The Progression Exam, 1 Year In – A small (but useful) resource


This has been the quickest, yet slowest, year of my life. 2014-2015 is hereby redubbed “Schrödinger’s Year…”

When it comes to the Ph.D journey, most universities (I believe?) will have a formal examination at the end of the first year of study. Sometimes this is a method of converting an MRes or similar into a Ph.D and it can go by a multitude of names. In the case of my University, the “Progression Viva” is in place to ensure, amongst other things, that you have actually been doing stuff for the first 12 months.

The wonderful Milena, who started her Ph.D journey at the same time as I did and who happens to be in the same faculty, started a monthly gathering for us post-graduate researchers. This is a multipurpose event, from trialling ideas and presentations to a fresh and varied audience, to providing a ‘comfort zone’ where the heady highs and crushing lows can be released into the open and met with “I know that feeling, I’ve been there too! You will survive!” It’s safe to say that without this forum, I would have found this year a lot more difficult, and I would encourage anyone reading who doesn’t have a similar resource to go and set one up! While Twitter can be useful for finding numerous like-minded Ph.D researchers, there’s nothing quite like the face-to-face interaction you get from such events.

In today’s gathering, we spoke about the upcoming Viva examinations, both ‘Progression’ and ‘Final.’ I gathered some question together that we could discuss, each of which turned out to be really useful for reflection and assessment of where we are and where we’re going. Even though our research is focussed on extremely different areas (i.e. sign linguistics, online gaming communities, and consent in fan-fiction), the following questions really helped out.

Have a look and try to answer them yourself. Or, get a group of you together and try to figure out how you might tackle them. Of course, this list is not exhaustive, and your exam will have much more specific questions related to your own work, but I hope that these help get you thinking along the right lines!

  • In one sentence, explain your thesis (e.g. your point of view in accordance with your research)

  • What have you done that merits a Ph.D?

  • What is/are the motivation(s) behind your study? (e.g. Is there a story of how you got here, personal or professional?)

  • What are the theoretical/methodological alternatives to your approach, and why did you choose your approach?

  • Summarise your key findings.

  • What is the implication of your work in your field of study (Remember: this is not ‘impact,’ but how your work alters what is known/done in your field of study)

  • What went wrong, and what would you do differently?

  • How have you evaluated your work?

  • What have you learned from doing a Ph.D? (Think about your personal development)

Good luck =]


One thought on “The Progression Exam, 1 Year In – A small (but useful) resource

  1. In the University where I did my doctorate, they call it differentiation. I got the distinct impression that it is to weed out anyone who really isn’t working or who doesn’t look as if they’re going to stay the course. I didn’t feel ready at al and I was quite gobsmacked that they gave me the thumbs up!

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