Managing my research degree
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Managing my research degree. John Kirby Graduate School Faculty of Medical Sciences. Managing my research degree. Managing my supervisor(s)!. John Kirby Graduate School Faculty of Medical Sciences. What shall I do first?. First meeting with your supervisor(s)

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Managing my research degree

Managing my research degree

John Kirby

Graduate School

Faculty of Medical Sciences


Managing my research degree1

Managing my research degree

Managing my supervisor(s)!

John Kirby

Graduate School

Faculty of Medical Sciences


What shall i do first

What shall I do first?

  • First meeting with your supervisor(s)

    • Need to complete a form detailing your

      • Research proposal (what you will do)

      • Research plan (timeline)

      • This may need to be approved

    • The learning agreement

      • More in a minute

    • Remember, this is not your last meeting!


The learning agreement

The learning agreement

  • Complete at the time of your first formal meeting

  • This document defines

    • What you can expect of us

    • What we can expect of you

  • The ‘us’ and ‘you’ should blur at this level as we all share an enthusiasm for research


Formal meetings

Formal meetings

  • What is a ‘formal’ meeting?

    • You pass your supervisor in the corridor and (s)he says ‘is everything OK’

      • You politely answer ‘Yes’

    • Your supervisor is in the lab/office and asks if the piece of work you did yesterday went well

      • You say ‘Yes’ or ‘No’


Formal meetings 1

Formal meetings - 1

  • Formal meetings are the most vital part of your project

  • Frequency

    • Often more common at the start than at the end of your project

    • In this Faculty should not be more than two months apart

    • You can initiate meetings

      • make an appointment (perhaps even book a quiet room – no phone)

      • Invite all appropriate members of supervisory team


Formal meetings 2

Formal meetings - 2

  • What happens at the meeting?

    • You take all your results and interesting papers and discuss these in detail

  • Make plans

  • Discuss problems

  • Ensure the project is more than a series of small experiments

    • Your thesis will ultimately tell a story


Formal meetings 3

Formal meetings - 3

  • During the meeting

    • Make notes

  • After the meeting

    • You write minutes of the meeting with lists of what was agreed

    • Circulate these to all supervisors for additional comment

    • Bring the minutes to the next meeting

  • Next meeting

    • Don’t worry if your experiments didn’t go as planned!


Managing your supervisor

Managing your supervisor

  • Be organised

  • Be honest (don’t try to disguise failure)

  • Discuss any difficulties

  • Show your enthusiasm

  • Don’t be surprised when you start to know more than your supervisor

  • Meet deadlines

  • Don’t ignore advice


What am i doing here

What am I doing here?

  • Preparing a thesis!

  • Candidates for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy are expected to conduct original investigations, to test ideas, whether their own or others, and to understand the relationship of their work and its themes to a wider field of knowledge. A doctoral thesis should be a piece of work which a capable, well qualified and diligent student who is properly supported and supervised can produce in 3-years of full-time study. It should exhibit substantial evidence of original scholarship and contain material worthy of publication.


Planning your work

Planning your work

  • Long-term plans

    • To complete my higher degree and earn some money!

  • Medium-term

    • By the end of the year I will have done …

  • Short-term

    • Before the next formal meeting I will …..

  • Immediate plan

    • By the end of the week I will …

    • Today I will ...


Keep a diary

Keep a diary

  • Don’t set up something and leave it to ‘cook’ for three days whilst doing nothing else

    • Dovetail your work together to optimise time

  • Don’t set us a 24 hour experiment on Friday if you are not planning to be in over the weekend!

    • But do set up a 72 hour incubation on Friday to complete the following Monday (if its not a bank holiday!)


Work life balance

Work-life balance

  • Research degrees in the UK are completed more quickly than almost anywhere else in the world

    • Not because they are ‘smaller’

  • You must work pretty hard!

    • Try to adopt a basic 9 to 5 day

      • When your supervisors are around!

    • Be prepared to work late and during weekends

    • When out of hours, adopt appropriate safety procedures

  • Take no more than 6 weeks holiday per year


Your notebooks

Your notebooks

  • Hard back with numbered pages

  • Enter the date

  • Complete as you are working

    • Do not need to be spotless or neat

    • Enter raw data, observations and calculations

    • Detail all problems and errors

  • Your assessors will ask to see these

  • Your examiner might also ask to see these


Research governance

Research governance

  • You may have read of ‘scientific fraud’

  • We must manage our raw data to provide evidence in the case of disputed findings

  • Do not erase text of cut pages from you rlab book

  • Use pen (rather than pencil)

  • Remember lab books also protect us if you discover anything that can be patented!


Use of computers

Use of computers

  • Backup regularly

  • Backup regularly

  • Backup regularly

  • Loss of results due to theft, disk failure, virus infection etc etc is not considered a viable excuse for delayed completion of your project


Literature references

Literature references

  • Read around your subject (don’t simply print copies of papers)

  • Not all journals are equal

  • Your examiners will test your knowledge of current related science

  • Use a reliable reference database

    • Training will be given

  • Useful to have an ideas book

    • Make notes of good ideas as you have them


Any problems

Any problems

  • Talk to people around you!

  • I am always available for advice


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