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Generally, the viva involves you answering the following questions:
what did you do?
Why did you do it that way?
Benefits of doing it that way?
Implications for future research?
Which academics do you disagree with? Why?
If you keep these questions in mind, u should be OK. My viva prep consisted of me reading my thesis several times, before dividing each chapter, noting the key themes and issues, as well as specific examples which I could refer to in my viva. Also, I re-read key secondary lit as well as papers submitted published after my thesis was submitted. This is important as it shows you keep up to date with developments in your field. And the classic advice: defend your thesis, don't be defensive about it! Take your time, if you don't understand something, ask for it to be repeated.
As for prep time, a few weeks is fine. Hope this helps!
I completely identify with your situation but I hope you take the excellent advice given above. Like yourself, I was (and still am) not confident with public speaking. And I was also from a working class background. What made things worse was my university was one of the 'old elites'- everyone doing a phd or the staff had studied either at Oxford or Cambridge.
I felt hopelessly out of my depth so I ended up working in isolation and got my phd without having that oral presentation practice. Now looking back, a lot of it was probably in my own head. I mean my supervisor was one of the best- and if a student is not good enough he will be brutally honest. But he never said anything because anything I lacked verbally I made up for it via my research and written work. And that is also important, remember.
The saddest thing is, my viva- which I had been dreading for years- went very well. My examiners were very impressed with my performance. So I regret not going to conferences and speaking and facing an irrational fear. You have the time and opportunity to tackle it! And besides, even though you feel as if you are poor at oral presentation, chances are that other academics won't even notice what you consider to be your flaws.
My hometown and university were not in the same city. I worked from home- because my subject was History, the place I really needed to get to was London, so I would commute there when necessary. With regards to working from home, you manage somehow because you know you have no other option. You may not have an office but with a routine you manage. And also with the SCONUL system all research students have access to all UK university libraries, so you can still find a quite place to study!!
Pros of my experience- once I had a schedule in place, everything was fine. And I could decide when to work- so I found to go shopping etc!!! With regards to supervisor contact, my supervisor was hands on because he had to be- I previously had to suspend my studies due to stress and lack of supervision. By 'hands on' I mean, I was left on my own BUT there were regular email updates and progress reports etc. And living at home meant Mummy and Daddy paid for everything!! :)
Cons- I worked in complete isolation so nobody knows who I am!! In terms of networking, then, staying at home can be negative. So I would say, if you do want to work from home make sure you are still visible to your academic circle. Go to seminars etc.
I am in the position, Huhu. I am from a conservative Asian family so rather than 'well done' I get 'well done, when are you getting married?' I do get bitter about it- years and years of nonstop study but people still feel marriage and kids is my 'true calling'. Not only is there the pressure of finding a job, but also a hubby and kids so I can be like everyone else. But at the same time, my life has been that little bit more interesting because I dared to do something other than get married and have kids before the age of 30.
And Mackem_Beefy, it is scary how similar our viva experiences are. I too feared the worst- but I passed with only a few typos needing corrected. I was told later that I had 'over prepared for my viva'- I ended up discussing lots of issues which were not in my thesis. But luckily I was told that I could add all these extra points in the published version of my thesis, should I wish to go down that route. Like you I was totally stunned. Never in a million years did I think the viva would be a positive experience.
Now I am in the difficult post phd stage, as I have mentioned in another post. Thank god for this forum- helping a great deal!
Cathie, I fully sympathise with you. I went through the same thing. My fear of failing etc got so bad that I was afraid to go outside at all. In the end, I had to suspend my studies so that I could sort myself out. I suspended my studies for nearly two years. But I returned and managed to get my PhD in the end. If you have a supportive supervisor, department, and just be honest and tell them exactly how you you feel, then they will help you. My biggest mistake was suffering in silence for so long and just letting the issue escalate.
So first thing speak to someone, whether it be a university counsellor, supervisor or GP.
Best of luck.
'Your PhD seemingly dominates your life for ages and suddenly it's not there.'
Spot on, Ian. So relieved that I am not the only one who feels like this. What I miss the most is the routine of the PhD. Yes, I woke up everyday super stressed, tired, tearful but I had a goal, something to DO. Now I'm just drifting. What makes things even more daunting is the search for jobs and identifying the skills that I lack and must gain somehow in the world of work.
I know I will think of something. Whilst I am not ruling out thesis publication altogether, I'm not going to put all my eggs in one basket. I will try and work on it but also look at other careers and build skills etc. if academia does not work, I know that I want a job that has some sort of research aspect to it- so I guess that's a (small) start. But thanks for your point about the teaching qualification- will definitely look into.
Bilbobaggins, I have a silly question. When you say publish in the 'usual way', can you give more details? Because I have worked in total isolation, and focusing only on my thesis, I have no clue about publication procedures etc!
A good supervisor would not let you submit your thesis if it was not 'viva worthy'. This time last year I was panicking about the same thing- mainly that my work would be ripped apart by the viva examiners because I saw so many weaknesses in my work.
I basically emailed my second supervisor and asked him if I had anything to worry about. He replied that if my primary supervisor said all was good, (which he had), I should not fret. He also wrote that it was the the responsibility of my primary supervisor, not mine, to make sure that my thesis was good enough to pass a viva. I passed the viva and got my phd in the end.
So I think the best thing to do is always just to ask your supervisors. I read that vivas (in most cases) are only failed by students if they had submitted their thesis against the advice of their supervisor(s). So if your supervisors are saying everything is fine, then trust their judgement.
Very many thanks for your helpful advice, BilboBaggins. And I think it's great that you completed your PhD despite your circumstances- very inspiring. Was also a miracle that I completed my PhD- due to my problems with anxiety I could not network with other academics, present papers, attend conferences etc. I worked in complete isolation really, losing myself in archival material. Getting awarded the PhD is a bit of a poisoned chalice though I find. The fact that I've got it demonstrates that I can research and that my work is good enough- it's just my anxiety that gets in the way of me having a fully productive career.
I had an appointment with a careers adviser a couple of weeks ago. Quite helpful, said that I should just spend time thinking about what I would like to do and also speak to my phd supervisor to see if an academic career is possible---but, as you now know, he says that the first thing I must do now is publish if I am to stand a chance. He says the thesis is good enough for publication, I just need to rewrite, add stuff etc. But before I spend a year doing that, I need to make sure if it's going to be worthwhile doing so!
I like this idea of an independent academic historian. With regards to journal papers, how did you manage to get them published? by that I mean, how did you get in touch with journal publishers etc?
Been a while since I was last here. After beginning a PhD in 2004 (full time) and having to suspend my studies and take numerous extensions throughout due to health reasons, I finally got my PhD and graduated in November. Never thought I would succeed but somehow I managed (and even the dreaded Viva went well and I only had minor corrections to make to my thesis)
After graduation, for the first month or two I was just happy to be rid of all that pressure. But now I just feel kind of empty. I have been meeting deadlines and working nonstop for so long, that it feels really weird not to have that anymore. It's like my secure world of study, where you can hide away from the world, is no longer there. And it is unsettling- and depressing,
I guess what makes things worse is my (lack of) future plans. Despite all the trauma and stress of my phd experience, I love my research and in an ideal world would like an academic career. But the big problem is that I have published absolutely nothing- and academia is competitive. My supervisor has advised that I publish my thesis. The thing is, that can involve months of rewriting- and is it worth spending all that time and effort when I might not be able to pursue an academic career in the end? Plus, whilst I was doing the PhD my supervisor was very keen on me publishing my thesis, suggesting changes in structure etc, he was very hands on about it. But I met up with the supervisor again a few weeks ago, and he was a bit hands off about it, slightly distant. Still thinks I should publish, and was encouraging me to do so, but it was very much a case of 'rewrite it, once it's done, get in touch with me'. Whereas I was hoping for more assistance in terms of academic networking (which I am terrible at because I am so shy!)
Has anybody gone through a similar 'limbo' stage after having completed their PhDs?. And is there any point in publishing?
Hi there. I agree with others on this post- take time off first before you decide anything. I had a major 'meltdown' after a year and half of my phd. The first thing I did was email my supervisor and tell him I was quitting. He replied saying that I could but I would always regret it. So I took a break of two years and sorted myself out mentally before coming back. Universities/ supervisors can be very understanding towards students doing phds.
Now I'm back at work. It is very hard and I am far from what the 'ideal' PhD student should be like. But what I find is that things are 'easier' (if that's the right word) to handle the second time round- you have gone through the worst, know what it feels like, so in a sense can prepare for it. And, like yourself, there are times when I feel as if I have wasted my twenties chasing an impossible target and can get quite down about it. Yet, even if it ends badly again at least I can tell myself that I came back and gave it my best shot.
Hope this helps.
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