Sunday, 31 May 2015

First year confirmation/upgrade

Did you know that technically first year PhD students are not quite PhD students yet?

Yep, if one does not make enough progress in the first year, one might be asked to leave*. Enough to say that I don't want to be the one.

In order to be allowed to continue as a PhD student one has to pass their first year. This is sometimes referred to as confirmation, sometimes as an upgrade. Depending on the university the timing of the confirmation might vary - I've heard that some people do theirs after 6 months. Mine is at the 10 month mark.

I'll outline what I need to do in order to pass below.


First of all I need to write a "project introduction & progress report". From the guidelines:

"As well as indicating your knowledge of the field and progress so far, the report should set out plans for the future, with appropriate indicative time-lines.  If papers/manuscripts have been produced they can be included as appendices, but not in the body of the report." 

A bit scary that people might expect papers to have been produced by now, but lets skip that for a moment. While I don't think anyone actually enjoys writing reports I think this one might be quite useful. It will be good to go over everything and bring it all together. I hope it will also serve as a handy summary of the analyses and results in the future.


The second part of the assessment involves a viva. 

I need to arrange a venue, date and time that suits all members of my PhD committee. Hopefully they are all free at one point!

"In the viva you are expected to give a brief talk, approx 15-20 minutes, summarising the progress on your research project."

This should be easy enough, as I recently gave a nearly 50 minute long talk on my project. Giving a short talk has its own challenges, but clearly I have enough to talk about for 20 minutes, so at least that's good to know.

 "After your talk there will follow a discussion covering (among other things) the contents of your report and progress to date, any training you have completed, seminars you have attended etc. The viva also includes an opportunity for you to report on your supervisory arrangements in the absence of your first supervisor and vice versa."

I guess this might go a few different ways. I could be grilled during the discussion or it could be a friendly chat. We will see.

Either way it will be good to have a better idea whether I'm making enough progress. This is one thing that I find quite difficult about doing a PhD - each PhD is unique, each project different, so it's hard to know if I am doing enough.

Wish me good luck!

*(potentially being awarded a Masters degree as a consolation prize)