Expectations of the Student

As with most worthwhile endeavors, success in graduate study cannot be guaranteed and often depends on the mutual efforts of faculty and student to work diligently and form a productive professional relationship. PGR students are responsible for working towards completion of their degree programs in a timely manner. In addition to gaining expertise in a particular field of study, PGR students are expected to expand the knowledge of that disciplinary field by discovering and pursuing a unique topic of scholarly research, resulting in the PGR Thesis. It is the student’s responsibility to ensure continued progress of his or her academic program and thesis research. Students have a responsibility for the following aspects of their program.

Your Doctorate will be unlike many of your previous academic experiences. It is academically challenging, occasionally isolating and requires a lot of self-motivation, but for the right candidate it can be a phenomenally rewarding experience. A Doctoral qualification is predominantly research-based and students will be responsible for their own learning and development. Knowledge is less acquired from classroom based teaching and more from critical reading and experimentation. In terms of course structure, a Doctorate will be significantly different from your Bachelor’s or Master’s Degree. It will take from 3-4 years and will culminate in a thesis which outlines what you have learnt from your specific research area. Your thesis will be a document containing approximately 80,000 words (although this will depend on your area) and it will be broken down into chapters. Ideally students should have some of their research published throughout their course of study. Each student will be given a supervisor who will monitor their progress and (occasionally) give feedback on the research.

Your supervisor will be there to guide and support you as well as provide you with a sense of direction throughout your work. What they are not expected to do is spoon-feed you information. A supervisor’s feedback on your thesis will often be critical, and come the submission period, your supervisor should play a key role in helping you present your research in an original manner. Given that there isn’t much contact time in terms of lectures and seminars, it is important that your supervisor remain in regular contact with you, and you should arrange meetings as often as possible to discuss your project. Normally the relationship between student and supervisor is a smooth process, but occasionally problems may arise. If this is the case, you should mention it to your Cohort Advisor.

Your supervisor will expect you to work hard and be enthusiastic about your research and thesis. They will be very busy people, with work of their own to do, so it is important that you respect their time and contribution to your project. If you arrange a meeting then make sure you turn up, and if you’ve a deadline looming then ensure that your work is submitted on time.

Illness

If you are ill don’t come to work at all, but, let all concerned parties know the situation, it is really that simple. However, in some cases your presence is important, in cases where you are speaking, attending a conference or giving a conference presentation, and in cases where your lack of attendance may reflect badly on your supervisory team or the University in general, then you should attend if at all possible. My rule-of-thumb is to answer the following question:

“Would I attend if this was an interview at [Google | insert company you really like] and this was the only opportunity for an interview that would be available.”

If the answer is yes, then you should attend; if the answer is no, then you should make your apologies (preferably by telephone and followed up by email) as soon as you know that you are not attending.

Responsibilities

Students should note that they are responsible for their work and that the role of the supervisor is to provide guidance and advice. But, be open with your supervisor, if you experience difficulties either in your personal life or with your work then mention it to your supervisor as early as you can - your supervisor will want to support you, and the earlier they know the more options there are.

The responsibilities of the student normally include:

  • Arranging meetings with his/her supervisor(s) (taking account of any periods of holiday or work-related absence during the supervision period).
  • Keeping appointments with his/her supervisor(s), or informing his/her supervisor(s) where this is not possible.
  • Discussing any plans for vacations before commitments are made, to ensure that these are realistic in the light of deadlines and grade aspirations.
  • Maintain timely updates on Eprog.
  • Learn and improve his/her skills in scientific writing - including writing tools, grammar checking tools, and tools for organizing their literature review.
  • Discussing with his/her supervisor(s) the type of guidance and comments s/he finds most helpful.
  • Be proactive and ask questions
  • Maintaining a professional attitude to his/her work and to the supervision process at all times.
  • Maintaining a suitable record of supervision meetings, including dates, action agreed and deadlines set.
  • Preparing adequately for meetings with his/her supervisor(s).
  • Attending and participating fully in any courses related to the dissertation element of the course provided by the School.
  • Developing self-assessment for timely feedback.
  • Discussing issues arising from feedback and taking appropriate action.
  • Maintaining the progress of the work as agreed with his/her supervisor(s).
  • Raising problems or difficulties with his/her supervisor(s).
  • Making his/her supervisor(s) aware of any circumstances likely to affect his/her work.
  • Giving his/her supervisor(s) due warning and adequate time for reading any drafts. It is the student’s responsibility to make sure that they understand the supervisor’s advice and the feedback on early drafts, and to generalise from specific pieces of advice and feedback.
  • Being familiar with University / Faculty / School regulations and policies that affect him/her.

Expectations

In the first 2-3 months, your supervisor will be guiding you, but by the end of your first year you should be to think independently about the direction of your project. You should:

  • Be conducting experiments unsupervised (physical, numerical or literature based)
  • Begin to design your own studies, with general guidance from your supervisor.
  • Be able to analyse and discuss your data critically.
  • Be asking questions at lab or research group meetings.
  • Be coming up with your own solutions to problems and your own ideas!
  • Where appropriate, contribute to lab meetings, to other projects in the lab, and will probably supervise an undergraduate or a new post-grad.
  • Have learned to criticise constructively both your own work and that of others, and discuss research ideas (in lab meetings, conferences, with colleagues in the pub!).
  • Be able to describe your research aims to colleagues.
  • Be organising your own meetings with your supervisors.

Strong time management is one of the most important parts of PGR study. You should treat your Doctorate as a full-time job, while appreciating that a complete lack of leisure time can be damaging to your health and chances of success. The Research School, here in Computer Science, follows a Flexible Working model with

Core Hours between 10:00 - 16:00 (you are expect to be here between these times unless personal circumstances dictate otherwise)

Similarly, it’s important to recognise when additional duties such as teaching undergraduates or becoming a student representative are taking up too much of your time; if the quality of your PhD is suffering, it’s okay to reject the opportunity to do new things.

Writing-Up

Your time management is particularly important when writing your thesis. By the time you get to this task you’ll be responsible for:

  • Submitting the thesis title and ethical approval form (if appropriate) to the relevant office by the due date specified.
  • Ensuring that the final thesis is written in accordance with requirements relating to the correct use of English language and presentation of tables, references, figures etc.
  • Checking the completeness and accuracy of the text of the thesis / project submitted.
  • Ensuring that submitted work is their own (i.e. avoiding plagiarism and other disciplinary offences).
  • Ensuring adequate time for the binding of the thesis.
  • Submitting the thesis to the appropriate office by the submission date specified.

Finally...

Finally, research runs on acts of volunteerism. From reviewing papers to helping at conferences, from organising School socials to giving a group presentation there are many reasons for volunteering within your academic community and the Research School. Helping out (this includes watering the plants in PGR Home) is an excellent way of gaining or developing new skills, knowledge, and experiences. It’s also a good way of meeting new people, both within your own research domain and those people who work in slightly less direct areas to the ones that you are interested in. By getting to know your community and Research School, opportunities for collaborations or new research may present themselves.