Signup date: 26 Apr 2007 at 1:15pm
Last login: 10 Oct 2009 at 8:06pm
Post count: 78
I did my Viva yesterday and passed with minor corrections. They did say though that my defence was one of the best they had ever seen - this really surprised me as the viva was the one thing I have worried about since the start.
In the spirit of this forum I would like to give some advice that I feel might help.
First, don't rely too much on your supervisor. They are there for help and advice, but at the end of the day your PhD is your own, and you should be able to complete the PhD without too much external help. By all means ask for feedback, both off your supervisor and other staff / students, but don't be too surprised if you get less than you ask for!
Second, talk to people all the time about your PhD - one of the key requirements is to clearly define your research to an intelligent layman. If you can describe the gist of it to your friends / partner and get them to understand, then good. If not then it might mean that you don't fully understand it yourself.
Third, and this relates to the viva: don't try to predict any of the questions. I got this advice and it confused me, and I only understood after the viva. Yes you should be able to describe certain aspects (why it is unique, why it is important etc etc), but preparing for specific questions can pigeon hole certain answers. If you know your stuff then it doesn't matter what questions they ask.
I had a really positive time during my PhD - there were ups and downs, but by not asking too much of other people, and trying to overcome most problems by myself I was able to be confident at the end that it was my own work and that I could be fully responsible for the outcome.
I hope this helps (and doesn't sound smug or patronising... that's not my aim ), but there were times when I felt pretty insecure during my PhD and advice like this might have helped.
I wouldn't expect you to have much originality after the first year. You will be tripped up by this sort of question all the time - and the trick is to find an answer. After my first year if someone asked my what my research was about, I couldn't really tell them.
I find it very unlikely that you would have to start again. If it is unoriginal - who has done something similar? Look at their work, and what way could yours differ from theirs? These are the answers your supervisor is looking for.
It is just as important to know who has done similar work, as it is do something original. Keep it simple.
PC_Geek - the documentation states that references and appendices aren't counted - maybe that is why?
I hope I'm right! I would be gutted to find that another 40000 words are expected! I think its because a lot of 'science' PhDs at my University (Bham) are experiment based, as opposed to humanities, so a lot of background work is expected to have taken place that wouldn't necessarily be written in full detail - eg I'm sure I have several tens of thousands of lines of code, but I wouldn't include that.
I'm doing an computer science PhD and my institution has a maximum of 50000 words (as opposed for 80000 for humanities). Looking at 5 example PhDs I have, they average about 130 (though one has 350).
Its not about how many, but whether you have made your point. There is a danger that they might ask you a question on a reference that you might not have read.
While talking to my two supervisors about an internal examiner I suggested one chap as the internal examiner - at the time I vaguely remember him as an author of one of the papers I was referencing and he would have a specific interest in the work.
As I am now writing the dissertation, I am doing the lit review and he is pretty much on most of the important papers! He has had no hand in my work at all, but his work does form a basis for my research.
Is this ok do you think? Not a conflict of interest or anything like that?
My advice is to treat any (valid) criticism like gold dust.
Note it all down, and when you do something like submit a paper, or a report or do a presentation, check what you have done against any previous criticism. I have made a note of comments even when a paper has been accepted and applied them to future reports.
You may find that the same things come up again and again. It could even be a question rather than a criticism ('are your methods valid?' = 'yes because...').
Criticism hurts, but learn from it. Don't make the same mistake.
On another note - your transer sounds similar to mine, too complex. Keep it simple and clear. If it is 3x too long, then 2/3 is unnecessary.
My two cents.
More prestigious universities are probably likely to have higher funding - so can afford to pay for better / more lab equipment.
However, at the end of the day, it is the people in your department and, most importantly, yourself that are going to have the biggest impact. If you get a post-doc research position, and you worked with Professor X (not that chap from the X-Men, though that would help I guess) who is a world expert, it can't hurt. However, most of us won't be in that position, so it is your own reputation that matters, and that will be most definable by the research that you do and the papers you submit.
When you go to conferences to discuss your research, the university you go to will only be useful as an ice-breaker for conversations, really, the only thing people really want to hear is the research you are doing.
Your chances look pretty good. Bear in mind people are generally lazy, what your potential supervisor is saying is: you look fine, assuming your references are fine, you're in.
Though of course he could have said that to other people too, but then he would also have indicated that there are other people in the pipeline.
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