What needs to be done?

To pass this milestone we have to do several things.

We have a new system at the University now where periodically we need to fill in an online questionnaire - the annual report and there is one linked to the final year.

In addition we also need to have a meeting with our thesis committee (primary and secondary supervisors as well as the postgraduate advisor).

The committee needs to be provided with:

  • a table of contents for the thesis
  • a short outline of research priorities for the final year
  • publishing plan

We also need to give a short talk to the committee.

How did I tackle it?

All of the above is relatively flexible when it comes to content, which means there aren’t strict guidelines and it was a bit hard to know how much detail to include and whether the format matters.

In the end, I wrote a document with a “table of contents” including all my chapters - for the first chapter, the one that’s written up as a manuscript, I included its abstract and a bit of the structure (headings/subheadings). For the others I included working titles and a couple of sentences describing the content.

I then included brief information about how far along each chapter is (e.g. “analysis done, needs writing up”). My “publishing plan” was a paragraph describing which chapters I plan to submit as papers and to which journals. Then I moved onto a few descriptive bullet points of “priorities” where I spelled out the order in which I plan to tackle the rest of the work and write up.

I also included a few points that I wanted to draw the committee’s attention to, for example, I wanted to know whether they agreed that my plans were feasible in the time I have left and if they had an opinion on the order in which to carry out my last two chapters.

My talk was a walk-through the chapters, what has been done and what still needs to be done, nothing too elaborate.

What was it like?

Not what I expected. I thought I’d give my talk and then most of the discussion would be about the timeframe, the feasibility of getting things done.

Instead we had a discussion about my chapters, with quite a bit of back and forward (“this is a good idea”, “oh wait, maybe not…”, “this is a good idea!”, “maybe skip this one”, “no DEFINITELY do it”), with different committee members having different take on things. They focused much more on the technical side of things, they wanted to know exactly what models I’m planning to fit, in what way, what would the fixed and random structures be and so on. I expected a much more general discussion, but got a detailed debate.

It was intense and messy, but very useful.

We really should do this more often!