Confirmation of PhD: Presenting and Reporting on Your Research
by Fiona Martinez
Just under a month ago I had what is called at my institution, my RF2. The RF2 is the ‘confirmation of PhD’ process for which I had to put together a 30-minute presentation on my research and write a 6,000-word progress report. The process can vary from institution to institution, with some universities bringing in external examiners and others asking only for a written report. Whatever the format of your PhD confirmation, it usually takes place a year into your PhD. Though you’re right to see it as an important and difficult piece of work I wanted to give some tips, based on my experience, on how to tackle this stage with ease and enthusiasm. (Particularly now that I’m through this stage with only the viva lying ahead *does teeth gritting excited/petrified emoji*)
Prepare well in advance
It’s likely that your institution will make you aware of this process at the very beginning of your PhD, so mark it down in your diary! At the beginning of your research a year into your PhD might feel a long way off, but it’ll arrive before you know it! Preparing for the confirmation presentation and report long before the deadline will stop you feeling overwhelmed when the due date approaches and allow you to feel calm and in control of your presentation and report.
Rehearse and draft
Any presentation can be daunting, so running through in advance can help. Doing this in front of a fellow academic can be even better, as they’ll be able to ask engaging questions and maybe suggest areas for improvement before the official date. For your report, prepare a draft that you can read through and adapt. That way you can get some feedback from your supervisors before submitting and ensure that, where possible, issues can be addressed way in advance of any deadline.
Reflect and look forward
Identify what you’ve achieved and what you intend to do over the coming two years and consider how that fits within your original PhD proposal. If you’re behind on your writing acknowledge this, and plan for the extra work in your timeline. Admitting that you’ve achieved less than you originally intended is not automatically a bad thing, so long as you show that you’re aware of this and you’re working to get back on track.
Defend your research!
What is original about your work? What might critics say is unoriginal or problematic about your research? Consider these questions in detail and be ready to respond to them, both in your writing and in your presentation. This aspect of the process is absolutely essential; if you’re not able to defend your research now it’ll make the viva all the more challenging! Keep in mind that tough questioning in the presentation can make you think more critically about your work, and try not to take these questions personally.
Enjoy the process! (Or maybe more realistically, don’t hate the process!)
This is a time consuming and challenging process, but it can also be invaluable to your PhD. Having to stop and take stock of your work so far, and being encouraged to consider the work you intend to carry out from here on in is an excellent way to ensure you’re staying on track. Having the intended content of your research and your work to date critically evaluated can help you to spot areas for improvement at an early stage, and beyond that prepare you for a fully-fledged defence of your PhD when you finish up! It might feel like a sizable piece of admin, but with the right planning and preparation it can positively affect your research immeasurably.