During the last week before the Christmas break I had my PhD Interim Assessment. The purpose of the exam is to assess the progress made during the first year, and to make sure that the project is likely to meet the requirements of the award of a PhD.
The requirements of the assessment vary between different schools of the University. For mine, I was required to write a 4,000 word Interim Report and then have a mini-viva with a panel of academic staff. I found it quite difficult to squeeze everything I’d done in my first year into 4,000 words! Since I’ve been out collecting data, I wanted to include some preliminary data analysis. This meant I had to cut down the introduction and literature review, which will need serious attention when it comes to writing up my thesis! However, it was really good to get some stats going on the data that I have now, and the analysis showed some interesting trends in the social interactions that I’ve been observing among group-housed cheetahs.
I was confident that my report would be OK, but I was more concerned about the panel assessment. I’d never been required to defend my work before, even at Master’s level, so it was a completely new experience for me. I suppose the most nerve-racking thing was not really knowing what to expect. And it didn’t really help when I went completely blank during a meeting with my supervisor, in which he was asking me some likely viva questions! But the actual assessment went quite well and I think I answered the panel’s questions all right. It was more of a discussion about my work than an interview. As my supervisor pointed out, how often do you get the chance to talk about your work for a sustained length of time with people who are genuinely interested?!
Thankfully, I passed both elements of the assessment and the panel recommended that I carry on with my PhD candidature. The main things to come out of the assessment are that I need to write more critically, point out the novel and exciting results of my research more specifically and be clear about what’s new about my project. What am I doing that nobody else has done before? (With that in mind, there might be the possibility of using GIS for part of my research, for which I will probably need to pick Ollie’s brain!)
Overall, I’m very pleased to have come through the assessment and the panel’s comments have certainly given me things to think about as I continue with my research. When it comes to my Internal Evaluation in a year’s time I’ll be more confident in defending my work to the panel, something I felt I could have done better this time around.7 Comments