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GRASP: Enabling success and connection for research students

The Graduate Research Advanced Skills Program (GRASP) is Curtin University Library’s academic writing and research skills program, aimed at all students who study for a higher degree by research (HDR). GRASP enables HDR students to take control of their research project from the beginning and develop transferable skills in scholarly reading, thinking, analysing and writing.

As part of the program, HDR students are invited to attend ‘Shut Up & Write’ sessions and ‘Thesis Boot Camps’. These events provide training on how to write effectively and set goals, alongside gentle peer pressure and lots of encouragement from facilitators to stop procrastinating and start writing large parts of their theses. At Thesis Boot Camps, we also gamify the days with paper crowns to celebrate writing milestones and fun competitions during breaks.

Participants at the first online Thesis Boot Camp in April 2021

GRASP also consists of three workshop series. The first series guides students to write their research proposal to reach Milestone 1. The second series offers skills training in critical thinking; analytical writing; producing better sentences, paragraphs and arguments; writing great abstracts; and editing and proofreading. The research methods series is the third on offer – it provides students with an opportunity to learn about data collection and data analysis tools such as Qualtrics and NVivo.

GRASP Plus is a ‘work in progress’ part of the program. At this stage, it provides access to workshop recordings relevant to HDRs from other Library teams, or resources related to ThesisFest (a yearly Library event with a focus on wellbeing and research skills). We are also working on a motivational music list with songs submitted by HDR students, and a reading list to share helpful resources.

As is the case with many programs at Curtin, one of the challenges of GRASP is to maintain a relevant program and be innovative, while grappling with the constraints of staff availability. To circumvent this, we involve students as peers, both in the decision-making process of which ideas should be pursued, and in making peer-learning part of the program. We have established a HDR Library consultative group and run programs such as the ‘BYO Writing Challenge’ workshop, which uses the principle of peer learning to create an engaging learning opportunity with a lower requirement for direct staff involvement.

Feedback for GRASP is overwhelmingly positive, which is likely due to the fact that it is facilitated by a small, highly motivated team, which allows us to be innovative, flexible and respond to student needs and feedback very quickly. HDR students tend to feel isolated in their research journey, and so any program that provides opportunities to connect with others while learning relevant skills is bound to be received positively. We also strive to promote the program in a consistent and engaging way, and are thinking about how we can demonstrate impact meaningfully.

In summary I can say that I enjoy coordinating and teaching in the GRASP program immensely. It is very rewarding to support HDR students to get their theses done, and therefore contributing to research projects that aim to have a positive impact in communities in Australia and beyond.

Written By:
Petra Dumbell, Academic Skills Advisor, and the GRASP team
Curtin University Library

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