Sunday, 27 May 2018

Natalie Lamb and what to expect from a PhD journey

I attended an event recently, "Managing your PhD as a Project" delivered by Kevin Byron at The University of Sheffield. This blog post summaries some of the information I learned during this training course, including what a PhD is and what to expect from a PhD.

What is a PhD? 
“To be admitted to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy a candidate shall have presented a thesis on the advanced study and research which has satisfied the examiners and contains original work, and contains material which is deemed worthy of publication, and shall have satisfied the examiners in an oral examination. A candidate may submit in support of the thesis any published work in the general field of the approved study.”

What is a PhD really about?

  • You!
  • Knowledge
  • Contribution
  • Understanding 
  • Skills- both discipline specific and transferable
  • Ability to communicate
  • Professionalism e.g. honesty, integrity, reliability, integration with profession, self-improvement

One really important thing about a PhD is developing your skills. You can complete a self-assessment exercise to determine if your skills are developing and where you may need further training.
Kevin Byron (2018)







































What to expect in year one

  • To record meetings with your Supervisor (and frequently!). Find out what works best for you
  • Update a "daybook" of progress and tasks completed
  • Produce and plan monthly/6 monthly reports
  • Know how to use purchasing forms etc. i.e. get the equipment you need
  • Prepare for and complete your confirmation review 
  • You have to answer a list of questions:
    • What are the gaps/discontinuities/existing boundaries in the current knowledge base of your specialised topic?
    • What specific problem(s) based on these observations are you aiming to investigate?
    • How would you succinctly express these problems as original research questions, and what is novel in your approach to solving them?
    • What is under investigation by others in this area? who and where are the key researchers?
    • How would you express your research questions as hypotheses?
  • Have you done everything on the below checklist?

Kevin Byron (2018)


































What to expect from the later years of a PhD: The PhD journey

Things to go wrong! It may look like the PhDs of others follows a route of continuous progression but actually research follows a pattern of creative steps, delays and setbacks. And everyone gets these problems- you are not alone.
Kevin Byron (2018)















I produced this image depicting how I feel like my PhD has and will progress. As you can see, there is a lot of going around in circles!
Natalie Lamb (2018)








The research cycle should look a bit more like this! A useful infographic for describing the PhD journey can be found here but I find this image a little too clear cut- everything looks a bit too easy.
Harwood, WS et al. (2004)















It is true that things go wrong and it can make things difficult, however some emotional pressure can be important to improve performance. It is very much about getting the balance right.

Kevin Byron (2018)








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