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Postgraduate research is not required for all types of postgraduate or graduate degree. Many programs substitute a different, but often no less rigorous, thesis requirement that does not necessarily involve original research. In graduate film programs, for instance, students may need to complete a film or write a screenplay to fulfill their thesis requirement. Generally, postgraduate research is only required for the completion of degrees that have a natural research component associated with the professional field, such as physical and life sciences, humanities, philosophy, or psychology.
The first step in completing postgraduate research is to develop the central question that the project will focus on answering. Without a precise central question or goal, the student cannot possibly know what he will need to research or what steps to take next. Students may spend several months developing their thesis question, and may need to do extensive preliminary research to determine the appropriate way to ask the question they are interested in examining. Often, faculty or thesis advisers will need to approve the thesis question or project before the student can commence postgraduate research.
The gathering and analysis of research may take years to complete. There are many different types of research, and each postgraduate project will have its own set of requirements for the amount and type of preparation needed. Researcher may include scientific experiments, interviews, reading historical documentation, and field work. Along the way, the student is meant to conduct each piece of research using the fundamental skills required of a professional in his or her field. Attention to detail, proper understanding of experimental methods, and logical thinking may be more crucial to the outcome of postgraduate research than the actual success of the thesis project itself.
Postgraduate research often takes superior organization skills and unyielding attention to detail. Since a thesis project is often meant to measure how well a student can apply his research skills, it is important to clearly and carefully document all research methods. Even if the findings of research dispel a student's initial assumptions or hypothesis, it is often the methodology and logic applied in the research process, rather than the findings, that matter to the thesis committee.