Doctoral evaluations, lessons learned

Every April at the Adam Smith Business School where I am studying, doctoral students undergo their annual progress review. They submit a report and present the work they’ve accomplished in the last 12 months. On this ground, a panel of professors evaluates if they can continue being in the programme.

In other words, collective panic attacks are in order.

This year, I’m close to submission and didn’t have to present, which allowed me time to sit back and think about the things that make or break this kind of evaluation – assuming they must take similar forms in other universities.

Here are a few do’s and don’ts to help you cope with PhD evaluations:

DO believe in your research. You’ve done a lot of work, don’t undervalue your output. Present it with pride and defend what you’ve done, no one else is going to do it for you.

DO keep your slides simple. Overloading your slides will just confuse the audience or give them a headache. Slides are there to help you, not show everything you’re saying.

DO attend other people’s presentations. Especially if you are in the early stages of your PhD, and even if their topic is obscure. You’ll get the tricks of the trade by seeing other people do well, or not so well.

DON’T give a business-like presentation. Avoid overly minimalist slides or aggressive communication style. At least in the UK, and when you are being evaluated. Your audience wants content and proof of progress, not a Dragons’ Den pitch.

DON’T dismiss comments or questions. Even if you don’t like them. Keep an open mind to suggestions. Professors sitting in your panel have experience and despite their sometimes twisted minds, it is unlikely that they will purposely try and embarrass you.

It might sound easy or obvious but we know that when stress or uncertainty takes over, these principles are easier said than done, so I think it’s worth putting them down and reflecting on what we do.

Do you have any other tips from your own experience?

5 thoughts on “Doctoral evaluations, lessons learned”

  1. I am glad you said that “sometimes” professors have twisted minds! I hope not too many or too often. Great post.

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