As we come into Spring many PGRs in the College of Arts will be preparing for their annual progress review (APR). This can often feel like a stressful time for PGRs, trying to meet the target of a written submission for their review, while continuing to move forward in their research. In the College of Arts, the APR is often planned for quite early in the academic year. For example, some departments in the School of Critical Studies hold the APRs by the end of April. Each school and department will have their own schedule so keep a look-out for information posted by your administration team on Moodle or via email. This post, along with others in the series on APRs across the UofG colleges, offers some guidance on the review process in the College of Arts.
What is the APR in the College of Arts?
The APR is a chance to reflect on how you have progressed in the past year of your research and an opportunity to maintain momentum into the following year. In the College of Arts, PGRs are required to attend a meeting alongside one of your supervisors and at least one member of academic staff who has not been involved in your day-to-day supervision. You need to submit a formal piece of work reflecting your progress so far, as well as a Self-Review form and the Researchers Development Log. All of these materials are available on the College of Arts Graduate School Moodle and will be sent to you via email before your submission deadline. The formal piece of work can be negotiated with your department, but generally includes a written piece of work, for example, a draft chapter of your thesis.
In your first year APR in the College of Arts you are expected to submit at least 6000 words (or the equivalent in recorded or performance materials). This increases to a total of 20,000 words in year two and finally, by your third year you are expected to demonstrate that you are near completion, or have completed 60% of your thesis. These figures can be slightly different depending on the department however, with some departments setting a lower word limit for any written work with the understanding that you can demonstrate that you have also met the College of Arts requirements at your APR.
The Self-Review form allows you to consider what you have achieved so far, what you plan to accomplish in the next year and how you are going to meet these targets. It is linked with the Researchers’ Development Log in that here you can identify in detail the training you have already undertaken to support your research and any areas where you might require additional support.
How does the APR work?
Generally, your administration team will let you know the dates for submitting your necessary paperwork well in advance to give you ample time to prepare. You are requested to keep these dates free as they are unlikely to be changed. During the meeting, you will have the chance to explain your work and achievements so far, prompted by the member of staff chairing the review. Your supervisor is there to help and if you feel unsure of how to answer any questions then don’t be afraid to ask them for support. While the APR looms heavy in our minds, often they are a positive experience for PGRs. You should leave your APR feeling like your achievements have been recognised, which often makes you feel rejuvenated in your approach to your project. If you need more support to progress effectively over the coming year, then this is your chance to identify those areas that you might be struggling in and come up with a plan to reach your targets.
Remember that the staff involved in your APR are there to support you and their suggestions are intended to help you move forward. The chair of the panel will have read your submitted work and at the end of your APR (or afterwards) will sign that they agree with your proposed plan for the coming year. At this point they also inform you of their recommendation: usually that you are to progress to the next year of research, although occasionally they can suggest that you progress once certain conditions have been met. You also sign this statement, so don’t feel like you have to agree to anything you are uncomfortable with. It is better to take the time to explain your concerns or worries at the APR first and ask questions of the panel.
How can I get the most from my APR?
The APR is intended to be ‘a conversation that allows students to discuss their own research questions, achievements, and any concerns’ (College of Arts APR guidelines via Moodle). You will have the chance to discuss your work in advance of the APR with your supervisors since they have to approve your submitted work and forms in the Supervisors’ Report. They will help to guide you through the process, point out where you are excelling and any potential areas for improvement. By taking the time to go through this with your supervisors you should feel less in the dark about the actual APR.
Try to remember that the panel and the department aren’t trying to get rid of you! They just need to check-in on you to make sure that you are progressing and that you feel supported in your research. Since a lot of us work independently, this can feel terrifying, but if you remember that the staff at levels are on your side, then the APR can actually be a valuable experience and a chance to reflect on your work.
For more detailed information about the APR process read the UofG PGR Code of Practice and check out the information shared by staff on your Moodle site and via email. Don’t put off preparing for the APR, instead try to tackle it head on. You should feel a sense of achievement having completed the necessary work and forms. In fact, these forms often emphasize how much work you actually have accomplished while it can be difficult on a daily basis to see the big picture of how your research is progressing. And even if you feel you need to improve in some areas, then this can be the opportunity to set practical steps with the support of your department, in order to reach these targets.