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Second Year


Timetable for Second Year

When
What
Sept Start
Month 1

Review career aspirations and training needs

Students should review their career aspirations with their principal supervisor, noting any progress or changes since the beginning of first year study. The supervisor may be able to shed light on the feasibility of the student's ambitions following the first year of work.

The supervisor and student should then identify any further training (MSc courses, transferable skills courses) that may be appropriate.

The student and supervisor might also discuss tutoring and other related vacancies available online.

September
Month 6
Review progress
Midway through the second year, the student and supervisors should review progress towards study goals and targets as spelled out in the research plan. If progress is behind schedule or if obstacles have arisen then the plan should be revised accordingly. Some obstacles are foreseeable and should have been taken into account in the original plan as contingencies, while completely unexpected obstacles may require a completely new plan and/or a minor change of topic.
February
Month 9
Submit a progress report and, optionally, a poster

The progress report should document progress with respect to the plan in the thesis proposal, indicating places where progress has not been according to plan and revising the future plan accordingly. The poster is a presentation of the project that is suitable for general display, as an exercise in presentation skills and for possible conference submission. The student is no longer required to submit an annual progress report to the Graduate School, but may still be required to submit one to their Institute.

The progress report should give a snapshot of the state of work on the project with a reminder of the topic. The focus should be on what has been achieved since the thesis proposal stage. Then, referring to the plan in the thesis proposal (which might be included as an appendix), indicate how progress compares with the plan. If progress has not been substantially in line with the plan, explain why and what has been done to address obstacles encountered. Give an updated plan with submission at or soon after the end of year 3, including write-up, with contingencies and risks identified. If very serious obstacles have been encountered, the topic may need adjustment and/or a dramatic revision to the plan may be required.

Enough progress has usually been made by the end of year 2 to provide material for a conference or journal submission. The progress report could take the form of a paper for submission, together with a separate document explaining progress with respect to the research plan etc.

The School hosts an annual IAD workshop to help support the second year review process; it is usually entitled "How to Write an Informatics Research Paper".  Details are emailed to students when registration for this workshop is available.

May
Month 10
Presentation to panel and feedback

The principal supervisor should convene a review panel of at least 3 members, including the supervisory team and at least one independent member of staff who has not been involved in the supervision of the student involved. The reviewers are often the same as for the first-year review but they need not be. The progress review should take place in month 10 of second year whether the student has submitted a progress report or not.

There is some variation in the details of arrangements for reviews across Informatics, but in general the review will begin with an oral presentation by the student, briefly outlining what is in the progress report, which the reviewers are expected to have read beforehand. This will be followed by questions and discussion. The review concludes with a private discussion among the panel members.

The panel must then provide written feedback to the student, with a copy to the Graduate School office. This is typically drafted by the principal supervisor and agreed, perhaps after amendment, by the other reviewers. It should be completed within one week of the panel meeting.

The main objective of the review is to check that there is a clear and achievable path from the student’s current state to submission of an acceptable PhD thesis within about a year. More than a year is acceptable, particularly if there have been unforeseeable obstacles, but two years is not, nor is absence of such a path. Another question is whether progress within the past year has been sufficient - in terms of quantity as well as increase in understanding, independence, confidence etc. - or whether an increase in tempo is required. The feedback must clearly indicate the extent to which these milestones have been achieved. The discussion and feedback may additionally explore other topics, including the quality of the poster.

The panel should be as frank as possible about any difficulties that have arisen and should give an honest assessment of the candidate's prospects for successful completion. If difficulties are apparent, constructive suggestions for addressing them should be given. Examples include: additional training or focussed study to address some area of weakness; fine-tuning of topic or reduction in ambition; proposal of a make-or-break milestone ("if X is not achieved by time Y, switch to plan B"). In case publishable results have been generated, suggestions for publishable chunks of work and appropriate venues would be welcome.

Where a serious problem is identified, the panel may recommend a further review on the basis of a revised report or a specified piece of work after an appropriate additional period, typically 3 months. An alternative is re-registration for MPhil (normally following review of a revised proposal containing a plan for completion within a few months). A recommendation to discontinue is also an option if it appears that successful completion of a PhD or MPhil is unachievable.

June
Month 12
Supervisor completes formal annual report

Progress in the second year is formally recorded by means of the online annual report form completed by the principal supervisor, after consultation with the other supervisors.

The report should show what has been achieved since the last review. The report also provides an opportunity to review the appropriateness of the student's registration category and to recommend re-registration if necessary. If the recommendation differs from the outcome of the review then the student should be given, in writing, an explanation of the reasons for the recommendation.
August

Months stated in the column 'Sept Start' are indicative for full-time students who commence study in September. Students with other start dates should adjust these accordingly. 

The Graduate School will provide administrative support to aide the timely completion of all formal annual reports.