Getting a PhD: Getting set for your Upgrade/Transfer

Some UK universities require first year "provisional" PhD students to write and defend a first year report, so as to "identify whether the student and the research project have the potential for research at Doctoral level and also to ensure that the student has made satisfactory progress with the agreed training plan" (2011 Research Student Handbook, University of Leeds). Depending on your level of success during the Transfer assessment, you can then be: transferred/upgraded to doctoral  registration; requested to do an MPhil registration; reassessed after making revisions to your work, or asked to withdraw from the research degree. This process may differ per faculty and university, so talking to your supervisor about the length and format of your report and about what to expect from the Transfer viva is a good idea.
As I await mine, I am reminding myself of the following tips I received from a research workshop, talking about what examiners are really looking out for and how to prepare for the assessment:

  • Presentation style: How do you write and talk about your work? Do you understand the basics? Is the content of your thesis relevant to your research question(s)? Does your attitude inspire people to keep reading or listening to your ideas? (Hint: it is useful to know your examiners' research interests so that you can point out common areas in your work).
  • Critical ability: Are you able to critique the papers you have read? Are you aware of the limitations of your work (methodologies)?
  • Planning: Are you on the right track? If money were no constraint, how would you go about doing your research? 
  • Publishing: Is your work suitable for publishing? 

UPDATE (24.10.13):
So I passed my Transfer and am now officially in my second year!
I got asked all the questions above (worded differently of course), in addition to: "so, what's novel about your research?" and "what's next?" (i.e., my future experimental and publishing plans). My examiners were also interested in finding out how aware I was/am about the techniques I have used and will be using... and the tip about knowing your examiner's research interests? Really useful!
One more thing: if your research is part of a larger research team project, you'd probably need to prepare a clear answer about how your research fits into the project's scheme.



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