Download the Researcher Development Skills Audit template here.

Many of the professional skills you will develop during your time as a researcher are highly valuable and relevant to a wide range of careers both inside and outside of academia. It is important that you are able to identify your skills and competencies to remain competitive in a rapidly changing global business environment.

There are few rules for undertaking an audit; however, you may find it useful to undertake a careful audit of your skills development at particular milestones during your research project.

The audit can usefully examine:

  • Academic and research and skills
  • Generic skills
  • Development planning tools
  • Record of courses attended and relevant activities
  • Conference and seminar activities
  • Other relevant activities and learning experiences

A key component you may be concerned with relates to evidence that you are improving your skills and abilities. Critical self-analysis questions you could reflect upon include:

  • What do I do well?
  • How do I know that I do these things well?
  • What is the evidence that I would put forward if challenged about my ability to do these things well?
  • What evidence do I have that my skills are improving?


  • How many formal (or informal) presentations have you given?
  • Have you improved at giving presentations?
  • How do you know that you are improving?

Evidence at this level is not always easy to identify. You may find that you are asking yourself questions such as

  • Am I actually better at this than when I started out?
  • Would other people agree that I am improving?

In order to establish an evidence base, it is worth keeping a record of formal and informal courses and development opportunities that you have engaged with. It is also worth reflecting on the reasons why a particular learning outcome was successfully achieved.

There is no prescribed method for getting the most out of a personal development plan. However, experience has shown us that engaging with the plan and actively taking part in managing your own personal development has been fruitful for many people. You can create your own forms, use your own ideas or adapt the forms that we have provided for you. Learning how to manage your own personal development plan is an important skill in itself.

Record and evaluate your progress here.


As a researcher, you are responsible for your own skills’ development. Personal Development Planning aims to improve your understanding of what and how you are learning, and to review, plan and take responsibility for your own development. It relates to your development as a whole person and helps you to

  • Become a more effective, independent and confident self-directed learner
  • Understand how you are learning and how it fits in the wider context
  • Improve your general skills for research and your career management
  • Identify personal goals and manage your progress towards them
  • Consider the value of ongoing learning throughout life

There are many ways in which you can develop your skills, for example you could

  • Attend a workshop through your graduate school, college or Researcher Development
  • Learn from your peers, supervisor, PI
  • Attend an event external to the University eg Vitae
  • Seminars, symposiums and conferences run by your School, the University or externally
  • Outreach or public engagement activities
  • Demonstrator or teaching duties

Use the Reserearcher Development Programme to identify opportunities which wil help meet you needs. More information is also available in the Researcher Development Handbook.


Self-reflection is an invaluable tool to plan your development.

The basic steps for self-reflection are

  • Take a particular action
  • Reflect on its success, impact or effectiveness
  • Plan how you would improve next time
  • Implement the new plan - (based on Kolb's Learning Cycle, 1984)