PhD life: presenting my ‘half year report’

One of the things that is deemed characteristic for our group by our professor is the system of ‘half year reports’. These reports are written by PhD students and are a description of what has been done so far and what is planned for the months to come. After being sent around to the group on Thursday, the report is presented and discussed during the regular Monday morning meeting.

Last week it was my turn. I presented my second half year report, describing the work I have done the past 1,5 years. Like last time, starting to write the report was hard. At first it seemed like I had not achieved anything in the past couple of months and whatever I had done, was hard to connect and write up in one ‘flowing’ text.

Writing the report forced me to think about the bigger picture of my work. It forced me to get an overview of the work I have done so far and the work that I want to do in the future. Once I had finished the report, I felt better about all of this already. Simply taking the time to think helped in itself. With the usual nagging fear of sending around something containing mistakes I then sent it off to the rest of the group.

The following Monday I presented my work. Like always, I liked presenting my research and enjoyed answering the questions. Afterwards, it was time to discuss my report with the staff members. During this discussion the focus is mostly on the lesser parts of the research. This makes sense, because that is where I can improve, but it also resulted in a not all too satisfied feeling afterwards.

Good thing that I had a meeting with my two supervisors the following Friday. It had been a while since we had been together, because the professor had been on sabbatical for 4 months. After more than 1.5 hours of meeting time, I left my professor’s office feeling much better. I was back on track. We had decided on what was important and what was not and thought of some new experiments in the meanwhile.

It still feels like I have not made enough headway, but I guess I will just have to believe the response everyone always gives me when I tell them that: the first year is for learning how to do research on your own, the second to get that research going, the third to get your results and the fourth to write it up. With that scheme in mind, I am still on track and ready to get those results sometime soon.

1 thought on “PhD life: presenting my ‘half year report’”

  1. When I started my PhD (40 years ago!!), writing half-year reports was not common practice. Science you did on your own. Actually, I kept experimenting and calculating with my model for almost two years until on one very bad day I found out I was at more or less the same point where I had started from two years earlier. I wish we had the habit of writing half-year reports back then. Then, this ‘circling-around’ would not have happened. So, be happy with your half-year reports! It can prevent you from entering dead-end streets.

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