calling all viva veterans....


I'm about to have my viva friday and wanted to ask, how do you address diplomatically questions that:

1. insist on someting, eg. "there is no contibution" you stick to your opinion, if so how would you phrase it?

2. questions to whom you have no you ask for more time? or ask for rephrasing?

I know the viva requires a certain dose of diplomatic skills.....any input is appreciated! perhaps other scenarios too! :)


The viva is hopefully a debate rather than serious diplomatic negotiations lol. However, if I didn't agree with the examiner I came up with something along the lines of: That is an interesting viewpoint, however I felt that the data supported XY and Z........
What I would say is that if the examiner is pushing you on a point, just take a moment to consider their idea just to be sure you have interpretted it correctly and not overlooked something. That said they may have the wrong picture in mind and may not fully understand your research ie new methodology etc!!
If you don't have an answer, then be honest. It is better to be honest than to make it up and dig a big hole for yourself. You will know your area of research so should be able to answer most Qs. If it is a Q that is outside of your scope then just say so. Additionally, if you go blank and need to collect your thoughts, then tell them and ask for a moment. You will be under pressure at your viva and a good examiner will realise that.
Good luck for Friday(up)


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============= Edited by a Moderator =============
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Avatar for sneaks

I had a few where I didn't really get the question, so I just pushed it in the direction of what I wanted to talk about and then smiled broadly haha! - I then got a confused look from the examiners and they went onto the next question.

I did disagree with one about something, so I argued it, he obviously wasn't budging, so I just said - "its a fair point" and got on with it - in my mind, there is no point in arguing extensively with 2 experts - if they both agree, then you'll end up digging yourself a hole with it and getting into more trouble and possibly look like an arse in the process. I think you should defend to a certain point, but if they have a fair comment, then there's nothing wrong with acknowledging that and saying they are possibly right.


Twice I didn't 'get' the question and both times asked for it to be rephrased only for me to still not get it:-( I thought this had cost me a pass and it affected my performance for the rest of the viva. It didn't appear to and I have since thought of fantastic answers that I should have/could have given if only I didn't get complete brain freeze.

I also had incidence where we had disagreement and handled it like Sneaks - that is part of it imo, it's an academic discussion among 'semi' colleagues. I don't think it's a problem if you disagree if you can back up what you say.

Avatar for Mackem_Beefy

======= Date Modified 22 Feb 2012 13:30:45 =======
I'll reiterate what others have said by saying whilst it is an exam, it's also a discussion over your findings, what you did to identify the findings and come to the conclusions you did.

The examiners will have a good knowledge of literature and they will want you to demonstrate you do also, simply because the expectation in a PhD is that you have reviewed previous work in order to establish the originality of your own work. They will want you to ensure that whatever work you have done adds something new to the knowledgebase. That is the basis of whether or not you are awarded a PhD.

I'm not 100% sure about what you mean by saying "no contribution". I assume by this you mean the examiners are saying that they feel your work doesn't contribute anything new. If so, you succinctly address the key points within your thesis that demonstrate that your work is original and does contribute something new.

As regards the second question, you do need that when doing a PhD you are pushing the boundaries of knowledge in that field. If you are continually saying you don't understand, then that will bring into question how thoroughly you have reviewed other's literature and gained a background understanding of your subject area and especially if key literature has been missed. However, once or twice shouldn't be a major issue, especially if you can argue that their question addresses an aspect of your subject area that has yet to be covered by yourself or other literature. You may also make the remark that their comments are an idea for further study.

There's always the chance one of them will have knowledge of a piece of more obscure literature you have missed as regards your second question. If so, it's probably easier to admit to that (or alternatively argue why you thought a piece of literature wasn't releavnt if you do know about it) and if they request it's inclusion in any corrections, to agree to that.

Until you walk into the examination room, you don't know what you're going to face. Provided you've been thorough with your preparation and have revised material (both within your thesis and other related areas) you're reasonably expected to know, you should be okay.

Whatever you do, do not try to bluff you're way through if you don't know an answer. Also, there's no harm in discussing your point of view and reasoning with an examiner if it is different from there's. Use wording such as "I understand what you are saying, however, ..."

Ian (Mackem_Beefy)


Good luck this Friday! (up)(up)

Look forward to hearing how it went!