Thursday 9 May 2024

'Passed' my PhD 'confirmation of candidature' milestone -- with conditions

Since I have been enrolled as a part-time PhD candidate now for just over 12 months (time flies!) the 'confirmation of candidature' milestone was due. The normal timing is within 6 months for full time PhD students, but as a part-time enrolment mine was due at the end of 12 months. I had to prepare of more detailed 'research proposal', with a decent literature review and outline of the methods and data analysis techniques to be employed, the main research question(s) and hypotheses, and also present a short (20 minute) 'seminar' (powerpoint presentation) summarizing my research project.

The 'mock' presentation I did last month went OK, so I did the actual online seminar presentation today, which went quite well. I then had a meeting with the 'confirmation of candidature panel' (HDR admin and school staff, my princiapl and co-supervisors, and another 'independent' university academic) to go over my research proposal, do some Q&A, and get feedback from me (about my supervisor team) and from the supervisor and co-supervisors (about me).

There were some very helpful questions and suggestions on how to improve my research (some extra questions to include in my survey questionnaire), and some difficult questions (about the theoretical basis for my research, and about obtaining a random sample of survey participants rather than just a self-selected or biased sample). All good questions that I don't have all the answer to just yet.

Ultimately I "passed" the confirmation -- but with a couple of conditions. Mostly to do with including a more substantial (or any!)  theoretical basis/framework for my research in the research proposal, and to address the issue of possible sample bias with the approach I had proposed for obtaining survey participants. At least I have another 6 months to "dot all the i's and cross all the t's".

As I was sort of planning to do a 'thesis by publication' (where the core of the thesis is three or more published peer-reviewed academic papers based on the research) rather than a 'book' style thesis, the confirmation panel also indicated that I need to work out with my supervisor team the gist of what the papers should be about, draft titles and so forth. Shouldn't be an issue, but it seems a bit odd to be planning the title and content of research papers before having any data or results. But I suppose I already know the specific questions I *expect* my research to answer, so expressing that in the form of a series of paper outlines should not be too hard. I think I had the 'thesis by publication' route as my 'plan A' option (with the thought that if I didn't get the required number of papers accepted for publication I could revert back to the traditional 'thesis as a tome' option (with the results subsequently being published in one or more academic papers).

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