First-year review


It sounds as though Phds in the science fields are very different to those in humanities. It must be good to do something like that. Mine is in history and has to be 100% original research - ok, so the field I am studying is an ongoing argument, but it has to be viewed in a new way with a completely different approach.

I do think half of being a researcher though is, as you say, accepting that your study could be (most likely will be) rubbished or argued strongly against within hours of publication lol - I suppose that it is in that way that knowledge grows and we are fortunate to be in a position to be able now to contribute to the fields in which we have a passion :-)


Although at our uni there's some "affectionate" teasing between science and humanities students, I'd probably agree that it's harder to write an original thesis in humanities. But I still argue that even in the sciences, you're not going to do decent work in the timescales suggested on this forum. Especially not with all the instruments breaking down, competition for time on machines, devising of new methods, throwing newly devised methods in the bin...and so on.


Certainly at my University, and I presume all, your PhD has to contribute some original thought to a subject - I think its a bit naive to think you can just churn out some results and get a PhD. Even using previousdly collected data you must analyse them in a new way, from a new angle, or put new clues together. And I would be astonished if that could all be done in 6 months.

In fact, if you only gain 6 months experience in data collection/analysis then I think you've been short changed, as will it set you up well for your next position?

Yes, I agree that intellectual work is not always connected with a genius idea or plan (very few PhD projects win a nobel prize first time round...), but whats the point in doing it if it is just a repetition of someone else's work?


To answer the OP, at my university the 1st year progression process (actually, it happens at the end of each year) consisted of submitting a piece of work (1 chapter of the thesis - usually literature review) and a list of all the training courses attended. I then had an interview with the person who had read my submission and we discussed my work to date, what i was particularly pleased with/ concerned about, my professional development, my satisfaction with supervision etc. Then we discussed how I planned to progress with the work over the following year. It lasted about 2 hours. After the interview, the assessor wrote a report about my progress. It's all treated as a bit of a formality here, as it is quite rare for anyone to not be allowed to progress. I assume it is the same at your university as your supervisor hasn't mentioned anything about it to you, but it's definitely worth finding out. Are there any 2nd/3rd years you can ask?

As to finishing the bulk of your phd research in a year... I'm trying not to be blinded by jealousy as a third year with a lot of work still to do but I would agree with the other posts that it really isn't likely that something of passable doctoral standard can be written in so short a time period. Without wanting to sound like a luvvie, doing a PhD is as much about making a journey through different perspectives and methods as it is about getting some results and writing a report. It's admirable to recognise that the 'originality' of a PhD is much less important than some people think - as long as *some* contribution has been made to the field, it doesn't have to be world changing - but there is a danger of underestimating what originality consists of. At the end of the day it is not the individual student's perception of his/her contribution which matters but those of the examiners, and it's going to take some confidence to walk into a viva and say "I haven't done anything new, but what's the point, if it will be out of date in a few years' time?"!


Quote From heifer:

I'm trying not to be blinded by jealousy as a third year

Yes, I must apologise for that also (though substitute 3rd for 4th :$ )


Absolutely agree with coastman and heifer and I think al other here. Our PhDs shall probably not shake the foundations of our disciplines, but nonetheless we are expected to have been (and I am choosing these words with care) thoughtful, creative, critical and constructive in what we have done.

Whether it is science or the humanities, whether you are number crunching or interpreting discourses, all of this requires the space that *time* affords. Technically I find it perfectly possible to write 100000 words in under a year, but do the *work* thats needed for it in that time, (and no, nobody is talking of foundations haking work) is unimaginable.

It is another question altogether if someone does the *fieldwork* or *experiments* component in that time, but that is perhaps not a first year tak. Personally, how would i know what data is to be gathered and how, unless I had clear answers on "method", "purpose" and how would i have all of this without an extensive period of reading?

All of this in a me!


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I quite agree PhdBug - I was chatting via email with my supervisor today and having a mild panic attack at the amount of work I have to do. Piles and piles and piles of reading - we are talking approaching a year purely of reading about and around the topic before I even begin to start analysing data (in my case the victorian censuses and occupational records), that will take a good year if not more in collation, analysis etc and then and only then can I start writing - he's suggesting a 6 month write up, maybe more. The thing is, that although the research and my interpretation of that data will be my contribution I can't make any sense of anything or describe how my research can fit in until I have a full understanding of the field in which I'm working (if that makes sense). Of course I can describe in a couple of sentences the argument and where I fit in, but to turn that into something that would begin to warrant the title Dr and the highest degree that can be conferred on a student (as far as I'm aware) in this country, there has to be so much more to it. I know that where I am fitting in is something that has not been done before using data as yet untouched and an approach that hasn't been tried - we'll see. But part of me, and maybe its just me, and no offence intended to those who could do it quick, but I'd want to think that to be awarded a PhD I'd done something pretty special that had taken up a lot of my time and that I had really worked for so hard for a long time - otherwise surely it stands a chance of being declared of little worth?

Just my opinion