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Research skills for HDR students


Originality is one of the most important criteria for a successful thesis. Your thesis should be a significant addition to the accumulated knowledge within your discipline, which implies it must offer something new.

While your thesis will be a big step for you, in most cases, your contribution will be a relatively small step for your field of study as a whole. Therefore, it’s important not to over-emphasise the need for originality. There are many ways you can incorporate originality without your thesis becoming too ambitious or unmanageable.

‘New’ elements can arise when you:

  • generate new data
  • apply new methods to existing data
  • create new interpretations of existing data
  • provide additional support for existing theories, models or interpretations
  • modify existing theories, models or interpretations
  • critique or disprove existing theories, models or interpretations
  • discover new information
  • provide new solutions to problems
  • analyse phenomena in new ways
  • devise new investigative methods
  • sample new populations.

By carrying out a thorough review of the literature, particularly of the most up-to-date sources, you’ll discover the gaps or limitations in the current knowledge. These will guide you to the best areas for original research.

Your supervisor will be in the best position to advise you on whether you have enough new ideas. There will also be opportunities within your faculty for you to explain and explore your ideas with other postgraduate research students.


This material was developed by the Learning Hub (Academic Language and Learning), which offers workshops, face-to-face consultations and resources to support your learning. Find out more about how they can help you develop your communication, research and study skills.

See our handout on Writing a thesis proposal (pdf, 341KB).

Last updated: 14 October 2022

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