Preparation Read and re read – take notes Anticipate the questions you'll be asked generic and specific Be familiar with the literature used and some you haven’t! Who are the examiners? what is their interests? Have confidence in your work and your ability to defend it
Know your thesis... Familiarity with the literature and debates about the topic Prepare to justify and defend decisions made Highlight the strengths and implications of the study Consider what could be done differently Consider the implications of this study for further work or for ‘practice’
Consider Any new literature (or any missed!) Any publications prior to completion are helpful Programme of further study ?
Reflect on existing skills Confidence at oral presentations What are your strengths when discussing our work? What are your weaknesses? Have you been asked ‘difficult’ questions about your work? Have you explained your work well to others? Have you had feedback on your performance? How do you handle criticism? How do you handle pressure?
On the day Have breakfast... Know where to go and arrive early Bring a copy of thesis – write all over it/ ‘post-it’ notes /triggers Prepare to summarise your study
Know who will be present... Internal + external examiner Supervisor present Someone on ‘your side’? Take notes, provide feedback, provide support Or not... Independent chair/university official Duration...
Tips Relax and enjoy it, if possible! Listen carefully to the questions and take your time answering them. Provide enough information as relevant and avoid going off at a tangent. Handling difficult questions: If you don't understand, ask for clarification.. Treat vague questions as opportunity to tell the examiners what you think might be of interest If you really can't answer a question: Be honest and say you don’t know If it's about literature you haven't come across, thank the examiner and ask for a reference.
Examiners Will be prepared and will have read your work in detail Examiners will usually agree in advance which areas they will focus on Be aware of their research interests and previous publications
Various approaches to questioning Sequential approach From literature review through to discussion Thematic approach Broad areas to more specific Page by page approach Systematically through each page or section
Opening question ??? Summary of study?? Why this topic selected?? Should demonstrate interest and familiarity with your work
Prepare for the expected... Summarise the various areas addressed in this thesis What are the interesting components of this work? Who will be interested in this study? Did your study turn out as expected? How will this area of research develop over the next few years and do you see that you will have a role in this?
Also expected Why is this subject important? Who else thinks it is important? Why has this study not been done before? What is your contribution to this area of research? Who will be interested in your findings?
Anticipate questions Literature reviewed Methodology Ontological and epistemological questions? Methods – decisions made Findings Potential pitfalls – alternative results possible? Reliability/validity or rigour/ trustworthiness of data Discussion What is new, interesting, exciting about this study?
Typical Viva Questions What is the study about Key findings Challenges in undertaking this work Importance of this work What is exciting or new Any omissions – what might you do differently Limitations Recommendations (key) Dissemination Implications for further research
What about the unexpected? What can trip you up?
When you are told that it is over... Reprieve from questioning Relief Awaiting judgement...
Possible results PhD awarded Awarded with minor revisions Referral - major revisions required No award or recommendation for lower degree (MPhil)
Post viva Various experiences Relief Frustration Exhaustion Delighted Anti-climax... Are there corrections / changes to be made...
Follow on work to graduation Procedures... Timelines... Revisions...
Appeals All Universities have appeal mechanisms Ascertain grounds for appeal – usually related to irregularities of procedures not academic judgment of examiners
Finally Not about surviving the viva but... an opportunity on how to do justice to yourself and your research and... perhaps even to enjoy the event!