Academic common room
PhD viva - your best tips please
tinymeteor · 30/08/2018 09:27
Help help help
I have my viva in one week. Prep has gone ok but I'm being derailed by a teething 5mo who won't take bottles and wakes for a feed every 45 minutes, all night long. It's possible I may not be at my sharpest right now.
What is your most essential advice on questions I should be ready for? (It's social sciences, qualitative methods.)
I fundamentally believe in the work and think it's good enough to pass though I fully expect some corrections. How do I avoid cocking it all up on viva day because I'm deliriously tired?
Deianira · 30/08/2018 10:02
I think it's worth taking a deep breath and remembering that you are the expert on your work. To some extent, the prep is already all done, regardless of your situation now, because you have been preparing for this all the way through your PhD! Assuming you didn't plagiarise your thesis, you've already got this. So try not to worry too much.
I actually found that the question which stumped me in my viva (and really shouldn't have) was the 'why this project' very first question - which is meant to be an easy opener. But I had considered all of the gritty detailed stuff in my prep, and forgotten to think about how we start the conversation. So do have a bit of a think about why you did the project you did - where the ideas came from, how they evolved as you got started, etc. Otherwise, I am humanities, so will leave the more detailed suggestions to others. But good luck, and do remember that you know this stuff - you will be really great!
DamnCommandments · 30/08/2018 10:06
Seconding think about "why this question?" Also think about "why this method?" - I looked blank for a long time on that one, because the answers in my head were things like 'because the data had already been collected'.
Do a bit of background reading on your external too. Mine was out of field, and a bit of reading saved me from some terminological confusion.
NameChangedAgain18 · 30/08/2018 11:55
If you were to start this project again, what might you do differently? How could this research be built upon in the future?
And, yes, definitely read your external’s publications.
tinymeteor · 30/08/2018 21:12
Great advice, thank you. Spent this morning refreshing my memory on the external examiner's stuff, which I happen to love anyway. I'll give my opening pitch some thought tomorrow - as you say it's easier to speak to the detail than the overall vision by this point in the process.
Now all I need is for DD to magically become a good sleeper in the next seven days and I'm sorted.
BlessedImelda · 30/08/2018 21:18
Honestly, OP, this will sound odd, but enjoy it. You’ve done the work, you are the expert, and this is the last time you will sit in a room having an involved conversation with two people who are really interested in your project. I’m humanities, so will defer to others on likely questions, but I wish I’d relaxed and enjoyed talking to two of the top scholars on my topic more! Break a leg!
tinymeteor · 31/08/2018 02:11
Enjoy it - well let's hope it's going well enough for that!
fluffyowlagain · 31/08/2018 16:54
I'm social sciences, and did qualitative methods. I agree with what's been said, you're the expert on this and by getting to this stage you know what you're talking about.
Have you got the opportunity to have a mock viva? I had one a couple of days beforehand with my supervisor and another academic, and I asked for them to be mean and horrible (no smiling, no small talk, hard questions). They were, and really put me on the spot. It was excruciating but invaluable - I was able to identify my weak answers, think about where I could improve, and get feedback on what I was doing well. (Both people said that I had done well!) This meant that when it was my actual viva, I knew it would be more enjoyable than the mock! And it was. As someone has already said, enjoy it if you can. It may be the only time you get to talk about your work with people who have read it cover to cover!
In your viva, take your time to answer questions, and don't be afraid to say you don't know something - I was asked if I'd ever heard of the work of a theorist, I said I hadn't, so the conversation moved on, rather than me trying to think who on earth they were! Also, take in a copy of your thesis with page markers for the chapters, and also key points such as the implications or conclusions you think are more relevant/exciting/etc.
Finally, check things like the time and venue - I was confident I knew where my room was, turns out I was in the wrong building and phoned my supervisor in an absolute panic! He came to rescue me and thankfully I was only round the corner.
Cliveybaby · 05/09/2018 14:57
Ooh watching with interest as I have 2 1/2 weeks til mine!
thejeangenie36 · 05/09/2018 19:00
The fundamental purpose of a viva is to check you haven't plagiarised the work. So expect to answer 'why did you do this' questions. Also questions on the limitations of the research and 'what contribution do you think your research makes to the field'.
TheFallenMadonna · 05/09/2018 19:07
I had a huge long gap between finishing my lab work and writing up, and then another gap between submission and Viva. I did forget the answer to one of the "why did you use that method?" questions. And I had a typo on my title page, which both my examiners had never seen before apparently... But, it was completely fine, and they were kind when my mind went blank. Good luck!!
tinymeteor · 07/09/2018 21:01
Well, it was intense, and it would have been nice if my teething 5mo had slept better (or at all) this week so I was less tired, but who cares because I passed without corrections! Woo bloody hoo! Thanks for all the advice, it really did help.
bibliomania · 11/09/2018 13:30
Congrats! The joy of no corrections! (I'm due to submit in the next couple of weeks so will need to start the viva prep in the near future....)
tinymeteor · 13/09/2018 17:17
Oh good luck @bibliomania you are so close! There's sunlit uplands on the other side of that deadline...
bibliomania · 14/09/2018 10:25
Thanks tiny! I've heard the legend of the sunlit uplands, and I live in hope!
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