Resources for current postgraduate students
These pages hold a collection of resources for our currently enrolled postgrad students.
Information for new postgrads
If you've just started a MSc or PhD at our department, welcome! Here's
some information to get you started.
- The department's acting postgrad coordinator is Zhiyi Huang. Feel free to
contact him about any postgrad-related issues.
- You're joining a large community of postgrads! You'll meet some
of them as soon as you arrive---there's a complete list on
the department's current
- What happens when you first
arrive: the department's routine for new postgrad students.
- All postgrad students (MSc and PhD) must submit a written
These reports appear on the department's current
postgrads page. (They are only visible locally within the
- PhD students have regular progress meetings during their
course, and must be confirmed at
an intermediate point in the course in order to proceed to the PhD
All postgrad students must complete a student-supervisor agreement within the first weeks of starting work. You can use the University's official agreement form, or a (much shorter) form that's customised for our department, or you can adapt either form to your own needs. MSc students should send the signed form to the department secretary; PhD forms are processed during the student's first Progress Meeting.
- It's a good idea to look at the University Handbook for your
Postgrad academic events
There are various seminars and meetings which postgrad students are
invited to attend---or are sometimes obliged to attend!
- The department runs a regular seminar, which is
held on Fridays, 1:00-1:50pm, during semesters. The seminar series is
organised jointly with the Department of Information
Science. Postgrad students are expected to attend these seminars.
- Many of the department's research
groups organise topic-specific seminars. You should certainly
attend the seminars organised by the group you're in, but you're
most welcome to attend other groups. If you'd like to be added to
the mailing list for a particular group, here's who to contact:
- Every year in Semester 2 the department organises a Postgrad
Research Symposium. All postgrad students must give a
presentation at this symposium, unless their supervisor specifically
says they don't have to.
- At this seminar we give two prizes. The 'best presentation'
prize goes to the best presentation on the day. The 'publication
prize' goes to the student who has had most success in publication
during their time in the department, based on publications
uploaded to the department's current
Postgrad social events
- We're computer scientists, but we still try to be social from
time to time. The throbbing heart of social life in our department
is the tea room on the 2nd floor. As postgrads, you're welcome to
use this room whenever you like: tea, coffee, milk, sugar and hot
chocolate are all free. You can also use the cooking facilities
here, and the fridge. (Please name and date anything that goes in
- On Wednesdays from 10:30am the tea room bursts
spectacularly into life for the weekly departmental morning
tea. You're cordially invited to this event! As well as tea and
coffee, there are free muffins or, on special occasions, pies.
- The department organises a few social events for postgrads,
mainly involving eating. You should hear about these through the
postgrads mailing list. If you want to organise something yourself,
we would be delighted!
- Otago's Postgraduate
Society also organises various activities which provide an opportunity to meet
postgrads from other departments.
- Otago's Recreation
Services organise lots of activities.
- OUSA's Clubs List is also worth checking out.
There are a few jobs that postgrad students traditionally do.
Help with being a postgrad student
- Otago's Graduate Research School has a series of
specially for postgrad students.
- HEDC has a page of useful resources
for postgrads, including a series of workshops.
- Brian Johnston offers very valuable one-on-one performance
and development coaching for postgrad students. The department will pay for the first session; subsequent sessions must be paid for by the student (at $15.00/hr). Contact the departmental administrator to arrange payment for the first session.
- The researcher's bible: some famous advice from Alan Bundy and colleagues at Edinburgh University's Department of Artificial Intelligence. (Some of this is AI-specific: but see Sections 3 and 4 for excellent advice for all PhD students!)
Publications, conferences and travel funding
Whether you're a MSc or PhD student, we encourage you to
be proactive in publishing papers about your work. It's increasingly
important for a career in research that you have a publication
record. The point of doing research is to communicate your results.
(If you don't publish a description of your work, it's as if it
- When you publish a paper, you should email our web
Pollock, providing a citation and also if possible a link or a
PDF. Robert will put the paper up on the department's current
postgrads page. (Information about students' publications on
this page is only visible locally within the University.)
- We also encourage you to attend workshops and conferences while
you're studying. Your supervisor can advise you about which are good
ones to attend.
- For PhD students, the Division of Sciences provides funding
towards attending one workshop or conference during
your study. This funding is normally conditional on you
submitting a paper to the event, or otherwise participating
(e.g. by giving a presentation). The event doesn't have to be
peer-reviewed. The funding can also be used to travel to a summer school or
training course. Travel to visit another lab can be part of conference
travel, but the funding can't be used solely for this. If you're going somewhere expensive,
make sure you use this first! You'll need to complete an application form (available
in advance: this should be given to the Head of Department for signing (and
will then be submitted to the Divisional Office).
Note that a PhD student who has just submitted can also be supported by this
- The department also has its own budget to help students
attend workshops and conferences. If you have a paper accepted, we
will do our best to help you to attend, though we can't make any
promises, as the budget is limited. Again, there's an application form. This should be
filled in and given to the office, again well in advance of your
- Otago's HEDC (Higher Education
Development Centre) offers a course
on publishing and conference presentations for postgrads.
Help on writing your thesis
- We encourage students to write their thesis
using LaTeX. There's a useful
Otago LaTeX thesis
template which conforms to the University thesis regulations. Also see our
LaTeX resources page.
HEDC has some useful online resources about writing (see in particular the 'Writing, Language and Presentations' section), and also often has relevant workshops. You can also arrange an appointment with Clinton Golding, who can provide very helpful advice.
- The University has strict rules about plagiarism,
which apply to postgraduate theses as to all work done by students.
If plagiarised material is found in a submitted thesis, in serious cases the University has the right to reject the thesis, as discussed in Section 7(c) of the University's academic misconduct procedures.
Submitting theses, and information about the examination process
When you start to think about submitting your thesis, here's a guide
to what will happen:
Post-thesis bursaries and scholarships
When you've finished your thesis, there are a couple of opportunities for additional funding.
Postgraduate Publishing Bursary
For PhD students: if you finish your thesis within 4 years, you can apply for a Postgraduate Publishing Bursary from the University. Details here. These are awarded automatically to those who apply; there are no selection criteria beyond finishing within 4 years.
These bursaries are also available to MSc students: see the same link.
Grants to help new PhD students into companies
The Callaghan Innovation Grants are available to companies who want to employ a new PhD student to work on a R & D problem. It's the company who applies for the grant, not you: but if you have contacts with a company, or are interested in working for a company, it's worth letting them know about this.
Resources for international postgrad students
General resources for international students can be found on Otago's International Office Website.
One specific issue worth mentioning concerns the procedure involved in extending a thesis submission deadline. While students are expected to complete within the standard timeframe (3 years for a PhD, 1 year for a MSc), there are sometimes academic reasons why a student requires an extension. Applications for extensions are only granted on academic grounds, naturally, and require the support of a student's supervisor(s). However, international students on visas must additionally apply for a visa extension. Our department will support students in their application for a visa extension, if there are sound academic reasons for extending their submission deadline. Nonetheless, students applying for a visa extension must show evidence they can support themselves financially during the extension period. Details about the evidence needed can be found on the International Office's visa/immigration page (see particularly here). Students with visas should think ahead about this contingency: it may be possible to set aside some scholarship income, or to undertake some part-time work to supplement income.
- If you have issues, e.g. difficulty with a supervisor, feel
free to contact the postgrad coordinator who would be happy to discuss the issue with you.
- Otago offers many postgrad
support services, relating to accommodation, scholarships,
Maori and Pacific students, international students and disability and
health services---we recommend you take a look!
- Otago's official PhD page and