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First Year Report

Under the University Statutes and Ordinances all PhD students are provisionally registered (NOTAF) until they have undertaken a formal assessment at the end of their first year. In the Department of Psychology the assessment takes place after nine months of full-time study, or the part-time equivalent.

The assessment is designed to ensure that students are progressing satisfactorily and to address any problems with progress or the research project at a relatively early stage. It is not just a formality, and students must successfully complete the process in order to be registered for the PhD. Factors considered as part of the assessment include: the student's ability and progress; suitability of the student's project for a PhD; feasibility of achieving the projected aims within the three year period; and the academic suitability of the project in relationship to the requirements for the PhD Degree.

Submission Date

The First Year Report is due by the 30 June for all full-time students admitted in the preceding Michaelmas term (for Lent Starters the submission date is 30 September and for Easter starters 4 January).  Any concerns about the time-frame should be discussed with your supervisor (and, if necessary, with the Director of Postgraduate Education) as early as possible.

Before submission of the first year report, the supervisor should decide whom to appoint as examiners and make arrangements.  One examiner should be the student's Postgraduate Advisor, but if this is not appropriate (perhaps because the advisor has been involved in the student's PhD research), the examiner should be internal (within the department - perhaps, where appropriate, within the research group, but not the supervisor). The other examiner must be external (not within the research group but either within the Psychology department or a relevant expert in a related Cambridge department).

The viva should take place within one month of submission of the First Year Report.  Once the examination arrangements are agreed, please inform the Postgraduate Administrator of the names of the examiners and the agreed date for the viva.

Prior to submission of the First Year Report, supervisors would normally be expected to comment once on a draft. The final version of the First Year Report should be signed by the supervisor on the front page, ONE hard copy of the report and the duly completed Personal Progress Logbook (also signed off by the supervisor) should be submitted to the Postgraduate Administrator in the Postgraduate Office. Please also submit a PDF copy to the Postgraduate Administrator for our records, the report is sent to the examiners electronically.

Report Guidelines

Students should prepare a written report of between 4,000 and 6,000 words (excluding footnotes, references, etc.). The report should be in standard scientific format, and include the following:

Introduction: describe the background and rationale of the project. In this students should refer to important papers (but are not expected to write a comprehensive review). Students should take care to assess the previous literature as well as describe it, and to cite references correctly.

Methods: describe methods used – what you have done (so far) and how you have done it.

Results: this section should include details of any results you have obtained during the first year's work. Students should not be concerned if they have few results - it is not uncommon for PhD projects to produce few results in the first year.

Discussion: students should include in this section a discussion (in a balanced and critical way) of what their work shows so far.

Future Plans: this important section should describe the student's plans for further work leading to completion of the project.

Timeline: students should include a timeline indicating how they plan to structure the remainder of their degree in terms of research and the ultimate production of their thesis.

Style and Format

• Typescript on A4 paper, with 1.5 spaced type
• Double sided, with pages numbered
• Easily readable font – minimum size of 11pt (12pt preferred) and 10pt for footnotes.
• Title page must include the candidate’s full name, the degree for which they are registered, name of supervisor, supervisor’s signature indicating that they have approved the report, full title of the dissertation, word count and the candidate’s signature and date.

Students should remember that this constitutes a formal assessment as part of their PhD. Students should take care to familiarise themselves with the University’s policy on plagiarism.

Examination Procedure

The First Year Report should be examined within one month of submission.  The two examiners must each provide independent written reports on the First Year Report prior to the viva. This must be followed by a formal oral examination of up to one hour with the student.  Following the oral examination the two examiners must provide a joint viva report on their combined opinion of the student’s written report and performance in the oral examination which must explicitly address the student’s future plans as well as the progress made since admission.  This certification should also include an assessment of whether the examiners think the student has met the requirements for registration to the PhD. All examiners reports should be submitted to the Postgraduate Administrator

Finally, the supervisor must write an independent report of the student’s progress to date, future plans, and indicate whether he or she believes that the student has demonstrated sufficient progress to be registered for the PhD.

The examiners’ independent reports and joint certification, together with the supervisor’s written report are considered by the Postgraduate Education Committee.  The Postgraduate Education Committee will then submit an overall recommendation to the Degree Committee.  At this point a student's registration status will change from ‘NOTAF’ (not at first registered) to PhD. 

If the examiners and/or supervisor do not believe that a student has met the academic level required to be registered for the PhD, then the supervisor will discuss this with the student, and indicate how the student needs to improve their first year report. Students will normally be able to make corrections to the report and re-submit it once.  

Log Book

The Logbook serves as a record of the student’s transferable skills training participation and attainment as well as a track record of meetings with the Supervisor. Examiners may wish to discuss training undertaken and suggest future training needs.

See also:

Second and Third Year Report