Although your research does not follow the structure of an undergraduate degree, there are still milestones that you will encounter along the way.

While conducting research during your time at Imperial, there are a number of markers of progression to assist you and your supervisor in achieving your main objectives of carrying out original research and attaining your degree.

Your supervisor will outline the markers of progression at the start of your research. Some of these markers will be College based and more formal, while others will be based outside of College (such as the presentation of abstracts at conferences).

There are four key College-based markers of progression that MD and PhD students may experience. The format and how they are conducted may vary between departments, but the markers are:

Main Stages of Your Research Degree

Initial Research Plan

WHEN: First 3 months

WHO: Requirement for some courses

Some departments require you to submit an Initial Research Plan (sometimes called an Initial Research Proposal, both abbreviated to IRP) within three months of starting your degree programme. This is part of the degree registration formalisation, but it's also an opportunity for you to spend time reading and searching the literature around your research topic.

Additionally it will allow you to ensure your proposed research study has a planned programme of action. The IRP allows your supervisor to assess the scientific merit of the project, and allows you to show your understanding of your project.

Please see your department webpages for information on whether you are required to submit an IRP.

College Milestone: Early Stage Assessment

WHEN: Around 9 months in

WHO: Requirement for all courses

Following submission of your IRP, your working relationship with your supervisor will develop during the first year. By now you should have made a strong start on your research project and begun to master experimental techniques. The Early Stage Assessment (ESA) gives you an early chance to measure your progress and step back and assess the focus of your efforts for the next stage of your research degree. It also gives your supervisor an opportunity to obtain a clearer picture of your abilities and aptitude for research.

College Milestone: Late Stage Review

WHEN: Around 18 months to 2 years in

WHO: Requirement for all courses

The Late Stage Review (LSR) is another significant marker, which falls around 18 months to two years into your project. At this point you'll be able to measure your progress in your research degree and decide how to focus your efforts for your final period of research.

This is a golden opportunity for you and your supervisor to obtain a clear picture of how you are progressing towards your final thesis. This includes the original research that you have achieved to date and the quality of your technical writing, which by now should include particular sections of your thesis.

Writing up period

WHEN: Around 12 months before submitting your thesis

WHO: Writing up is a requirement for all students, the CRS milestone may be a requirement for some students

The standard PhD registration period is 36 months for full-time students and the equivalent for part-time students. To enter the ‘writing up’ phase you must have completed the minimum period of registration, your research and experimental work, your Late Stage Review, and be able to demonstrate that you will be in a position to submit your thesis in 12 months.

If you wish to retain access to College facilities whilst writing up your thesis, you may register for a 12 month writing up period, known as the Completing Research Status or CRS.

If you do not need to register for completing research status at the end of the standard registration period, but are yet to submit your thesis, you will enter into a writing up phase but will not be required to pay a further registration fee. This will be known as “writing up away from College”.

Find out more about the CRS milestone and writing up period.

Further information

You can read further general information about our doctoral qualifications and the doctoral study experience.

In addition your department’s Postgraduate Office will provide you specific information, including relevant paperwork, about your department’s requirements for the above markers of progression.

For some students, different stages of their research can be more challenging and daunting than others. Your supervisor, academic mentor and postgraduate tutors as well as other members of your department are there to support you at all times and communication is key.

If you need advice on dealing with stress or pressure during your research degree, visit the Student Support Zone.