Timetable for Third Year
||Completion strategy review
||Complete thesis outline
||Present work at seminar
||Draft thesis and progress report||June
||Presentation to panel and feedback||July
||Supervisor completes formal annual report
Students are expected to submit a thesis shortly after completing the third year of study.
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.
The review will be conducted by somebody who is not a member of the supervisory team, in consultation with the student and supervisors.
The purpose of this review is to check the fit between the student's plan for completion and his/her career ambitions and funding situation. The realities of funding, combined with risks inherent in research, means that it will not always be possible to complete a thesis within the student's period of funding. Spending additional time and living on savings, within limits, may be acceptable to a student who intends to pursue a research career where a more ambitious PhD thesis and additional publications will give better job prospects. For other students, this will not be acceptable and the goal will be to finish as soon as possible with an adequate PhD thesis.
The review will be based on the student's second-year progress report and the panel feedback together with a statement from the student on his/her funding situation and planned career path. The reviewer will discuss these documents with the supervisors to determine how realistic the plans are before meeting with the student and supervisors.
An action plan tailored to the student’s ambitions will be formulated by the meeting and recorded by the student, and agreed, perhaps after amendment, by the reviewer and supervisors, with a copy to the Graduate School office. The action plan, which should be completed within one week of the review, will include:
- a timetable for completion within the student’s expectations,
as an adjustment to the one contained in the second-year progress
report, insofar as this is compatible with the constraint that a
PhD-worthy thesis is likely to result;
- identification of any career training and development needs (entrepreneurship, how to write grant applications, etc.); and
- identification of the need for any additional support such as pastoral care or career advice.
The thesis outline should show the planned structure of the finished thesis. This should include a draft table of contents and at least one draft chapter. The supervisors - or at least the principal supervisor - will give feedback which may address issues of structure, content, and style.
During third year students are strongly encouraged to present their work at a seminar if they have not already done so. The default venue for presentation is the relevant institute's seminar series, but any opportunities for external presentation (workshop, conference, visit to a relevant research group elsewhere) should be grasped.
The progress report should document changes with respect to the previous year’s progress report, including a schedule for the remaining work, and will normally be relatively brief. No progress report is required if the supervisor is able to guarantee that thesis submission is genuinely imminent. 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 be submitted together with current draft version of the thesis, which need not be in a consistent state. The progress report should indicate the status of each chapter, including how close it is to completion. At this point, the schedule will normally be a chapter-by-chapter summary of time required for completion, alllowing time for supervisor feedback.
One way of producing a thesis is to write papers for publication and then turn these into thesis chapters. Accordingly, some chapters of the draft thesis might consist of submitted or published papers.
The principal supervisor will 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 and second-year reviews but they need not be. The progress review should take place on schedule whether the student submits 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. (The reviewers are not expected to have read the draft thesis - this is submitted as evidence about its state of completion.) This will be followed by questions and discussion. The review concludes with a private discussion among the panel members. The panel will 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 this review is to check that there is a clear path from the student’s current state to submission of an acceptable PhD thesis within months, including clear contingency plans to deal with foreseeable risks. A schedule of up to a year may be acceptable in some circumstances, for example in case of past serious unforeseeable difficulties with the work, but not more.
The panel should be as frank as possible about any difficulties that have arisen. If difficulties are apparent, constructive suggestions for addressing them should be given. Some obvious questions are: Is completion within a few months realistic? Can the plan be adjusted to achieve this? Is trimming of ambition appropriate? Is it likely that the planned thesis will be worthy of a PhD?
In case the review is unsatisfactory or a major change in plan is recommended, a further review may be appropriate to check on progress or to check the revised plan. A close watch on progress at this point is often called for if there have been difficulties along the way.
Progress in the third 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 should also indicate the target date for submission of the thesis. If a recommendation for re-registration for MPhil or for discontinuation is made, and this differs from the outcome of the review, then the student should be given, in writing, an explanation of the reasons for the recommendation.