Good or Bad?


My supervisor has appointed examiners who are not experts in the topic. Is this a good things or a bad thing based on your knowledge and experience.

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I don't think it really matters, in one way its good, because they won't pick you up on specifics. But I'd look at what kind of methodologies they use etc. My sup appointed examiners because she wanted thme to know who she was - she didn't even know my internal and then said he might play an ego game in the viva and fight with the other bloke to be alpha male at the expense of my PhD! - thanks!


Interesting... I was told that the number one priority for choosing the external is they familiarity with the topic. My external is someone who's method my thesis is predominantly based, but my supervisors have never met him! I think different people have different attitudes to the correct way. Like most other things PhD related!


Hi Delta,
Having recently(few days ago) gone through this experience, I would say that you shouldnt worry too much about the externals field , because believe me what it all boils down to is that you believe in your work and the correctness of what you have done .. the viva is your chance to challenge the misgivings they may have on your thesis by clearly articulating your thought process and ability to have written the thesis!
I wish you all the very best.


Thanks all. It did surprise me as well as I thought the examiners were meant to be experts in the field. Given what's been said here I'll not worry about it. Thanks again!


Hi Delta,

Hmmmm. IMHO to be frank, there are two sides to this coin. It is perhaps not that good in the sense that you may end up having to explain very basic stuff about your area. And on the other hand, it may be good though that once you have gotten past the first stage and maybe removed their misunderstandings, you can say practically anything and get away with it. On the whole, it is neither good nor bad. There are actually more chances of it turning out to be good than bad (or when both were experts or they think they are experts, in both case which could have been a bigger issue) Now that you know, you can prepare yourself for the possibilities.

As long as you are confident and well-prepared, I would say you will do just fine!

So, don't worry too much about them and focus on your preparation now! (up)

Best of wishes


Very honestly, I can't see how I can prepare as I feel I know the thesis as well as I'll ever know it and reading the posts on here over the years, the rest would be down to the characteristics of the examiners and their approach which my supervisor has offered me no advice on.


While my examiners are experts in my discipline, neither are experts in my particular field. In one way good, but in another I am dreading there will be a lot of talk of the big picture and how I fit into it - or not as the case may be!


My internal examiner was very definitely not an expert in my field. My external was. My internal was much much harder on me in my viva than my external, as he expected things to be done and explained as it was in HIS area. ....... just a word of warning. I'd go and find some recent publications they have if I were you, where they are first or second author, because you'll get to find out what they've been doing. If you think of it from their point of view, they'll be looking for things in your thesis they can relate to in their own line of work, and it is this that they will challenge you on.....because it is what they are experienced in. Although you say they are not experts in your field, that does not mean that they don't use say the occasional similar technique or theory or metric or'll be able to find stuff in their papers that will show you how they approach things (their methodology for example)......and it will certainly help you gain a view of your thesis from their perspective........and'll be able to defend it easier.

I also got asked some "curved-ball" questions from my internal examiner which really made me think "out of the box". I think you should be prepared to be asked some "big picture" stuff from them which might come from strange angles. What I mean is, be prepared to think on your toes with someone who isn't an expert in your field and don't think it will all be "explaining" how things work, because in my experience it certainly wasn't.

Do your homework and you'll be fine. :-)


======= Date Modified 24 Nov 2011 20:10:08 =======
cplusplusgirl, thank you so much for posting. I found what you wrote very insightful and it's made me think - thanks.


Hey Delta! I honestly wouldn't worry too much- my internal was nowhere near in my field apart from being in the broad area of psychology, and although my external was a much better subject match, I wouldn't have said she was a complete expert in my exact topic. I had a tough viva with lots of questions I never would have predicted (and about a million questions that I was told would come up, but didn't!), but which I was able to answer after a little thought. I really believe that it is your examiners who will create your viva experience- I have had friends sail through in little more than half an hour and others who've had a really hard time, but ultimately the vast majority have had a really good outcome (a few minor corrections). My examiners' work didn't come into play in my viva, but then it wouldn't because it wasn't really related that strongly to my topic. As long as you know your thesis inside out and you know what you did and why, you'll be fine :) I only had 5 days to prepare for my viva, but if I'd had 3 months I couldn't have done any more to prepare. Best of luck with the prep! KB


Quote From keenbean:

As long as you know your thesis inside out and you know what you did and why, you'll be fine :)

This is my feeling as well.

Thanks for the good wishes and I hope you're enjoying your new job and have settled in well to your new place.


Hey, Delta! I agree with KB. Neither of mine are experts. The internal is someone who has a general interest on the topic but hasn't conducted research on it at all (I have the feeling he's been picked for other reasons, maybe politics) and the external is interested on a parallel topic so neither of mine are experts.

I expect this to be pretty hard though as there is a chance they might know nothing about the exact topic (I can't predict how much they know or how much they'll know by then!) so I'm preparing for the worst, which is me having to explain everything to them!

I thought they had to be experts to, but it seems this is not the case;-)