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Progression and Assessment

Each year, there are a set of activities you have to go through to demonstrate that you are making good progress in your research, and have a good plan to complete on time.

There is a less formal review, called the Research Progress Review where your supervisory team and an independent assessor will evaluate your work, and give you feedback and suggestions. They may also give you remedial actions, which you will have to complete before the end of your current year. You may be required to produce a larger piece of work, such as the long report during the first year. This would be assessed by your supervisor and an independent assessor.

Note

It is a requirement that all postgraduate researchers at the University of Manchester create an ORCID (Open Researcher and Contributor ID) [2] and make it known to the University. ORCID is a non-profit organisation supported by a global community of organisations with interest in research. Your ORCID provides a unique research identifier that distinguishes you from every other researcher and links your professional activities. Registration to ORCID is free and will mean that research outputs can be tagged and tracked more easily throughout your career. ORCIDs are now routinely being requested by publishers and funders and it is therefore important that all researchers create an ORCID and make it available to the University. Registering for an ORCID is quick and easy and we have set up a dedicated web page to help you to claim your ORCID. You can create your ORCID and connect it to your PGR record by following a few simple steps. If you have any questions about how to claim your ORCID please contact the Library’s ORCID Support Service.

At the end of years 1 and 2 you have a formal end of year examination in front of a panel consisting of one independent assessors. This end of year assessment will take into account the outcome of the research progress review and updates on your performance from your supervisor(s), the report from the second reader, as well as your performance during the end of year exam. Evidence concerning your level of engagement, such as failure to participate in the required modules, could also be taken into account.

The possible outcomes from the end of year examinations are: proceed into the next year, withdraw from the programme, but with the possibility of submitting for a lesser degree, typically MPhil, or withdraw.

If by the end of year 3 you are not ready to submit your thesis, you may request a change of registration to ‘submission pending’. This is to allow extra time to prepare the thesis up to one year.

Danger

The submission of the thesis must take place within 4 years of the start of registration of the PhD.

Progression Overview

Each PGR will go through yearly examinations in order to demonstrate that they are making satisfactory progress towards production of novel research results leading to a Doctorate. In each of these years, the PGR will produce a Summary report which is a short report summarising the research and whatever progress has been made, and a plan for the subsequent year(s).

At month 9 of year 1 the PGRs will go through an interview called a Research Progress Review with their supervisor and an independent assessor. The purpose of this interview is to provide an initial assessment of the PGR’s progress, and provide feedback, and if necessary, assigned remedial actions or achievement milestones to help get a faltering PGR back on track.

At the end of years 1 and 2 there is a so-called End-of-Year (EoY) interview. This should be viewed as an exam, because it makes the formal decision whether the PGR progresses into the next year. Possible outcomes are: progress into the next year or do not progress. In the case of non-progression, the possibility of submission for a lesser degree may be offered, typically and MPhil.

Warning

This describes the procedure for full-time PGRs. The procedure for part-time PGRs is described in the ‘Part-Time’ Chapter.

1st Year

The PGR will present the work (including slides) to an End of Year Examination Panel. They will make the ultimate determination whether the PGR can progress to the next year, has to withdraw, or has to withdraw but can register for MPhil, using evidence provided by the PGR’s performance, the supervisor, the independent assessor, and other information available on eProg.

1st year ‘Research Progress Review’:

  • [Month 8] Research Progress Report (sometimes called the ‘Short Report’ or ‘Summary Report’)
    1. (prompted by eProg), the supervisor informally recruits the Independent Assessor, who should be a domain expert or in a closely related domain to the PGR. And is selected by the supervisor in consultation with the PGR. This assessor will also examine the PGR’s ‘additional work’ if needed.
    2. The PGR submits Research Progress Report (via eProg) comprising a research proposal, a brief summary of the research so far, and a research plan, and also emails to both the Independent Assessor and the Supervisory Team.
    3. This report should be 1500 words excluding references - 500 words to include the social / technical / research impact explicitly (along with the PGR’s ORCID [3]). The supervisory team and the assessor will check the format and length and can return this to the PGR unread if it does not meet specification.

Note

Research Progress Report:

The Research Progress (Summary or short) Report is primarily a research proposal. It needs to make clear: what is the research problem, why it is important or interesting to address it, what is the approach the PGR intends explore to try to address it, and how success or failure is going to be evaluated. It should also contain a brief summary of progress so far and a plan for how the research is going to be carried out. Sept starters will taking the the scientific writing course (Scientific Methods III, COMP80142) prior to this, and may wish to use this report as assigned writing piece they will need to produce. The report should be 1500 words (if you exceed this the report may be returned and/or your assessor can refuse to conduct the review) excluding references (along with the PGR’s ORCID [3]). *Ultimately, it will need to readable by the end of year examiners, who will not necessarily be experts in your branch of computer science. Thus, it needs to be readable by an well-educated, general computer science audience*

In addition to the summary, the report should include:

  1. Impact of the Research be that social / technical / research impact (500 words to include the explicitly)
  2. a research plan for the next year, concerning how the research should be carried out,
  3. A plan as to how this will lead to a thesis (e.g. proposed structure of a thesis at the level of chapter and section headings),
  4. a list of publications, published or submitted,
  5. a plan for other activities, including any visits, internships, targeted conferences or journal publications, and public engagement activities.
  • [Month 9] Research Progress Review:
    1. This is organised by the supervisor and could take place in the supervisor’s office or a small meeting room. The review times and locations are set between the interested parties (the independent assessor will inform SSO of the time/date/location). The review gauges the fitness of a PGR for continued study and assesses progress to date.
    2. This event will last about one hour with 15-20 min presentation given by the PGR, followed by questions and discussions led by the independent assessor. This presentation is pitched to the independent assessor, who, it is assumed, will not know the motivation of the research. This should be viewed as a research talk, and the discussion can be technical in nature. The outcome is documented via eProg and can be 2-fold:
    3. Progress is as expected, PGR is on good path towards completion: no further action required.
    4. Progress is unsatisfactory/questionable: the PGR will have to submit additional work (via eProg [1]), which is assessed by the independent assessor. This work is by default the Long Report, however, the independent assessor can assign remedial action (any reasonable additional work if it is explicitly documented), such as writing a paper, performing a critical review, etc. The remedial action being stored in the PGR’s eProg document store, and emailed to the supervisory team and internal assessor 1 month before the progression interview. This is reevaluated by the independent assessor for Progression (Research Progress Update eProg-COMPM2000). This assessment report being available one week preceding the progression interview and sent to SSO (who will pursue reports not returned) for onward distribution to the Progression Examiner.

Note

The Long Research Report is a substantial document at the level of an MPhil thesis or a journal paper with no page limit and ample space for literature review and technical details. The latter is particularly appropriate if an alternative format thesis is planned. A typical length would be around 15,000 – 20,000 words.

Additional Notes and Checklist

The Research Progress Report (aka the short report) is a key piece of evidence about whether you should progress to the next year. However, you really want the short report to be usefully informative. We see a lot of unhelpful short reports in spite of massive amounts of supervisor effort and the Academic Writing Class. It’s a good idea to keep your report in a source control system like Gitlab, so a simple thing to do is to add a version of this document as your README.md.

Remember the audience: It depends on whether you’re doing a 9 month Research Progress Review or an End of Year interview! Consult with your supervisor about the examiner’s background. Don’t hesitate to contact the examiner!

Some problems are big and some small, but you want to minimise them. So here’s a quick checklist.

Checklist

  1. [ ] LENGTH: Is/Does your short report
    • [ ] short, that is, 1500±150 words (excluding references - if you exceed this the report will be returned and/or your assessor can refuse to conduct the review).
    • [ ] contain appropriate number of diagrams/charts/images?
    • [ ] contain approximately 500 words explicitly describing the impact (social/technical/research)?
  2. [ ] MECHANICS: Did you:
    • [ ] put the title, your name, year (e.g., EOY1 CDT), and ORCID [3]) on the report?
    • [ ] proofread the report?
    • [ ] check paragraph size/shape? is the purpose of each paragraph clear?
    • [ ] use enough lists/tables/diagrams (but not too many)?
  3. PROBLEM SPACE: What is the range of problems we should be thinking about?
    • [ ] What is your area?
    • [ ] What is the subarea?
    • [ ] Roughly what sort of problems are investgated in your subarea?
    • [ ] What sort of methods are standard in this area?
  4. PARTICULAR PROBLEM: What is your project?
    • [ ] What’s your goal?
    • [ ] What kind of methods will you use?
    • [ ] What will be different about the world and our knowledge of it after your thesis?
    • [ ] What’s the state of the art (if any)?
    • [ ] What are the parts of your project and how do they form the content of a thesis (see thesis outline)?
  5. PROGRESS: How far along are you?
    • [ ] Which parts of your thesis outline can you flesh out?
    • [ ] What took longer or shorter than you anticipated?
    • [ ] What are your publications or other tangible evidence of progress?
  6. THESIS OUTLINE: Have one!
    • [ ] Did you focus on the contribution chapters no sub-bullets for intro or conclusion, minimal for background)?
    • [ ] Did you put estimates at least on your private version?
    • [ ] Are you ready to discuss the weight of each point?
  7. PLAN: How are you hoping to complete the project?
    • [ ] How will the work for each chapter go?
    • [ ] Can your refer to your progress to help ground estimates of future progress?
  8. RISK MANAGEMENT: What do you do if things go wrong?
    • [ ] What are likely risks to complete?
    • [ ] What are some possible mitigations?
  9. REALITY CHECK:
    • [ ] Your supervisor has read the near final draft?
    • [ ] Someone else (other PGR or member of staff) read the near final draft?

The Three Questions Remember, the short report (along with interviews, supervisor meetings, etc.) helps to answer three questions:

  1. [ ] Is the proposed project big enough for a PhD?
  2. [ ] Is the proposed project small enough to be completed on time?
  3. [ ] Is this PGR going to be able to complete on time?

Every part of your report should help answer one of these questions. If you can’t say how each part does, that’s a signal to rethink that part.

End of Year Examination:

An End of Year (EOY) interview is one of several progress monitoring mechanisms designed to check whether you are on track to on time submission and successful defense of you dissertation. It is a bit high stakes as it is the canonical point for involuntary leaving the program (i.e., “failing out”). That being said, almost everyone passes their EOY interviews, so the main normal purpose is twofold:

  1. force you think hard about your progress and planning
  2. get feedback from people uninvolved in your supervision

The Three Questions Remember, the interview is the last point to answer three questions:

  1. [ ] Is the proposed project big enough for a PhD?
  2. [ ] Is the proposed project small enough to be completed on time?
  3. [ ] Is this PGR going to be able to complete on time?

Every part of your presentation should help answer one of these questions. If you can’t say how each part does, that’s a signal to rethink that part.

By the end of month 12 some clearer plan is required. Think of it as a scientific paper - a background literature review leads you to an evidence- and argument-based hypothesis, you plan an experiment to test the hypothesis, then you conduct the experiment and you publish the results and the conclusions of your work. At month 12 you are expected to have the hypothesis and the plan of the experiments, but not necessarily to have started doing them (although you will probably have done some preliminary studies). The experiment may not prove the hypothesis or may prove more difficult than you expect, in which case your plans will change but that is no reason to not have a clear plan now.

Examiners

Examiners are not required to assess the technical achievements of the PGRs, this is why the supervisors have to be there and are invited to comment at the end. I expect that each examiner will spend 45 minutes preparing for the exam by reading the short report and, comments on remedial action, and the Independant assessors report detailing their happined (or not) with how the PGR has addressed those remedial actions. 45 minutes will be spent on the interview and a further 30 minutes writing the progression report.

The progression interviews/examinations are intended to determine whether the PGR has suitable plans for their PhD, and you are expected to explain things like: what the problem or research question is; what approach are you planning to use to solve it; how long do you think it might take; what risks are there and what are you doing to mitigate the risks; what publications do you hope to generate as well as a statement of progress; what your thesis plan is (which bits of work will go where in a thesis); and how far along have you gotten, for which some reporting of results to date is required.

You are expected to explain this in terms that can be understood by any academic from any of the far reaches of the Department, and that is a significant part of the challenge for the PGR (not for the interviewer/examiner - if the interviewer/examiner can’t understand then the failure is the PGR’s). Part of the benefit for the PGR is that when confronted with this hard challenge you are forced to pull out of the detail of your work and look at the bigger picture from a distance, and try to explain what you are doing from that perspective.

Doing this sometimes helps you to see problems when you would otherwise remain too deep in detail to think about, or where you have formed the view that your task is to build something really complicated without really thinking about what it is for and who will care when it’s done.

The supervisor should be doing that but even supervisors can sometimes be engrossed in technical challenge.

The interview should force the PGR to think about significance or purpose, and impact - for a PhD you are required to make a contribution to knowledge and understanding, but not just to do something that hasn’t been done before so you should be able to explain possible impact - do you understand that and have they got a clear picture of what you are trying to bring to the world, who might use it and what use it will be? If you can’t explain that to a third-party in a way that they understand then there is possibly a problem.

The progression interviews were also set up to try to reduce the chances that the PGR is just pursuing directionless research without clear objectives or is undertaking a sequence of semi-random tasks for the supervisor that won’t lead to a coherent body of work that can be written as a thesis by the end of the programme.

..Warning:: You can think of progression as a gate that is closed. It is up to yo to convince the examiner to open it for you. If you are not able to convince the examiner, then you will exit the programme here.

Process

  • [Month 11] End-of-year interview
    The Short Report (eProg-COMPM1998) - uploaded via eProg, with 15 min presentation (including slides), followed by 30 min Q&A – with 1 (or 2) examiners, PGR, supervisor(s). Organised by the supervisor/examiner, reported in eProg.
    1. If significant additional work has been requested by the Independent Assessor, then two examiners are required;
    2. If no significant additional work has been requested by the Independent Assessor, then one examiner is required;
    3. If the the examiner is new to the duty, then two examiners are required;
    4. Examiners are randomly allocated to a PGR (and their supervisory team), by PGR Support. In this case, it should be assumed that the examiner is not an expert in the particular research field, and the technical level should be pitched accordingly.
    5. The Supervisor and Examiner arrange a time/date/location between themselves and at a minimum the examiner and supervisor are present (optimally the supervisory team is present) to conduct the examination (the Examiner will inform SSO of the time/date/location). SSO will issue prompts if arrangements have not been made, and the PGR will not progress or be able to register without this interview.
    6. The PGR will give a 15 minute oral presentation describing the goals of the research, why the research is important, a summary of work complete, work underway, and future direction. This will be followed with questioning by the examiner and supervisory team and include technical question by the supervisory team. The interview is not intended to be a rubber stamp but an in depth presentation, Q&A, and discussion which both assesses the PGR’s progress and gauges the PGR’s ability to complete, while also providing the PGR with a learning experience of answering detailed questions in examination conditions. It should be assumed that the examiner(s) are not experts in the particular research field, and the technical level should be pitched accordingly.
    7. The PGR will leave and the examiner and supervisor, informed by the supervisor and independent assessor reports, will reach a conclusion. If any remedial action was given at the Research Progress Review, the supervisor will inform the panel whether it was satisfactorily completed (and the work stored in eProg may be accessed - Research Progress Update eProg-COMPM2000). The goal of this examination is to ascertain whether the PGR has made sufficient progress and is on track to succeed at producing a doctorate in time.
    8. If they are satisfactory, the PGR progresses to the 2nd year. If not, the PGR may be offered the opportunity to complete an MPhil, otherwise if progress is not sufficient for an MPhil then the PGR is not able to progress. There is no ‘conditional progression’ subject to remedial action at this stage.

Note

What is the Short Report The Short Report is repurposed from the Research Progress Report with small changes made based on the experiences of the RPR. Notably you will now include an extra section ‘RPR Responses and Comments’ (outside the word count) which lists all of the comments from the RPR and a detailed description of how you address them. Not just changes to the report but in real life - think of responses to a paper review. For example (1) if a comment was that the presentation was poor, you might have made efforts to go on presentation courses, to give presentations to lab members, and to spend more time doing presentations. You’d then detail this in the responses to the RPR. Or (2) if your evaluation plan was not as expected, you might detail changes you have made to make it successful. Remember, the Short Report is how your evidence the thing you have done, it is not the thing itself.

2nd Year

The PGR will present the work to an End of Year Examination Panel comprising the supervisory team. They will make the ultimate determination whether the PGR can progress to the next year, has to withdraw, or has to withdraw but can register for MPhil, using evidence provided by the PGR’s performance and the supervisory team, and other information available on eProg.

2nd year ‘Progression’:

  • [Month 23] All PGRs submit a short report only.

    via eProg, and repurposing that created in year 1 with updates and changes clearly identified.

    1. Examined via a 20 minute interview by the supervisory team. A decision is generated and recorded in eProg.

    2. If progress is as expected, PGR is on good path towards a Doctorate: no further action required. If not, the PGR may be offered the opportunity to complete an MPhil, otherwise if progress is not sufficient for an MPhil then the PGR is not able to progress. There is no ‘conditional progression’ subject to remedial action at this stage. The decision as to recommendations of MPhil or no possibility of progress will be via a Departmental Examination comprising two examiners in a similar format to the first year progression.

      1. The student will prepare a Short Report, with 15 min presentation (including slides), followed by 30 min Q&A – with 2 examiners and supervisor(s). Organised by the supervisor/Examiners, reported in eProg.
      2. Examiners are randomly allocated to a PGR (and their supervisory team), by PGR Support. In this case, it should be assumed that the examiner is not an expert in the particular research field, and the technical level should be pitched accordingly.
      3. The Supervisor and Examiners arrange a time/date/location between themselves and at a minimum the examiner and supervisor are present (optimally the supervisory team is present) to conduct the examination (the Examiner will inform SSO of the time/date/location). SSO will issue prompts if arrangements have not been made, and the PGR will not progress or be able to register without this interview.
      4. The PGR will give a 15 minute oral presentation describing their progress towards their PhD, the plans they have to finish, the timeline, and the novelty and impact of the work they will produce along with the goals of the research, why the research is important, a summary of work complete, and work underway This will be followed with questioning by the examiners and supervisory team and include technical question by the supervisory team. It should be assumed that the examiner(s) are not experts in the particular research field, and the technical level should be pitched accordingly.
      5. The PGR will leave and the examiners and supervisor will reach a conclusion. The goal of this examination is to ascertain whether the PGR has made sufficient progress and is on track to succeed at producing a doctorate in time.
      6. If they are satisfactory, the PGR progresses to the 3rd year. If not, the PGR may be offered the opportunity to complete an MPhil, otherwise if progress is not sufficient for an MPhil then the PGR is not able to progress.
      7. As previously stated, there is no ‘conditional progression’ at this stage.

3rd Year

Many PGRs are aiming to finish by the end of year 3 (typically your funding will have run out). In this case, you need to submit a form indicating your intention to submit and nominating your examiners (via eProg). Your main supervisor will select the examiners in consultation with you. See the ‘Submission’ section for more details.

However, some PGRs may not have completed after 3 years because their programme is longer than this, or because they are delayed for some reason. If you are delayed then you should transfer to “Submission Pending”, which is a writing up period.

In order to do this, you need to submit a End of 3rd Year report form, along with a plan for achieving what is necessary within 12 months. This form will need to be signed by the main supervisor and the PGR Director (if the supervisory team thinks it necessary), via eProg.

3rd year ‘Progression’

  • [Month 35] All PGRs who have not completed an eProg ‘Notice to Submit’

    must submit a Completion Plan, comprising a brief report describing what they have completed, what they have yet to do, and outline a detailed plan for completion (via eProg) and discuss this with the supervisory team (recorded via eProg).

    1. If progress is as expected, the PGR is on good path towards a Doctorate no further action is required.

    2. At the request of the Supervisor or the Head of PGR the PGR will also have a 1 to 1 interview with the Head of PGR (or their nominated representative). If the Completion Plan is approved the PGR can move to submission pending.

    3. If the Supervisor or Head of PGR deems the PGR is not making progress as expected when either my refer the PGR for a Departmental Examination; comprising two examiners in a similar format to the first year progression.

      1. The student will prepare a Short Report, with 15 min presentation (including slides), followed by 30 min Q&A – with 2 examiners and supervisor(s). Organised by the supervisor/examiners, reported in eProg.

      2. Examiners are randomly allocated to a PGR (and their supervisory team), by PGR Support. In this case, it should be assumed that the examiner is not an expert in the particular research field, and the technical level should be pitched accordingly.

      3. The Supervisor and Examiners arrange a time/date/location between themselves and at a minimum the examiner and supervisor are present (optimally the supervisory team is present) to conduct the examination (the Examiner will inform SSO of the time/date/location). SSO will issue prompts if arrangements have not been made, and the PGR will not progress or be able to register without this interview.

      4. The PGR will give a 15 minute oral presentation describing their progress towards their PhD, the plans they have to finish, the timeline, and the novelty and impact of the work they will produce along with the goals of the research, why the research is important, a summary of work complete, and work underway This will be followed with questioning by the examiners and supervisory team and include technical question by the supervisory team. It should be assumed that the examiner(s) are not experts in the particular research field, and the technical level should be pitched accordingly.

      5. The PGR will leave and the examiners and supervisor will reach a conclusion. The goal of this examination is to ascertain whether the PGR has made sufficient progress and is on track to succeed at producing a doctorate in time.

        1. If they are satisfactory, the PGR progresses to the 4th year or Submission Pending.
        2. If progress is not satisfactory and ther eis a viable Thesis available (as determined by the examiners) the student may submit this for examination.
        3. The PGR may be offered the opportunity to complete an MPhil,
        4. Otherwise if progress is not sufficient for an MPhil and there is no viable thesis to submit, then the PGR exits the programme.
      6. As previously stated, there is no ‘conditional progression’ at this stage.

  • [Month 42] All PGRs

    who have not yet completed a ‘Notice to Submit’

    1. Must outline a detailed plan for completion (via eProg) and have a 1 to 1 interview with the Director of PGR (or their nominated representative) also recorded via eProg.

Submission

  • [Month 48] The PGR will submit.
    The only exception is for an interrupt period or Programme Extension.
[1]http://www.eprog.manchester.ac.uk
[2]http://documents.manchester.ac.uk/DocuInfo.aspx?DocID=29356
[3](1, 2, 3) https://orcid.org/