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Thesis sumbitted and now awaiting viva......I'm scared!

(17 Posts)
2plus1 Sun 17-Apr-11 15:50:07

Hi all,
I have not posted on here for some time now, just hovered, but feel I need some support. I have been doing my part-time PhD for 5 1/2 years and had DD1 during year 4, finished the lab work and then had unexpected twins (DD2 and DS1) in year 5. I managed to get back to writing my thesis and finally submitted on april fools day (oh dear is that a bad omen lol). So here I am now awaiting a viva date which is supposed to be within three months. To be honest, I am scared of the viva despite reading a couple of books to demistify the process. I am worried that I can only prepare during the evenings and if this will be enough, but I have just had two weeks break and it seems that my motivation has gone. Since having the babies and staying at home with them, my brain just doesn't remember details like it used to. Someone once told me that every time you give birth to a baby you also give birth to a few brain cells (lol) and I really feel like that now

So is there anyone who has got through this with three under 2 1/2 years or has any viva advice/prep motivators?

notremotelyintofootie Sun 17-Apr-11 22:17:42

Ooh congratulations on submitting! No advice I'm afraid but I'm hoping to be where you are this time next year and I currently have a 17 month old dd.... How did you juggle the kids and writing up?

crystalglasses Sun 17-Apr-11 23:23:45

It won't be as bad as you think. The examiners will only ask you about what's in your thesis and you know it best. It will only be around an hour and a half and remember they are there to find holes in your arguments and it is your job to defend what you have written.
what I did was do a key point summary of each chapter, on post it notes in my copy of the thesis.
Then asked myself a series of questions based around the aims/hypothesis, method, analysis and results/outcome
eg- to what extent did you achieve your aims
- why did you choose your method (of analysis etc) - what would you do differently if you were starting again?
what has your research added to the sum of knowledge/why is it important?
What has it left unanswered?

you are allowed to take a copy of your thesis in with you and if they ask you any difficult questions, know your way round it so that you can look up whatever they're talking about, to remind yourself. Your psot it notes will also be there to help if necessary.

Examiners know how hard it is to complete a PhD and so will understand the stress you are under.

Sorry this post is not very coherent but I'm tired and need to go to bed.

2plus1 Mon 18-Apr-11 13:38:12

Thank you for your replies. I think that it is easy to fear the worst in this type of examination and with the little time I have I need to be very efficient with my prep. Crystalglasses your comments are very encouraging and gives me a sense of structure. I am about to start reading my thesis again (eek!) and would like to 'post it' as I go. What types of hints did you put on your post it notes?

notremotelyintofootie - writing up with three bambinos is very hard work and the emphasis is on being organised. I set aside evenings for write-up, usually 1930 til 2230 ish, for 6 days a week. I would use nap times for rough structuring/outlining of the chapters or sections so that I could be productive in the evening. Fortunately my bambinos slept from 7pm til 6.30am and hubby was understanding of course! I think it took from May til December to write up and January to March for editing and addressing supervisory comments. Good luck with your write-up!

crystalglasses Tue 19-Apr-11 18:44:15

Sorry - this post is very long!

My post it notes ( it was a while ago) went like this=
chapter one-post it page w - chapter structure and main theme
post it page x -sub theme 1 - summary of (key words)
post it page y - sub theme 2 - summary of (key words)
etc
post it page z - conclusion (key words)

But I did a lot of post its that I left out eventually - I just found them useful and had a pile of them as reminders eg theories, arguments, plus comments on my expereince of actually doing the research - challenges re time management/ data collection/what I would do differently if starting again/ what I had learnt over the three years/which parts of the thesis would I most likely try to get published and why (this last one is a bit tricky - but think about gaps in the literature at the moment)

Remember that you don't need to know all the answers and it is better to acknowledge that rather than going into waffling mode, eg to a difficult question you response could be 'yes I found that rather tricky but tried to overcome it by taking x approach'.

Hope this is helpful, but really it isn't that bad. You will probably come out of it feeling that you have taken part in a very vigorous debate in which you views have been fully challenged but that ultimately you have come out the winner because you've passed. Even if you have to rewrite parts of the thesis you should be given guidance on what you have to rewrite.

It's very difficult to second guess the examiner's questions but as long as you've got a good grasp of what you've written you shoud be ok

PS I had a look at some of my old notes on viva preparation - i don't know if I wrote them or I was given them, but they are relevent
1.Literature
Know the literature that you have cited. This doesn't mean that you have to suddenly become familiar with literature that you're worried you should perhaps have cited, as I thought. It means that you should reread the key studies that you have drawn on, looking critically at issues such as their methodology, their conclusions etc
Think about what you do want to talk about in your viva, so that you can try to bring the conversation back to your strengths eg I may not have done that, but this is what I did do.

2.research aims
Think very carefully about what you have said your research will do, particularly if you have listed research aims. Did you actually achieve these aims?

3.terms used
Be clear about the terms you have used, and what they mean to you.

4.the 'main message' of your thesis
Think about what the 'main message' of your thesis is.

During the viva They're looking for:
A coherent, robust defence of your thesis - have confidence in what you've written. A defence of your ideas, but not in an arrogant way. A coherent thesis in terms of where it's going, what line of argument you're following. A narrative - a story with a thread running through it that takes the reader from the beginning to the end. Don't worry if the examiner seems unsympathetic. It could be that she perceives your work as excellent, and wants a good discussion. Remain confident that what you've done is worthwhile. You're bound to be asked about something you didn't expect - expect the unexpected!
•In one sentence - what is your thesis
•Summarise your key findings.
•What contribution to knowledge does your PhD make?
•Why did you do the research this way ? Why not that way? A chance to defend your methodology.
•Looking back, what might you have done differently? Requires a thoughtful answer, whilst defending what you did at the time.
•What have you learned from the process of doing your PhDHas your view of - whatever your research topic is - changed during the course of the research?
•How did your research questions emerge?
•Any ethical issues relating to your research? How did you deal with them?
•What do you consider the weaknesses of your study? (try not to take up too much time here).
•Have you thought about publications - which journals?
•Ideas for future research?

2plus1 Tue 19-Apr-11 21:38:51

Crystalglasses I cannot thank you enough for finding the time to reply so extensively. I have taken your advice and will be post-it noting as I re-read my thesis. I am glad you expanded on the post-its as I was not really sure the best way to go about this. Then I shall work out answers to your suggested questions. I guess the more prepared I can be, the less daunting it should be!

As with most submitted works, I have found a few minor errors in cited page numbers (blast the stupid Word/PDF formatting, arghh!) so I guess I will be supplying a corrections list to the examiners too. So I have lots of prep to do and no idea how much time to do it in, as no date has been set yet!

crystalglasses Tue 19-Apr-11 22:26:19

Thanks for your reply and I'm glad to be of help because I remember not being able to find out anything substantial about experiences of the viva or preparing for it (There's a paper in that somewhere). I always over-prepare for these things but just do whatever you can in the time available. My supervisior arranged for me to have a mock viva before the real thing and it really helped because it highlighted for me certain things I hadn't thought about and also reassured me that I could handly most questions adequately. The person who mock viva'ed me didn't read my thesis but he knew what it was a bout and was sufficently expereinced to be able to ask salient and pointed questions. Do you know anyone, even if it's a friend who has gon through the process, who could do the same?

Anyway good luck. I also did my Phd and viva with young dc around but looking back I would have really gone overboard with the preparation if they hadn't kept me grounded. Passing my viva was quite a deflating experience as I had to go home and make the dinner rather than go out celebrating, and I was suddenly at a loss because I had no more studying to do. It felt very strange. Do let us all know how you get on.

sunsplash Wed 20-Apr-11 10:48:49

i also wanted to say thanks for the viva tips! I should submit in a couple of weeks and what comes after sometimes feels as though it is shrouded in a veil! Have saved these for future ref! Good luck 2plus1!

2plus1 Wed 20-Apr-11 13:50:23

Haha, sunsplash I totally agree with the viva veil lol! I am still awaiting a date but it is easter followed by bank hols, so I guess this will delay communications (at least I hope that is the delay!). It is nice to know that someone else is about the same stage. Let us know when you submit, never know your viva date may preceed mine wink

2plus1 Thu 09-Jun-11 22:19:55

Well, the viva date has finally been set for the beginning of July, arghh! That is just under four weeks to go. I have set myself a timetable of viva prep to adhere to which is going ok at the moment. I am happy in post-it land! I think as long as I stick to the advice given here and my timetable I will be as prepped as I can be. My hotel is booked with running machine, sauna, jacuzzi etc for the evening before! Hubby is looking after the three bambinos which worries me slighty as they can really wind me up with their craziness and he is not used to this all day on his own (eek!).

So my other worries are: 1. how will I get over my anxieties for this viva?
2. will I manage to vacate the WC in order to attend? 3.will I bolt like a rabbit in headlights as I reach the exam room door? 4. will I breakdown in a weeping bimbling mess in front of my examiners? 5. will I throw up all over my examiners? 6. will I be able to communicate with examiners on this scientific topic without igglepiggle being mentioned? 6. Is it likely that a scribbled page might pop out of my thesis?

OMG, panicking has to stop, only been working on this for six years so no pressure then!

Atwaroverscrabble Sun 12-Jun-11 18:45:46

Good idea about the hotel and don't worry, you'll be great!!!

I'm sure the examiners have seen it all and vomit might speed up the viva! grin

2plus1 Sun 12-Jun-11 21:03:01

Well I guess there are two things to look forward to, the hotel relaxation and getting the viva over and done with. This has been hanging over me for so long but back then it was a long way in the future, now it is here (OMG).

Hadn't thought that delivering my breakfast onto the table may speed things up...........! Thanks for that, it made me giggle smile

2plus1 Fri 08-Jul-11 10:55:13

Well my viva was on wednesday! I had a great drive down to the hotel with a really nice and relaxing stay (swimming, sauna, steam room, jacuzzi etc). I did no viva prep on tuesday at all to help relax a bit. Got there early on wednesday and was invited in at 1030. The external had most of the queries that were related to comparison of my model with physiology, an area of his expertise and my expertise trying to meet in the middle lol. I really felt quite beaten by the discussion but in the second half things improved for me! It lasted for two hours before I was asked to leave. The final decision was that I passed my PhD with some minor corrections to finalise within three months!!! I was dumbstruck and pretty numb to be honest and it is only just starting the sink in! Following the viva we had some buffet lunch together before my 3 1/2 drive home to my family. The three bambinos were elated to see me home and their faces were priceless grin.

So I am really pleased that this is pretty much finished now after 6 long part-time years with three children under 2 1/2 years and three house moves! If I can get the corrections done in the next few weeks I can graduate in October.

For anyone else undergoing their viva prep, the prep detailed here was invaluable for keeping the subject alive and viewing the work from a different perspective. The questions I had were not related to my prep as such but the wider field. The viva prep certainly made me feel more confident but I could not have foresore the discussion area! Finding your way around your thesis is important as the viva situation makes it hard to see what is in front of you lol. I found that my head was spinning and at one point got into a muddle, so stated this to my examiners for a moment to think - this is normal so don't feel afraid to say so!

Sunsplash, have you submitted and got a viva date yet?

sunsplash Fri 08-Jul-11 18:13:34

2plus1 that's great. Congratulations!! I have submitted what should be my submission copy to my sprvr waiting for him to sign off and contact the external examiner so more delays but to be honest I am glad to forget about it for a few weeks as I am really fed up of it now. Trying to write one or two journal articles to give me different perspective and once i get my date will follow all ur tips. Once again congrats!

2plus1 Fri 08-Jul-11 18:43:21

Sounds like you should be submitting very soon, especially now you are fed up with it! Theses can tweaked and updated forever, so once I got fed up with seeing mine that was the submission point for me. I took a few weeks break post submission which I recommend! I came back with renewed enthusiasm for the viva prep and fresh eyes to spot mistakes. Well done Sunsplash - the final road is just around the corner smile

sunsplash Tue 12-Jul-11 19:50:52

Yes! Supervisor has confirmed that thesis is ready for submission and he has identified the external examiner. Here we go!

2plus1 Wed 13-Jul-11 08:23:40

Fantastic news Sunsplash! Time to get to the binders and submit your thesis. Enjoy the moment and then take a well earned break. wine

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