is considered under the Research Degree Internal Review process.

The Graduate School is subject to a quinquennial review, the most recent event took place in June 2018.  More information on the outcome of this event is available from the Graduate School.

Contact the Research Degrees Office

For more information:

Tel: 01224 262155