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Equipping Graduate Students with Advanced Tools for Professional Success: SHARPGrads Program Teaches Specialized Research Skills

Strong research skills are critical to the success of graduate students. But students enter graduate programs at the University of South Carolina with widely different levels of research proficiency, making it difficult for academic departments across the university to develop research training that meets the needs of all students.

That’s where SHARPGrads comes in. Sponsored by University Libraries, Research Computing, and the Graduate School, SHARPGrads (Skills, Habits and Research Program for Graduate Students) provides free training in digital scholarship, computing and library research concepts for students enrolled in graduate-level courses at the Columbia campus. Students who elect to participate in the program complete five (or more) sessions over the course of an academic year, learning both skills that are essential for performing advanced research across all fields and skills that are more essential to their particular discipline.

"Offering this kind of training as a central service through University Libraries makes sense," says Research Data Librarian Stacy Winchester, who coordinates the program. “Over the past decade, it’s become increasingly common for libraries to provide research training that’s not covered in the curriculum,” Winchester notes.

Most SHARPGrads courses are taught by librarians from Winchester’s department, Digital Research Services, or by members of the Research Computing team. All students complete three core courses: Graduate Student Research Toolbox, Introduction to Publishing in Scholarly Journals, and Research Data Management Basics. They then choose at least two additional courses from a long list of optional sessions, with topics ranging from data visualization to publishing scholarly monographs to machine learning, text analysis, and digital project creation. All courses are taught live and online, making them both convenient and interactive. Upon completion of the program, students receive a certificate and a digital badge that they can add to their CV or personal website as a means of demonstrating their advanced competence as researchers.

In recent years, some 60 students from departments across multiple disciplines have enrolled in SHARPGrads. The program can enhance research skills for any graduate student, regardless of prior research experience, says Price Lassahn-Worrell, a Ph.D candidate in historical linguistics, who earned a SHARPGrads certificate in spring, 2023: “Though I come from a research background prior to graduate school, I was introduced to new ideas that I hadn’t considered before, such as sharing opensource data and licensing. The ability to choose the optional courses based on field and research interests was supremely helpful.”

Students can enroll in SHARPGrads beginning in the fall semester of any academic year and have two semesters from the date of enrollment to complete the program. More information about the program is available on its web page or by contacting Digital Research Services at

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