Onderzoeksplan

There are several documents containing information about writing a research plan. For example, in “Elements of a proposal” by Professor Dr. Frank Pajares the various elements of a research project are pointed out. In addition, the Mansholt Graduate School of Social Sciences of Wageningen University and Research Centre (WUR) have prepared an excellent document which provides advice and guidance on preparing a research proposal for a PhD.

Usually, a research plan / proposal is necessary when you want to work in science after your promotion. The article “Writing a Research Plan” by Jim Austin, Editor of Science Careers, provides a nice glimpse into what you can do to have your plan approved by your project evaluators. Another article with tips on writing a research plan is “How to write a research proposal” and can be found here. Finally, the article “On the Art of Writing Proposals” of Adam Przeworski and Frank Salomon gives tips and tricks to write a successful research proposals in the social sciences.

The articles above all provide tips and tricks in their own way, to successfully write a research plan. It is important to choose the elements that are applicable to you. It is important that you ensure that a research plan is completed before you actually start conducting the research. Before you begin, carefully think about the steps to follow. The documents above can give you some direction. Just as important, if not more important, is that you discuss your research proposal with your supervisor (s) and other colleagues.

Good luck!

Wat nu?

When you have (almost) finished your PhD, it is important to ask yourself: “Do I want to continue in academia or do I want to work outside of the academic world?” To avoid unpleasant surprises it is wise to answer this question during your PhD project, to enhance your chances in (one of) the two worlds.

Career Prospects
Research has shown that 80% of the PhD candidates aspire a career in science after their promotion. However, for only 20% of all doctoral students an appointment at the university is a possibility, another 10% is in research-related positions outside the university. The remaining 70% will end in positions in business, or for the government.

The competition for an appointment at the university after the promotion is huge! Only a few PhD candidates directly get offered an appointment at the university. The most logical step is to apply for a post-doc position. This is a temporary position for 2-4 years, focused on a specific research topic. Besides applying for a post-doc feature it is possible to write a grant application, and thus create your own appointment. For beginning doctorates the most common grants are the Rubicon, to gain experience to another (foreign) institution, and the VENI, where you do a proposal for post-doctoral research. Also for grants, the competition is fierce. For more information check out the jobs and funding pages or visit the NWO Talent Day.

In addition to a career in science, a career outside science an option after the promotion. For example, you can think of policy positions in government and management and consulting positions in business. If you already know you want to continue in business during your promotion, it helps you to orientate during your PhD project, and where possible expand your network. Many companies in the Netherlands do not immediately see the added value of a doctoral degree, above a master’s degree. However, remember that PhD candidates generally have excellent analytical and organizational skills and have learned to present their research. You did successfully complete a complex project!

That most PhD students end up well, is illustrated by the fact that of the 60,000 doctorates in the Netherlands in the period 2007/2010, more than 80 percent have a job at a scientific level. There is also a higher employment rate among PhD’s, they’re more often working full-time than non-PhDs. For more information: CBS.

Read more about career opportunities and take a look at the job sites.

My contract expires, but my thesis is not finished yet!
At the time that your appointment expires, you’ll naturally want that your thesis is finished. Sometimes, however, this is not the case. Are you entitled to benefits? And can you continue working on your thesis? If your contract expires or if you get fired, you would be eligible for unemployment benefits or BW (above statutory unemployment benefit). However, in order for a payment to qualify, you are not allowed to continue to work on your dissertation while you are unemployed. You must be available for other work, registered with the employment service (CWI) and actively apply for jobs. If you continue working on your thesis, it is assumed that you do work and a reward is expected, regardless of whether the work is paid or not. You do not qualify under the criteria in order to receive a benefit. If after your discharge, you spent a portion of your time on unpaid work, you may qualify for partial unemployment benefits. You should be unemployed for at least five hours. You’ll need to register every month whether you have done paid or unpaid work performed and for how many hours. Writing your thesis is hereby included. If you do not specify working on your thesis, this is treated as fraud. The finishing of your dissertation during your period in the WW is not as obvious as many supervisors and counselors would have you think. For more information: UWV.

Tips voor promovendi

Take the initiative!

Take the initiative regarding your research but also regarding your supervision. You can solve many things. Try to find a golden mean if your supervisor and you don’t have the same goals regarding theories or methods. Suggest for example to compare these theories or methods. If your supervisor still decides to purely work on his own ideas, than just remember that he is the most experienced one of you two.

Perhaps you can spend some text of the discussion part of your theses to the advantages and disadvantages of both theories or methods. You might suggest trying some other methods in future research.

If you come in conflict with your supervisor, ask yourself the question whether you want to stay with your supervisor or if you want to look for a new one. Often, if a PhD candidate and a professor dispute concerning science, the Professor’s opinion is put before that of the PhD candidate. If you come in conflict with your daily supervisor you can ask your promotor if there’s someone else to supervise you. Also consider to ask for a third opinion, for example of a confidential counselor, a PhD coordinator etc.

Write, write, write

An important recommendation that has been given by PhD candidates of the research school of communication (NESCoR) is to start writing as soon as possible. Discussion can be stimulated by a draft and this will probably ameliorate the text. Writing articles increases your value on the scientific labor market. 

Make sure that you receive enough supervision/ support

If you don’t receive enough supervision, try to find more supervisors (a post-doc that is working in the same field for example). He/she can be your daily supervisor or co promotor. The advantage of a postdoc is that he/she knows the field and knows your position because he/she has also been a PhD candidate (recently).

Another option is to assembly a supervision committee. Try to find more people that are working on the same subject or have expertise on relevant domains. Ask your supervisor what he thinks of your idea and ask him whom he recommends. Send the members of the supervision committee a letter with the procedures of the committee. For example: at least one meeting per year is set up and draft articles need to be reviewed by all members. Note that the chance of disagreement between the members rises if the number of members increases. Also, the time of consultation increases.

Visit conferences

Try to present (a part of) your research at a scientific conference. The comments that you receive there might be fruitful and can be very stimulating.

Courses

Try to visit some relevant courses, for example at your research school, but also more general courses at other research schools, like project planning, scientific writing, ‘Writing English for Publications’ or teaching.

Local PhD candidates representative (PO)

Contact the local representatives, they can tell you what is happening in the field, and you can share your experiences with them.

Research school and Graduate Schools
Often, the PhD candidate is automatically enrolled in a research school or a graduate school at the start of the PhD trajectory. This can have many advantages. Research schools often offer courses and sometimes they possess funding for courses and conferences. In some cases, they also offer a bonus if the theses is defended in less than four years.

In the event that a PhD candidate is not enrolled automatically, it is recommended to enroll anyways. It is advised to ask your supervisors’ approval first.

Job evaluation conversation

Ask your supervisor for these job evaluation conversations. Try to discuss your expectations, your difficulties, your questions regarding your research and other fulfillments of the PhD trajectory. It is also recommended to prepare a schedule of your trajectory and to adapt it to the latest changes. Always keep copies of these schedules.

Agreements regarding authorships

Try to make agreements regarding the authorships even before you’ve started writing (see Fine & Kurdek, 1993). Often, the first author is the one that has written the draft version of the article and that has put the most effort in the article. If your data is used, you should be at least co-author. Fine & Kurdek (1993) indicate that the position of someone does not automatically justify a high position on a paper. Normally, the PhD candidate is first author if the article is based on the PhD research of the candidate. Also see the guidelines of the ethical committee of the American Psychological Association (1983).

Read the PhD regulations

Read these regulations as soon as possible. These regulations tell you which requirements you should meet before you’re allowed to start with the trajectory, which rules you have to follow and the procedure of the theses defense.

Correspondence

Keep a copy of the correspondence with your supervisor/promotor. Create for example a directory in your mailbox purely for this correspondence.

Vacatures

Zoeken naar een promotieplaats begint met het aanboren van het netwerk dat reeds tot je beschikking staat. Hoewel het PNN zich inzet dat promotieplaatsen ingevuld worden aan de hand van the Code of Conduct for the Recruitment of Researchers van de Europese Commissie en dat alle posities volgens open, objectieve en openbare procedures ingevuld worden, blijkt de praktijk weerbarstig. Dat betekent dat veel promotieplaatsen worden gevuld via het netwerk van de hoogleraar. Laat dus aan zoveel mogelijk academici weten dat je graag wil promoveren.

Naast netwerken bestaan er de mogelijkheid op zoek te gaan naar een promotieplek buiten je netwerk. Dit kan via kranten, magazines (zoals van Nobiles) en internet.

Ten slotte zijn er natuurlijk verschillende websites die vacatures aanbieden voor promotietrajecten. Hieronder de meest bekende:

Wetenschappelijk (Nederland)
http://www.academictransfer.nl

http://www.euraxess.nl
http://www.pcdi.nl

Wetenschappelijk (Europa)
http://www.euraxess.eu
http://www.daad.de/deutschland/index.en.html
http://www.qreer.com

Wetenschappelijk (Mondiaal)
http://www.careeredu.eu
http://www.nature.com/naturejobs/index.html
http://sciencecareers.sciencemag.org
http://www.phdjobs.com

Algemeen (Nederland)
http://www.nobiles.nl

Ook de verschillende sites van de universiteiten en medisch centra hebben vacatures voor promotieplaatsen. Naast de verschillende universiteiten bestaan er vele onderzoeksscholen en graduate schools die op hun eigen websites vacatures plaatsen voor wetenschappelijk personeel.

Wanneer je op zoek wil naar promotieplaatsen buiten Nederland kun je ook kijken op http://www.gradschools.com. Op deze site vind je links naar velerlei graduate en PhD-programma’s in de hele wereld. Datzelfde geldt voor http://www.internationalgraduate.net.

OP Academic Transfer vind je een overzicht van de meest recente PhD posities. Ook kun je daar terecht voor veel Postdoc posities.

Onderzoeksscholen

A large number of the PhD programs in the Netherlands is part of a national graduate school. These, often inter-university, organizations offer domain-specific courses to PhD students, facilitating knowledge exchange and provide an external supervisor who can mediate in the case of problems during the PhD program. Moreover, these graduate schools are ideally suited to provide potential candidates with an overview of the options within the Dutch academic world, enabling young talent to choose a PhD topic and supervisor. PNN advocates in this charter for maintaining the important role for existing national graduate schools.

The graduate schools in the Netherlands have been reviewed by  the Accreditation Commission of Graduate Schools (ECOS) of the KNAW every six years since 1992. An overview of the national graduate schools in the Netherlands can be found on the website of ECOS.

All recognized graduate schools

Not all fields have a national umbrella organization. In this case, the organization of the PhD program lies in the hands of a local graduate school entirely. For these organizations, please refer to the websites of the universities.

As a starting point for a search for graduate schools abroad, take a look at the following websites:
www.gradschools.com
www.internationalgraduate.net