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BilboBaggins 5 star member
Sunday, 25 May 2008 at 9:59pm
Monday, 31 July 2017 at 5:24am
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Thread: Defending a thesis you don't believe in

posted
17-Feb-15, 20:38
edited about 10 seconds later
Avatar for BilboBaggins
posted about 2 years ago
Ok you've spent a lot of your life on this PhD. Do you want that to count for nothing? Because if you can't prepare to defend yourself in your viva you may be walking into failure. That's assuming your examiners are unkind / very critical. You may be more lucky.

The first thing you need to do is take ownership of your PhD. It is YOUR PhD, not your supervisors'. Yes you had supervisory issues, but it is ultimately down to you how things turned out. And you are the one who has to defend it. This may be a bit painful, but you need to face up to the fact that it's your thesis, and it's your responsibility.

You've probably seen Bilbo's 5 viva tips posted here before. These are the 5 things I think anyone can benefit from thinking about before a viva. And this preparation can be done quickly. They are: originality of my thesis, contribution to knowledge, methodology, weaknesses/gaps/mistakes, and what would I do differently if starting again.

Yes I do recommend looking at mistakes, and what you might do differently, but not to the extent you're doing. You need to think more about positive aspects of your PhD. Where does it add to knowledge? What's different about it? And how did you approach do this?

Ideally this must be thought of at the higher level, across the whole thesis, but you can tackle this at the level of individual chapters.

I suspect the examiners may want you to rework your intro and conclusions, so you could think about how you would improve those yourself. But don't offer to do it unless they actually ask you to.

Good luck! This preparation can be done in very little time. I was a part-time PhD student managing near the end on no more than 5 hours study total a week, usually in 1 hour chunks spread throughout the week. But viva preparation need not take ages. Don't let yourself down by not doing it.

Thread: Thesis Word Length

posted
17-Feb-15, 19:35
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posted about 2 years ago
And to be blunt you didn't need to write that much. You chose to. And you've written it now. You only have to write two new chapters, not the rest of the words that are already there. So do what your examiners want, and get your PhD. But in future beware that if you continue in academia you will probably have to write more succinctly. Journal papers in particular - which working academics have to churn out - have very tight word limits. Journal editors will not be as kind as your examiners.

Thread: Thesis Word Length

posted
17-Feb-15, 19:33
Avatar for BilboBaggins
posted about 2 years ago
I was a history PhD student and my department expected 80-100K. I was doing needle in a haystack research, and couldn't even reach the lower limit. But I was told 70K would be ok, so long as the quality was there. My supervisor said examiners always prefer quality over quantity. I made it look a bit more bulky via an electronic appendix on CD.

My husband's computer science PhD was more like 45K.

If your examiners have passed your PhD thesis and want extra chapters without cuts, then do exactly what they say. But I think you are fortunate not to have been asked to remove big chunks.

Thread: Applying for PhD programmes with Open University undergraduate degree

posted
12-Feb-15, 14:38
Avatar for BilboBaggins
posted about 2 years ago
Yes I'm an OU graduate who got funding for a PhD. I was previously a science student, to PhD level, but had to leave that after a progressive MS-like illness started, at just 22. And I then retrained, always studying part-time, as a historian, with an OU BA(Hons), then a local taught Masters. And then straight on to a part-time PhD.

I started self-funding that second PhD, but applied for AHRC funding in my first year. Which was optimistic, particularly because I'd had prior research council (EPSRC) funding in the science PhD. So the odds were against me. And even more so because humanities funding is extremely scarce. Out of every 5 usually excellent candidates who applied to AHRC back then, only 1 would get funding.

But I got it! I don't think PhD supervisors should ever view OU graduates unkindly. If anything OU graduates need more determination and self-study skills to complete, which is just what you need to do a PhD. Can you stress that more in your application? Or perhaps there is something else about your initial approach which may be putting potential supervisors off, and you need to rethink how you approach them a bit?

Oh and I had a 2.1 in my OU degree too. And a Distinction in my PG Masters. So we're very equivalent :)

Good luck!

Thread: Students with experiences of PG study with disability / chronic illness

posted
23-Jan-15, 17:37
Avatar for BilboBaggins
posted about 2 years ago
I wrote up my experiences and they were posted online at
I'm not sure what other advice I could offer but would be happy to help if you think I can. PM me if you want Mark.

Thread: Viva - Major Corrections

posted
18-Dec-14, 13:06
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posted about 3 years ago
Forgot to say: another friend, in biomedical side of things, said his viva was *7* hours long!

Thread: Viva - Major Corrections

posted
18-Dec-14, 13:02
Avatar for BilboBaggins
posted about 3 years ago
Quote From Caro:
Ok I stand corrected on the Viva length =) I'm at an institute where everyone has different universities so I see all the different rules each one has, and hadn't heard of anyone here having a Viva shorter than 2.5-3 hours, but of course that's not representative of everywhere!


I posted something about this on Facebook last night, and a prof friend of mine - in computer science - said his viva was just 45 minutes long. Eek!

Generally in my field now - history - vivas seem to be about 2-3 hours long. Mine was very unusually short, but there were major disability factors. But not in my prof friend's shorter one!

Thread: How long after submitting minor corrections did you hear back?

posted
17-Dec-14, 21:18
edited about 6 seconds later
Avatar for BilboBaggins
posted about 3 years ago
Oh and when you do your corrections, even if they're minor, draw up a concise summary list of changes in a Word document or similar you can enclose at the end with the amended thesis. So then the examiners can see at a glance what you've changed. This will make the examiners likely to approve your corrections all the quicker.

If your corrections are very minor and likely to be straightforward you shouldn't need to get help from your supervisor I think. I suspect this is probably a standard thing they include in these reports at your institution. It sounds as though you can just deal with the internal.

I had to send my corrections in to the convenor/chair of my viva, who wasn't either of the examiners. The exact procedure varies from institution to institution.

Thread: How long after submitting minor corrections did you hear back?

posted
17-Dec-14, 20:48
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posted about 3 years ago
Mine were approved in a day, though they - the corrections - were submitted in electronic PDF form. Only after they'd been approved was I to get the final fancy hardback bound versions of my thesis printed and sent in to Registry.

Thread: Viva - Major Corrections

posted
17-Dec-14, 17:30
Avatar for BilboBaggins
posted about 3 years ago
Wait until you get your examiners written report. It should specify exactly what you need to change. And to be honest major corrections isn't unusual or necessarily as bad as it sounds. The key thing is do you want this PhD? If so knuckle down and get on with the changes. You've put in years already, it would be daft IMHO to walk away now. It would also look awful on your CV. Just do the corrections! They are very unlikely to take very long, and certainly nowhere near the amount of time you have been allowed to do them.

And I don't see why it should stop you taking on a job, unless that job requires a fully signed off PhD before you start. Why can't you work on your corrections in evenings and weekends? As someone who did their PhD part-time I had to fit mine in all over the place. Corrections definitely need not be so time consuming or take your every waking moment to complete.

I'm also rather shocked by you having 7 practice vivas beforehand. They could not be any reasonable prediction of how your viva would go, since that depends on the examiners you have, and I think that was a total waste of time! So stop feeling a sense of entitlement here. And stop dwelling on emotional issues like whether your internal had it in for you - unlikely tbh. You have a result, now accept it and move on to do the corrections as specified in the report you will get, and get your PhD.

And for the record, to the other poster, my viva was just 1 hour long, though that was partly for disability reasons. I have a severely disabling progressive neurological illness which means I wilt after an hour, and would be too brain confused and slurred speech to do more. So the examiners agreed to keep my viva succinct.

Thread: Dr Marasp!

posted
17-Dec-14, 17:20
edited about 3 seconds later
Avatar for BilboBaggins
posted about 3 years ago
Congratulations, and well done for keeping going till you got the desired result :) Very inspirational for anyone else getting a similar viva result.

Thread: Present for Supervisor - When Submitting or After Viva?

posted
02-Dec-14, 15:27
Avatar for BilboBaggins
posted about 3 years ago
I'd wait until after the viva and you're sure you've passed, with corrections or whatever.

Thread: Major corrections 6 mnths kind words please

posted
30-Oct-14, 22:24
edited about 15 seconds later
Avatar for BilboBaggins
posted about 3 years ago
Ok it sounds as though you've passed, subject to making some specific changes.

So well done! And stop being unhappy :)

Your examiners will give you a written report specifying what needs to be done. Do that, and you should be passed finally just fine.

Different universities have different rules about changes and time taken. 6 months of corrections is not that huge, and as your examiners say can probably be done in a fraction of the time. They always allow longer than you will really need. You are *not* going to be working on these for 6 months solid!

So be happy. You have passed. The examiners want you to make some - not too huge to be honest - changes to improve your thesis before you are finally signed off. But you are through, and this is just a matter of time.

Thread: Major Changes to Thesis. Can't Really Face It

posted
06-Oct-14, 16:19
edited about 1 minute later
Avatar for BilboBaggins
posted about 3 years ago
If you've been given 6 months to make changes then they probably aren't that big to be honest. Adding background is only limited changes in part of your thesis. And if you've got typos throughout you have to fix them.

So yes, get on with it. Do you want the PhD? If so knuckle down and get on with the changes. You will probably find they take a lot less time than 6 months once you get started.

At least you haven't been given a resubmission, or been asked to change your analysis. Honestly this doesn't sound so bad.

But have a break before you get started, to recharge your batteries, then pick yourself up and get on with it. Once you have the examiners' written report convert it into a list of very precise things to work on, then start working through that list. I recommend tackling the easiest things on the list first, to boost your confidence, and make sure you tick off the items as you complete them. Having a list like that will also be useful when it comes to writing the report of changes you have made that you send to the examiners with the updated thesis.

Good luck!

Thread: Help! Struggling with illness and first year report

posted
25-Sep-14, 17:12
edited about 9 minutes later
Avatar for BilboBaggins
posted about 3 years ago
Aarrggh it looks like my message has been wiped in an edit!

I'll type it up quickly again. Basically I agree with the others that you need to speak to your university and supervisor. If you are in the UK there would normally be a disability services service which you can register with, and they then liaise with your supervisor and the university to put in measures that level the playing field for you. This will be easier once you have a final diagnosis. Are the consultants near to that stage?

I fell ill with a progressive MS-like illness aged just 22. I was a full-time science PhD student and had to leave that after my funding body, EPSRC, would not support a switch to part-time study (I was too ill to continue full-time).

I retrained as a historian, picking up 3 more degrees, including PhD, all studied part-time. My history PhD was funded by AHRC who were very supportive, including allowing me a break for medical reasons in the middle of PhD to give me a chance to recharge frazzled batteries. My supervisors were great, and happy so long as I produced the work. I had some trouble with the writing, but kept going, and completed. I had special arrangements at my viva, agreed with the examiners, because by then a 1-hour meeting was all I could cope with. Near the end of my PhD - which I completed in just under 6 years part-time - I was coping on no more than 5 hours total study a week, in 1 hour chunks.

My story is online at
and you should check out other posts there from other disabled/long-term PhD students recounting how they coped.

Good luck!
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