A typical PhD, taken over 3-4 years, is structured as follows:

Timeline of a PhD

First three months

During your first 3 months you settle in and prepare an initial research plan with your supervisor.

Your research plan gives a statement of the general topic area, an initial formulation of the issues to be addressed, a list of principal references on which the work will draw, and objectives for the first year of study. Your supervisor may also ask you to attend some of the undergraduate lectures.

You will also need register for the Graduate School's Professional Skills programme. If you are a non-native English speaker you will also have your English language ability assessed.

First six months

You can expect to spend your first 6 months undertaking literature searches and defining your project. You will have regular meetings with your supervisor. You will also meet the personal tutor (a member of staff from a different research group).

Months 7-18

You continue to work on your research project, and will have the opportunity to attend the Graduate School's Professional Skills courses on advanced writing, career planning, presentation and progressing.

Month 9

An Early Stage Assessment is submitted by the end of month 9.

This report sets out the main research areas, details of work done so far, and a programme for future work. You attend an interview with one or two assessors and your supervisor. This assessment confirms your suitability to continue with your PhD programme.

You will have also attended some, or all of, the Graduate School's Professional Skills training  on topics such as professional conduct, project management, and a residential course on research skills and development.

Months 18-24

Late stage review (22 months after registration).

You will be required to submit a report that contains the contents page for your thesis, a statement of expected contributions, achievements to date and a plan for completion of work and thesis. You will be assessed by interview with one or more assessors and your supervisor.

Months 24-36

You continue working on your research project. You will also have the opportunity to attend courses on career planning, and completing your research.

At the end of 36th month, you will complete a Progress Review, which will determine whether you will be moving up to the writing up status or maintain active registration.

Months 36-48

Progress Review (at 36 months). It is decided whether you should move to writting up stage or have your acitve registration extended.

Thesis submission (by the end of 48th month)

Your thesis is your account of the work you have done, which should form a distinct contribution to the knowledge of the subject and show evidence of originality by the discovery of new facts and/or the exercise of independent critical power. The thesis is examined by an oral exam. There are two examiners: one from Imperial College and one from another university. The oral exam usually lasts for 2-3 hours, and you will find out the result immediately after the exam.