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How can you bear to read your thesis?

Hi Claudia

Agree with others... it's normal to hate your thesis by this time (and sometimes well before... ha! ha!). Like you and others who have now passed, I had two months between submitting and viva. I was so exhausted from thesis/work, I took a month off... and travelled round highlands of Scotland - without computer and making sure I drove a lot - so not tempted to do anything academic. LOL Did me the world of good. If you can't get away... just take a holiday at home... read (non-academic) books, watch movies, go for walks... relax a little.

On the second month, I used "Surviving your viva tips" to help ease me back into thesis and forward towards viva. I found I couldn't 'read' the thesis at all at first... so I just took to looking at a chapter at a time - one a day... and definitely not in sequential order - just random - today, I'll look at... chapter 4... I'd read the chapter, picking up any errors and noting them on the page... then read the chapter again - and highlight some key points... then come away from it and try to write some questions and work on some answers. Some days I in between chapters I left it alone and skim-read papers by key authors... other times, I played games with dice... throw a six and identify 6 limitations, throw a 4 and list 4 key papers, throw a 3 and identify 3 contributions, etc. That was quite fun, actually.

Other thematic games I played... identifying key concepts, authors, ideas, methods... and turning them into questions using a question wheel (spinner) with who, what, where, why, when, how, which, then answers... e.g. A is a key concept in my thesis. ... Who conceived it (me, another author, a group of authors), what does it mean, where was it coined/found/used, why is it interesting, when was it coined, how can it be applied, which other theories/authors/methods/approaches can it be linked to... etc. (To make a question wheel - just cut out a seven-sided shape, write the words on, stick a cocktail stick through the middle and spin).

I also still feel like I never really want to see my thesis again... still... LOL But hopefully one day, I'll feel better about it.

The time will pass and you will get through it... best of luck.

Viva tomorrow

I also found the paper "Starting at the end to undertake doctoral research: predictable questions as stepping stones" by Trafford and Leshem helpful. They have a nice grid of doctorateness... my viva questions mainly fell in quadrants B and D.

http://tiny.cc/traffordquadrants (hope this works and you see the image).

If you can get hold of this paper - it's really good and helpful.

I've been beaten to it!

Hi Hannie

You could always add a coda at the end of the chapter that has the systematic review - briefly summarising the new work, pulling out key points that substantiate or add to your own work - not too pointedly - saying these are of relevance and perhaps indicating how your work foreshadows, compliments, goes beyond them.

Or you could provide a summary of newer work in this coda and deal with the issue of relation/value in a later discussion chapter?


Viva tomorrow

For chuff who likes tricky questions, big answers and reports. :-P

What can I say about the viva - it was nothing like I anticipated - neither the examiners nor myself. I had thought before it started that I would either faint or fly... LOL

None of the questions I prepared seemed to be used in the end... all the things like

- what's your thesis about, what are the origins of your thesis, can you summarise your thesis
- can you describe your methodology, epistemology, limitations, contribution, etc.

They were all the ones I practiced with (used 'Survive your viva' book - good sets of questions in there). I actually recorded each question individually as an mp3 and put them on shuffle on my iPod so I could think about them when I went for a walk or was on the bus or train. Subliminal training seemed to do the trick. Ha! Ha!

Well, anyway, my two examiners decided to go with a thematic scheme of questioning (which actually suited me really well) as it focused on the key ideas in my thesis - without expecting me to focus on every dot and comma - which was great. In that way, we dealt with all the things like contribution, method, limitations, etc. They mostly seemed interested in how I positioned my work vis-a-vis others and where I was going to go with the work - publications, post-doc ambitions, etc.

On the day, I got there quite early, chatted to the Viva Chair for a bit, then the examiners arrived and said hello, then they all went away for 20 mins or so, then we had the viva - which lasted about an hour and a half. Trickiest question was when they asked me what my work had in common with contemporary constructivism... Other tricky ones were things like...

How does your work compare with X... what does it add to X... why might authors of X disagree...
What do you mean by... insert difficult term, concept
How do you see Y (related areas/disciplines ...) fitting with your work...
How would you persuade A of the value of B
Why is Z (your theory and method) interesting
What do you DO with Z... (LOL)
Why did you leave H out... don't you think he's central to...
I'm surprised that you didn't mention C...

I guess the biggest thing I learned was that you can use Q&A to prepare (and it does help you to 'know' your thesis) but you can't expect Q&A to reflect what examiners will ask.

Best tip - make sure examiners are as good as they can be... as close to your field as can be... and as experienced as can be... if possible.
Why do you say B is not important... surely it's pivotal to...

Viva tomorrow

@ AL - spent yesterday - looking at questions and answers in the morning... then spent rest of day watching tv and eating out. Thank heavens for X Factor and Downton. :-) Made for a good nights sleep.

Viva tomorrow

@ Chuff - will post some details when I finish today's party. :-)

Viva tomorrow

Thanks everyone. Went really well. Had a lovely discussion with examiners... about an hour and half. Passed. No corrections. Thrilled. Off out to play now. Yay! Best of luck to anyone else en route to viva... biggest tip - trust yourself. AL - your advice really helped me - telling me just to believe in my work was definitely the right thing to do. :-P

Viva tomorrow

Thanks, AL... and congrats on your pass last week. :-)

Viva tomorrow

Feels kind of weird that it's finally arrived but hopefully all will go well. In the meantime, seem to have developed a penchant for deep breathing. LOL :p

Book Review - Wishing I had't volunteered now


Look at previous book reviews in same journal and see if you can pick out structure, and note word length - then frame your book review around that. Otherwise... basics:

What is the book and who is author - why have they written the book?
Who is the intended audience(s)?
Why would they want to read this book?
How well (or not) do they meet the needs/interests of the intended audience(s)?
What are the key points of interest in the book?
Are there any key concepts, links to other theories that are of interest?
Is the book coherent, relevant, up-to-the-minute (on the field of interest)?
What grabs you especially about the book?
Are there any areas where the book doesn't meet its aims well, where it could be improved?
Are there any bits readers might feel disappointed with?
Find a few examples, key quotes that support your answers to these questions and illustrate why you've said what you did.
Conclude with a summary - is book good, worth buying, why?

Hope this helps. :-)

How do you show your sups all the 'amazing' analysis done with NVIVO???

Hi Dee

Use the reports option in NVivo to print out sample reports on queries based on data. Or, to show links - take screenshots. When you have something onscreen you want to show your supervisors - use the printscreen button on your keyboard and CTRL + C to paste the screenshot into a word document, then put a short description of what is shown underneath.

Thesis formatting - figures!

======= Date Modified 25 Aug 2010 17:34:42 =======
Hi Scottish (from a fellow Scot - assuming you are)

Oh well, I've already submitted mine, also University of London, and all of my figures are embedded in the text. So - go figure - pardon the pun! LOL If that's not right, it's already too late. I don't recall reading anything like that when I was looking up the rules before submitting.


Countdown to final draft - Last month of writing-up.

Hope you have a good and productive day today Jojo. :-)

Struggling- last few months

Hi Pineapple

Not sure if you're the same Pineapple who had the difficult upgrade around the same time as me (2007). Keep going, you're nearly there. I think the last part of the PhD is the hardest (having just finished and submitted myself) - the last two months of my PhD were hellish hard work (10 hour days for the best part of the 2 months) and I had many of the same doubts you are having. I think it's normal. Knowing that you're so close to the end makes it feel impossible to get there. It's like you can see the finish line but you're stuck in glue or something. I found you have to empty your head of everything and everyone (not family and friends) in the direct line of the PhD and just make your own decisions and stop second-guessing what people might think. Just focus on the finish line, the job before you, and getting it done. I had to cut around 25K from my thesis too - and it did it a lot of good in the end. The last 6k I cut was, literally - around 10 words per page (easier than you might imagine - lots of 'I would like to suggest' cut down to 'I suggest'... LOL).

Tips for moving forward. See if you can summarise each chapter on 1 A4 page - this really worked for me - and even helped me 'project forward' on a summary for the final two chapters I hadn't written yet. I succeeded with the summaries - but needed 2 pages for the Methods/Research Design chapter. These summaries were especially good for convincing me I'd achieved a lot and for helping me to sort out what really mattered, so I could delete some stuff. Another tip (and this dates back to my schooldays) - if in doubt, leave it out - I found some parts I kept sticking on that were interesting but not integral to my thesis... and many times when I read over them, I'd get this kind of mental block with them - when deleting for the final time, it was much easier to get rid of them (my hobby horses).

Given what you have left to do... another tip is 'eat that frog' - i.e. do the thing you least want to do first. Break the day in two... do the hard thing in the morning and easier things in the afternoon. So, you could work on the results stuff in the morning... then spend a couple of hours later in the day doing easier stuff (to rest the brain) like cutting the lit review down/updating it.

Don't think about failing, trust yourself. You can do this. Good luck. :-) (up)

Just submitted - worst time of year? Any experiences?

Hi Mothlene

I submitted today too. My viva is provisionally set for 1st Oct. I agree it's a tough old time of year to get things sorted. I found I had to be really proactive and push everybody hard. Even with that... was hard. Admin side of things is tough too... and sometimes it feels noone has the same sense of urgency as you. *grin* I suspect that's because, well, it's just one more thesis for them... even if it's the 'only' thesis for us. To tell the truth, I'm just so glad it's finished and in, I'm just going to trust that all will go as it should now. Well, at least until end of month. In the meantime, I'm taking some well-earned rest. Have you spoken to your supervisor about examiners, viva, etc. If not, best to try and pin them down as soon as you can and keep talking until you get a sensible answer, if possible. ;-) Best of luck. Meantime, agree with others here - try to enjoy being 'free'. You've earned it.