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Your PhD project: Formal milestones

Registration in Hora Finita

Many of the PhD trajectory milestones are coordinated via Hora Finita.

All RU PhD Candidates must register in Hora Finita, which is the software system to facilitate administrative procedures related to PhD trajectories. After registration with the IMR Doctoral School, you will receive an invitation to register in Hora Finita. Tutorials can be found here. Here, you can find more information regarding Hora Finita.

For more information, and for help with registration, please contact Daan van Bel.

Training and Supervision Plan

At the beginning of your PhD project (within 4 weeks), you and your supervisory team must agree on and fill in a “Training and Supervision Plan” (TSP). This document formalises a number of agreements regarding research tasks, the supervision schedule, the types of courses a PhD candidate will be taking, and – in the case of  internal PhD candidates – their teaching duties.

The TSP must be updated every year, based on past developments and the newly developed plans for the year to come. This is done during an annual appraisal interview (jaargesprek, in Dutch) between the PhD candidate and his or her supervisor(s). The TSP template can be downloaded in Hora Finita.

Research Data Management

It is important that all data collected or produced during the PhD and other research projects are stored and preserved in a responsible, safe, and accessible way, together with the metadata that are necessary to interpret said data (questionnaires, log books, statistical scripts, transformations, etc.). At the IMR, a memorandum (pdf, 756 kB) has been written that outlines the Research Data Management (RDM) policy at the Institute for Management Research (IMR). There are four general, fixed principles:

  1. Writing a data management plan (DMP) is mandatory for externally funded projects as well as PhD candidates who have started their trajectories after October 2019.
  2. Necessary security and privacy measures for collecting and storing data should be taken.
  3. After the closure of a research project, all data generated at Radboud University should be archived at Radboud University for the long term (minimally ten years, but if relevant longer), including the documentation and metadata necessary for understanding the data.
  4. If possible and in line with ethical and legal principles, data intended for the purpose of future reuse, including verification and/or replication, should be made public at the moment of publication of the corresponding book or article at the latest. There can, however, be ethical, legal and/or content-related reasons not to make (part of) the data public.

More information on this policy and research data management as well as practical tips on where to store and archive data can be found here.

Since a DMP is mandatory for each PhD project, PhD candidates will be asked to complete and request feedback on a DMP before 10 months after the start of their PhD trajectory by using the DMP tool. Unless otherwise specified by funders etc., please use the DMP template of the Institute for Management Research, which can be found within the tool. Further completion of the DMP takes place via the DMP tool and email: rdm@fm.ru.nl. This includes possible adjustments to the DMP that need to be made. Once the DMP has been approved, PhD candidates and their supervisor(s) receive a message via Hora Finita confirming this.

Furthermore, PhD dissertations are evaluated on proper data management. It is required to write a data management description for PhD theses that are based on research data. This description can be based on the data management plan that has been prepared at the beginning of the PhD project and should address the method of processing, storing, and provisioning of the research data. Here, you can find sample texts subdivided by topics that you need to address in your data management description.

The Doctoral School organizes regular workshops on research data management and writing data management plans for our PhD candidates. You can also learn how to properly store and manage your data by taking Open Science for PhD candidates, a course offered by Radboud University for all internal and formal external PhD candidates. For more information about this course and how to register, visit: https://ru.capp12.nl/courses/19.

For any questions regarding research data management don’t hesitate to contact the IMR data steward (rdm@fm.ru.nl).

Control of data

Here, you can find more information on Research Data Management, including information on the control of data.

Agreements on the (co)authorship of papers

To avoid misunderstandings, it is important to document agreements on the (co)authorship of papers at the start of the trajectory. This also pertains to the papers in a paper-based dissertation. In addition, it is important to mention the specific contributions of each author. Below, you can find an example of a text specifying author contribution.


Example Statement Author Contributions

All authors contributed to the study concept and design. Data collection was performed by [Author 1]. [Author 1] analyzed and interpreted the data under the supervision of [Author 2] and [Author 3]. [Author 1] drafted the manuscript, and [Authors 2 and 3] provided critical revisions. All authors approved the final version of the manuscript for submission.

Annual Appraisals

An annual appraisal meeting for PhD candidates is a meeting between the PhD candidate and his or her supervisor (leidinggevende) as parties of equal standing. The meeting is held in order to discuss the PhD candidate’s progress and the role that the supervisor plays in this. Both can benefit from a situation in which the PhD candidate performs well, and both can contribute to the candidate’s performance by continuing to engage in discussion.

During the meeting, a number of issues can be discussed:

  • The PhD candidate’s training and research progress in the past year;
  • If relevant, reflections on the PhD candidate’s teaching tasks;
  • The PhD candidate’s collaboration with their supervisor(s) and the faculty’s support services;
  • The PhD candidate’s work-life balance;
  • Career development perspectives;
  • Agreements on research, training, and/or teaching tasks for the coming year(s);

For internal PhD candidates, these meetings are obligatory. This is not the case for external PhD candidates, as they are not employed by the faculty; however, the IMR strongly recommends that external PhD candidate also have yearly meetings with their supervisor(s), in order to discuss their research and training progress and make decisions for the comings years.

Both Internal PhD candidates and International PhDs with a Scholarship will be invited via Hora Finita to hold these meetings including the required form.

More information about annual appraisal meetings, as well as the annual appraisal form for PhD candidates, can be found on the P&O pages of the Nijmegen School of Management’s intranet.

Evaluation of the Research Proposal by the Scientific Advisory Committee

About nine months (for internal candidates) or fifteen months (for external candidates) into your project, the Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) will invite you to report on the progress of your PhD project. You will be evaluated based on:

  • a project proposal and work plan, and if possible the first research results (a first paper or draft chapter, whether a literature review or preliminary empirical results), all of which you are asked to submit beforehand; and
  • your oral report of your progress.

The project proposal should clearly identify and communicate the research problem that is addressed in your PhD project. The proposal should also demonstrate how your research helps deal with the problem, which gap in the relevant academic literature it addresses, and what exactly the research project’s contribution will be. The project proposal should also clearly show your thorough understanding of the literature in the relevant domain(s), by referring correctly to the “classics” and to the most recent articles dealing with the research topic in question. The work plan should establish a time-phased agenda for the PhD project and its sub-projects, identify important milestones, and set deadlines. It should also indicate the journals in which you would ideally like to publish your research.

Not all of the SAC members who will assess the project proposal and plan will be specialists in your research area. The information provided in these documents should, therefore, help them to understand the relevance of the research problem, and show in concrete, convincing terms, that you have chosen the most suitable methods and approach to deal with the research problem. After reading the proposal, a non-specialist should understand the debate(s) in which you are going to participate, what your contribution will be, and that you have an ambitious but realistic plan to carry out your project. Communicating this clearly in a limited number of pages is certainly not an easy task, but the IMR is confident that its PhD candidates will manage to do so.

The SAC will evaluate your progress on a scale from: accept, minor revisions, major revisions and reject. ‘Accept’ implies a positive recommendation for the continuation of your project or contract. ‘Revisions’ means that the proposal needs additional work in order to clarify certain issues brought up by the SAC – which you will have the opportunity to carry out over a period of 6 weeks (minor revisions) or three months (major revisions). If the proposal addresses these issues appropriately, it will be evaluated as ‘accept’. A ‘reject’ implies that the SAC does not have confidence in your abilities to successfully finish your proposed research. In this case, the SAC would also recommend that you not continue the project after the first 1.5 year term. Although the SAC’s recommendation is not binding, it plays a serious role in the supervisors’ one-year assessment of whether a PhD candidate’s contract – or, in the case of external PhD candidates, their statement of registration – should be extended with a second term or not.

Procedure Evaluation of the Research Proposal by the Scientific Advisory Committee

All IMR PhD candidates are assessed by the Scientific Advisory Committee. The procedure is as follows:

  1. Nine or fifteen months into their PhD (depending on the type of PhD trajectory), PhD candidates are asked to submit the design and planning of their dissertation to the Committee in a standard format. For candidates with special circumstances, the time limit can be extended. Candidates who started their project on the basis of an existing proposal that has already been reviewed are also given the opportunity to present the proposal earlier.
  2. The PhD candidate presents the proposal to two members of the Committee, in the presence of the supervisors. Sometimes, external experts are invited to participate. The presentation is followed by a short discussion. These sessions usually take 45-60 minutes.
  3. On the basis of the presentation and discussion, Committee Members assess the quality and viability of the project in question. This is expressed through a score of:
    -  Accept: No changes are needed, and the project continues as suggested by the proposal.     
    Minor concerns: There are no doubts about the foundations of the research proposal, but some minor issues need to be addressed. A cover letter outlining a detailed response to the reviewers’ comments has to be submitted within 1.5 months.
    Major concerns: There are (some) doubts about the foundations of the research proposal. A cover letter outlining a detailed response to the reviewers’ comments has to be submitted within 3 months.
    Reject: There are doubts about the foundations of the research proposal and its feasibility which are serious enough to advise the research project to discontinue.
  4. The assessment is communicated orally to the candidate and the supervisors immediately after the discussion. A written assessment follows within fifteen working days.
  5. The results of the assessment are passed on to the supervisors and the Dean, who will take a decision on the continuation of the project.

In practice, this early review of PhD projects offers a good opportunity for feedback and reflection.

Via Hora Finita, the PhD candidate and supervisory team will receive a link to the required forms.

Testimonial: Evaluating a PhD candidate’s progress and research proposal

Depending on your contract, some nine to fifteen months into your term as a PhD researcher, you and your supervisor(s) are asked to submit information on your progress to the SAC. This information is provided via the ‘PhD research proposal form,’ structuring the information under three headings: ‘research problem and approach’; ‘planning, outputs, and progress’; ‘embedding of the research.’ The maximum length of that proposal is 6500 words, including footnotes, references, biographies, tables, and pictures.

The SAC determines which of its fifteen members has sufficient expertise to deal with your research topic but does not have direct ties with your project. The two most likely candidates then become your assessors. Occasionally, we engage an external expert, especially if the topic of research is new to us, or in case only one member of the SAC is available. In the meantime, a date for your presentation is set and a room is reserved (or a Zoom meeting is planned).

On the scheduled day and time, you will present your research to the two assessors. Your supervisor(s) are also in the audience, but, as a rule, do not engage in the presentation or discussion. The presentation itself takes 15 minutes, followed by a discussion of 30 minutes in which the assessors engage you in queries they have regarding your project. We cannot predict what kind of questions you will get – that differs from case to case – but, as a rule, you may expect questions regarding your choice of theories, your research (sub)questions, the research methods you intend to use and about the overall feasibility of the project.

After the discussion, you are asked to leave the room, and the assessors, in the company of your supervisor(s), discuss their assessment. After about 10 minutes, you are called back in and hear a brief and informal summary of the assessors’ findings. After the session, the assessors put their assessment on paper and send this as a recommendation regarding the continuation of your research project to your supervisor(s). The SAC is an advisory committee, so we neither hire nor fire anyone; that responsibility rests with the Dean of the faculty.


We understand that an assessment like ‘major concerns’ may sometimes come as a shock, but you should remember that this assessment is never intended as a vote of no confidence in you as a researcher. It simply means that we still have questions, and, with those questions, we want to help you in further developing and improving your PhD research project.

– Dr. Max Visser, Chair of the Scientific Advisory Committee

Performance Appraisal for Internal PhDs

For Internal PhD candidates with a 4-year contract, next to a positive assessment from the Scientific Advisory Committee, a positive Performance Appraisal by the supervisor is needed to extend the employment contract of the candidate. For Internal PhD candidates with a 4-year contract, this is mandatory. For Internal PhD candidates/juniors lecturers with a 6-year contract, this is not mandatory, but highly recommended. Therefore, all internal PhD candidates will receive an invitation for this via Hora Finita. We, therefore, request that the first supervisor (eerste promotor) holds a performance appraisal meeting with the PhD candidate. The Performance Appraisal Form can be downloaded in Hora Finita and needs to be sent to the IMR HR Department (hr.fm@ru.nl).

Annual Appraisals

An annual appraisal meeting for PhD candidates is a meeting between the PhD candidate and his or her supervisor (leidinggevende) as parties of equal standing. The meeting is held in order to discuss the PhD candidate’s progress and the role that the supervisor plays in this. Both can benefit from a situation in which the PhD candidate performs well, and both can contribute to the candidate’s performance by continuing to engaging in discussion.

During the meeting, a number of issues can be discussed:

  • The PhD candidate’s training and research progress in the past year;
  • If relevant, reflections on the PhD candidate’s teaching tasks;
  • The PhD candidate’s collaboration with their supervisor(s) and the faculty’s support services;
  • The PhD candidate’s work-life balance;
  • Career development perspectives;
  • Agreements on research, training, and/or teaching tasks for the coming year(s);

For internal PhD candidates, these meetings are obligatory. This is not the case for external PhD candidates, as they are not employed by the faculty; however, the IMR strongly recommends that external PhD candidate also have yearly meetings with their supervisor(s), in order to discuss their research and training progress and make decisions for the comings years.

More information about annual appraisal meetings, as well as the annual appraisal form for PhD candidates, can be found on the P&O pages of the Nijmegen School of Management’s intranet. The Annual Appraisal Form can be downloaded in Hora Finita and needs to be sent to the IMR HR Department (hr.fm@ru.nl).

Meeting with the Doctoral Officer

After 18 months or 24 months (depending on the PhD trajectory), PhD Candidates are invited to a meeting with the Doctoral Officer. The purpose of this voluntary meeting is to support PhD Candidates in their PhD trajectory by allowing them to speak freely on their well-being, progress, and relationship with supervisors. The PhD Candidate also has the opportunity to raise any other concerns. The Doctoral Officer provides reflection, feedback, and suggestions. The information discussed is confidential.

“Planning the Final Year Meeting” with the Doctoral School

After 30 months or 42 months (depending on the PhD trajectory), PhD Candidates are invited to a “Planning the Final Year Meeting” with the Doctoral School. The purpose of this mandatory meeting is to support PhD Candidates in finalizing their manuscript through

  • choices that enhance timely completion,
  • detailed and realistic planning towards completion,
  • and identification of potential issues and discussion how to prevent or mitigate these.

These meetings are led by the Head of Doctoral School and the Doctoral Officer. They provide reflection, feedback, and suggestions to increase timely completion. The PhD Candidate also has the opportunity to raise any other concerns. It is the decision of the PhD Candidate whether they also want to invite members of their supervisory team. If the PhD indicates that they require additional support, the Doctoral School will point them into the right direction (Occupational Health Service, HR, IMR Counsellor for PhD candidates, RU Confidential Advisor, etc. ).

Going abroad

Taking part in the international academic community is an important part of any doctoral training. The IMR strongly encourages its PhD candidates to participate in conferences, seminars and training abroad, and to develop their international network. Being active internationally is rewarding, as it creates opportunities for future cooperation and positions, and has become necessary for those wishing to pursue an academic career. More importantly, meeting scholars working in their field will enable you to develop yourself as independent researchers.

During your PhD project, you will present your work on a regular basis at various national and international conferences. This allows you to attend doctoral workshops, receive feedback on your project and papers from your peers, meet with fellow doctoral students in your domain, and network with internationally renowned researchers. You should try to attend at least one conference per year. To prepare for presentations at these conferences, you are encouraged to enrol in the courses offered by the University’s Human Resources Department to develop your presentation skills. If there is sufficient demand, a presentation skills course can be given at the IMR by our language advisor, Mrs. Michelle Mellion.

Later in your training, it is strongly recommended that you try to arrange an extended visit abroad (of a few months). You can either use this stay abroad for conducting fieldwork, or join a research group in another country. PhD candidates can use their own international network or that of their supervisor(s) for help on organising such a visit. The Doctoral Office is also there to offer advice and – if possible – help.

Publishing your work

During your PhD project, you will conduct original research that makes a contribution to science and society. In many cases, you will report your research in articles to be published in international peer-reviewed journals. Increasingly, producing a monograph as the result of PhD research is becoming the exception, rather than the rule. Publishing findings in articles during the course of your research not only helps you to receive feedback from independent peers sooner, but also better prepares you for an academic career after graduation. With this in mind, your supervisors will help you to prepare the manuscripts, and select the right journals for your articles.

International conferences are a good opportunity to attend panel sessions on the art and practice of publishing, where editors or associate editors of well-known high quality journals will provide tips and tricks. The Doctoral School also regularly invites experts in a number of relevant academic fields, who can reflect on the process and provide a number of recommendations from their own experience. Beyond this, one of the best ways to prepare articles and to anticipate criticisms from the reviewers is to have them friendly reviewed by colleagues before submitting them “for real”. The IMR PhD Research Day offers a great opportunity for getting a sincere, but friendly, review.

PhD candidates are also encouraged to consider publishing their work in open access journals. Open access is a worldwide movement that aims to provide free, direct online access to scholarly and scientific information such as journal articles, theses, books and research data, and make scholarly publications and data free and available online. In an open access publication, anyone can read, download, copy, distribute and print this information, or look for and search within it, without financial, legal or technical barriers. Many open access journals (about 70%) are now completely free. Most are listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals (https://doaj.org/).

The University Library has launched various open access projects to support Radboud researchers and to encourage developments in this area. One of them is the Radboud Repository (http://repository.ubn.ru.nl), which offers academics the opportunity to make the author or publisher version of their article available in Open Access, provided that the publisher agrees and that any agreed upon embargo period has ended. Nevertheless, PhD candidates should always discuss these option with their supervisors, as Open Access journals do not always have the same status as non-Open Access journals. For more information, check out the Open Access section on the university library website, accessible at the following link: http://www.ru.nl/library/services/research/openaccess/

Manuscript committee and defence

After you have completed your thesis and – most importantly – your supervisors have approved it, you can upload your manuscript in Hora Finita. After your first supervisor has accepted your manuscript in Hora Finita, your main supervisor (promotor) can propose a manuscript committee via Hora Finita. Once this manuscript committee has been approved, the committee members can start assessing your manuscript. This committee consists of an uneven number (at least three) of academic researchers. The committee will decide if the thesis meets the criteria for conferring the doctorate. Within five weeks after receiving the thesis, the reading committee’s chairperson will inform the Dean and your supervisor of the reading committee's well-founded decision – either positive or negative. In case of a negative advice, the reading committee will provide structured instructions for improving the manuscript.

After the manuscript has been approved by the manuscript committee, the following steps can be taken in order to plan a defense date:

  1. The PhD candidate and supervisor compile a list of unavailable data in the period that starts 3 months after approval for the supervisory team and the manuscript committee. This only concerns holidays, sabbaticals, etc..
  2. The PhD candidate contacts the Registrar’s Office to explore potential defense dates.
  3. The PhD candidate and supervisor explore the dates on which the PhD, manuscript committee members, the supervisors, and a chair of the Doctoral Examination Board are available. The latter can be done by contacting Tanja van Voorst, via tanja.vanvoorst@ru.nl.
  4. The PhD candidate and Registrar’s Office pick an option for a defense date, which is blocked in the planning of RU PhD defenses.
  5. The PhD candidate confirms this date with the Registrar’s Office.
  6. The PhD candidate is asked to submit a title page. Upon submitting their title page, the registrar will review it.
  7. The additional committee members are approached after the defense date has been set, and the doctoral examination board is appointed.

Please consult this website for more information on the reimbursement regulations for the printing costs of a PhD thesis.

The public defence is a formal ceremony, which takes place in the Aula and follows a strict dress code. The Doctoral Examination Board will be seated in front of you in what is called the corona. After presenting your work in a maximum of 10 minutes, all members of the board (except your supervisor(s)) are required to pose questions; this is the actual defence. One hour after the meeting has formally opened, the Beadle will walk into the hall carrying a large, formal staff, bang the staff on the floor, and announce “hora est” (it is time). This will signal the end of the defence. The examination board will then retreat to deliberate, and, following its deliberation (and assuming all went well), you will ceremoniously be granted the doctoral degree.

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Testimonial

After obtaining my Master's degree in sociology and publishing an article based on my thesis, I was fairly certain that I wanted to give an academic career a shot. My thesis supervisor turned my attention to a PhD candidate vacancy within a project on labour relations and conflict at the IMR department of political science. I applied, got the job and last February, I successfully defended my dissertation.

Writing the dissertation was a challenging, long and sometimes simply tough process, but it was also tremendously rewarding. I choose to collect my own data with a large scale survey and by carrying out a number of experiments in the NSM Decision Lab. In the end, I really reaped the benefits from my data collection, but of course it took a long time and a lot of effort. Fitting with the IMR’s character, my dissertation research was very much multidisciplinary, taking from, and challenging, sociological and economic theories. This was also something that I now look back on quite proudly but it did make it a challenge to get my work published, especially early on.

During my doctoral study, I started teaching. Against my own expectations, I really liked it and after my PhD contract ran out, I started to work as a lecturer and researcher. Subsequently, I got a position as Assistant Professor. Besides teaching, I continue with my research, which is broadly concerned with the relationship between, on the one hand, labour markets and working life, and on the other hand conflict, representation and political action.

– Alex Lehr, PhD