Having just finished my mid-term review I thought I would give you some advice and observations from my experience. Your mid-term review will be completed at 16-18 months into your PhD. Lucky me, I got to do mine at 15 months, but most people wait for the later option. I feel like my biggest source of anxiety was not knowing what exactly to do/expect. I hope this little article hopes you to understand what to expect.
Here at RSES we generally have to write 50 pages that we hand to our panel a week before giving our 20 minute oral. Let me just tell you now, these are SHORT. Looking now you might not think that 50 pages and 20 minutes are short but explaining (well) what you’ve spent over a year working on in that amount of pages/minutes is a hard task. Which leads me to my first point:
Talk to your supervisor and panel
The earlier the better. Everyone will give you different opinions but you need to find out how they would feel if you were a little over the page limit or the timing limit and what they think your should focus on. Also ask if they expect drafts beforehand (this means your deadline is even sooner)
start writing early
And by early I mean AS SOON AS YOU HAVE DATA. While it is fresh in your mind write down what you have done, what you have found and try and make a nice figure or two. It doesn’t matter about spelling mistakes or proper grammar or anything at this point just write down something! Future you will thank you.
Also figures (you will change them a million times before sumbission), each of these figures are worth a thousand words and academics have a great skill in understanding your entire work without reading the words, just by looking at figures. Make sure they are clear, concise and consistent.
Plan your chapters
You should plan what your chapters are and what they will contain. Keep keep repetition to a a minimum. Also, look at other student’s thesis. Your supervisor will have their past student’s thesis somewhere and your friends will probably give you theirs to look through for ideas on structure.
I was told that the most important section in your FUTURE PLANS section. Make sure you put lots of thought into that section too.
If you get stressed
Coffee is your friend and foe
Hopefully you have started writing early and have not left writing your mid-term until a week before it is due. As not much of a coffee drinker, I had trouble regulating my coffee intake. This lead to less sleep which caused more coffee the next morning and this vicious cycle continued.
Not much you can do about this really if you need coffee. Just watch how much you’re drinking and maybe try going for a walk instead (and not returning with coffee) to help you concentrate.
Find something that relaxes you
You can’t think when you’re stressed. I found that listening to meditation music on youtube not only drowned out my office mates (sorry) but also lowered my blood pressure. Find what works for you. Also, make sure you make some time for other things in the last weeks before its due. Something you enjoy (and the key is not to feel guilty for doing this thing).
just hand it in
Don’t hold onto it. Don’t look through it one last time. You only wrote it so your panel has an idea of what you are doing. If there are typos, chances are they won’t even notice. You’ve told your story now let them read it
I have to make this powerpoint for a whole week?
No. No, you do not. Really it only takes two days to make your powerpoint and practise it a few times. Do this in the first few days then do SOMETHING ELSE. really how many times can you practise your 20 minute presentation in 7 days! (504 times) practise it a few more times closer to the date. I suggest practising in the room you will be presenting in
You can do it
–eye of the tiger begins playing as you set up- You’ve practised this!
Rising up, straight to the top, Had the guts, got the glory, Went the distance, now I’m not gonna stop, Just a man and his will to survive.
congratulations! You did it…. now its….
I have to admit, I didn’t really know this was going to happen. I knew there would be questions but the questions I was asked were to test my understanding of what/why I did things…. they already knew the answer… but wanted me to show that I knew as well (and sometimes I didn’t and that’s okay too)
I took in a pen and paper and wrote the suggestions down as we discussed them (but I am told this will be written into a report and given to me at some point).
What to do next.
I have a million things on the “suggestions” list. I feel like after the mid-term there should have been relief and relaxation….. not really… I just have the ever-growing list of things I have left to do in a shortening amount of time.
But right now all I can think of is:
This was your last assessment piece really! Your final thesis is handed in with no defence necessary and apart from a few questions after your final oral presentation that’s it!