Each year, the School of Social Sciences convenes for an annual progress review of each Postgraduate Research candidate. In keeping with Graduate Research and Supervision (GRS) policy, the School appoints a panel including the Postgraduate Research Co-ordinator and one other member of the School (the “expert reader”). The candidate’s supervisor and co-supervisor (or joint-supervisor) are also expected to attend the annual progress review, but they are not members of the panel.

At UNSW, the Annual Progress Review is a condition of continued enrolment in all research degrees (Masters and PhD). They are designed to help you complete your research degree on time. To ensure you’re well prepared, our staff provide you with collegial quality feedback on your research. They also aim to identify and remedy any problems that may be hindering the progress of your work. For this reason, most candidates find the experience exciting and rewarding rather than ‘testing.’

Key requirements for annual progress reviews

For your review, you’re required to complete the following:

  1. submit a written paper and related documents to the review panel
  2. complete an online Annual Progress Review form
  3. attend a review meeting to present an oral report on your research

Here are further details on each component of the review:

1. Submission of written papers for the review

PhD candidates are expected to submit a 7,000-word paper, and MA (Research) candidates are expected to submit a 5,000-word paper.

In addition, the Annual Progress Review panel requires:

  • a 350 word abstract of your thesis
  • a chapter outline
  • timeline for completion.

First (‘Confirmation’) reviews are folded into your research proposal – see below. Please note that failure to produce all the above items may result in a marginal or unsatisfactory outcome.

Graduate Research Information System

Submit all the above documentation via the Graduate Research Information System (GRIS) (see below.) However, should you encounter any technical difficulties (or delays) in uploading your documents on the online review form system, please email them to our Postgraduate Administrator.

Your documents will be assessed by the review panel before your presentation, so ensure you supply all documentation one week ahead of your scheduled review. Failure to do so is likely to result in a marginal or unsatisfactory outcome.

If you’re in the first year of your candidature and are undergoing your first annual review, your paper should take the form of a Research Proposal. The review is based on the “Framework for Research Proposal” as demonstrated below. To structure your proposal, use the listed sub-headings. Your supervisor will provide you with a brief report after the review

Second or Third Annual Progress Review

If this is your second or third review, your paper should be in the form of a polished sample chapter of your thesis with references. Your supervisor will advise you on this requirement, and it may be subject to their discretion. Candidates in the later years of their candidature will be expected to demonstrate substantial progress towards completion of their thesis.

If you submit your thesis before the review date, there will be no need for a review. Alternatively, if you have handed a completed final draft to your supervisor, the review may be waived.

Part-Time Candidates

Every year, part-time candidates are required to undergo a review. Candidates are encouraged to produce their proposal at the first review but are not obliged to do so.

Candidates are required to submit written content every year, but this will be guided by the milestones agreed at the previous review.

In place of a review in absentia, part-time PhD students are required to undertake a 30-minute review (provided their previous review had not resulted in an unsatisfactory or marginal). In this shortened review, you will only make a brief statement on your progress. The panel will only comprise the Postgraduate Research Co-ordinator, expert reader and the main supervisor.

2. Progress review form (online)

Candidates are required to complete and update their details on GRIS. This system provides students with the opportunity to reflect on their progress over the year.

It’s your responsibility to complete the student sections of the online Progress Review form as per the instructions below. Please upload your proposal or written papers as one consolidated document, preferably as a PDF.

Once you’ve submitted your comments via the online GRIS, your supervisor will be given access to complete their section. Please ensure that your supervisor has ample time to complete their section to avoid late submission of your material.

3. Review meeting

First Annual Progress Review

If this is your first review and you’re presenting a proposal, your review meeting will take approximately one hour and will consist of the following:

10-minute oral presentation by the candidate

This presentation should include:

  • a concise summary of your thesis project and its original argument
  • a summary of the research you have conducted so far
  • an indication of the current state of your research
  • a chapter outline
  • a timeline for the completion of your thesis.

You should also mention any difficulties that you’re experiencing. Please speak from notes for this presentation rather than reading a written paper.

10-15-minute feedback from the review panel

This feedback will include responses to your written paper, to your oral presentation and to any problems that you raise. The Postgraduate Research Co-ordinator, expert reader and your supervisors, will discuss the general progress of your candidature. Also, be prepared to answer any questions that the panel may have about your research project.

20-35 minutes of 'house-keeping'

This section of the review involves a ‘musical chairs’ process and consists of four distinct phases. During the first phase, both the candidate and supervisors leave the room to allow the Postgraduate Research Co-ordinator and expert reader to discuss the candidate’s progress privately. In the following phase, the candidate re-enters the room (but not their supervisors) to discuss their supervisory relationship with the Postgraduate Research Co-ordinator and expert reader.

The School is committed to monitoring the supervisory process, so if you have any concerns or issues, please take this opportunity to do so. Alternatively, if you have any issues you'd like to raise before the meeting, please contact the Postgraduate Research Co-ordinator.

This process is then reversed when the candidate leaves the room (third phase), and the supervisors discuss the candidate’s progress with the panel briefly. In the fourth and final phase, the candidate re-enters the room again to be informed whether their progress is 'satisfactory,' ‘marginal’ or 'unsatisfactory'.

The outcome of the Annual Progress Review is ‘published’ to candidates (via GRIS) after review and along with agreed milestones for the forthcoming year. If your progress is not deemed ‘satisfactory,’ a follow-up review is recommended for reassessment in 3-6 months. The panel will set clear goals to be met by the follow-up review date.

Second or third annual progress review

If this is your second or third review, the review meeting may take less time than the first. It will consist of the following:

10-minute oral presentation by the candidate

This presentation should include or reference:

  • a concise summary of your thesis project and its original argument
  • a summary of the research you have conducted so far
  • an indication of the current state of your research
  • a chapter outline
  • a timeline for the completion of your thesis

During this presentation, you should also mention any difficulties that you’re experiencing. Also, please speak from notes for this presentation rather than reading a written paper.

10 minutes feedback from the review panel.

This feedback will include responses to your written chapter, to your oral presentation and to any problems that you raise. The panel will discuss the general progress of your candidature. Please be prepared to answer any questions that the panel and your supervisors may have concerning your progress.

10-25 minutes of 'house-keeping'

This section of the review involves a ‘musical chairs’ process and consists of four distinct phases. In the first phase, both the candidate and their supervisors leave the room to allow the Postgraduate Research Co-ordinator and the expert reader discuss the candidate’s progress privately.

In the following phase, the candidate re-enters the room (but not their supervisors) and discuss their supervisory relationship with the Postgraduate Research Co-ordinator and expert reader. The School is committed to monitoring the supervisory process, so if you have any concerns or issues, please take this opportunity to do so (alternatively, if you have any issues you would like to raise before the meeting, please contact the Postgraduate Research Co-ordinator).

This process is then reversed when the candidate leaves the room (third phase), and the supervisors have the opportunity to discuss the candidate’s progress with the panel. In the fourth and final phase, the candidate re-enters the room again and is informed whether their progress has been 'satisfactory,' ‘marginal’ or 'unsatisfactory'.

The outcome of the Annual Progress Report is ‘published’ to you (via GRIS) after review along with agreed goals/milestones for the forthcoming year. If your progress is not deemed ‘satisfactory,’ a follow-up review will be recommended for reassessment in 3-6 months. The panel will set clear goals to be met by the follow-up review date.

Further Notes for Oral Presentations

To ensure you receive the best results on your review presentation, consider the following:

  • Speak naturally to your project and use limited notes
  • Do not use PowerPoint

Note: The rooms used for Annual Progress Reviews are not equipped for audio-visual presentations, and PowerPoint presentations can easily cause delays. As you’re presenting to a very small group, PowerPoint is redundant. On the review day, you may provide the panel with hardcopy notes. However, even these are not essential as the panel will have read your written documents.

Appendix

Framework for Research Proposal for MA (Research), MSW (Research) and PhD candidates preparing for their first Annual Review

Review panels appreciate that not all research proposals will necessarily follow the traditional research report format that the headings below draw on. Some theses may be more essayistic in design, for example. However, in a multi-disciplinary school, it’s important that all candidates can speak to these classical expectations in some appropriate form and that the format of a proposal should be intelligible to an academic outside the candidate's immediate area of expertise.

The recommended research proposal framework is as follows:

  • Title: What title reflects the focus of your research? (Deciding on a title helps you to refine and direct your research. Try to keep it short but relatively descriptive. A title and sub-title may help your focus).
  • Rationale/ Research Aims: What is your research about, why is it important, and what original argument do you wish to make in your thesis?
  • Research Questions: What questions will you investigate in your research? What problems or issues will you address?
  • Literature Review: What have other people said about the topic? What are the major assumptions and ongoing debates which organise scholarship on this topic? What is the gap in existing knowledge which you have identified and why does this gap need to be filled? What is the significance and originality of your research project in relation to previous work in your field?
  • Research Approach: This is another term for methodology. What theoretical, analytical or scholarly approach or method have you chosen to help you conduct your research and analyse your findings? Why this one?
  • A Provisional Timeline: What timeline have you planned for the conduct of your research?
  • Ethical Considerations: (Required by the Research Code of Conduct). Are there any ethical issues arising from your research (such as the use of sacred or culturally sensitive artifacts, texts, names, or knowledge) and how will you deal with these issues?
  • Anticipated Problems: Can you anticipate any problems or constraints in undertaking your research?
  • A Provisional Chapter Outline: How many chapters? What are their titles? Most importantly, how does each chapter develop the argument of the thesis?
  • Draft Introduction: A 2000-3000 introduction to the issues covered in the thesis. This is part of the overall 5000 (MA) or 7000 (PhD) word limit.
  • References: The Bibliography of your Literature Review plus a range of primary and secondary sources.
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