Submission year timeline
A breakdown of the submission year (and subsequent years) by key milestones in a timetable.
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.
Midway through the submission 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.
Few students are expected to reach this stage. For those who do, the aim must be to plan for submission within a small number of months.
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, allowing time for supervisor feedback.
The School hosts a series of Transkills workshops intended to support the thesis writing and viva preparation aspects of the final year. Attendance at these events is strongly recommended for students who are beyond third year, particularly for those who haven’t previously attended these workshops, or where a refresher session is deemed necessary.
If the original research goals have not been achieved by now, then the best course of action is normally to complete writing up what has been done and submit.
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 previous reviews but they need not be. The progress review should take place on schedule whether the student submits a progress report or not. The main objective 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. The review panel should also evaluate whether applying for an extension of study is a necessary and appropriate course of action. Note that a supervisor should apply for an extension only if he or she is confident that the student can complete a satisfactory PhD in the timescale they are applying for (see the guidelines for applying for an extension).
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.
There should then be a private discussion among the panel members, to discuss (in broad terms) what written feedback should go to the student and what actions to recommend (e.g., which option for progression to pursue). The panel will 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 independent member of the panel must also meet with the student without the supervisors present for the student to discuss their take on her progress so far and to provide an opportunity for the student to raise any issues they wish.
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 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 important.
Progress in subsequent years is formally recorded by means of an online annual report form, it has parts to be completed by the student, and parts to be completed by the supervisors: see http://web.inf.ed.ac.uk/infweb/student-services/igs/staff/guidance-annual-reports for guidance on how to complete the form.
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.
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.