Supervision and Support
The quality of supervision is the most important element of the postgraduate research experience and we have devoted ourselves to ensuring that this supervision is of an excellent standard and incorporates best practice from around the University.
We make sure that there is a good working relationship between the student and research supervisor. The majority of our staff have been through the process of writing a thesis, are specifically trained in postgraduate research supervision and, in most cases, will have successfully supervised research students in the past. Supervisors will also be able to help you with training in writing and oral skills, identification of data sources, choice of research techniques, and the thesis plan.
Every student is assigned two or more supervisors, a lead supervisor and one or two supervisory panel members. This supervisory panel enables students to get a wider breadth of skills and knowledge, while ensuring regular contact with a staff member with particular expertise in the PhD topic area. The supervisory panel will assist students throughout their studies, and will make recommendations on matters such as the confirmation review (at the end of Year 1), DDP training and appointing examiners. The relationship with your supervisor(s) will form a most important aspect of your work. There will be regular meetings to discuss ideas and progress, and a close working relationship will develop.
The quality of supervision is monitored by the ScHARR Postgraduate Research Committee (PGRC), which also organises training for staff to ensure they share best practice in supervising postgraduate research studies.
At the end of each of the first and second years you will be asked to write a report on how your research has developed and how you see it progressing in the coming year. At the end of your first year, this report will be submitted for your confirmation review, a panel meeting lead by academics outside your research team with the aim of reviewing the progress of your first year of research. The main purpose of the report and panel meeting is to give you an opportunity to review your progress, to receive constructive comments from experienced fellow researchers, and to identify any actions which might help further your plans. The meetings will also give you experience of discussing your results in a setting not dissimilar in scale, though different in purpose, from a viva (the oral examination which precedes the award of the PhD or MPhil).
During the first year of your research you are likely to spend some time reading the literature on the area you have chosen to study. You will also be most welcome to attend modules from a relevant masters programme if they contain material you have not met before.
The University has a doctoral development programme (DDP) consisting of a large number of courses on both subject-specific and generic topics designed to aid development of research skills. The generic courses include, for example, introductions to information technology, to career planning and to the organisation of research and the formulating of research proposals.
Each research student takes a selection of DDP courses tailored to meet his or her specific needs and interests. Masters modules may figure in your DDP selection, as may courses from other departments. There is a University requirement to undertake a specified amount of this research training, reduced if you have relevant skills already. For those whose native language is not English, courses in English geared towards research needs are available.
Years 2 and 3
After the first year it usually takes a further two years working full time on your research topic to complete a PhD, and a somewhat shorter time for an MPhil. 'Full time' does not of course mean that there is no time for other activities and interests. In particular it is important for research students to broaden their knowledge and experience of the subject beyond their particular research field. To this end attendance at (and later presenting your work at) seminars and meetings both within and outside the department is encouraged. Funding is usually available to attend meetings at other places in the UK. It is sometimes also possible to assist financially with participation in conferences abroad at which the student is presenting a paper, though availability of funds for this purpose depends on departmental resources and cannot be guaranteed.