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The pilot study

All PhD candidates are expected to hand in a so-called pilot study for evaluation. Employed PhD candidates should do so no later than 9 months after the start of their contract. Self-funded candidates have up to 16 months (depending on the time the candidate can work on the dissertation, earlier is preferred) to hand in the pilot study.

The pilot study is assessed by the supervisors, an external reader and the director or vice-director of ASH. The (vice-)director of the school decides on the basis of the assessments whether or not the PhD research is of sufficient quality and can be continued. If not, the contract (in cases of employed PhD candidates) and/or affiliation with the research school will be ended and their candidate cannot continue working on the Phd project at the UvA. Since the continuation of the PhD project depends on the quality of the pilot study, the timely completion of the pilot study should be the absolute priority for both the PhD candidate and the supervisors.

Form and content of the pilot study

The pilot study should be designed to form an integral part of the dissertation, EITHER as the introduction of the dissertation OR as a dissertation chapter. In any case, the pilot study should be:

  • a coherent, independently readable, non-fragmentary text; 
  • between 5,000 and 10,000 words in length;
  • paired with a bibliography, a provisional table of contents for the full disseration, and an updated work plan for the remainder of the PhD project (preferably in the same document)

In the case of an introduction, the pilot study should outline the main problem and research questions of the dissertation, as well as the theoretical framework, methods and objects used to address this problem and research questions in an innovative manner. It should also demonstrate the PhD candidate’s ability to engage critically with existing scholarship. In the case of an article or chapter, the pilot study should demonstrate the PhD candidate’s ability to clearly present and analyse one or more case studies in relation to the central research question(s) of the dissertation project and should articulate where the innovation of the analysis lies. It should also demonstrate the PhD candidate’s ability to engage critically with existing scholarship.

Assesment procedure

The pilot study is evaluated by the supervisors, an external reader and the (vice-)director of ASH. The ASH coffice contacts the supervisors to suggest an external reader. Preferably, this is a staff member with expertise in the area of the dissertation who is not directly involved in the PhD candidate’s project. The external reader will be approached by the ASH coordinator or secretary to secure their cooperation.

Assesment criteria

The supervisors and external reader will assess the pilot study on the basis of the following criteria:

  • Clarity and relevance of the research problem/question(s)
  • Critical reflection on relevant scholarship
  • The quality of analysis of primary evidence/data, and the suitability of the method(s) employed in light of the problem/question(s)
  • Contribution to knowledge and potential academic impact
  • Clarity, logic and persuasiveness of the argumentation
  • Presentation of the text and writing style and language

The supervisors and the external reader will fill in an assesment form provided by ASH, and should be returned to the ASH office and the (vice-)director. 

Evaluation meeting for employed PhD candidates

In case of employed PhD candidates, an evaluation meeting is organised to discuss the pilot. For self-funded PhD candidates, a meeting is only organised if the written assesments by the supervisors and external reader are not uniformly positive, in which case the meeting is organised as below.   

The external reader, the PhD candidate and (vice-)director will be contacted about two months in advance to set a date and time for the meeting. The PhD candidate should submit the pilot study, bibliography, table of contents and work plan at least two weeks before the evaluation meeting. Subsequently, the supervisors and the external reader should sent their assesments to the ASH office and the (vice-)director no less than three days before the evaluation meeting. 

The total duration of the evaluation meeting is roughtly 1 hour. During the first 10 minutes, the PhD candidate and (vice-)director speak in private about the PhD candidate's overall progress, while the supervisors and external reader have a preliminary and separate discussion of the pilot study. The two parties come together for the remainder of the meeting to discuss the pilot study. The external reader briefly presents his/her written comments, followed by the PhD candidate's response and further discussion. 

At the end of the evaluation meeting, on the basis of the written assessments by the supervisors and the external reader as well as the discussion during the evaluation meeting, the (vice-)director decides whether or not the pilot study is of sufficient quality. 

In case of a positive evaluation, employed PhD candidates receive an assessment report in which the pilot study is deemed satisfactory, on the basis of which the employment contract (for employed candidates) is extended for the full contract period. For self-funded candidates, ASH will ensure that their the affiliation with ASH is renewed upon the satisfactory completion of the pilot study. 

In case of a negative evaluation, the PhD candidate is given four weeks to revise the pilot study on the basis of comments by the supervisors, external reader and (vice-)director. After the revised pilot is submitted it is evaluated again by the supervisors, external reader and vice-director via the assessment forms. A second evaluation meeting will take place in which the revised pilot study is discussed and the PhD candidate can respond to the assessment reports. Then, the (vice-)director will determine once again whether the evaluation is postive or negative. If the evaluation remains negative, the contract (in case of employed candidates) and/or affiliation of the PhD candidate is not renewed, and the candidate cannot continue their PhD project at the University of Amsterdam.