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Monday
Jul182011

Annual review

I had my first annual review last week. I feel the need to reflect on it! Review the review, as it were. 

I'm not sure if these things work the same way everywhere or even in every subject, but in Informatics at Sussex the annual review includes a student report along with a series of questionnaires for you, your supervisor and your thesis committee. The thesis committee consists of three academics, which can cause some problems for organising a date when all three are free. The questionnaires don't take too long (although I guess they could if you had enough to complain about!), but that student report was a bit of a pain. Along with the 'what have you done this year' bit, I also had to do a detailed plan of what I was intending to do next year, and a slightly less detailed plan for the year after that. And then there was the small matter of the 10,000 word research proposal and literature review. 

*gulp*

I know that eventually there will be a lot more than 10,000 words in my thesis. I do, really. But somehow even though I honestly did start thinking about this 10,000 words quite a long time ago they didn't really start coming together until after the whole dream abstract thing. Of course, by then I'd written 3000 words or so, most of which ended up scrapped. And there was quite a lot of panicked reading to try and fill in some gaps. But I managed to get quite a lot written and sent off to my committee even if the actual research proposal was a little like bullet points and I hadn't quite got my research aims done and possibly my 2-year plan was a bit hazy. 

Of course, what I'd forgotten was that most people haven't spent the first 6 months of their PhD coding up the framework for a game. And because that wasn't directly relevant to my research, I'd barely mentioned that in my paperwork. Fortunately two out of three of my committee members did know that. 

The meeting went ok, although apparently the third member was a bit confused about why I hadn't got my paperwork finished properly. The reading I'd done was enough, I could answer a lot of the questions put to me (although new areas were mentioned). They thought my question/research area was interesting and had a lot of potential. But there were one or two things I've learned that I wanted to note down: 

  1. I got really quite stressed in the end about this. I need to not do that. I think part of the problem was not really knowing if what I was producing was right (as in what I was supposed to be producing, not as in factually correct) or enough, so next time I need to get a little more of my supervisor's time (further out) and make sure I have something she can read well in advance. I checked my style with her, next time I need to check the content too. 
  2. When there's two things listed on the requirements (research proposal AND literature review) I must not get totally fixated on one (the literature review). Yeah, yeah, easy to say. 
  3. I need to put together a document template INCLUDING PAGENUMBERS! And use it for all of my documents. I thought I had, but I forgot the page numbers. 
  4. When asked what I've done over the last year (which is actually only 9 months anyway), I mustn't ignore 6 months of work. I should have worked it into that report and make damned sure it was clear I hadn't just been twiddling my thumbs.

I think it's been really useful for focussing my mind on the PhD/research side of the project. I really do feel like I have a better grasp on what I'm attempting. Hopefully from here on I can do a better job of balancing the programming and the research thanks to that. 

And they let me stay for the second year! Woohoo! 

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