Skills glossary


Analysis means the ability to gather up data and information, organise and synthesise it into a form that is easy to work with, and to search for patterns or connections in that information. Scientific analysis usually means manipulating data mathematically, such as graphing experimental results or using statistical tests to examine differences between sets of data.

Critical thinking means accepting nothing at face value, but rather examining the truth and validity of arguments and evaluating the relative importance of ideas. Critical thinking includes applying reason and logic to evaluate and weigh different sides of an argument. From logical arguments and data analysis, you draw conclusions and evaluate them. Critical thinking requires imagination and creativity, logic and reasoning, and reflecting on your thought processes.

Dissemination means communicating to others the purpose and outcomes of your research. It requires the ability to summarise information, explain clearly and concisely the aims, motives, results and conclusions of the research, and to tailor all this communication to the needs and abilities of a particular audience. Dissemination means communicating your ideas creatively, clearly, effectively and efficiently.

An ethical perspective means an awareness of the implications of your actions for your friends, family, colleagues and society in general. This includes your work as a scientist: you need to be aware of the impact of scientific and technological development on society and the environment. It requires knowledge of your legal and moral obligations, both personally and professionally, including an understanding of the ethical standards of your profession.

Goal skills involve setting goals in your personal life and your professional career, and working effectively towards those goals. By examining what is important to you and setting some goals, you can direct your attention and efforts towards improving your life. Generally, goals should be SMART: Specifically defined, with a way to Measure your progress, Attractive to you, Realistically achievable, with a definite Time-frame.

Independent learning is the ability to recognise when there is a gap in your knowledge, and filling that gap yourself. For example, in a new job you might need to teach yourself to use a new computer program, or visit the library to learn the scientific theory behind a lab technique you've never used before. Independent learning is the capacity and desire to continue to learn, beyond the school or university classrooms. It requires resourcefulness, drive, initiative and planning, and knowledge of the different ways you prefer to learn.

Information literacy is the ability to judge the need for information, being able to identify appropriate information, knowing how to locate information, being able to evaluate it and then effectively use and properly cite it.

Information research is the ability to identify possible sources of required information, and to effectively search for that information. This means identifying what kind of information is required, locating resources that will supply what you need, and evaluating the data contained in the resources to see if it is suitable and reliable. This cycle continues until you are satisfied you have the all information you need.

Information technology literacy is the ability to use IT resources (such as word processors and spreadsheets, on-line resources, or computer presentation tools like PowerPoint) effectively and efficiently. This means being able to acquire, organise, analyse, evaluate, and present information using appropriate technology. You should understand the ethical and legal issues surrounding IT, such as copyright and plagiarism. You need to evaluate new technologies as they appear and adopt them as you continue learning throughout your life.

Leadership means successfully influencing the activities of a group towards achieving a common goal (such as a sporting team captain motivating the players before an important game) . A leader could influence others through their personal charisma, their expertise, their way with words, or through creating mutual respect - or all of these qualities.

Networking is the ability to create effective contacts with other people, and to keep those new relationships going. It is more than just meeting new people; networking is about making links with others that are of mutual benefit. For example, a volunteer writer for a uni magazine might keep in touch with the local community radio station to pass on stories and pick up ideas. Networking can be casual, through meeting new people socially, or it can be planned and targetted.

Non-verbal communication is communication that occurs without words: the ability to enhance the expression of ideas and concepts through the use of body language, gestures, facial expression and tone of voice. You can improve - or ruin - your message by your choice of posture and the expression on your face. Non-verbal communication also includes the use of pictures, icons and symbols, for example, presenting data as a graph, or using a flow-chart or mind-map to represent a set of ideas.

Oral communication means the ability to verbally explain and present your ideas in clear, concise English, to a variety of audiences. It includes tailoring your delivery, using language, a way of speaking, and a presentation style appropriate to a given audience. You also need to understand the importance of non-verbal cues in oral communication, like body language and tone of voice.

Problem solving is (not surprisingly) the ability to solve problems. More specifically, it means identifing, defining and analysing problems, to understand what they mean. It then means to find possible solutions to the problem, and to evaluate them to choose the best solution for a particular situation - a common form of problem solving in science is experimentation. Problem solving requires imaginative and innovative thinking to find new ways to approach a problem, analytical skills to examine the consequences of a particular solution, and critical thinking skills to weigh one solution against another.

A professional scientific perspective is about your role as a science-literate member of society, and as a professional in a science-related field. You should develop an appreciation of the impact of science on society and the environment. It means being aware of sustainable practices, cultural diversity and professional ethics, and taking the responsibility to behave according to professional standards.

Self-management means looking after your own situation - managing your time, looking after your physical and mental health, being aware of your responsibilities and your goals. It is about how you react to the responsibilities and challenges in your work and life, how you adapt to changing situations. It requires you to reflect on your experiences and adjust your plans and priorities when necessary.

A social perspective involves your sense of personal identity, your role in a larger group. This includes your attitudes, beliefs and sensitivities, and how they relate to other people's positions. It requires an awareness of your individuality, sensitivity and empathy for others, and responsibility for your own actions.

Teamwork means, well, working in a team - working effectively with others in a group towards a common goal. This requires cooperating with others, being open to other people's ideas, and sharing the responsibility for developing and achieving the group's goals.

Written communication is the ability to write effectively in a range of contexts and for a variety of different audiences and purposes, with a command of the English language. This includes the ability to tailor your writing, keeping the reader in mind, using appropriate language, styles and approaches for a particular audience - for example, different styles of writing are used for academic papers, job applications and casual letters. These ideas also encompass electronic communication such as SMS, email and discussion boards.