What is a Doctoral Colloquium?

Some weeks ago, I took part in the Doctoral Colloquium of the Pervasive 2009 conference. For getting into it, I had to write a 8 pages paper describing what I have been doing and the expected results. Everything looked nice and easy, it was going to be a plain presentation and simple discussion. However, before going on the trip I had some doubts growing bigger and bigger into my head, as to what was the protocol for such an event. What was I expected to say about my project? Was it project centred? Thesis centred? I don’t event know what my thesis is going to be about!!! So I freaked out.

That’s when I rushed into my supervisor, Jakob Bardram, who those questions replayed with some advised, that I, honestly, didn’t really got. Anyway, to Japan I took off.

I can say a Doctoral Colloquium looks pretty much like this:

… and not only one professor, but many of them. And they don’t care!

So, after having reflected over what went wrong over and over again, here I sketch out a few pieces of knowledge that can be useful:

– As a PhD student try to go to a Doctoral Colloquium early in your studies, and by early I mean during the first year.

– There is a big difference between your projects, your research and your dissertation. In a few words the research is your general topic, as an example we can think of “soccer tactics”. That’s a very broad topic where I lot of researchers have worked, and there is probably a dedicated research community. Your projects are particular experiments within the field, like user studies, or a new method for doing something, or a system given to the users, etc. These projects look at very specific things within your research. Your dissertation, however, is your key ideas and what you will hopefully contribute to the community. This dissertation will hopefully establish connections between your different projects. Coming back to our soccer example we could say a dissertation could be on “efficiency of multi-tactics approach for second league matches”.

– At the Doctoral Colloquium you are, hopefully, with some of the most qualified scientists in your research community. And they don’t want to hear so much about your projects, as about your dissertation. So, that’s the key: focus on your dissertation. Try answering the question: What is it that you want to contribute to the field?

– Later on, I learned that a good Doctoral Colloquium presentation would divide the time approximately like this (the percentages represent the time spent at each item):

  1. 5% – Present your thesis (right, you do this after greeting, and introducing yourself, your affiliation and your adviser). This is a one-liner.
  2. 50% – Why are you doing it? This will require you to talk about state of the art, and how you project differs from what others have done. A good trick here is praising some good work from other people, outline their features, and introduce the big “BUT” or “HOWEVER”.
  3. 20% – What are you doing to explore/test/prove your thesis? In this part is where you, very overly, describe the project you’ve done/are doing. Not much details, just the overall picture.
  4. 25% – What are the stoppers? The dark-areas? The foreseeable problems? This is very important because it serves two purposes: first, you feed the egos of the attendees by making them feel wise and needed (that’s why they attended the symposium). Second, you can get a lot of very wise and needed advise on how to carry on your research. How to focus you experiments, and what to pay really attention. This is the real value of the Doctoral Colloquium.

Juan David


5 thoughts on “What is a Doctoral Colloquium?

  1. my God, i thought you were going to chip in with some decisive insght at the end there, not leave it with ‘we leave it to you to decide’.

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