How to Fail Your Research Degree

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Get the game

Instructions for buying or downloading the game.

How to Fail Your Research Degree is free to use and adapt on a not-for-profit basis. However, clearly there are costs associated with printing the game. Therefore you have two options, you can buy the game on a print-on-demand basis for cost. Or, you can have all of the game assets as a pdf file for free, to print and cut out yourself.

Buy the game from gamecrafter. (NB, if you are in the UK there is a customs charge of approx £10 for importing the game).

Request the file to print the cards yourself for free.

Important

Before you buy the game, please make sure you familiarise yourself with how it works. The game requires a facilitor to contextualise the students' learning. All of the help materials are on this website, such as the video, tutor guide, and game rules.

If you use this game, please get in touch to tell me how it went!

example research project framework from How to Fail Your research Degree game

What is it?

An educational game which teaches research skills.

Who is it for?

Postgraduate students who are doing independent research projects.

thesis write up event cards from How to Fail Your research Degree game

Why use this game?

Research skills are hard to teach in a motivating and memorable way. This game is fun and works!


Using this game

Use the game

Postgraduate research contexts

"How to Fail Your Research Degree" encourages a light-hearted engagement with the various academic skills and activities necessary to undertake post-graduate research and the risks and pitfalls that can affect a research degree.

It is particularly suitable for taught master's and MRes students but can be equally useful for students in the first year of a PhD, or even final year undergraduates who are undertaking indpendent research projects. The game can also be used to (re)familiarise early career researchers to the process of managing a research project, and has been shown to be useful in introducing the terminology of research to novice researchers or those with English as an additional language.

To use this game in its current form, your next steps are to look at all the game resources (below), then buy or print the game and try it out yourself before running it with your students.

Adapt the game

New learning contexts

This game would be suitable for learning within any context which is 'project-like', i.e. a broadly linear process with a measurable outcome, for example, writing an essay or managing a fashion show or other event. The game can also be used to explore subtleties within the research process, or use a research project as the context to teach a related set of issues, for example, exploring Equality and Diversity in Higher Education (and its potential impact on academic achievement).

To adapt this game, your next steps are to very thoroughly familiarise yourself with the game rules to decide if the rules need to change, or just the text on the card. Then get in touch to request an editable version of the game cards. Thoroughly play test your new version before using it with students.


References event card from How to Fail Your research Degree game

Game Resources

Game Rules

Introduction

How to Fail Your Research Degree is an educational game for 1 - 4 players or teams.

You are a student, undertaking a master's degree at an unusually busy and calamitous stage of your life. Can you plan and undertake your research well enough to pass whilst dealing with a flooded library, your sister's unexpected wedding, and the many other distractions of life?

Full game rules

Quick rules 'cheat sheet'

Rules Video

Full resolution video download (236Mb)

Preview video on Vimeo

Full resolution video on Vimeo

Tutor Guide

"How to Fail Your Research Degree" is an educational game for 1 - 4 players or teams.

This game will raise awareness of the risks and pitfalls that can affect a research degree, and the academic skills and activities required for success (or failure!) It is designed for master's students or first year PhDs and their supervisors but is also useful for other groups who want to brush up on academic research skills and research terminology, for example, early career researchers, final year undergraduates, and those supporting research students with English as an additional language.

Full guide for tutors thinking about running this game with their students.

Video Playthrough

Coming soon.



Shoddy notes event card from How to Fail Your research Degree game

Further information about the game

How to Fail Your Research Degree was created to deliver knowledge and understanding of research processes and techniques, within the context of a postgraduate training programme at Glasgow School of Art. Development was in relation to the concepts of encouraging creativity and risk-taking within a safe game environment and of learning by (potentially) failing. Game characteristics and intended learning outcomes were defined, leading to game mechanics and text that emphasise player agency, working within a time limit, and humour. Evaluation shows that the game is highly successful at delivering the intended learning outcomes and is a memorable and enjoyable complement to the existing course curriculum.

After playing this game, students should be able to:

  1. Understand the various risks affecting research and their impact on projects
  2. Recognise dependencies between tasks at different stages of research
  3. Understand the interrelations of different risks with the activities to negate or mitigate them
  4. Be aware of the time-critical nature of short research projects

Get the game

Instructions for buying or downloading the game.

How to Fail Your Research Degree is free to use and adapt on a not-for-profit basis. However, clearly there are costs associated with printing the game. Therefore you have two options, you can buy the game on a print-on-demand basis for cost. Or, you can have all of the game assets as a pdf file for free, to print and cut out yourself.

Buy the game from gamecrafter. (NB, if you are in the UK there is a customs charge of approx £10 for importing the game).

Request the file to print the cards yourself for free.

Important

Before you buy the game, please make sure you familiarise yourself with how it works. The game requires a facilitor to contextualise the students' learning. All of the help materials are on this website, such as the video, tutor guide, and game rules.

If you use this game, please get in touch to tell me how it went!

Some publications and conference papers about the the development and evaluation of this game are listed below. Several more are pending.

Full evaluation results are in the process of being published.

In summary, the game has been tested with over 100 postgraduate students and supervisors. Players overwhelmingly agreed that the game taught them each of the intended learning outcomes: The game taught/reinforced my knowledge of the different types of risks that can be faced during research (93.8% agreed); The game helped me to understand the impact of risks on research (90.7% agreed); The game helped me to understand how early activities can affect later activities (95.9% agreed); The game reflected the time-critical nature of short-term research projects (80.4%) agreed. Evaluation results from How to Fail Your research Degree game, n=110

Motivational factors for learning were also evaluated, with players showing high levels of agreement with three factors, and moderate levels of agreement with the fourth: The game gained and sustained my attention (93.3% agreed); The game felt relevant to my situation (92.0% agreed); I found playing the game a satisfying/rewarding experience (85.4% agreed); The game helped to increase my confidence about undertaking academic research (56.8% agreed). Evaluation results from How to Fail Your research Degree game, n=110

"The game taught various elements of research in a fun and interactive manner."
"I also felt I could relate to my own research process throughout the game."
"Really good tool to brainstorm process of research. "
"Very positive experience as it is very well organised and didactic and present a clear framework for approaching research."
"Really excellent way into thinking through the mechanics of research!"
"I remember at the time the game made me think about how carefully I had planned my research and prompted me to re-think the timescales required for things like ethical clearance. It also encouraged me to rethink my approach to backing up my work. I think overall the game had a positive impact on my approach to planning my research project, as I took a lot of it into consideration when planning the next stages of my project."
"I hope my classmates do this!"

Frequently Asked Questions

There are no plans to make this game digital at present. The game uses kinaesthetic, social, and vicarious learning strategies which would be lost if it was played in isolation. However, if you want to persuade me that there is a fruitful way to adapt the game to a digital learning context, please get in touch.

The price to buy the game from gamecrafter is purely the cost to print the cards. If you would like to print and cut out the cards yourself, there is a free pdf you can use. Cutting out the cards can take a long time though.

Depending on where you are, yes. I can also run training sessions for your teaching staff/TAs to run future game sessions. Please get in touch to discuss.


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