May 26 2022

We have approached some of your peers to gather their thoughts and advice on preparing for a fruitful and successful progression review meeting.

How do you get ready for your review meeting?

  • Laura Hemmingham (Geography PGR rep) - I review the work I have done in the past year, and understand what my main achievements were, how this has led onto new work, and what I have learned from it. If there’s anything that didn’t work or I struggled with, I will make sure to mention this too. 
  • Shanika Ranasinghe (Music PGR rep) - Something that helps me for annual reviews and upgrades is to prepare the paperwork early. As soon as I have one annual review/upgrade, I set up a rough working document for next year's one with all the relevant subheadings copied and pasted across, so I can compile notes for next year's paperwork throughout the year. This makes things less pressurised in the weeks before the review/upgrade, and means I don't forget important milestones and achievements.
  • Adriana Dias (Physics PGR rep) - I usually start preparing for it one month before the viva. We always have to write a report for it which helps set the topics which will be discussed. I do some background reading on those topics and review anything that I'm not confident about. This can entail talking to my supervisor or other collaborators who have always been very happy to help.
  • Oliver Bock-Brown (ISG CDT PGR rep) - In terms of preparing, there’s admittedly some admin, but it helps to keep a very brief log of supervisions throughout the year—just a line about what was covered and agreed—and about the training events you’ve completed. Otherwise it can be a bit of a hassle going back and trying to get supervision and training logs sorted. Also I’d say have a good think about where your project is heading, what you’re aiming to do and how, and write this down in the report. It’s good to have something to talk about, and if you can explain what you’re doing in a clear way, it may help you conceptualise your work better (thinking it through certainly helped me get clearer in my head). Plus it means you’re more likely to get useful questions, I’d imagine.

How do you think review meetings help with yout progress?

  • SR - I used to find annual reviews and upgrade in particular very nerve-wracking but, having been through 7 annual reviews (!) and one upgrade, I know that these meetings are to celebrate my progress and give ideas for further improvement. I have received helpful feedback and even useful book suggestions from staff in different disciplines, and it is really interesting to test out how someone not on my team views/understands my research project and its framing. Annual reviews are also a great opportunity for my supervisory team to all come together and brainstorm ideas with me together: in my last one, we all talked together about potential examiners, which was super-helpful.
  • AD - These meetings are great not only to dispel any fears one may have about the final viva, but also to reflect on the work done the previous year and to get some helpful feedback on what to improve.
  • LH - They help by orientating myself back into my project timeline and provide me with confidence about my progress. They are also a great way to discuss new ideas or next steps of the project. I always leave with new ideas that I hadn’t considered before.

Do you have any tips for a successful review meeting?

  • OB - My top tip would be not to worry too much—I’ve found the upgrade and annual reviews to be good opportunities to get a considered opinion on my project, and also to get some useful pointers. I know others have found them to be similarly helpful.
  • LH - Definitely make sure you can talk about what you’ve been working on recently, and go in prepared with things that you yourself want to discuss – it’s not an exam or even an interview. In my experience it has been a fruitful and enjoyable discussion, so try to relax and enjoy it!
  • AD - I would say the most important thing to think about when preparing for your viva is to think about the "whys". Why are you doing this project? Why are you following this particular procedure? Why are you using these methods and not others? Ultimately, those are the sort of questions they will ask you, so if you head to your viva with an idea of how to answer these questions, everything will run smoothly. Also, I always like to start my viva with a presentation summarising what I have done in the year. I think this really helps easing your brain into answering questions about it.