This is a quick post that will summarise what I have been doing for the first 18 months of my PhD. I started in February 2015, and have been following (as closely as possible) the recommended structure as set out by my College at my University.
In the first semester of my candidature, I did two courses – it is compulsory to do a minimum of four in your first 18 months. One was a general one aimed at teaching us how to research and write research papers. I didn’t particularly enjoy this one, as I had already completed a Masters degree with a thesis the previous year. It did allow me to solidify some of the plans that I had proposed in my application, but apart from that not much got done there. The second course was a reading one aimed at getting a good start on a literature review. This one was good as it gave me a chance to read outside of my immediate discipline and enter some of the other areas that my PhD will/does need.
I also completed my annual plan, which is the first of the (seemingly endless) milestones I need to complete. This is just a report on what you plan to do for the next 12 months, and whether there are things that might stop you from completing them.
In the first two weeks of my candidature I submitted my first conference abstract for a conference in November of that year. (It was later accepted, and presented yay!).
In September I completed a Thesis Proposal Review (TPR). This is done in my School as a public presentation, that your panel attends. After the presentation, you submit a document of about 8000 words, and your panel decides whether you can continue as a PhD student, whether you should drop back to a Masters degree, or if research is not for you. This is also the main chance to make changes to what you proposed. It doesn’t set anything in stone though. I did mine very early – usually they are done between 9 -12 months after starting.
During this time, semester two was happening and I was doing the other two courses. One was a sort of masterclass for my field, and was very very useful. The other was the second reading one. I managed to get almost all of the assessment done before the mid semester break.
Then I ran away on holiday. I spent 2 months overseas. Phew.
When I came back, I had to catch up on a number of things (like that left over assessment), but especially getting that conference presentation done. The presentation went really well, and I didn’t panic and pass out. Yes, this was my first presentation. Around this time (November) I submitted two more abstracts for a conference overseas.
And then everything kind of fell to pieces. I lost my grandmother, lost my job, and had to move house all around the same time. We had a lot of family dramas then too, which all moved focus from studies. Basically I avoided doing anything at all until the end of January.
In February I began tutoring. That was an adventure and a half. It was really interesting, but again took focus away from study. I started a course on the Principles of Tutoring and Demonstrating around this time too, which took a few weeks to complete. I also had to do another annual plan then.
I had intended to have my ethics application finished in December, but this didn’t happen. And then in February I had the chance to apply for an amazing course in the US on research methods, this delayed my application further as I wanted the benefit of that training before I tried to get approval for what I was planning.
May was the two presentations overseas, and June was the research methods course, so most of the first half of this year was taken up by teaching and travel. This semester I have been teaching as well, but I am more comfortable with it, and have more structure to the course as a whole.
In July I submitted the ethics application, which was immediately approved after their monthly meeting (I was as shocked as you are). Thankfully I pretty much had the first stage of my research (a survey) ready to go, so after testing it a couple of times I got it released at the beginning of August.
In August I competed in the 3 Minute Thesis competition (I came 3rd) and then attended the bootcamp which allowed me to draft some journal articles that I had been planning on writing for a long time. I now have two journal articles drafted, as well as something that could become another journal article, or a thesis chapter. It’s the first of these that I have been working on in the Journal Article post.
In September again I completed the next major milestone – the Mid Term Review (MTR). I did this as a presentation to my panel, and a document outlining where I was up to. Most other people do this as a public presentation like the TPR.
I’ve been trying to move on the the next stage of my research, but am having trouble recruiting participants. This will need some thought before I can do much else – and will probably be the subject of an entirely new post.
I think that’s all of what I’ve achieved for the first 18 months, as far as the PhD goes in any case. I’m not happy with my progress – but what student ever is. My supervisors tell me that I’m on track and doing well, so I’ll take their advice and try and feel happy about where I am.