Academic common room
PhD resubmit, re-viva
ProbsGonnaFail · 20/02/2022 16:21
I'd really appreciate advice from any PhD examiners
My PhD has been a nightmare from start to finish. I'm doing it part time as a requirement of my job but don't get any time for it (work fulltime) its a mixed methods educational PhD and I'm based in a very quantitative field so my supervisors don't work in this field. I've lost two supervisors as they've moved onto other jobs. I've also had a lots of personal/time challenges - two of my direct reports at work were off on compassionate leave and I had to cover their workload, then I had a 1 month interruption of studies to cover the 9 months of ongoing challenges I had whilst managing my terminally ill father's medical appointments and death. I've also been referred for an adult ADD assessment by my GP but due to waiting lists won't get a diagnosis for months/years.
I essentially had to self-teach myself the methods and analysis. At my viva the work was ripped apart and the examiners suggested I should take an MPhil, but gave me the option of resubmit and re-viva which I took. Some of the criticisms in the examiners report were constructive but fundamentally my examiners identified flaws in the construction of the survey I used to gather some of my data. I obviously cannot change this now.
I've addressed as many of the comments as I can but have entirely reanalysed and rewritten 7/8 chapters so a lot of the comments don't apply any more - is this ok?
Additionally some of the comments are vague like 'sampling information inadequate' despite my writing two pages on sampling techniques and the sampling frame used, and my supervisors saying this was explained well. so I'm not sure what was inadequate or what else I need to include.
One of my examiners has commented that the methods are too involved and 'textbook like' whilst another has said they're inadequate so I don't know how to reconcile this.
I've added to my discussion to include more self-criticism of the work and acknowledgement of its limitations. I've reanalysed the data and re-written the chapters and I've done some additional research that builds on the criticised work and is demonstrably successful, which seems to invalidate some of the concerns the examiners had (though I haven't said this).
Is there anything else that you would recommend? I don't have long til my resubmission and I feel like I'm going blind and mad staring at the thesis. I'm also still working fulltime.
Failing the resubmission and re-viva will likely be career-ending for me
GCAndProud · 20/02/2022 21:06
Okay, deep breath. I am sorry to hear it and it seems that your institution has let you down badly. For a start you should not be dealing with this on your own. You should have the guidance of a supervisor. My advice is to raise a complaint against your university for inadequate supervision. Threaten legal action if necessary to make them realise you are serious. It sounds as if you were given supervisors without expertise in your area. This is inexcusable and they should not have let you submit this thesis. Go in hard. They need to find you a new supervisor who can help you with the rewrite and grant you extra time to submit.
FWIW I know someone who got revise and resubmit after she was utterly let down by her supervisor. It wasn’t until she threatened to sue them that they listened and did something about it. She got extra time and a fee rebate and passed in the end.
Can I ask why you chose that particular institution, because it doesn’t sound like they have the correct expertise?
aridapricot · 20/02/2022 21:48
First of all, agree with @GCAndProud regarding your department/supervisor. It is them who should help you navigate the reports and undertake the re-writing.
Few things though:
a) Do you have individual examiners' reports only, or do you have a joint report in addition to that? If the latter, you should go by the joint report only - on which the examiners will have agreed, meaning that some of the disagreements or contraditions would have been mitigated or reconciled at least somewhat. So if an examiner says in their individual report that you should to XYZ but this didn't make it in the final report, you can safely ignore it.
b) Most people now submit their amended thesis as an electronic file with corrections marked up in a different colour, or highlighted, etc. But I had to submit a hard copy in my time, and I wrote a list of amendments that I'd made. Could you do something similar, and explain there that in some cases you changed the thesis so much that some of the examiners' comments weren't relevant anymore?
c) Not sure what the policy is at your place. I was recently involved (as chair) in a viva with a similar outcome, and the examiners said that they remained available should the student seek any clarification on their reports (this wasn't in the end not taken up, as the student decided to just not go ahead with resubmission). Are your examiners similarly approachable?
But you really need the support of a supervisor with this, it is unfair that you shoul dhave to do this on your own.
ProbsGonnaFail · 21/02/2022 03:29
Thank you both.
The tricky thing is that I work in the faculty where I'm enrolled as a student (it's not a traditional academic area, very applied) so my supervisors are my colleagues too. It's such a mess. Additionally it's a very traditional institution and there's not a particularly supportive culture.
I genuinely do feel as if my supervision has been inadequate and my time allowance impossible but don't know how to raise that without causing longterm career problems for myself.
There is a joint examiners report as well as individual ones so I'll go by that. The examiners have generally given good feedback - I just don't know if I can actually achieve it.
I can't physically change what has already been done so I'm trying to find the balance of self-critiquing it to demonstrate I'm aware of the weaknesses without entirely pulling it apart.
Thanks again for the posts - it's helpful
reshetima · 21/02/2022 06:32
Hi OP, sympathies from me too. You’ve been badly let down from what you say. If you can’t frame it as a complaint, then at least ask the department to find you a suitably expert supervisor from another department to help you with checking through the comments and corrections (or can you find one yourself and ask for them to be appointed?). If that doesn’t work, then I agree with the earlier comments: make sure you focus on requirements from joint report, and clearly show how you’ve addressed them.
KStockHERO · 21/02/2022 14:26
I'm sorry you're in this position but I would agree that you should most definitely start making noise about poor supervision arrangements.
If you're concerned about your future relationship with colleagues, don't frame the complaint as being about 'poor supervision' (i.e. the supervisors you were assigned weren't good). Instead, talk about the 'poor supervision arrangements' (i.e. the Department's failure to provide supervisors with expertise in your area).
My Department are terrified of PhD students raising complaints. Over the last few years, we've had a few end-of-PhD situations where students have raised complaints. Every time the University has (wrongly I would say on a couple of occasions) backed the student and the students have gone on to get PhDs
ProbsGonnaFail · 21/02/2022 21:26
Does anyone have advice on the best way of 'making noise' please? As far as I'm aware I can only appeal after the fact. What's the best way to make noise?
Going through the detailed notes in my examiners report I can also see that the examiners have commented that some errors (such as the reliance on data outside of the sampling frame) will be difficult to fix. I haven't incorporated any data from outside of my sampling frame
GCAndProud · 22/02/2022 09:05
Look up your university’s complaints procedure and follow those steps. You’re presumably not appealing the viva result - you are saying that due to inadequate supervision, you did not pass the viva. As pp have said, you’re not personally criticising your supervisors. You’re saying that they were not suited for your project and the university should have allocated you someone who was. This isn’t the time to be worried about feelings anyway, as your future career depends on it. I can’t comment on the extent to which your work is salvageable but examiners should not have recommended a revise and resubmit if it was incapable of passing.
The case I mentioned above also involved someone who was working for the department. Her supervisors hadn’t read anything she had written before she submitted. I don’t know how they got away with it to be honest. However, the dept was very keen to make her complaint go away, so made a great effort to get her over the finish line at the end.
It is a salutary lesson though - don’t ever do a project where your supervisor doesn’t have experience of the methodology. If you can’t change your supervisor, you change your project. All you need to do at phd level is to pass. You can do the stuff you want to do later in your career.
murmuration · 22/02/2022 10:13
This sounds very tough. Sorry you are going through this.
Is one of the examiners internal? I know when I was internal for a bit of a train-wreck of a thesis, I read over the student's revision as he was working on it and was allowed to provide feedback, to make sure it would meet a standard we'd pass. In fact, the external consulted with him too. Although I think our Dept may bend the rules a bit on such things, so may not be possible where you are. But worth exploring?
Do you have a Director of PG studies in your department? Or any other type person that you can go to ask advice? If you work in the department, is there a friend you can approach? (although you said it wasn't very supportive...) Or, is there some kind of Dean of PG studies or something you could ask advice? (maybe whoever would normally do things like grant Leave of Absences...) If your examiners are factually innacurate, is there any argument for assigning new ones? Or, our University has a Student Advocate - I'm typically sending UGs there for advice about appeals, but I imagine if such exists, they could do PG too - do you have anything like that?
poetryandwine · 23/02/2022 16:29
Do you have an adviser as well as supervisors? In some Schools/unis, the adviser role exists to give you an objective person to talk to in
a sticky situation. It is hardly ever needed, to the extent that many PGs don't even know who their adviser is. But this academic has a duty of care to you, and now is the time to exercise it.
They will know your supervisor(s) in a different capacity, have experience you lack of academia and the workings of the university, etc. I would expect you to find them sympathetic because I agree you have been badly let down.
ProbsGonnaFail · 23/02/2022 21:22
I don't have an advisor.
I've also checked my university regs.
There's an appeals process but not a complaints process.
I can only appeal after a decision has been made.
Is it worth sending the PG admin team an 'informal' complaint in the guise of raising awareness of problems in the system?
Also do any of you have experience of a thesis failing with publications. I probably should have been clear that I'm actually approaching my resubmission deadline - sorry frazzled and panicked! Since the viva I've scrambled and published 3 papers from the thesis as well as doing the re analysis and re-write (and working full time)
My aim is to get another 1-2 papers submitted and possibly accepted prior to viva.
Is that likely to make a difference?
reshetima · 24/02/2022 08:40
Regarding whether published papers making a difference: I'd hope so. Make sure to cite them, then add them as appendices. After all, publishable quality is a marker of success in my view.
poetryandwine · 24/02/2022 16:54
Hi, again -
The publications sound promising. May I gently query the quality of the journals? If decent this is a strong point in your favour.
With this in mind I think you have a good case for going to the Director of PG Studies. Presentation is important: you are seeking advice rather than making a complaint. Because of issues around expertise you don’t know where else to turn. Remember this isn’t an expert either, as you put your case.
I mostly agree that the only examiners’ report you need to worry about is the joint one. (The individual ones can show you the bear traps.) Errors of fact in this, eg re the sampling field, are potentially very serious. But this is something you should discuss with your supervisor(s) first. The PG Director is for what you can’t resolve with them.
The flavour is different to ‘raising awareness’ with the PG team. This is a valid cry for help. You need to prepare clear, concise examples and be prepared for the likelihood that the first instinct may be to defend academic colleagues. Facts, examples, a professional attitude and very likely your publication record are your assets here
FWIW in my STEM field I have never heard of anyone with decent publications failing their dissertation.
ProbsGonnaFail · 24/02/2022 17:41
The journal impact factors are in the 1.0-1.6 region. This is decent for my field. Not fabulous but decent.
I was worried this might be outing but sod it. One of my supervisors is now the Director of PG at my faculty. So not possible to go there really. I suspect part of the poor supervision is related to their promotion and increased workload. But it makes it tricky for me to raise a complaint
poetryandwine · 24/02/2022 19:09
Decent impact factors in my field, too!
For clarity: is there a PG Dir in your School of Study or are you somehow studying at Faculty level? You aren’t raising a complaint, you are seeking guidance, because the examiners’ report is problematic in ways you have listed for us. Agree this is tricky if the relevant Dir is your own supervisor, that’s why I am hoping there is a lower level one. If so I really think it okay. Just be very professional, kind and tactful.
Although you have been poorly served by your supervisor(s), for now I think it is safest to seek guidance and get your dissertation approved rather than start criticising your supervisor. Later, you will need to decide where the balance lies between a future in this Faculty and raising awareness - at least as long as your supervisor has more power than you do.
I wish I didn’t believe that
poetryandwine · 25/02/2022 13:52
Just quickly: even if your supervisor is the Dir of Studies a student seeking guidance would normally see, you can approach them with some ambiguity as to their role about your concerns with the examiners' report. These aren't directly a criticism of your supervisor, which they should appreciate, and I see them as your immediate worry. The rest is concerning and you will need to decide if and how you want to proceed, but get your degree first!
BTW in my field it is considered a embarrassment to the supervisor if a student fails their PhD. I cannot think of a single example.
ProbsGonnaFail · 28/02/2022 11:40
Thank you everyone.
Sorry I should have clarified, my supervisor is the director of PG at my school (not faculty) brain fried.
I'm close to resubmission and have had zero feedback from one of my supervisors on the draft thesis and generally only comments from the other (the PG director) relating to statistical analysis. Eg they query the test selected for some of the analysis but don't suggest alternatives or why the test might not be suitable.
I'm wondering if I should write to the PG office after submission to give 'feedback' on my overall experience prior to viva?
Wimpling · 28/02/2022 15:15
As your supervisor is the school director of PG, could you approach the Faculty PG director and raise your concerns? They should understand the sensitivity of your supervisor also holding the PG role. You need proper feedback on your work before resubmission.
ProbsGonnaFail · 28/02/2022 18:12
Thanks, but with the current timelines I think it's unlikely I'll get this
I really appreciate the support on this thread
Wimpling · 28/02/2022 21:32
I'd still suggest you flag it up before re-submission rather than after - it looks better than complaining after the event. PG Directors should be advocates for postgrads and can 'do stuff' especially where there is evidence of inadequate support, but you have to let them know about it.
It sounds like a difficult situation - I hope it works out for you.
DoctorDoctor · 28/02/2022 21:42
Can you raise the issue about needing "guidance" on how to meet the examiners' report requirements with the faculty PG director, and alongside this ask about the possibility of a extension of your deadline? Your institution ought to know what routes might be open for this - e.g. personal circumstances or whatever - and one way they could support you through the difficulties of all this would at least be to engineer you some additional time to fix things.
postwarbulge · 24/01/2023 01:19
I agree with @Poetryandwine. If a PhD student gets to the point of submission only to have their thesis seriously criticised concerning something as fundamental as methodology, for instance, I would wonder why the candidate was allowed to get this far without their supervisor not intervening and guiding them. I think there has been a serious failure on the part of the supervisor.
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