Viva in 2 weeks, any advice?

(21 Posts)
HatHen Thu 23-Mar-17 22:26:04


My viva is coming up in less than 2 weeks, any advice please? I've got a mock next week, hoping that will help.

OP’s posts: |
user1487015199 Thu 23-Mar-17 22:36:44

What's the viva about?

Parietal Thu 23-Mar-17 22:52:16

what research area? what are your worries?

Foureyesarebetterthantwo Fri 24-Mar-17 08:55:57

My advice is (for a PhD viva): know your thesis backwards. I had a big gap between writing and then being viva'd and that didn't help in terms of knowing it as intimately as I should. Secondly, don't be defensive, you don't have to put on the performance of a lifetime, just be solid in your ability to explain the choices you made and the implications of your results/theoretical contribution.

Vivas are much better at my institution now, as the examiners have to prepare a report beforehand and exchange them before the viva, so there's no over-riding of one's opinion over the other.

shovetheholly Fri 24-Mar-17 09:15:18

My best advice, which is drawn largely from the very wrong way I approached mine, is that it is not an execution, and that it should not be approached with the kind of dread that would be more fitting in a walk to the scaffold! It should be one of the most helpful conversations you ever have in terms of your academic development. You will rarely again get the opportunity to have two senior people read your work with such attention, and to offer their thoughts on how to develop it further.

HatHen Fri 24-Mar-17 10:51:18

Foureyes and shove, thank you. I have had quite a large gap between submission and viva too. I better read it a good few times.

I am trying not to think about it an exam, but truth be told it does feel like the most important exam I've ever had. Having said that, childbirth was at least 50x scarier, so if I could do that, I should be able to do anything.

I think examiners have to prepare a report prior to the viva at out institution too. I wonder if supervisors can see that report too prior to the exam.

@user and @parietal my research area is epidemology.

OP’s posts: |
Foureyesarebetterthantwo Fri 24-Mar-17 11:05:07

HatHen I wouldn't think it would be shared with the supervisors, it is not there to inform you of the result as that has not yet been decided, but to help structure the viva, list the points which require clarity in advance, and also to ask them for an initial assessment not coloured by the other examiner. My experience is this is then used to develop amendments if indeed they are required. We often have an independent Chair now as well. The emphasis is on being fair and giving the candidate the opportunity to defend their thesis thoroughly (and not let one very opinionated and dominant examiner dominate everything).

UptheChimne Fri 24-Mar-17 17:36:50

My advice (although I'm in the Humanities, I think it's pretty standard), is to remember that yo'll be in conversation with two people whom you know have read your thesis with attention to detail. Probably the only two people in the world, apart from you & your supervisor.

So see it as a conversation on a topic in which you are making the claim to be a world expert.

Don't be defensive, as others have said. Know what you thesis is about, AND also what it's not about. And why. Be clear about your choices - and see them and articulate them as choices: methodology, choice of approach, choice of primary evidence, and so on.

If you don't understand a question, ask it back to the Examiners in a calm, uncombative, undefensive way: "Let me check I understand what you're asking me. Do you mean X?"

Take your time. Breathe.

Assume that the three of you are going to have a conversation about a topic you're all invested in.

Have a clear idea where your little bit of research fits into your broader field. And know where you might take that research next.

Good luck!

UptheChimne Fri 24-Mar-17 17:38:10

Oh, and no, your supervisors won't see the Examiners' reports until after the result is agreed, and only then if the Examiners release them to you & your supervisors. The viva must be as independent as possible.

AspasiaFitzgibbon Fri 24-Mar-17 23:15:50

Reading with interest as I shall be submitting in about six weeks.
Convinced everything I have written is total bollocks and will just have to sit there for two hours while this is pointed out to me in excruciating detail.

Godstopper Mon 27-Mar-17 14:41:00

Well, don't do what I did which is to open up the thesis a month before, spot a typo on the first page, and close it in horror until the viva. On walking into the room (which, as shove says, did feel a bit like walking to a scaffold!) I was told I'd passed with no corrections, and then contemplated staying as silent as possible incase I talked myself out of a PhD.

Now, I'd give similar advice to that here, namely, do treat it as an opportunity to discuss your topic with two experts since that is unlikely to happen in that level of detail again.

If you have spotted typos, take a list of them in - but don't volunteer it! I did, and had about 100 (I am not joking - I printed it out and handed it on the same day which would have avoided this), but they were thankfully overlooked. Just shows you're aware of what to do if required.

No-one is out to get you or point out everything you think is wrong with your thesis - if you've had a good supervisor, a truly bad thesis shouldn't have been submitted. There was a huge gap between what I thought would happen (majors or worse) and what did. We really are our own worst enemies.

AspasiaFitzgibbon Mon 27-Mar-17 15:25:59

Yes, I am banking on my supervisor (a) being able to recognise significant weaknesses and (b) not letting me submit a thesis that contained them.
It would be nice though at this stage if she were giving me feedback that was more than 'This isn't a complete pile of shit.'

UptheChimne Mon 27-Mar-17 17:38:04

No-one is out to get you or point out everything you think is wrong with your thesis - if you've had a good supervisor, a truly bad thesis shouldn't have been submitted. There was a huge gap between what I thought would happen (majors or worse) and what did. We really are our own worst enemies.


AspasiaFitzgibbon Mon 27-Mar-17 18:17:33

Do you think everyone feels like this, or is it a largely female thing?

user7214743615 Mon 27-Mar-17 18:31:59

I think examiners have to prepare a report prior to the viva at out institution too. I wonder if supervisors can see that report too prior to the exam.

As above, the supervisors do not see pre-viva reports. (BTW in most institutions the examiners prepare separate reports and then exchange them before the viva.)

However, if there is a significant problem with the thesis, it is common, at least in my field, for this to be flagged before the viva. It is not considered the done thing to spring it on the student during the formal viva.

HatHen Mon 27-Mar-17 20:47:52

@Godstopper your story made me LOL (sorry). I can't believe you went in to the viva without any prep but wow, you passed without any corrections, that's amazing, you must have been very happy once you digested that in!

@user7214743615 I hope this would be the case if there is a problem, as it is utterly terrifying to be told on the day.

@Upthechime thanks for sharing your advice. I don't have plans to take the research any further. I was hoping to talk about how the research could be taken the further. Should that be OK? I'd rather be honest. I do want to run fast away from academia but don't want to come across like I'm running away smile

@AspasiaFitzgibbon Good luck with your submission and viva. I don't know if it's a female thing and/or a PhD student thing (imposter syndrome) but it does really help when you have a lot of faith and confidence in your supervisor, as you are fairly sure then that they wouldn't let you submit a thesis that could fail. However, a fail happened in my department with a very well known and regarded academics recently so yes, I'm not feeling overly confident. But parts of my thesis have been published in journals (not all), so I am telling myself it can't be a fail (and hopefully not major changes either).

OP’s posts: |
Godstopper Tue 28-Mar-17 11:05:10

I was fortunate in that my examiners decided to overlook my typos (sounds pedantic, but that can be minors in some places!). I promptly burst into tears in front of a big name external examiner that I'd never met before which was a bit embarrassing.

I think imposter syndrome is built into a lot of us. I am still sometimes mystified as to how I actually got a PhD. Now I keep thinking the papers I am writing up from it are rubbish on account of journal rejections. But they can't be shocking as I passed the bloody thing.

I'm sure you'll come back to this thread with good news smile

allegretto Tue 28-Mar-17 13:58:24

I did exactly the same as I did my GCSEs - spend ages writing up a detailed revision plan to last 8 weeks, then completely ignore it and have a last minute panic instead! I ended up reading through everything (easier said than done - I found it quite stressful seeing all the typos in black and white) and making a summary of each chapter and then wrote down some questions that I thought might come up and answered them. I didn't have a mock viva. Good luck!

carefreeeee Tue 04-Apr-17 22:48:06

Make sure you know the background to the parts of your thesis that your examiners are knowledgeable about.

My thesis was also epidemiology (viva a month ago). I had swotted up on all the details of what the models meant, the assumptions, the different statistics, and knew about all the pro's and cons. However my examiners weren't interested in that at all. One was a pathologist and wanted to go into minute details about stuff that isn't my field at all (relevant to the disease I was studying but a different aspect). The other one was interested in the bigger picture and implications of the work which was fair enough - but I had concentrated on knowing my work well, which didn't really benefit me at all.

I came out feeling pretty fed up, they also went through and identified every typo and missed full stop etc, asking me to change one word for another where the first one was fine, and things like that. I felt a bit disapppointed because I was hoping for some expert advice on how to improve my models and this was never discussed!

prettygirlincrimsonrose Thu 06-Apr-17 06:43:26

Making notes on how I'd answer standard questions and summarising sections was helpful for me (although I didn't end up referring to any of it, it helped me make sure all the necessary information was in my head).

I also went through and identified a lot of areas I thought could be better, and even made notes/wrote additional paragraphs to improve it. I didn't mention any of this in the viva, but it did mean I felt prepared to discuss the weaker aspects and show that I'd thought about things that I'd decided against including. Not sure I'd recommend doing that as it did make me worry about quality of thesis, but overall I feel like it did help me and even though I only ended up having to correct typos, it's been useful having those notes for writing articles.

If you're friends with other PhD students, take someone out for a coffee and ask them to ask you about your thesis. I found that really useful for identifying some points that might be interesting to someone else, and also just for practicing talking about it.

Xmaspost Tue 18-Sep-18 17:29:53

I thought I had prepared well for my Viva, but did run into a problem. My issue related to statistics and probability (hypothesis testing). It was not a major part of my work (minor issue in writing up report), and was done 2 years previously. So struggled to answer specific questions on that in real time, which lead to more questions, ...etc...

In summary, if there is stats involved read up on the details again...and avoid the issues I ran into!!

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