Convinced I'm going to fail- but what will be will be


I know I'll probably upset a few postgraduate forum posters by submitting yet another negative post (apologies!)

Given that my viva is just over a week away, I'm preparing myself for a rough viva.

Whilst there are some good things about my thesis, namely, originality and extensive insight into a very under researched area, I'm more or less convinced that I've fallen at the last hurdle. Drawing from the Times Higher Educational web page on 'how not to write a PhD', I can see that I've made five major errors that are comparable to this publication.

1) An incomplete poorly formatted bibliography- I know I've missed references from my bibliography.
2) I failed to note my original contribution in my abstract- my contribution in my abstract is not clear enough.
3) Leave spelling mistakes in the script- I'm at page 14 and I've spotted 2 A4 pages worth of spelling mistakes and grammatical errors- I'm assuming this has really aggravated my examiners.
4) Make the topic of the thesis too large- considering that one examiner already rejected my thesis due to it's size, this point definitely applies to my thesis.
5) Submit a thesis with a short introduction and a short conclusion- again my thesis contains a short incoherent introduction and conclusion.

Although these are the sort of things I'm planning to attack with my resubmission.......

I guess if I'm going to survive this, I'm going to have to really focus on the strengths of my thesis, really defend my decisions, know my thesis inside and out, focus on my original contribution to knowledge and demonstrate that I'm aware of my thesis limitations by showing them my list of acknowledged limitations. My supervisors think that I'll most likely get a revise and resubmit, but it's completely up to me to save myself from failing by nailing my viva and answering their questions well.

However, due to lack of time, I was faced with submitting without my supervisors approval which is another reason why I'm so worried. According to my supervisors, my examiners are aware that I ran out of time and the submitted PhD was not approved my supervisors.

Anyway, I've come to the conclusion that other than formulating a very strong defence, there's nothing I can do now but remain positive and wait for my viva. Worrying about failing is probably not going to help matters and will probably just ruin my chances of performing well next week.

I think I'm going to take a semi break from my viva prep today, at least leave the house for a few hours. I haven't left the house in weeks and judging by my dads comments, others have noticed that I look tired, dishevelled, drained, unhappy and stressed.

Anyway, thanks for reading folks. All in all, it's a waiting game and I'm going to have to learn how to cope with this and probably speak to some professionals again about dealing with my anxiety, stress, and depressive thoughts. What will be will be. I can only do so much. Onwards positive thinking...


Hi Pineapple, I really feel for you it sounds like such a stressful situation! Do try not to waste any energy on focusing on the negative aspects (I'm sure you know that!). I know it's easier said than done, but try and relax (yes, do take some time off today!) and then try to focus on constructive preparation for the viva. It sounds like your thesis has got a lot of positive aspects, try and concentrate on those. Good luck. :)


Hey Pineapple! I'm not sure that looking at the guidelines for 'how not to do a PhD' should be part of your prep! Seriously though, you really have to focus on the strengths and be aware of the weaker areas so that you will be able to discuss them when they inevitably come up. Hopefully showing the examiners that you are already aware of the weaknesses and have already made some decisions about how you could correct them will make them realise that you submitted under a lot of time pressure and therefore weren't able to give it your absolute best shot, but that you know where you've gone wrong. With any luck, if they see that, they will give you the chance to make the revisions. I think it's a great idea to get out of the house- try to get some exercise and fresh air, it will do you so much good. And remember that you really are doing everything you can do at this stage, so try to focus on that and not give yourself a hard time. You're one tough cookie, so keep it up! Best, KB


Hi Pineapple

Agree with the others that hard though it is, please try not to focus on the negative; rather try to think Obama-style - Yes we can(up)

I know one person whose supervisor didn't think much of their thesis but apparently that person did an absolutely fantastic viva and was passed, just with corrections. At this stage, even if there are problems with your thesis it is literally in the hands of your examiners so I would concentrate on the viva itself. At this stage there is nothing you can do about the thesis itself but the viva is still within your control to a degree. Talk yourself up to yourself in the mirror and 'Yes you can!' :-)


Hey Pineapple, I know it's hard for you at the moment as all you can think about is the mistakes you've missed but don't worry about it now. Everybody has typos and some really obvious ones too so the examiners will be used to seeing them. It's difficult to condense a broad area which you should point out and highlight the strengths of the project but be aware of the limitations as you have noted.

Don't worry about your supervisor not reading it all as that happens quite a lot. I know people who didn't have time to polish their thesis due to time constraints and their supervisor not being too good with feedback so they handed it in and still passed. We were told at as part of viva prep that a thesis has to be good enough but not your masterpiece as many students think as this is your research training so the best should be still to come!

It's good idea to take a break and chill out so you are refreshed before your viva. Try to get a good night's sleep before so you won't be tired in your viva! As you been submerged in your thesis you should be familiar with it and remember you are the expert!

Good luck :p (up)


Hi Pineapple

I think I did all of those things on the list
1) I missed quite a few references from my list despite checking it about four times
2) I didn't go anywhere near my original contribution in my abstract - in fact my abstract was basically crap
3) I had loads, and I mean LOADS of typing errors in there
4) I veered between the topic being too large and too narrow, in different parts of the thesis.
5) I had a short intro, and a comparatively short discussion. I had really long results chapters - 70% of my thesis was results

As you may remember, I passed with corrections.
I have to check the spelling and the references (of course)
I have to re-write my abstract
I need to expand my scope in my intro where I have become too narrowly defined, and curtail my scope in the discussion where I have wandered off towards the end. I have not been asked to expand the intro, just to re-specify it. My discussion will be a bit longer when I finish, but that is only due to the way i have re-written it, and the fact that I have added a bit about my original contribution, which i had completely left out before

My examiners were happy that I could at least tell them verbally about the positive things I had done, and the negative things were about writing and organisation, rather than a criticism of my research. Sounds as though it will be the same for you.
However, i do understand your nerves - i was so bad on the day I was sick afterwards. The nerves overcame me so much when they asked me to leave the room i began to cry quietly and didnt stop until I got home, even right through discussing the outcome with them and sitting on the bus. I was also so releieved to get it over with I actually took my shoes off in front of them (they were killing me) in a kind of daze!

A week to go. Prioritise your prep, but also prioritise eating, sleeping, a little light exercise and some relaxation, at this stage it sounds as though these things will do you more good than more prep. You know your stuff, you know your stengths and weaknesses. You are bright and creative. You can do it.


Hi Pineapple,I am awaiting my viva too and am going through lots of positive and negative thoughts along the way. It is easy to be drawn into the negatives by reading too much about the perfect thesis. You need to focus on the viva prep books which are passive and full of lots of useful advice. You have done much work on what can be done to your thesis to improve its overall qualities and flow, but you need to put that aside and concentrate on the key questions that may be asked aswell. The examiners will no doubt have their views on what needs changing, if much at all, so really you need to focus on composing yourself for the viva. Don't go in and give them a list of major changes, wait until (or if) they ask you about it and know that you are armed with a resolution. In the meantime, some excercise and fresh air will do wonders and a chat to someone about your thoughts too.


Pineapple - It's weird because I was just reading that article a couple of days ago and I thought it was terrifying! Try to put that out of your head.

I reckon you should have lots of treats this week as you prepare and just try to keep it in perspective. I am the worst person for focusing on the negatives so I can totally relate. It's so easy to focus on the 5% bad rather than the 95% good. Whatever happens - finishing a PhD is a huge task and many people don't even make it to submission. You have shown determination and strength of character to get to this stage and one day I reckon you will be looking at your big, awesome, successful thesis sitting on a shelf somewhere and thinking that it was all worth it in the end.

Good luck


Quote From ady:

rather try to think Obama-style - Yes we can(up)

Definitely agree!

I wish you all the best of luck in your viva, I really do. We've all seen on here how long and hard you've fought for it and you're still standing - I really admire your determination and drive. Don't let the negativity demons get to you - save your energy for keeping your mind focused. Eyes on the prize as they say!

Good luck!!


Dear Pineapple

Don't be so hard on yourself. I passed my viva about two weeks ago and you know what, I had some the errors you mentioned above . When I was reading for the viva i saw all the typos and my supervisor told me to make a list of them for handing to the examiners just as the viva started. The examiners really appreciated the fact that I had picked up on my own mistakes without being told! What is it is that you want to explicitly show that you have made an original contribution.... you say that you didn't really articulate this in the abstract, the viva will give you a chance to redeem yourself. The other issues you have highlighted above can be corrected after the viva... i think that is why people almost always have positive.


I think you're being too hard on yourself too. And points 1, 2 and 3 on your list are unimportant TBH, and could easily be corrected post viva. Points 4 and 5 are more serious, but can still be corrected.

And I agree that looking at an article like that right now is not helpful. Stop it!


Thanks everyone. Well after a long sleep and break from my thesis, I'm feeling a little better.

Well, for one thing, I know my thesis benefits from originality, so I'm confident I can formulate a robust enough defence on questions relating to contribution to knowledge. I know there are some real strengths to my thesis- ie not just a research project but also measures, directories and guidelines that could help further research and service provision. I think it ultimately comes to self confidence, my tendency to think the worst of everything and being my worst enemy.

At the moment I'm currently finishing my acknowledged limitations.  Tomorrow I'll probably start the day with an early morning walk. Next, I'll focus on revising my thesis, devise plans of how to reduce everything down and work through my long list of viva questions.

What will be will be. Thanks for the reality check and continued support! :) (gift)


You're not really convinced you're going to fail If you were, you wouldn't go through with it.

Now's the time to truly focus. As others have said, keep active, keep perspective, and get ready to be the best you can be.

Make lists, tick off as you go along, focus.

Brainstorm possible questions. Answer them. Pick out 5 key questions. Memorise the answers to them.

Practice in front of a mirror. Check your body language. Are you being naturally defensive. Practice smiling, eye contact etc.

Get into 'fight' mode. No self-loving before the big event! No self-loathing either, mind. Positive things happen to positive people.


Pineapple, I think fail is not even a remote possibility. Be positive. Keep calm.
I wish you best of luck for your viva.


======= Date Modified 03 Jun 2011 08:03:22 =======
Thanks for your replies.

I think I'm making the mistake of focusing on the negatives and forgetting the positive bits of my thesis. For some reason I'm fixating on the bad things- which could get me into trouble(ie sloppy writing, too detailed) and not focusing on the positives (ie highly original mixed method national study with four lengthy chapters utilising 3 different methods and 3 different perspectives and also includes guidelines, measures and sampling frames that could benefit services and future research). I'm also forgetting that my internal examiner wrote in her upgrade feedback that I have an extensive, impressive and well structured thesis with the academic capability to complete a PhD. I imagine my supervisors and departments will also suffer if I fail so I guess my examiners are not out to fail me. As long as I can demonstrate originality, research competency and critical yet clear thinking, I should pull through this.

Right serious viva prep time. Thanks again for the support.

In just over a week, this will all be over soon- and I can stop filling this forum with panicky negative posts- which will probably be a relief to some! Sending some (sprout) for positive and productive thinking.

Happy Friday everyone (up)