How to Fail Your Research Degree


Daisy Abbot, Research Developer in the School of Simulation and Visualisation at the Glasgow School of Art tells us about a game that she has been developing which teaches research skills, and which is also fun to play.

In 2014 I took over a course teaching postgraduate research skills from a departing colleague. As my students and I worked our way through 12 weeks of Powerpoints, I experienced for myself the acknowledged difficulty of teaching research skills in a way that is both meaningful and motivating to students [1]. This issue is exacerbated by students’ transition to a postgraduate context [2], making courses on research skills all the more important to get right. Immediately after this first semester, I began developing an educational game as a teaching tool to complement my course. The game would likely only be played once during the course and therefore had to be high-impact and memorable; it had to be obviously relevant to students; and (unlike a 2 hour lecture on literature reviews) it had to be fun!

How to Fail Your Research Degree is an educational game for delivering knowledge and understanding of academic research, focussed at the master’s or early PhD level. The prototype was the only non-digital game at the Joint Conference on Serious Games in 2015 and was joint winner of the Best Serious Game award [3]. Since then, the game has been extensively playtested and evaluated using feedback from over 120 players, with extremely promising results [4].

How to Fail Your Research Degree is now freely available for others to use and adapt – visit for more details.



  1. Waite, S., & Davis, B. (2006). Developing undergraduate research skills in a faculty of education: Motivation through collaboration. Higher Education Research & Development, 25(4), 403-419.
  2. O'Donnell, V., Tobbell, J., Lawthom, R., Zammit, M. (2009). Transition to postgraduate study. Active Learning in Higher Education, 10(1), 26-40.
  4. Full publication is forthcoming