An Individual Development Plan (IDP) provides a structured process to plan for a successful higher degree by research (HDR) experience and attainment of the graduate attributes to be possessed by all University of Queensland HDR Candidates upon graduation.

The University of Queensland is committed to supporting your development as a well-rounded and capable researcher, who can make a significant impact through a successful career, by regularly:

  • reflecting on and assessing the skills you already possess,
  • considering your career aspirations,
  • identifying areas where you could benefit from gaining further experience,
  • formulating a personalised development plan, and
  • engaging in development opportunities in a purposeful way during your candidature.

Anticipated Outcomes and Benefits

For Advisory TeamsFor the HDR CandidateFor the Institution
  • Improved progress through candidature to completion
  • Improved efficiencies in identifying candidate development needs
  • Improved opportunities for discussions with candidates including providing a starting point for difficult but necessary discussion
  • Promotion of increased independence of HDR candidates in recognising and acting upon their development needs
  • Ongoing identification of development needs
  • Improved confidence in, and ability to communicate diverse skills
  • Improved institutional/advisory support leading to improved candidate experience
  • A flexible and non-prescriptive approach to development which accounts for the individual’s prior experience and learning
  • Improved ability to communicate to potential employers the professional and transferrable skills developed through the HDR program
  • Supported development of reflective, proactive, and self-directed learning
  • Assisted with identification of, and access to experts, in a range of development areas


Your development plan is comprised of two elements:

  1. Development Needs Analysis (DNA): Completed by you prior to a meeting with your Principal Advisor where you discuss your development needs.
  2. Individual Development Plan (IDP): Created by you in consultation with your Principal Advisor after you have discussed your development needs.

The Development Needs Analysis and creation of an Individual Development Plan should be undertaken annually, and we recommend starting the process six months prior to each of your progress reviews. As part of the process, you should reflect on your previous year's plan and make adjustments as your needs change.  This iterative process provides a recurring cycle of engagement with your professional development as shown in the diagram above. Detailed instructions on how to complete each step of the documents can be found on the ‘Process and instructions’ tab.

Development Needs Analysis (DOCX, 92.6 KB)  Individual Development Plan (DOCX, 81.4 KB)

While excellence in research activity and outputs continues to be a core element of an HDR program, contemporary expectations emphasise the qualities of the graduate. The University of Queensland’s HDR Graduate Attributes reflect the changing expectations for HDR programs and graduates. These HDR Graduate Attributes can be acquired while performing discipline-specific research and via professional development activities. Through the development of these attributes, the University aims to produce graduate researchers who are innovative knowledge leaders able to contribute significantly to their discipline and chosen profession.

To facilitate development of the HDR Graduate Attributes throughout an HDR program, you should work with your HDR candidates to create an Individual Development Plan (IDP). Through this process, your HDR candidates have an opportunity to regularly examine their skills, formulate a personalised action plan, and engage in development opportunities in a purposeful way during their candidature.

The IDP is ideally reviewed at each progress review. The creation of an IDP begins with a Development Needs Analysis.  This recognises candidates’ prior learning and experience, and is designed to identify gaps that need to be addressed during candidature.  Detailed instructions for HDR Candidates on how to complete each step of the documents can be found on the ‘Process and instructions’ tab.


Step 1 - Reflect

Reflect on any career pathway(s) that you are currently considering pursuing (or learning more about). What you would like to be doing in 5 years. How are you going to get there? What skills and experiences will you require?

List these on Page 1 of your Development Needs Analysis document. You may find it useful to list what you know about each of these potential career options and any questions you have about each option. Understand that your ideas about your preferred career pathways may change as you progress through your degree. To assist you in considering opportunities and help with planning your professional development activities you can talk with the HDR Careers Advisor or consider taking a range of workshops provided in the Career Planning suite of the Career Development Framework (CDF).

Reflect on your progress towards your previous year’s development activities and any prior Individual Development Plans. You may find it useful to list examples of times you have demonstrated your skills over the last year.

Step 2 - Assess

The Development Needs Analysis document encourages you to recognise your prior learning and experience and to identify skills for further development during your candidature.

For each skill included in the Development Needs Analysis document, assess your current skill level and record this using the Skill Levels rating scale. Note that Level 5, an ‘Exceptional’ level of skill, is in most instances unlikely to be reached during your HDR program.

Where you assess your skill level to be at Level 3 or above, provide examples to support the rating. Examples may include evidence such as: written reports or published papers; presentation slides; data analysis you have conducted; video evidence of practical expertise; conference programs identifying your presentation; posters presented; funding or award applications; articles or blogs you have written; certificates of courses/workshops you have undertaken; attendance at workshops/conferences/seminars/courses.

Then assess how important it is that you further develop each skill to establish their priority, using the Skill Priorities rating scale.

Step 3 - Prioritise

From your Development Needs Analysis document, identify the skills that you believe are most immediately in need of development (i.e., those with a high Skill Priority rating but a low Skill Level rating). These should be your priority for the next 6-12 months.

Record these skills in your Individual Development Plan document, along with the current Skill Level ratings that you assigned to these skills in your Development Needs Analysis document. It is also useful to record which broad HDR Graduate Attribute the skill aligns with. There is no set number of skills that you need to identify for development, but we recommend prioritising no more than 6 areas for the year ahead.

Then provide this document to your Principal Advisor, and in consultation with them, draft a development goal for each skill that you’ve prioritised. Also record activities you can undertake to develop that skill and when you plan to complete that activity. Make sure that your goals, activities, and timelines are achievable (SMART goals can assist in this). You may also like to share your completed Development Needs Analysis document with your Principal Advisor when you send them your draft Individual Development Plan document.

Step 4 - Plan

During the meeting with your Principal Advisor, discuss the development needs you have identified as priorities. Note that your Principal Advisor may have additional or alternate development needs they suggest you work on. With your Principal Advisor, engage in a constructive discussion to finalise your development goals, development activities, and timelines in your Individual Development Plan document. Remember that it is beneficial to focus on those skills with a low Skill Level and a high Skill Priority.

In planning your development activities, the Graduate School’s Career Development Framework can help, but you can also consider opportunities available external to the institution. Some suggestions for development activities within each broad area include:

  • Disciplinary Knowledge and Capability: Developed a research plan; Completed a literature review; Participated in relevant workshops, e.g., methodology training/data management etc.; Attended academic seminars; Prepared and deliver research seminars/conference papers; Undertook self-directed development opportunities through online or external courses (e.g., EdX).
  • Transferable Skills: Undertook an industry placement; Attended relevant seminars, workshops and/or conferences on communication, writing, networking, emotional intelligence etc.; Participated in the 3MT competition; Wrote a research proposal, literature review, confirmation document, thesis; Published in scholarly journals or, for e.g., The Conversation; Assisted in the co-ordination of conferences or seminars.
  • Professional Skills: Undertook an industry placement; Attended relevant seminars and workshops on commercialisation, entrepreneurship, innovation etc.; Attended conferences; Attended networking events and created connections; Used social media in a professional context; Assisted in the coordination of conferences or seminars; Tutored; Published in scholarly journals or, for e.g., The Conversation; Applied for a grant or award.

Responsible Researcher Conduct: Completed the Research Integrity Module [online]; Attended Intellectual Property training; Submitted a request for ethics approval for a research project.

Step 5 - Implement

After meeting with your Principal Advisor and agreeing to your key development goals, activities, and timelines for the coming year put your plans into place.

As you advance through the year, record your progress in completing your development activities and meeting your development goals.

Step 6 - Reflect and Review

Throughout your candidature, you are encouraged to reflect regularly on your career aspirations and your progress towards meeting your development goals. You can record your progress in completing your identified key development activities and in meeting your development goals in your Individual Development Plan document. This will assist you in reviewing your progress with your Principal Advisor next year prior to creating an updated Individual Development Plan.

Don’t forget to also keep examples of times you have demonstrated or developed your skills as this will assist you in completing your Development Needs Analysis document next year.