The majority of your time as a research degree student will be spent in self-directed study, with guidance from your supervisors. Indeed, the ability to conduct your own research and manage your own time accordingly is one of the key skills you will develop during your PhD.
While each degree timetable will vary, dependent on the actual nature of the project, you are expected to fit in with the following broad structure, which coalesces around a number of key milestones.
Two modes of PhD study are accepted within the Institute of Dentistry:
Full-time PhD: usually 3-4 years (max. 4 years)
Part-time PhD: usually 6-7 years (max. 7 years)
A typical PhD structure is as follows (based on the usual full-time mode of study):
Year one: The first year usually includes consolidating the ideas presented in your research proposal, undertaking a literature review and establishing an appropriate methodology for your research. You may also undertake preliminary experiments. You will also be expected to attend 70 hours of training courses over the year, prepare a poster for the annual Institute of Dentistry PhD Day and get involved in journal clubs or other collaborative postgraduate activities.
You will also have to pass the 9 month progression review. See our Progression and Examination section below for more information.
Year two: this year will be spent conducting the major ‘research’ element of your degree. This may take the form of lab-work; gathering statistical data; or some other form of research, dependent on the nature of your project.
You will also have to pass the 18 month progression review. See our Progression and Examination section below for more information.
Year three: this year is predominantly spent analysing the data collected in the second year and writing up the final chapters of your thesis.
You will also have to pass the 30 month progression review.
Year four: Some students may require a fourth year to complete their thesis. Please note that all full-time PhDs must be completed within four years from initial registration (seven years for part-time students).
Writing up status: If you have completed at least two years of study and your supervisors are able to confirm that you will submit within 12 months, you can apply to transfer to ‘writing up’ status. During ‘Writing up’ status QMUL do not charge tuition fees, on the understanding that you will no longer require access to full College resources and supervision. Note that ‘writing up’ can only last for a maximum of 12 months, even if you are a part-time student.
Throughout your degree, you are encouraged to take full advantage of the training opportunities available in the Insitute and QMUL for PhD students. These provide you with both the specific skills necessary to undertake your research and transferable skills that will be of benefit to you in your later career. More information on training is available by contacting DentistryPGR@qmul.ac.uk
Please note that the following is based on a standard full-time PhD of 3-4 years.
Progression is a formal process that permits students to continue to the next stage of their research studies programme.
The first progression point for full-time students occurs between 6 to 9 months after registration. For part-time students, this progression point occurs between 12 to 18 months after registration.
Students are required to submit a report and undergo an oral examination.
The report should be approximately 2,000 words in length and primarily focus on demonstrating a critical understanding of one methodology. In addition, it should include:
There is no requirement that the report will include original data but any method validation that has been carried should be included.
In addition, students should report on the training they have undertaken as part of their Personal Development Planning (70 hours are expected at this stage). Students should also indicate what future training they intend to take.
The report will be considered by a progression panel comprising at least two senior members of academic staff who have been approved by the Institute Director of Graduate Studies.
The examiners appointed to the progression panel will be experienced in supervision and examination. They will normally be internal to QMUL but in a different research centre to that of the student and supervisor.
The examiners should not be the student’s supervisors and cannot examine the student’s final thesis.
The oral examination will start with the student giving a short presentation summarising their project.
The panel will then question the student to assess their understanding of the:
The possible outcomes of the panel are:
If the student is referred, the panel will provide appropriate written feedback.
The student will have one further opportunity to resubmit their report and be re-assessed by the panel.
Transfer to MPhil or de-registration will result in the immediate cessation of any studentship payments and the student will be liable for tuition fees.
The chair of the progression panel will be responsible for ensuring that the student’s SITS record is updated appropriately.
The progression process must be completed by the end of the ninth month of registration. Failure to do this will automatically result in the student being referred.
If a student does not engage with this process it will be considered as the equivalent of failing to attend the examination and the student’s registration will be terminated.
Students are required to complete a progress report 18 months after their initial registration. Students should:
1. Write a report to include either:
This report should be no more than 20,000 words. Its purpose is to demonstrate progress and potential. It is likely that it will form a basis of the first chapter of the thesis which, for most students, will be the literature review. It should not require a long period of absence from lab work/data collection to write this report.
2. Provide evidence of satisfactory participation in doctoral development training (students need to complete 210 hours of training before submitting their thesis).
3. Undergo a viva voce examination by at least two independent assessors (these will normally be the same as the assessors for the 9 month report).
At the viva voce examination the student is expected to give a 15 minute presentation which should include information about all their data collected to date. This will allow assessors to evaluate the likelihood of completion on time.
In addition, the supervisors must each provide a progress report which will be made available to the assessor prior to the viva voce.
Criteria for progression:
In both the submitted written work and the viva examination students must satisfy their assessors that they have:
In order to complete the progression requirements a student should ensure that all the relevant forms are completed:
Completed forms should be sent to the Institute Director of Graduate Studies.
The possible outcomes of the panel are:
If a student is unable to meet the criteria for progression, the independent assessors can recommend a referral. The student will then have a period of up to eight weeks to make up the deficiency. If at the end of this period, the assessors are not satisfied that the student has made the necessary progress then they will recommend termination of registration.
If a student has not passed this progression point after 24 months of full-time registration it is likely that their registration will be terminated as they will have failed to demonstrate the progress necessary for continued registration.
Students are required to complete a report on their progress at the 30 month stage. The report should include the following:
A student who has completed all their experimental work and collected all their data and and who, in the judgement of their supervisor, is in a position to submit their thesis within 12 months can apply to transfer to writing-up status.
The maximum period for writing up is one calendar year irrespective of mode of attendance. In exceptional circumstances the writing up period may be extended. In such circumstances an additional fee will be payable. Writing up status counts as part of the overall period of registration. Writing up status ends on the date of submission of the thesis.
Students must have completed the minimum registration period (2 years fill-time or 4 years part-time) and not exceeded the maximum registration period (4 years full-time or 7 years part-time).
Students with writing up status are not liable for tuition fees. However, students must continue to re-enrol during the period of writing up.
If the student fails to progress at any of their progression points, either outright or after an unsatisfactory referral period, registration should be terminated.
Students may appeal against the termination of registration using the College Appeal Regulations [PDF 35KB].
Final submission and viva voce examination
Your thesis is submitted for examination to the College’s central Research Degrees Office.
Your thesis will be assessed by two independent examiners (normally one internal examiner and one from another university). Examiners normally fulfil the following criteria:
For the full list of criteria for PhD examiners, see the Academic Regulations, p. 159.
You will undergo a viva with these examiners to defend your thesis and will be awarded your PhD upon successful completion of this viva process.
For further information, see the Institute of Medicine and Dentistry’s Guide to Research Examinations