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Preparing a Topic
To help guide the multi-faceted research in and on so many different ministries in varying locations of the world, OCMS strives to help students discover the issues and challenges that will motivate and drive them to research the subject in depth and will eventually lead them to find answers to their questions that will assist the church to undertake her mission better, in that particular area of the world or work.
Once a researcher is admitted to the research programme, OCMS works with a researcher on developing their research focus, the problem that they are researching and the most appropriate research method for undertaking the research.
Finding a Supervisor
Next, OCMS seeks to identify and approach the most suitable supervisors for that particular project - from anywhere in Britain or beyond. A supervisor more local to the student’s own workplace may also be found to ensure that the student is not left without guidance while studying back in context, away from Oxford. Academics are keen to benefit from the first-hand knowledge of mature students in the area of their own research interest, so are often willing to take on some supervisory responsibility for OCMS scholars on top of whatever institutional commitment they might have.
Much effort has been put into developing excellence in electronic communications between the student, the Centre and the supervising teams, so that the student feels, as one has expressed it, 'as informed as if they were at OCMS itself'.
OCMS has been at the forefront of a shift towards using supervisory teams, with two or three or even more qualified academics guiding the student in different aspects or stages of the work. When these are in place, one is appointed as Main Supervisor to ensure a sufficiently common purpose in the direction for the student. British universities are now discovering how often the precious relationship between a research student and a single supervisor over several years can go wrong for many reasons. OCMS has found its preferred path, of a team over an individual supervisor, ensures that an academic is always available to whom the student can turn, and mechanisms exist for keeping supervisory activity going through all the changes of life.
Ongoing Communications and Study
Each student is given an OCMS e-mail address which can be accessed online from anywhere in the world. Reports, communications with supervisors and administration of the research can all be done remotely, using the OCMS purpose-built academic website.
For when students are in residence, OCMS has its own highly specialised library, complete with PCs and carrels for personal study. There are a further 101 libraries in Oxford, making this an exceptionally concentrated centre of international library and archive resources. As an example, there are 90 journals housed in the city dealing with Africa alone! Library holdings, including those of OCMS, which is a member of the Oxford Library Information System, can be searched online from anywhere in the world. OCMS research students are issued with Bodleian reader Cards for the whole length of their course, giving them access to an almost unparalleled range of books, journals and ephemera, and some material can be stored electronically, subject to British copyright laws, and material reviewed later. There are also materials available through our validating Middlesex University, and access to this is taught at the Research Induction Schools that all students attend at the start of their period of research. Our excellent and full-time librarian, Ralph Bates, is also able to help identify other possible sources where those of Oxford alone are insufficient.
Developing Research Skills
For the weekly seminar research students will, usually annually, present a paper, distributed beforehand, for academic discussion. In addition, students are informed of, and encouraged to participate in, seminars and lectures in the University of Oxford and elsewhere, which are relevant to their own research, and scholars are encouraged to search out more of these for themselves, in more local contexts, too.
There are a number of specialist research groups within OCMS, some of which meet more frequently or in a more defined manner than others. These groups seek to provide support for the researcher on their sometimes lonely journey, and an opportunity for more specialised exchange of knowledge and information among peers. Information on these groups and when they meet is posted in OCMS for those in residence at the time.
Weekly Lecture and Research Seminar
To stimulate researchers to come up to the required standards of public knowledge, there is a weekly open lecture, when (usually) visiting academics communicate some of the latest research in areas of interest. In addition, OCMS holds a weekly research seminar. Other seminars and lectures are scheduled as opportunity presents itself, and students have also found some of the conferences and consultations that have taken places at OCMS to have helped their research significantly.
As these help to cultivate an environment of research at OCMS and show how various kinds of research can best be organized, they are essential part of the process of all research students coming up to the academic speed of Oxford, facilitating the broadening of the mind, and perceiving connections in our one world which had not before been traced. The standard of British University doctorates requires that over the course of a research degree, the student should acquire a whole range of skills.
Examination is of the thesis alone. There are no mandatory courses or unseen examinations. Everything depends on the quality of the student’s own research and its presentation.
However, the programme here at OCMS has been shaped in its entirety with a view to developing the broad range of skills that will be needed to form and evolve the research, to test it and review it, to bring its presentation and defence up to the highest academic standards needed for a piece of original research at the point of examination, even to the point of providing a pre-viva experience to help prepare the student for the forthcoming experience.
And most importantly of all, our scholars' study is undergirded by the prayerful support of the OCMS community.