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ACLC Pilot study guidelines

The director of the school (or representative) decides on the basis of the evaluations whether or not the project will be continued. 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 in the first year.

  • General Information

    The assessment is based solely on the pilot study, the table of contents and the progress report. Any other activities – including those undertaken in the context of a larger project of which the PhD candidate forms part – are not part of the assessment.

    The main supervisor (promotor) is responsible for ensuring the PhD candidate has enough time to complete the pilot study. The PhD candidate should not teach in the period in which the pilot study has to be written and other activities should be kept to a minimum or should be directly related to the pilot study. The PhD candidate and the supervisors should make a plan for the completion of the pilot study – including deadlines and feedback moments – as soon as possible after the beginning of the contract. The completion of the pilot study should be the absolute priority for both the PhD candidate and the supervisors.

  • Content and Form Pilot Study

    In terms of content, the pilot study should be designed to form an integral part of the dissertation, either as the introduction, an article or a dissertation chapter. The pilot study should not take the form of a research proposal; it needs to be a coherent, independently readable, non-fragmentary text.

    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. 

    In formal terms, the pilot study should be:

    • between 5,000 and 10,000 words in length;
    • a coherent, independently readable text with a beginning/introduction, middle/body and end/conclusion and a clearly developed argument;
    • professionally presented (spell-checked, with a consistently used reference system and a full bibliography).

    Any questions about the pilot study and the evaluation on the part of the PhD candidate, the supervisors or the external reader should be addressed – as soon as they arise – to the ACLC Office (

  • Assessment Procedure Pilot Study

    The pilot study is evaluated by the supervisors, an external reader and the Director of ACLC (or representative). On the basis of the evaluations, the Director decides whether or not the pilot study is of the required quality. The PhD candidate will be informed of whether or not the pilot is considered of satisfactory quality at the end of the evaluation meeting.

    In case of a positive evaluation, the PhD candidate receives an assessment report in which the pilot study is deemed satisfactory on the basis of which (a.) the employment contract is extended for the full contract period (funded PhD candidates), or (b.) the registration is extended (externally or self-funded PhD candidates).

    If the Director decides that the pilot study is not up to standard, the PhD candidate is given 4 weeks to revise the pilot study. After the revised pilot is submitted, it is evaluated again by the supervisors, external reader and Director. Subsequently, the PhD candidate receives an assessment report in which the pilot study is either deemed satisfactory (in this case, the employment contract/registration will be extended for the rest of the PhD track period) or unsatisfactory (in this case, the candidate’s contract/registration will not be extended). A second evaluation meeting will take place in which the PhD candidate can respond to the assessment report. If the meeting does not change the Director’s decision, the procedure to not extend the PhD candidate’s contract/registration is started. The PhD candidate is informed at least 1 month before the end of the contract/registration, that it will not be extended.

  • External Reader

    When the ACLC office contacts the supervisors about the date and time of the evaluation meeting, it also asks the supervisors to suggest an external reader. Once the external reader has been approved by the ACLC Director, the ACLC Office approaches the external reader and secures their cooperation. The external reader is asked to read the pilot study and to send an assessment report (max. 2 A4) to the ACLC office at least one week before the evaluation meeting.

    The assessment report provides constructive comments. In so doing, the external reviewer considers the coherence of the manuscript, what are the strong points to pursue, and what are the weak or less strong points that need be attended to, the adequacy of the methodology or analysis, and writing style of the PhD.

    The ACLC Office sends the external reader’s assessment to the PhD candidate, supervisors and Director before the evaluation meeting. The external reader attends the first half hour of the evaluation meeting.