The scientific quality of my research study has been assessed by the Review Panel for PhD/Professional Doctorate students in the School of Education. I presented my project on the 27th of January 2011, and received formal notification that I had transferred to PhD stage on 31st January 2011. The Review panel is a very challenging and stimulating process that offers you the opportunity to present your research work to academics and receive valuable feedback. Also, it is a process that has contributed immensely to my confidence with respect to my research study. Most of all, it is an extremely important stage that every PhD student should pass successfully in order to progress to the second year of PhD study and feel more engaged as member of the research team at the University of Manchester.
In terms of preparation, I prepared a Power Point presentation in advance and presented it to my supervisor. I made sure that I was familiar with every term I used in the slides and that I provided adequate information without overloading them. This process helped me to rehearse my presentation and receive very helpful comments and suggestions. It goes without saying that I rehearsed my presentation intensely on my own as well.
When the day to present arrived, I walked into the room, and I was introduced to the four panel members. You will be familiar with some of them but one or more may be unknown to you. My first supervisor, Helen M. Gunter attended this meeting. It is necessary to discuss in advance with your supervisors whether they will attend or not. Although supervisors are not expected to speak during the presentation unless invited to by the panel members, her physical presence during the presentation boosted my confidence and motivated me to a great extent.
The environment was formal but non-threating and the panel members were very welcoming. In terms of the technological equipment, everything was set up in advance. I had printed out the slides and distributed them to the academics. The printed slides could work as a backup in case of computer failure and also gives the opportunity to the audience to write down any enquiries with respect to what you will be presenting. I chose to stand during the presentation and then sit during the discussion. My presentation lasted 15 minutes and I concentrated on my research focus and questions, my research design, ethics and access and contribution to knowledge. Following my presentation, I was asked methodologically-focused questions (e.g. sample size, mixed methods paradigm, relationship between research questions and data, position as a researcher). At this point I would like to tell you that in case you do not know the answer to a question, you can say: “That is very interesting question thanks very much I will need some time to think about it and perhaps we will talk it through with my supervisors”. “Can you tell me a bit more about that?” “Can you elaborate more on that?”. Furthermore, if a panel member asks you something that you have already mentioned, you can politely say “Can I draw your attention on the slide…”. Always bear in mind that these people are not familiar with your research study and it is presented to them for the first time.
At the end of the discussion I was asked to leave the room while the panel came to a decision. During this time, my supervisor participated actively in this discussion and she gave me immediate verbal feedback about the decision when we met afterwards in her office. Formal written feedback detailing the panel’s decision along with any revisions to be made to the plan was sent to me by post.
I would like to stress that the panel members are not there to judge either you or your research study. They are experienced researchers who make suggestions on how to improve your research and how to move forward. It is your decision in collaboration with your supervisors what to adopt and how you will proceed with respect to the design of your research.