Reflections on an Upgrade



So the time came, I had handed in my 5000-word upgrade document, and the date had been set for my ‘interview’. The day I had been dreading…


I’d heard positive stories – mainly about the enjoyment one might get from being able to talk about one’s research ideas. I’d also heard horror stories – mainly about crying.

So I didn’t really know what to expect; the only thing I had managed to decipher was that one’s individual interview experience might, just might, depend upon the academics allocated for the interview. Oh.


Imagine my delight then, when my meeting began something like this, “this is not a test, we’re not here to ask you trick questions, it’s a constructive process and we are here to help as much as possible”. PHEW! I had been allocated ‘helpful’ academics, and not the other type….


The meeting was certainly less daunting than I had imagined, and far more informal too – which helped me to relax, and enabled me to answer questions honestly or even say when I wasn’t really sure about the answer. I also felt comfortable and able to ask opinions on my research methods – on reflection, I don’t know if this was an appropriate thing to have done, but I’m trying not to dwell on that bit.


I’m starting to reflect on the meeting as a whole now – I felt slightly flat immediately after, and quite unable to think about it. I think this is probably a reaction to the build-up, the anticipation and the worry of the unknown, and then the knowing that it’s over.


I don’t think I explained myself as well as I could have done, and I don’t think I came across as particularly confident. I tripped up on some of the literature questions; my mind went blank, which I am annoyed about. However, I was able to explain the parts of my upgrade doc that I wasn’t happy with, and how I’d improve it. I was also able to talk about my thoughts on improving my chapter structures and even re-thinking part of my methods plan. I think the ability to talk about this was very much enabled by the general feeling of the meeting, and me being made to feel comfortable and not at all intimidated by the situation.


I just wish I didn’t sound so ‘bumbly’, didn’t repeat myself so much, and had remembered more key points of the literature to mention. I don’t think I presented myself or my idea very well, this annoys me on a personal level because I don’t like feeling I’ve come across as a bumbling idiot in front of people I respect. I almost (and don’t quote me on this) feel like I want the opportunity to re-do the interview once my amendments have been made…

However, I’m sure this feeling will pass!