The First Year Review

This last week I had my first year review.

Every university does these differently. Some have your supervisors there, others have one of your supervisors and an external, and others have two members of your faculty there, with your supervisors observing (like mine).

I was very nervous about it due to missing the deadline for submitting my writing for it. But this isn’t a post about how stressed I was for my review, because I wasn’t really.

This is a post about the review, and how to make the most of it.

The first year review is a really useful thing for you as you approach your second year. Mine was very late, but other unis have them quite early. I think Edinburgh does theirs in April, which seems…too early. Being a September review, mine came after I’d done a full year’s reading and work. It meant my panel had a chance to read a fairly long indicative bibliography, get an idea of the direction my reading has taken, and read a piece of extended writing that had already been read by my supervisors, edited, and reviewed by some of my peers.

Which is all really useful. The review gives you a great opportunity to show your work to ‘proper academics’ who aren’t your supervisors. Your panel may be critical, ask deep, probing questions, and ask you to clarify and articulate certain aspects of your submission. They will also be able to give you a little guidance on future time management, where they think your work seems to be leading, and possibly what needs re-working.

Incidentally, I submitted a lit review and introduction, and that seemed to work well. They gave my panel a good idea of what I’d actually spent the last year doing. They also got the chance to see an introduction to a new thesis on a subject not their own, and that helped them understand better what on Earth I was doing in their department!

Now, there is the chance that your first year review might be a ‘yellow’, or result in your having to re-submit your work. That’s not something to panic about. That’s a useful thing to be told. It just means that you have some more to work on, some more to learn, and it might mean your supervisors need to work differently with you.

I passed my review, and am now a second year PhD candidate. It wasn’t stressful. It wasn’t unpleasant (being given coffee helped a lot). It was really useful. Take on board the advice your panel gives you.

I passed. Yay!

Oh! And there is a lot of you talking involved, so know your work, and know your plan as best you can. If you’re nervous about talking or presenting your thesis, well, that’s something you’ll have to work on, and this is your first real opportunity. If you get the chance, find someone who’s done it before (maybe a supervisor), and ask if you can try talking about your thesis in a Review-like way with them beforehand.

Anyway. Your reviews will probably look a bit like this throughout. You’ll walk in, some people will ask you questions about your work to date, your future plans, your ideas, and your reading. They’ll offer some critique, some advice, and some opportunities to air any concerns and ask any questions.

Then you can go to the pub!

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