Research skills

Research at postgraduate levels includes understanding key concepts, finding and managing resources, as well as presenting.

Ontology and epistemology

You may be expected to outline your personal ontology and epistemology, which will help shape your research approach as being either quantitative or qualitative, particularly if you’re undertaking Social Science research. Ontology relates to the world around us, whether you believe reality is fixed or ever-changing. Epistemology relates to how you know what is real. Can your knowledge be measured (using quantitative research methods), or does understanding depend on when, where and who’s asking the questions (e.g., qualitative approaches to research). Check out the Ontology and epistemology pdf206KB handout to see the difference between ontology and epistemology with examples.

Quantitative vs qualitative research

Your research may be quantitative, qualitative or a combination of both. This video describes the differences.


If your research involves statistics and you would like advice, the university offers statistical consulting services.


Nvivo is a powerful software that you can use to store and analyse your quantitative as well as qualitative data. It offers an intuitive qualitative data analysis experience that helps you uncover deeper research insights. You can download NVivo for free as a VUW student from the Digital Solutions software download site. The University of Hull has created a series of videos to help you get started with using NVivo.

Workshops and seminars

Student Learning offer workshops for postgraduate students to help you develop various aspects of your research skills.

The Wellington Faculty of Graduate Research also offer a range of postgraduate workshops.

Referencing and information management software

As you research your topic, you will accumulate various resources. Managing the growing information will be important. Information management software can help you do this. The library offers training in using Endnote and Zotero. They also have compile self-paced guides for learning how to use Endnote, Zotero, RefWorks and Mendeley.

Presentation skills

As a postgraduate student, you will be required to present your topic in a number of situations, such as presenting your research proposal, at conferences and also your oral defence. Student Learning runs a series of academic speaking workshops for postgraduate students. Check the workshop calendar for details. If you miss this workshop contact Student Learning to make a one-to-one appointment with a learning adviser who can discuss presentation skills with you.