20 June 2012
By Jonathan Branney
I’ve been a little quiet on the What’s Up Doc blog of late and the title of this blog will suggest to you why. When initially starting a PhD at Bournemouth University you register first for an MPhil then, 18 months in (if full-time) you are required to submit an MPhil transfer document, essentially a mini-thesis of what you’ve done so far (10,000). If your work so far is considered of a sufficient standard you are then given a pat on the back and you become ‘properly’ registered for a PhD; if it is nearly good enough you can re-submit, if it looks like you are unlikely to successfully complete what is required for a PhD but deemed to be of reasonable standard you might progress to an MPhil, and if it’s not good enough for that, you are politely shown the door.
When I first registered as a postgrad student I did not like the idea of this at all. It just seemed like a load of extra and unnecessary work on top of an already fast-filling schedule, but now, I am entirely grateful for it. Put simply, I did not fully appreciate what I was getting myself in for until I wrote and (glad to report) successfully defended my MPhil transfer. To put it a different way, it forced me sharply up the learning curve from a Masters to a PhD standard of working, to another level of methodological rigour and critical analysis. Talk about steep learning curve! But now I’m at the top of that curve (another blind summit I suspect really) I can survey the horizon of what remains to be done to get a PhD (the tears in my eyes are because of the wind at this altitude, honest!) with a strong sense of clarity. I can now really see where I need to go, how to get there, and how to plan that this happens successfully. This happened only through this process of doing, and I’m not sure how long this would have taken me if I hadn’t had this initial goal to achieve. This process also means I’ve already got some writing at PhD standard which can be used in the final thesis which will hopefully take away some of the pressures towards the end (who am I kidding?!)
What are your thoughts or experiences of doing an MPhil transfer? Perhaps you are much better organised than me and don’t think this is necessary? Have you found it useful like I have? Are there parallels with a PhD based on publications?