Writing your PhD First-Year Report

This course is intended for PhD students in their first year who are currently working on their First Year Report.

Course Content and Unit Aims

Unit 1

Content and Structure

  • To compare the specific content requirements for your report with those of students from other schools and to identify common elements
  • To examine to what extent these common elements are reflected in the Contents pages of sample student reports from previous years
  • To start drafting the Contents page for your own report

Unit 2

The Introduction

  • To explore what functional elements report introductions typically include and how they are typically organised
  • To observe what elements are present in sample report Introductions and discuss reasons for the possible variations from the model
  • To introduce useful language features that could be used in different parts of your Introduction
  • To start drafting part or all of your Introduction

Unit 3

Literature Review

  • To look at different ways of structuring a literature review
  • To explore the different options available to you when referring to sources
  • To introduce useful phrases and language structures that can be used when referring to sources
  • To start drafting parts of your Literature Review

Unit 4

Criticality and Outlining Objectives

  • To look at different ways of stating your aims and objectives
  • To show how you can elaborate this section by summarising and justifying your chosen methods or approach
  • Where appropriate, to start drafting part or all of an Objectives section
  • To show you ways of expressing criticality in your writing

Unit 5

Future plans: proposed research design

  • To look at different ways of presenting a research design
  • To be made aware of different research design paradigms
  • To introduce useful language that can be used to describe future research design
  • To draft part of a research design

Unit 6

Individual Tutorials

  • To allow students the opportunity to ask for clarification on issues arising from the course materials.
  • To give students and tutor the opportunity for further discussion of tutor feedback.
  • To provide suggestions for further English language / academic literacy development.


Course Days/times

  • In-person – Wednesdays 10:00 - 12:00
  • Online – Mondays 10:00 - 11:00 

The in-person course will be offered at both the Holyrood Campus and at Kings Buildings.


Teaching Methods and Learning Outcomes

Research students at the University of Edinburgh are required to submit a document - a report or proposal - towards the end of their first year to show that their research is proceeding satisfactorily. This course is designed to help you compose such a document.

The course materials include descriptions of the typical structure of the main sections of first-year reports, together with summaries of the typical language features frequently used in specific parts of the texts. We have also included excerpts from authentic first-year reports from a variety of disciplines for you to analyse. The course consists of brief introductory lectures and tasks related to different sections of the report/proposal.

Your tutor will provide you with feedback (focusing on overall clarity, style, and organisation) on the extended writing tasks, and meet you for a class once per week, either on-line or in-person, depending which option you have chosen. You can expect to spend around 3 hours per week altogether to fully benefit from this course, including the written assignment and (for the online course) pre-reading of the course materials.

In the final week (week 6) of the course, you will have the opportunity for a one-to-one online tutorial with your tutor to discuss any remaining questions you may have.

By the end of the course students should have a better understanding of:

  • ways of structuring the content of the report
  • ways of organising the different sections of the report
  • appropriate language for the different sections of the report and how to use that language accurately
  • any specific language areas that will need further work.



This course is intended for PhD students in their first year who are currently working on their First Year Report.