Monitoring & RSMG
Monthly supervision records (GRS2)
Once a month, you need to complete a GRS2 form, which is a brief record of your progress and supervision for the month. From 1 May 2018 the form must be filled in online, through the my.bham portal. (For supervisors: your access is through the "my.teaching" tab.)
This is a useful record of what you have been doing each month, and what discussions you have had with your supervisor, so you are advised to keep a copy.
The smoothest way to complete it will normally be for the student to completes part A before a chosen supervision, then together you complete the rest of the form during the supervision. That way student and supervisor both know it has been done.
You and your supervisor will receive email reminders from online system to do this.
As a rough guide to what the form looks like, here is the obsolete paper form.
You should continue to submit GRS2s until you have completely finished your studies - including writing up, submission, viva, corrections and final approval.
In the later stages, some of those events count as contact points in their own right. For the months when they occur, you say what the event was in your part A, and then your supervisor confirms it by ticking a box in their part B.
Your thesis group are a group who include not only your supervisor (or supervisors) but additional members whom you can consult if necessary. It should normally have four members:
- your supervisor;
- an RSMG rep, an experienced member of staff who will report to RSMG on your progress;
- at least one staff member who is reasonably familiar with your research field.
Sometimes there might be reasons for having a fifth person, for example an industrial supervisor. Typically, your supervisor will be able to offer some advice about appropriate members of your thesis group.
You choose your thesis group within 4 weeks of your start, using an RSMG1 form which you submit via Canvas:
You will then be given a schedule of your thesis group meetings. These form the most important part of your interaction with your thesis group. Twice a year (or less frequently if you are part time) you will:
- write a written report of your progress, and submit it via Canvas, where your Thesis Group can access it.
- arrange a thesis group meeting where you discuss it with them;
- together fill in an RSMG form that you will submit via Canvas.
The RSMG form, possibly with further comments from your RSMG rep, will go to RSMG, who will discuss your progress at their next meeting.
Sometimes, because of unavailablility of Thesis Group members, Thesis Group meetings get delayed beyond the RSMG meeting. If you can't avoid that, tell the Research Students Tutor. RSMG will be more sympathetic if you at least submitted your progress report by the scheduled due date.
Thesis group meetings when you are writing up
When you are writing up, thesis group meeting are not always necessary and a different kind of report is used.
The University code of practice requires the Head of School to be responsible for monitoring the progress of each research student and ensuring adequate supervision. There are many ways in which this could be done: the School of Computer Science uses the method of Thesis Groups which report to a committee called the Research Students Monitoring Group - usually called the "RSMG" for short. This is a small group of senior staff who consider the progress of all research students and their supervision, giving advice and encouragement when needed. It meets three times a year (November, May and September), and is chaired by the Research Students Tutor.
The RSMG consists of a number of members of staff who bring a variety of skills to the group. It tries to have a reasonable coverage of the research areas of the School and each member has a lot of experience of supervising research students - usually both in this School and in other universities and in other countries. RSMG meetings are usually short. Each meeting receives a Thesis Group report form giving comments by the thesis group (including any comments made by the research student). Usually only a few students are discussed individually for any length of time with the group contributing ideas to help student and supervisor through a difficulty. Most thesis group forms show that the research student is making satisfactory progress (or better).
At first sight, it may seem strange that the RSMG doesn't spend more time discussing each research student. But the reason is obvious. The student's work and progress has been thoroughly discussed in the thesis group meeting. Your thesis group will give you much more attention than any single central committee could do. The RSMG receive not only the RSMG form but also comments from your RSMG rep on your thesis group meeting and progress.
We feel that Thesis Groups give many advantages, and this is why we have used them continually since 1992. Some of the advantages we feel strongly about are:
Dissemination of good supervision practice
Staff see a variety of supervision styles and can see what the best supervision can achieve. Equally, they can assess whether their own supervision is achieving the kinds of results that other people achieve.
Structuring research students' progress
It is very easy to feel isolated as a research student. The structure of the reports and the common experience of research students in writing and talking about reports allows students to see a progression in their work and assess their achievement at regular intervals.
Communication between research students and staff
Thesis groups are a point at which ideas can be spread beyond the student and their supervisor. Students feel more integrated into the School and supervisors get more opportunities to share the excitement of having research students around.
Students get practise in report writing and presenting their work orally
One goal of all research students is to write their work up for a research degree and to present it in a viva. Thesis group reports give a lot of practise at writing and at answering questions in a viva-like situation.
Frequently Asked Questions
- How is my progress monitored?
- How do I know when my progress will be discussed?
- What do I have to do?
- How do I choose my Thesis Group?
- How do I organize a Thesis Group meeting?
- What is a progress report?
- What is a Thesis Proposal?
- Can I delay my Thesis Group meeting because ...?
- What do I do if I have problems with a Thesis Group or a meeting?
- How does the system work for other degrees, such as MRes?
- I've got TLA overload. What do the abbreviations mean?
Your progress is considered at RSMG meetings, normally twice each year. Your RSMG rep may be at the meeting, and in any case may report on your progress based on your most recent Thesis Group meeting.
After the RSMG meeting you will receive a feedback letter to inform you of RSMG's conclusions.
As soon as you return your RSMG1 form choosing your Thesis Group, you will be sent a timetable of when you should hold your Thesis Group meetings and which RSMG meetings will discuss your progress. At the same time, you will also be sent the report forms that you will need for your Thesis Group meetings.
First of all, you need to know what is due and when. You, the student, are responsible for organizing the Thesis Group process. If the RSMG meeting comes and your RSMG rep cannot give an account of your progress because you haven't written your report, then RSMG will be displeased with you - unless it is because of something that you have already discussed with the Research Students Tutor.
For each of your progress reports, you need to write it by the due date in your schedule, submit it on Canvas so that your Thesis Group can access it, and organize a Thesis Group meeting in time for the RSMG meeting.
At the Thesis Group meeting, make sure you have the relevant RSMG report form (RSMG2, RSMG3, etc.). You will have been sent personalised copies, or you can get blanks here. You should also have the skills development form in case it needs discussing. At the end of the meeting fill in the report form, and submit it as a .pdf file via Canvas. You can do this either as a scanned copy of the paper form, signed by yourself and the Thesis Group members, or as a .pdf version of a word processor document, in which case you should get your RSMG rep to mark it on Canvas, which counts as their signature on behalf of the Thesis Group.
After you have received the feedback letter from RSMG, you may like to revise and resubmit your progress report, after which the School librarian will make it available for others to read.
Discuss this with your supervisor as soon as you start. They should be able to offer some suggestions. Go to see the suggested members, introduce yourself, and find out if they are willing. The RSMG rep that you choose does not have to be familiar with your field, but should be an experienced member of the School, usually a Professor, Reader or Senior Lecturer.
Once you have found a Thesis Group (and within 4 weeks of starting), fill their names in on your RSMG1 form and submit it via Canvas. You will then be sent a schedule and report forms.
Make sure you start looking for a date in good time - don't wait until you have written your report. Some members of staff may be away, so it may be harder than you think to find a date when everyone is available.
If you find it impossible to arrange a date before the RSMG meeting, it is very important that you should still (i) have submitted your progress report to Canvas, and (ii) inform the Research Students Tutor.
A progress report is what you write for your Thesis Group, normally twice a year, to report on the progress you have made. Each will then be discussed at a Thesis Group meeting and the discussion is summarized on a form (RSMG2, RSMG3, etc.) that goes to RSMG. You will receive a feedback letter after RSMG, and your progress report will be deposited in the School Library.
The numbering of these starts at 2 - this is because there is also an RSMG1 form in which you nominate your Thesis Group members.
There is detailed guidance in the Guide to preparing reports for your Thesis Group.
Each progress report must also have attached -
- your Development Needs Analysis (DNA) form, if necessary (progress reports 4 and 6)
Your Thesis Proposal is your progress report 3. It is where you set out your programme of research that you expect to lead to a PhD thesis, and must be approved by your Thesis Group and RSMG before you can continue with unconditional registration for research studies. There is detailed guidance in the Guide to preparing reports for your Thesis Group.
- ... because I'm writing a paper?
- ... because I'm going to a conference?
- ... because I need just a little more time to get a result out?
Basically, NO. RSMG wants to know what your progress was for the date when the report was due. Your progress report should therefore be a snapsot of how your work is going at the time of the due date, and you should manage your time to allow for writing the reports.
The one report that is not just a progress snapshot is your Thesis Proposal (Report 3), which needs to be complete. However, you should still submit it via the due date, and then the Thesis Group meeting will help work out what revisions are needed.
If, despite your best efforts, you cannot find a date for a meeting when all your Thesis Group are available, discuss the situation with the Research Students Tutor.
It is important that you should have done your bit by producing your progress report on time.
If you have any other problems with your Thesis Group, again, you can discuss the situation with the Research Students Tutor.
The RSMG/Thesis Group system covers all research degrees in the School, including MRes. The general principle of having a Thesis Group and two progress reports per year is kept, though the details vary slightly.
MRes students have 1 year of normal registration, and then up to a year to write up. The exact pattern can vary, but the usual way that this aligns with the RSMG system is as follows:
- Students submit a mini-project. Currently the mini-project is done in the second semester and submitted at the start of the summer term (late April).
- The Thesis Proposal (which is Report 2, for MRes), should be submitted shortly afterwards. Usually, this can be a relatively straightforward extension of the mini-project report itself. This should be sent to the Thesis Group, and a Thesis Group meeting held to discuss it.
- Report 3 is a progress report to check readiness to write up and progress in doing so. This should be done in August. Again, it is discussed in a Thesis Group meeting, and then progress is considered by RSMG.
- Reports 4 and 5, if necessary, report progress in writing up over the following year.
I've got TLA overload. What do the abbreviations mean?
- DNA = Development Needs Analysis form (skills development)
- GRS = ... I don't think we ever knew. GRS2 = monthly supervision record
- PGR = PostGraduate Research student - applies to all degrees with research component, e.g. PhD, MPhil, MRes, masters by research
- RSMG = Research Students Monitoring Group
- TLA = Three Letter Abbreviation