May 9, 2017, by Lisa Chin

First Annual Review

This post is written by Mahmoud Abdelazim Helmy Mahmoud Khattab, PhD candidate from the School of Computer Science.

“You must submit your annual review report after nine months of your registration date.”

All of us have heard this statement. In the beginning, I thought nine months will be a long time down the road and I would have a lot to write in my first year report. When I reached the nine month period, I found myself faced with the following questions: What style should I used? What should I include and what should not?

I began my report by explaining about my research field and work. I tried to put in everything that I did over the past nine months. I was very happy when I completed writing a 100 page report with about 17,000 words, within three weeks. Impressive, right? However, I was shocked to learn that my report was bad, when I submitted it to my supervisor for review. I wrote it as if I was writing a tutorial or user manual and I had to rewrite it as a technical report by applying professional structures. After a detailed discussion with my supervisor, I started all over again. My supervisor guided me step-by-step and reviewed my writing along the way. After two months of intensive writing and several modifications and revisions, I managed to get it approved by my supervisor for submission to the examiners. After that, I was scheduled for my first year review. I was scared and nervous as my fate would be decided – either to continue with PhD or terminate as MPhil.

My friends told me that the first year review would be rather easy as the examiners would consider that I am a first year student and that they would not go deep into details of my research work. Contrastingly, my supervisor told me to fully prepare myself as the examiners might ask the full details of my research work. Furthermore, the examiners asked me to prepare a short presentation to conclude my research work before a Q&A session. My friends told me that they were not required to do a presentation so I felt very anxious and fearful.

After much thought, I started to prepare for my presentation. I prepared exactly what I should present and I even did a rehearsal and recorded it to find any weak points so that I could rectify the flaws. Finally, it was the day of the review. I was ready and prepared. Everything else was ready too – my presentation slides, my report and my programme. Then, it was time to present. I did my best to show that I am aware of what I am doing, what I have been working on, and what I plan to do with clear objectives and milestones. The Gantt chart, which was my supervisor’s idea, proved useful in this case.

“We have no problem with you pursuing your research work as a PhD student. The formal result and recommendations will be sent to you. Congratulations!”

I passed my first year review! Although I am not qualified to give any advice at this stage but I would like to share some of the following tips with my fellow PhD students:

  • Always consult your supervisor.
  • Plan your work wisely.
  • Focus and stay away from any disturbances that will hinder your progress.
  • Trust yourself. Tell yourself that you can do it!

I would like to take this opportunity to express my sincere gratitude to my supervisor for all the support and guidance given to me, all these while. I would like to also thank my friends for their advice and encouragement.

Posted in Postgraduate lifeResearcher Development