Handed in, awaiting viva - supervisors not being very positive! Need some positive viva stories!


Hello everyone,

I handed in back in September but I've been incredibly busy in my new job since. I've now got a week off and came back to my PhD office to do the sorting of data etc and chat to my supervisor about the viva. He's basically said that getting a PhD is down to my viva performance and I need to be exceptional in the viva because he things the thesis has a lot of flaws. Lovely! I typically do really well talking about things and not so great writing about them so I see where he has come from, but I was feeling fine about the viva (which is still 7 weeks away) but now I'm terrified! Both my examiners are known to be picky and I've been told my thesis has lots of faults and my viva is basically damage control. Eek!

I won't have much time to prepare as I work really long hours! I have a terrible memory for names and dates so I'm worried they will ask about papers and think I'm inadequate if I don't remember which paper is which.

Maybe if I heard some viva stories it would help to put me at ease again?


I'm in a similar situation, well one supervisor is very supportive and thinks it will go well (but i found some mistakes she hasn't picked up!), the other one is not positive at all, she hasn't even bothered to read the whole thesis - she's the DOS. There was a lot of drama around submission as you can imagine.

Do you know the flaws? Have they told you what the examiners might have a problem with? If so, prepare your line of defence around that, that's what I'm doing at the moment. You don't have to remember the names, make notes. I'm going through the thesis at the moment and putting post its with additional evidence from the literature to support what i've done. Having said that, this is me saying this on a day when I'm feeling positive, any other day it's pure panic and chaos!


I have three supervisors, one has worked very closely with me throughout and is the expert in data collection and analysis, the second is terrible with that part but was meant to be my academic writing help and the third was more of a token supervisor (although he went on to do more to help me than the second supervisor). The second one really avoided putting much effort or time into helping me, I reckon he probably spent about a day and a half's time on my the whole 4 years, he looked over two of my chapters and that is it. He didn't even read the whole of those two chapters. My main supervisor is now worried because he said he had relied on that second supervisor to get it up to 'academic standards' as he was more worried about the data being correct etc and that I should be ready for them to basically tear my writing apart as it's not at the right quality. Whereas I had thought that after 3 drafts from him even though the other supervisor hadn't seen it, it would at least be acceptable standard!

I'm not sure how to prepare for them to say my writing isn't good enough, or how I can stand my ground when I'm clearly not a natural academic writer. I'm confident with my methods, data and data analysis, but does that matter if the writing isn't good enough?

It might be that he is just trying to get me ready just in case they are brutal, but I'm now just disappointed in myself that my writing wasn't as good as I had thought!


Oh and what does DOS mean? Hah I can only think of the operating system =)

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Director of Studies (like, chief bod)... or... Dilatory Old S*d...


Ah yes that does make sense! The most senior of my supervisors was that third one that did a lot more than my second supervisor in the end. I heard all sorts of reasons why that second supervisor hadn't looked at my work but I guess it comes down to how good people are at multi-tasking!


I really don't think you can predict anything Caro. My supervisors have always given me good feedback, they thought my thesis was well written, I've got a paper published, I know my subject well, so they thought I would do well in my viva, I thought I would be fine in my viva.

I had my viva yesterday and it was horrible. I don't know if the examiner is like that all the time, or whether it was just me, but he didn't like my thesis, he didn't like my work and he didn't seem to like me either! He was very condescending and he didn't say anything encouraging at all, not even a simple 'well done, you've passed'. Just 'we are giving you pass with minor corrections'. No congratulations, nothing. It's like he just had to pass me and so he did, but he wasn't happy about it.

So, I hope yours will be the opposite and your supervisors are worrying unnecessarily and you will be fine!


Oh dear TOF, sounds like he might just be one of those people who can't interact with humans very well as you passed with minors which is amazing! Well done! My main supervisor told me a similar story about his viva, they basically ripped all of his work apart and he spent the whole time having to defend every little thing, I think that's why he is telling me to be prepared for that in mine. Although most of my PhD friends have more positive tales to tell so it totally comes down to the examiner I guess! But again, well done! Don't let the examiners negative attitude belittle your amazing achievement :)


Thanks Caro, I wish I could feel like that, but I just can't at the moment. Hopefully in a few days I will start to feel better.


Congrats on passing with minor corrections TreeofLife!


Congrats, Caro and TreeofLife