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1st year PhD looking for advice...

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    I am first year PhD at a UK university or first year researcher as they like to call it. I am self funded and an international student. Last week I had my first year review and they ripped my project apart and essentially said that what I am doing is not currently a PhD and now they want me to have another review in three months. I went into the program with very little confidence in myself to begin with and now I feel as if that little confidence I had is now gone. I am beginning to question if I should even be doing this, if I should be putting myself in this much debt, if I should just cut my losses and head back home. I don't know what advice I am asking for really, I am just so alone in this part of the world and don't really have anyone else to express these insecurities too. I guess what Im asking is if it is normal to feel as if your project isn't going anywhere at the end of year one?
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    (Original post by Thelonelynomad)
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    Well, first of all try not to panic. Plenty of people are asked to resubmit their first-year review, it's not as uncommon as you might think. What general field is your PhD in?

    What did your supervisor have to say? Were they at the review meeting? Did they read your material for the review beforehand, and provide any comments? Have you been having meetings with your supervisor during the year, where you discussed the project and the likely direction it is going in? My feeling is that often when there is a problem with a student's progress, there is usually some problem with the supervisor as well: whether it's the supervisor not taking an interest in the student, being inadequately informed about the topic, or sometimes the problem is that the student doesn't listen to the supervisor's advice.

    You need to look at the specific criticisms that were leveled against your project. Did they think that the level you were currently working at wasn't high enough, in terms of originality or complexity? Did they think you unfamiliar with the wider literature surrounding the topic, and where your project fits into it? This would be the focus of what I would do now: more reading, thinking about how to boost the topic's originality, etc. You should do this in conjunction with your supervisor: set up a meeting to discuss the review, and what your examiners said, and what you should do next.

    My personal opinion as to what you should do, is that you should work towards the next review in three months, and see how it goes. If there are still problems, then would be the moment to quit if you really felt the project was sunk. Doing some restructuring and rethinking of the project over the next three months could make all the difference.
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    Great advice from gutenberg. Take the detailed feedback to your supervisors. Get them to explain anything you don't understand. Then work through the feedback with them one point at a time, coming up with an action point to address it. Your research may not look anything like it did when you started, but it should be better if your viva panel and supervisors are doing a proper job and if you're flexible enough to work on the points they raise.

    If it helps, I also had this experience in my first review. Everything was wrong - pretty much literally. The title, the research question, the aims, objectives, methods, structure... Even the lit review had holes of which both I and (more worryingly) my supervisors, were completely unaware. One of my viva panel took such grave exception to something I'd written in the Acknowledgements, that another panel member had to lean over and tell him not to take it so personally. To find something positive to say, the review panel were reduced to complimenting me on the accuracy of my referencing format! I did get through it in the end, but it took another eight months in total (although five of those were waiting for the resubmission to be marked).

    It can be a nerve-wracking process and it can really shake your confidence - both in yourself and your supervisors. But it is survivable.
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    Thank you for your reply Gutenberg. I am doing a practical PhD and my field is in creative writing.

    I haven't met with my supervisor yet, my review was last Thursday at the end of the day, I took Friday to lock myself up and reflect a bit on what to do. Ive emailed both of them asking to meet with them. I provided them both with my submission beforehand and they said it was good. I was also selected to present my work at a conference at another university and received great feedback so to be honest, I was feeling a lot more confident about all of it going into the review. I honestly feel as if the panel had made their decision about me before I even came into the room.

    in regards to your opinion, I am inclined to agree. This is the first bad feedback I have had regarding my project; however, I would at least like to try and see the year through seeing as I've already paid for it.
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    Thank you Klix88 for sharing. It is nice to hear that someone has had a similar experience and saw it through.



    (Original post by Klix88)
    Great advice from gutenberg. Take the detailed feedback to your supervisors. Get them to explain anything you don't understand. Then work through the feedback with them one point at a time, coming up with an action point to address it. Your research may not look anything like it did when you started, but it should be better if your viva panel and supervisors are doing a proper job and if you're flexible enough to work on the points they raise.

    If it helps, I also had this experience in my first review. Everything was wrong - pretty much literally. The title, the research question, the aims, objectives, methods, structure... Even the lit review had holes of which both I and (more worryingly) my supervisors, were completely unaware. One of my viva panel took such grave exception to something I'd written in the Acknowledgements, that another panel member had to lean over and tell him not to take it so personally. To find something positive to say, the review panel were reduced to complimenting me on the accuracy of my referencing format! I did get through it in the end, but it took another eight months in total (although five of those were waiting for the resubmission to be marked).

    It can be a nerve-wracking process and it can really shake your confidence - both in yourself and your supervisors. But it is survivable.
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    (Original post by Thelonelynomad)
    Thank you for your reply Gutenberg. I am doing a practical PhD and my field is in creative writing.

    I haven't met with my supervisor yet, my review was last Thursday at the end of the day, I took Friday to lock myself up and reflect a bit on what to do. Ive emailed both of them asking to meet with them. I provided them both with my submission beforehand and they said it was good. I was also selected to present my work at a conference at another university and received great feedback so to be honest, I was feeling a lot more confident about all of it going into the review. I honestly feel as if the panel had made their decision about me before I even came into the room.

    in regards to your opinion, I am inclined to agree. This is the first bad feedback I have had regarding my project; however, I would at least like to try and see the year through seeing as I've already paid for it.
    I'm very sorry to hear that. I imagine that creative writing as discipline is even more subjective than most arts & humanities disciplines, and I empathise with how demotivated you're feeling.

    It's good that you'll be meeting with your supervisors, hopefully you won't need to wait long for a response, and you can discuss everything together. I imagine, as Klix said, that this will have shaken them up a bit as well if they had approved your submission. What kind of feedback did your reviewers give you? Did they give any practical advice for what needed to be changed? As Klix also said, paying attention to this is important, even if you feel that the reviewers were biased against you from the start. You will ultimately need to get it past them, and with an honest evaluation on your part you may see some areas for improvement in what they suggested.

    I appreciate how massively demotivating and depressing it can be to have an experience like this. However, if you've been getting good external feedback (from the conference for instance), then try to keep some perspective on things and realise that you really aren't any kind of a failure, or not cut out for the PhD. Look carefully at the criticisms and suggestions for improvement, and conduct a brutal self-evaluation of what you submitted and the project as a whole. Even if in three months you decide to submit something that is substantially the same, that extra period of reflection and any additional reading etc. may help you fight your corner more effectively.
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    Thank you Gutenberg and Klix. I have felt so alone in all of this, especially being so far away from any sort of home comforts. Support has been really hard to come by. I am feeling much better and a bit more clear headed about how to handle all of this. It is largely due to both of you.

    (Original post by gutenberg)
    I'm very sorry to hear that. I imagine that creative writing as discipline is even more subjective than most arts & humanities disciplines, and I empathise with how demotivated you're feeling.

    It's good that you'll be meeting with your supervisors, hopefully you won't need to wait long for a response, and you can discuss everything together. I imagine, as Klix said, that this will have shaken them up a bit as well if they had approved your submission. What kind of feedback did your reviewers give you? Did they give any practical advice for what needed to be changed? As Klix also said, paying attention to this is important, even if you feel that the reviewers were biased against you from the start. You will ultimately need to get it past them, and with an honest evaluation on your part you may see some areas for improvement in what they suggested.

    I appreciate how massively demotivating and depressing it can be to have an experience like this. However, if you've been getting good external feedback (from the conference for instance), then try to keep some perspective on things and realise that you really aren't any kind of a failure, or not cut out for the PhD. Look carefully at the criticisms and suggestions for improvement, and conduct a brutal self-evaluation of what you submitted and the project as a whole. Even if in three months you decide to submit something that is substantially the same, that extra period of reflection and any additional reading etc. may help you fight your corner more effectively.
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    (Original post by Thelonelynomad)
    Thank you Gutenberg and Klix. I have felt so alone in all of this, especially being so far away from any sort of home comforts. Support has been really hard to come by. I am feeling much better and a bit more clear headed about how to handle all of this. It is largely due to both of you.
    You're welcome, and good luck! Do keep us informed

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