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Preparing for and Handling the Viva Authoring a PhD and Developing as a Researcher: the Endgame 24 February 2009 Dr Gita Subrahmanyam.

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Presentation on theme: "Preparing for and Handling the Viva Authoring a PhD and Developing as a Researcher: the Endgame 24 February 2009 Dr Gita Subrahmanyam."— Presentation transcript:

1 Preparing for and Handling the Viva Authoring a PhD and Developing as a Researcher: the Endgame 24 February 2009 Dr Gita Subrahmanyam

2 Today’s workshop aims …  To give you an overview of the viva process  To give you an opportunity and space for practical preparation Overall …  To de-mystify a seemingly mysterious process

3 Agenda 10.10Fears and needs exercise 10.20Preparing for the viva: purpose and process 10.30Examiners’ panel and Q&A 11.00Coffee 11.15Preparing for the viva: questions and dealing with them 12.00Recent students’ experiences and Q&A 12.30Summary and reflections

4 Fears and needs: brainstorming exercise Working in your table groups, take 5 minutes to brainstorm your fears about the viva process, and what you would like to get out of this workshop. Brainstorm means include everything, no matter how seemingly spurious. Nominate a scribe, who should use the giant post-it in front of you to write down the group’s ideas.

5 The PhD Viva: purposes  Checking it’s all your own work  Check you fully understand the work and its implications  Independent professional voice  Examiners use the viva to clarify points of uncertainty  Candidates can use the viva to seek advice on progressing the research further  Rite of passage - acceptance into the academy

6 The PhD viva: process  Selecting the examiners Selecting the examiners  When? Minimum 6-8 weeks after submission, likely to be longer (3-4 months)  You will be contacted about setting a time, date and place

7 The PhD viva: process (2)  Examiners each prepare a preliminary report before the viva  In the room: 2 examiners, you, your lead supervisor (unless you decide otherwise)  Take with you: a copy of your thesis, any preparation notes, something to take notes with and on

8 The PhD viva: process (3)  Outcomes: Outcomes Pass with no corrections (considered rare) Pass with minor corrections (most common) Referral (18 months to do major corrections) Offered award of MPhil Fail  Examiners will prepare a joint report, which you will see

9 Recent PhD exam outcomes  According to Research Degrees Unit, from 1 October 2006 to 31 October 2008: 93 PhDs awarded with no corrections 98 PhDs awarded after minor corrections 2 PhDs awarded after major revisions 3 MPhils awarded 2 Fails

10 The Examiners’ Perspective Dr Ken Shadlen, Development Studies Institute Dr Alan Sked, International History Professor Ian Gordon, Geography

11 The PhD viva: preparation  Before you submit: examiner selection, produce a good ‘industrial standard’ thesis, ‘rolling synopsis’  After you submit: Re-read and SUMMARISE (chapters and thesis as a whole) Mark-up thesis highlights Make a list of typos and errors – there will be some! Revise – some of the key works/ideas you made use of Practise – anticipate likely questions and practise answering them

12 What will I be asked?  Not the Spanish Inquisition!

13 Common viva questions Originality What are the most original parts of the thesis? Which propositions would you say are distinctively your own? How do you think you work takes forward or develops the literature in this field? What are the “bottom line” conclusions of your research? How innovative or distinctive are they?

14 Common viva questions Origins/Topics Can you tell us how you came to choose this topic for your doctorate? Why have you defined the topic in the way you did? What were some of the difficulties you encountered and did they influence how the topic was framed?

15 Common viva questions Methods What are the core methods used in this thesis? Why did you choose this approach? In an ideal world, are there different techniques you’d have liked to use? Data What are the main sources or kinds of evidence? Are they strong enough to sustain the conclusions you draw? How do your findings fit with or contradict the rest of the literature in this field?

16 Common viva questions What next? What are the main implications of your research for the rest of the field?

17 Dealing with questions  Listen to the question  Pause and take your time  Talk precisely and move from the general to the specific  Use appropriate rhetorical strategies: First person and the active voice Speaking in the past tense

18 Dealing with criticisms  Define-defend (Murray)  Defence in depth (Dunleavy) Keep the faith, but respect and accommodate examiners’ criticisms/suggestions Remind the examiners of the (limited) scope of a PhD thesis Talk about making amendments in the context of publication

19 What next…? Further reading P. Dunleavy, Authoring a PhD (Basingstoke, 2003) – chapter 8 R. Murray, How to survive your viva (Maidenhead, 2003)

20 The PhD Students’ Perspective Daniel Osei-Joehene, Information Systems Serena Sharma, International Relations Lisa Aronsson, International Relations Omar McDoom, DESTIN

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