January 2018

Guide to PhD Study

A PhD is a research degree where you spend a significant amount of time investigating and analyzing your chosen topic. A PhD usually takes three to four years full time. You conduct a piece of research that makes a substantial original contribution to knowledge or understanding in your chosen field. You graduate with the degree title Doctor of Philosophy.

Who supervises me during my PhD?

It is vitally important that your research project proposal is discussed with potential supervisors before you submit your application. This ensures that a supervisory team is assembled and you have a clear idea of what topic you will be working on from Day 1. Changes can and often do happen during the course of your PhD, but to eliminate surprises, it is important to have communicated with your potential supervisor prior to submitting your application. They will help you to refine your research project and produce a realistic research plan. In the progress of your research, you will need to work well independently to complete a PhD, as your supervisors will not tell you exactly what to read or how to design and carry out work on your thesis. However, the supervisory team will guide you along the path.

What is the typical structure of a PhD?

  1. Plan your research
  • In your first year, after your induction and meetings with your supervisors, you write a detailed research plan.
  • For some research projects, you may need to gain ethical approval before any fieldwork or data collection can start.
  • Your supervisor will advise you on this.
  • At the end of your first year you will present and defend your detailed research plan in front of your supervisory team and a member of the Progress Review Committee.
  1. Complete your annual review and progress reports
  • Each subsequent year you will submit a report outlining your progress to your supervisors. This is called the annual review.
  • In your report, you need to show a suitable amount of progression in order to continue with your PhD.
  • Your supervisors also write a report on your progress.
  • You will undertake a formal review meeting with a member of the PhD Progress Review Committee.
  1. Write your thesis
  • You need to write up your research in a thesis. After your third year, you may be able to apply for a writing-up year.
  • You can only apply for a writing-up year under certain conditions.
  1. Submit your thesis
  • You submit the thesis to be reviewed by three examiners with expertise in your area of research.
  • One examiner will be external to Nazarbayev University and will be an international expert in your field.
  1. Complete your viva
  • After the examiners have reviewed your written thesis, you have a viva (oral exam).
  • The viva is open to the public (unless confidentiality requirements prevail)..
  • During the viva, the examiners ask you questions about your research.
  • Other members of the audience may also ask you questions.
  1. Make corrections
  • After the viva, the examiners may ask you to make some changes to your thesis (known as corrections).
  • You must make these corrections before you can graduate.
  1. Graduate
  • When you’ve passed your viva and made any corrections to your PhD thesis, you are awarded with the degree title Doctor of Philosophy.

Is there financial support for conducting my research project?

There is a PhD budget that PhD students can apply for in order to support their PhD-related activities, however, it is expected that the majority of the infrastructure for your project is in place at the commencement of your PhD.