Viva outcomes: major corrections, minor corrections, revise and resubmit

posted
18-Mar-17, 16:50
edited about 21 seconds later
Avatar for strawberrygirl
posted about 5 months ago
Hi all... I wondered if anyone has come across a clear description of the differences between major corrections, minor corrections and, revise and resubmit, as possible viva outcomes. I've looked at several places online (including this forum and my own university's guidelines) and have found very little information about how academics decide whether to award major or minor corrections (or even revise and resubmit). I've been re-reading my thesis since I submitted it several weeks ago and feel very unhappy about it. I've found, not only some basic errors and stylistic mistakes (in formatting etc), but I can also see that my argument is weak and unclear in places. It would be great to have some clarity on how examiners decide between the categories of minor/major/revise and resubmit. Does anyone know much about this? I'm in the UK.
posted
18-Mar-17, 19:58
edited about 48 seconds later
by Gwen86
Avatar for Gwen86
posted about 5 months ago
Hi strawberrygirl,

It really depends on your particular examiners and, to some extent, on how you do in the viva. My own thesis was quite weak when I submitted but I persuaded my examiners that I knew exactly what the weaknesses were and how to fix them and so I got majors instead of an R&R verdict. But it's possible different examiners would have told me to R & R. I've heard similar stories about people getting minors when they expected majors, for similar reasons. Ultimately, if your examiners are decent and sensible, they'll be guided by 1) how significant the changes, if any, they want are and 2) how much time you need to complete them (given your demonstrated understanding of any problems in the viva). That's it.

From what you say about your thesis, it doesn't sound there is some big flaw in there (unlike mine -- I ran out of time and submitted a thesis that was essentially missing a keystone chapter). Some stylistic errors and a few places where the argument is unclear is the kind of thing you can sort out in a couple of months, ie minors. Speak to your supervisor about possible gaps or questions that your examiners might have, and prepare responses to those, and then give yourself credit for the good parts of your thesis. Remember what a fantastic achievement it is to have finished your thesis and to have written something you and your supervisor are basically happy with (tiny flaws apart). You do need to go into the viva with a sense of how to respond constructively to possible criticism, but you should also be confident in and pleased to defend your work. Best of luck!
posted
19-Mar-17, 09:36
edited about 2 seconds later
by Pjlu 4 star member
Avatar for Pjlu
posted about 5 months ago
Hi Strawberry Girl, I think that we are always are our own harshest critic and this may be influencing your reading of your thesis at the moment.

I checked my university's guidelines and while they state the various outcomes from A- F (A = Awarded=B + Minor revisions C= Substantial Revisions, etc), they don't actually stipulate these in the way I think you are hoping for-sorry.

Congratulations though on your submission-wonderful stuff!!
posted
20-Mar-17, 14:15
Avatar for TreeofLife
posted about 5 months ago
I don't think there's clear guidelines because examiners make it up as they go along.

I think minor corrections should be awarded if it's only basic, quick changes that are needed, since many unis give a month to do these. Then if the thesis isn't great so many changes are needed but the viva is ok, major corrections. If thesis isn't great and neither is viva, R&R.

I wouldn't worry strawberry girl, like Pjlu said, we are our own harshest critics, so I expect your thesis is fine and you will get minor corrections.
posted
21-Mar-17, 20:33
edited about 28 seconds later
by Ephiny 1 star member
Avatar for Ephiny
posted about 5 months ago
Yes it depends on the examiners' judgement, and different institutions have different regulations, so there isn't really much clarity or consistency! At my university, for example, there is no such thing as major corrections: you can only have minor corrections (12 weeks) or revise and resubmit (18 months).

My examiners actually gave me the choice between the two outcomes, but they strongly advised me to go for the R&R option (with no need to re-take the viva) as they wanted quite a lot of corrections and thought I would struggle to complete them in the 12 weeks, especially as I work full-time. So it can depend on your circumstances as well.

Honestly there is no point worrying about the thesis now it's submitted; no thesis is perfect, and you can't change it at this stage anyway. The important thing is to prepare well for the viva (e.g. if you felt some of your arguments were unclear in the thesis, make sure you can explain them clearly and confidently in person). Good luck and stay positive, it will most likely all be fine!
posted
21-Mar-17, 22:42
edited about 3 minutes later
Avatar for Mackem_Beefy
posted about 5 months ago
Taken from my blog on PhDs.

There can be a number of outcomes depending on the examiners decision after the final oral exam. These may include:

1) a straight forward pass (the thesis and exam were error free) - this almost never happens;

2) minor corrections, where the thesis has a few typing mistakes - this is the most common outcome for passing candidates and the candidate is asked to resubmit with errors corrected without any further examination (that's what happened to me) - the request for corrections is a token gesture by the examiners, to show they've had a good look at your work;

3) major corrections (also known as 'revise and resubmit') - this can involve a significant degree of rewriting with resubmission six months to a year later;

4) major corrections with a requirement for a second viva (re-examination) probably six months or a year later after resubmission;

5) downgrade to M.Phil. - the work was not original enough to justify a Ph.D. and an M.Phil. (Master of Philosophy - with possible corrections) is awarded instead - a Master of Philosophy is a lesser research degree not requiring the same degree of original or new work (though people originally doing an M.Phil. can also be upgraded to a Ph.D. if the level of new findings warrants this); or

6) the candidate fails because they've completely messed up - this is very rare as most supervisors would not allow examination to go ahead without being sure their candidate would pass (as said before, with no more than minor corrections) - also, clearly failing candidates generally either withdraw or downgrade to MPhil.

A candidate can appeal against an unfavourable decision (i.e. they are failed or are offered an M.Phil. rather than a Ph.D.) and under such circumstances, the examiners may allow resubmission making clear what work needs to be done to make the thesis a viable document.

Look under heading 5) for more information if you click on the below link.
Ian
posted
25-Mar-17, 11:25
edited about 4 minutes later
Avatar for strawberrygirl
posted about 5 months ago
Hi all, thank you so much for all your answers. Your answers highlight how much variation there is between universities in terms of the viva. For example, Ian (Mackem-Beefy)'s post shows that major corrections and revise and resubmit can be the same thing. But where I am studying they are different. It seems that the difference between minor and major corrections is a bit arbitrary? But, as several of you say, it seems that as soon as corrections start involving quite extensive rewriting, rather than relatively surface level corrections, that major corrections come into play. Thanks Gwen86 for suggesting that some elements of an unclear argument might mean minor. And well done for defending your thesis so well despite the missing chapter. You must have been very happy with the outcome.

I've had a look at a book this week by Peter Smith, about the viva. It's really helpful - if anyone has their viva coming up (or even if you haven't submitted) it's well worth a look. I have found it really helpful and am already feeling more positive and less fearful about the viva. I'm trying to think less about possible outcomes and more about how to describe my work and its contribution and the influences on it.

And yes thanks all for commenting on my submission! It didn't really feel like a moment to celebrate as I was unhappy with what I submitted.

Did anyone else find reading their thesis afterwards really difficult? I still haven't been able to read mine - obviously I need to do so as my viva is not far away now.
posted
25-Mar-17, 19:33
by pm133
Avatar for pm133
posted about 5 months ago
Quote From strawberrygirl:
Hi all, thank you so much for all your answers. Your answers highlight how much variation there is between universities in terms of the viva. For example, Ian (Mackem-Beefy)'s post shows that major corrections and revise and resubmit can be the same thing. But where I am studying they are different. It seems that the difference between minor and major corrections is a bit arbitrary? But, as several of you say, it seems that as soon as corrections start involving quite extensive rewriting, rather than relatively surface level corrections, that major corrections come into play. Thanks Gwen86 for suggesting that some elements of an unclear argument might mean minor. And well done for defending your thesis so well despite the missing chapter. You must have been very happy with the outcome.

I've had a look at a book this week by Peter Smith, about the viva. It's really helpful - if anyone has their viva coming up (or even if you haven't submitted) it's well worth a look. I have found it really helpful and am already feeling more positive and less fearful about the viva. I'm trying to think less about possible outcomes and more about how to describe my work and its contribution and the influences on it.

And yes thanks all for commenting on my submission! It didn't really feel like a moment to celebrate as I was unhappy with what I submitted.

Did anyone else find reading their thesis afterwards really difficult? I still haven't been able to read mine - obviously I need to do so as my viva is not far away now.


Took a couple of days off after submitting but have started going through it line by line and thinking about likely questions.
So far I have found it easy enough but I am only at page 18 so a long way to go.
posted
25-Mar-17, 19:37
edited about 14 minutes later
Avatar for Mackem_Beefy
posted about 5 months ago
Yes, regulations can be different between Universities. I was surprised to learn minor correction at other Universities was three months and not one as at mine. I assume "minor corrections" can mean something more extensive at other Universities.

"Major corrections" and "revise and resubmit" were indeed used interchageably at my University as anything other than minor corrections required the approval of the external examiner. A second viva was only called for if the external examiner was unconvinced you knew your subject matter. That said, you usually knew straight away if a second viva was needed so you knew straight away where you stood. I don't recall if the examiners could change their mind about viva after reading the second script.

I can't actually recall anyone actually failing at my University. Those that wern't going to make the mark normally withdrew or settled for MPhil (or it was suggested to them to do so) long before final submission and viva, As I commented the supervisors at my place wouldn't allow submission if they doubted the candidate would pass with at worst minor corrections, which in restrospect I believe is the right approach to take.

It helped though, that as long as you weren't going to take forever, the four year maximum rule was also ignored. They'd turn a blind eye to you overrunning by a couple of months as long as it was clear you were about to submit (i.e. ironing out the last few flaws).

I only know of one failure amongst the people I knew at the time. He'd done his PhD up at Edinburgh late 1970s and had nothing to show for his four years there. I only even heard him mention his PhD period once, as he kept quite about that period of his life. He still knew his stuff wel enough to be a Research Associate at my University, so failure is not the end of the world.

Ian

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