Structure of the PhD trajectory

Phase 1: the start of your PhD trajectory

As with many things, the (Dutch) old saying also applies to a PhD: 'a good start is half the battle'. A common answer to the question in which period the most delays are encountered is: in the first year. This can often be attributed to the fact that the objective of the research is not always clear to the PhD candidate. Formulating a research goal and plan or a novice PhD candidate is a very difficult task. As a consequence, the PhD candidate, due to a lack of knowledge, may not see the forest for the trees and not know where to start. Providing a research goal offers the necessary support at the start, which of course does not mean that this objective cannot be adjusted by the PhD candidate over time. A particular problem to note is that when there is a co-supervisor, attention must be paid to the fact that both supervisors do not always have the same objective in mind and may not always agree. Therefore, during the first discussion with the supervisor or daily supervisor, it is important to make clear agreements and discuss expectations. In the first year Training and Supervision plan (TSP) must also be established, in which you record what courses you will take and how (in broad terms) the thesis will look like. This TSP is discussed annually within the team of supervisors and the PhD candidate. At the beginning, a PhD candidate needs relatively short conversations with the supervisor or daily supervisor to find out if the chosen direction is still correct. In this context, regular substantive consultation with colleagues is also indispensable. In general, work discussions within a research group are highly appreciated.

Phase 2: second and third year - publications

There is nothing better for keeping an overview of a PhD project than describing the research question and the results. Writing forces you to structure problems clearly and mercilessly exposes gaps in results. The second and third year should be used to capture a portion of the results in one or two draft chapters of the dissertation. This way, the supervisor gets a good idea of the writing skills of the PhD student and can give additional guidance well in advance if necessary. By forcing the PhD student to write, problems such as writer's blocks during the writing phase can be avoided and unexpected important questions that need to be answered for the thesis can be addressed.

End of Phase 2: end of the third year - determining the time of the PhD defense

At the end of the third year, both the PhD student and supervisor should have a very clear picture of the status of the research. This should be expressed in a detailed plan for the final research period. At this point, it should be determined whether the PhD defense can be completed within the set year or whether some extra time is needed. This has the advantage that the PhD student knows exactly what still needs to be done and within what timeframe.

Phase 3: the writing phase

If the above steps have been followed accurately, the final phase should be clearly defined and probably consists of tying up loose ends and writing the draft dissertation. In this phase, the planning should be closely monitored during discussions between the PhD candidate and supervisor. Of course, the goal is to end phase 3 with the defense of the dissertation.

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