Minor corrections - but they can still fail me.


Hello everyone. I had my viva about a month and a half ago, seven months after submitting the wretched thesis, and on my birthday - not that they wished me happy birthday after I'd crossed continents to return to my old uni. The examiners appeared to like my thesis and said 'this is a major contribution to knowledge' at regular intervals. They gave me 'minor corrections', which in my university means a three-month deadline which begins when we receive the list of corrections (I still haven't). The diagnosis is that the external has a more political angle than I do, and therefore wants to scent-mark my thesis with that angle in the manner of dogs marking territory, causing me to chop off chunks of original research to make space for this well-known political stuff because I'm right at the edge of my word limit. My supervisor and the head of department say that 'minor corrections' is the best that can be hoped for in this type of department (really involved, wordy, nebulous humanities waffle, you know). They both seemed very happy and, yes, physically bouncy, and were congratulating me, and so were (oddly) the examiners. But I am terrified and I feel that I only have a slim chance of not failing.

The problem is that this is not a matter of correcting typos, but of doing something more cerebral. However, I am not allowed any feedback as I attempt to deal with these 'corrections', and I only get one shot at them: if I do my absolute best to interpret and implement whatever it is they want, and they decide that I've got it a bit wrong, they fail me. This is what I was told (not in those exact words).

I realise this is not the worst possible outcome (it's the one right after 'pass without corrections', which people insist never happens in my department), but after all this work and even after having my efforts praised to the skies, I can still fail if someone else decides that I have incorrectly interpreted something rather abstract that resides in their heads. In other words, no matter how hard I try, I cannot control whether I fail or not.

I would be immensely grateful for any thoughts, information, feedback etc (I don't know what etc can be in this context - cupcakes?) about this admittedly rather gloomy situation. I haven't heard back from my university and I can't pop in and check or keep them on their toes (which are probably webbed) since I live on another continent because of my husband's job. I am in the dark and normally the dark doesn't scare me - but this time it most certainly does.

Sorry to be dramatic and probably spectacularly incoherent: this is truly messing with my brain. Thanks to anyone patient enough to read this and kind enough to reply.

Tremulously - Ants the eternal student.


Examiners want PhD students to pass. There is no good reason why if you do the corrections requested you will not pass. Trust me! Anyone given corrections, of even the most minor typographical nature, could technically fail. But it is extremely unlikely to happen. There are good reasons why the examiners and your supervisor were so happy with your outcome!

I did my corrections on my own. By this stage you should be able to stand on your own. Follow rigidly the list of requested corrections, and draw up a short summary document noting the changes you have made. And then send these in. Normally if an examiner isn't happy with something at this stage they would send it back to you for clarification/a small rewrite. It's not a one shot process, but more fluid than that. And they want you to pass.

Think positive. And congratulations!

Avatar for Pjlu

Hi Ants,

How are you going? Have things settled down a bit now, you've had some time to digest everything and work out a plan? Love to know how you are getting on.


Hi Ants,

My advice is to get your supervisors involved since you are worried. So do your corrections, write a document which explains how you have changed the thesis for each correction and then send both of them to your supervisors. Once they have approved them, then submit it to the external, stating that the corrections have been approved by your supervisors. That way you have a little piece of mind about the corrections being good enough and that they have already been approved by academic peers involved in the process. Hope it all works out well,



Hello! Thanks to all of you for your input and sorry about the delay in replying.

I suspect my university is a bit weird. For example, most people on this forum and other similar websites report that they got handed the list of corrections at the viva, but I was told that first all sorts of bureaucratic things have to happen and then I'll be sent it. In fact I haven't received the corrections yet, so I'm still in limbo, and the internal examiner (my 'point of contact' now) says he doesn't know anything because it's now in the hands of some office. Most people from other universities say that the 'minor corrections' outcome is called 'pass with minor corrections' and that people who receive that outcome are told 'congratulations Dr X' at the viva; but my university phrases it as the PhD being withheld *subject to* minor corrections, so I didn't even get the consolation prize of 'congratulations Dr X'. And my supervisor told me that I am 'cut off' from him after the viva, but that he's willing to give my corrections 'an informal read-through'. The examiners themselves appeared unwilling to concede anything other than the corrections being 'one strike and you're out'. To be honest I find everything very cold, formal, slow and needlessly cruel. They'll probably leave my corrections until after the holiday now: having ruined my birthday they're intent on ruining my Christmas and New Year too.

Anyway. I sincerely hope that you guys are right about them wanting us to pass, and I'll take the suggestion about getting my supervisor's approval, though since he thinks we're 'cut off' he probably won't allow me to state that he approved anything. In fact, before I submitted he 'wasn't allowed' to say whether he thought the thing was submittable or any good, because it's meant to be my 'independent decision'. It's as if policy requires no aid and comfort to the enemy - sorry, the student.

Thanks again! -Ants.


I completely understand why you perceive the process at your university as being so cold and slow. No one seems to be helping you at all. You really are entitled to have received your corrections by now. I'm rather curious what university and department it is, though I don't expect you to want to reveal it given the circumstances!


Ants I think you are reading things into this that are unnecessary. Your university has procedures, and your examiners and supervisors have to follow them. Why because if they don't, they are open to being sued by disgruntled PhD students, who don't like the outcome of their viva. It's not because they are sitting there thinking how best to ruin your birthday or Christmas, it's because they are being professional and following the rules. It is unlikely that you will fail after minor corrections, but it sounds like you are demanding cast-iron guarantees that they cannot give (if you refuse to do the corrections for example - and yes I do know someone who did just that as he was convinced of his own intellectual superiority over the examiners - you have to fail). Your supervisor also can't guarantee you will pass (not one of the examiners) and sounds to be offering as much as can be offered within the rules.
Many universities have moved away from giving lists of corrections at vivas, because they were often unclear and couldn't reflect the actual viva. It's in fact seen as bad practice to do that. Where I work the examiners have a certain period of time to complete both a report for the student and a stack of other paperwork, then the dean has to agree the corrections are reasonable and clear. If the dean queries something, the list has to be reagreed with both examiners. This is all in the student's best interest but it only takes an admin error, or someone to be ill, submerged as is usual at this time of year in undergraduate marking or to experience a family crisis, for delays to stack up. Check your uni regulations and see if you are given a deadline for receiving the report, but then chase the postgraduate / faculty office responsible for the process not the examiners.


Hi Ants

How's it going? Thankyou for submitting this post. I'm sitting here wondering the same thing about failing after minor corrections, perhaps understandable given my journey. I'm waiting for my list of minor corrections, but this week I've started correcting small typos and missed references that I've spotted so far and keeping track of my changes via the tracked change word function. Only my internal examiner will approve these minor changes. Please God, don't put me through another disgustingly long wait! I would like to graduate this July!

I'm still feeling very tired following from waiting stress, but I'm also very keen to finish asap, so made a start at fixing some annoying typos! Hope all is well Ants :)


Hello again. I finally received the correction list. It's mostly a matter of acknowledging a certain theoretical stance that the external is infatuated with. I'll have to spew it into my thesis, consequently excising chunks of original research because of word limit. I'm terrified that the external will claim that even though I tried, I didn't get it EXACTLY right. Because I'll try as hard as possible to grasp what the external means and comply: I want my PhD so badly. But any text is interpretable, and the external's intent may differ from my interpretation thereof, no matter how painstaking and earnest.

Pineapple, I've followed your gruelling saga and I'm glad to hear that the geologically slow wheels of your university eventually ground into motion. We are now in the same boat, so as I said earlier, let's make a pact of blood to get cracking on this endeavour with grim determination! Good luck!

Bewildered, I never demanded cast-iron guarantees or literally thought they consciously wanted to ruin my Christmas etc. I merely object to the 'no feedback' plus 'one strike and you're out' policy. I'll try my absolute best to do what they want, but why insist on failing me for not quite nailing 100% of the external's intent conveyed through a text that I'm not allowed to ask about? With any text, chances of capturing 100% of its author's intent are minimal - negligible. Add the prohibition of showing them my corrections and asking if that's ok and being given a chance to rectify any misinterpretations, and that is a recipe for failure. Odds are against me. How is that reasonable or necessary? They loved my work and kept praising it on many levels. Why fail me over a technicality after I've spent years producing research which they love? That is why I am grumbling. The no-feedback and one-strike rule is unnecessarily cruel, especially at this late stage. I hope you understand.

Thanks to everyone for responding.


My corrections were approved yesterday. I'm still having trouble digesting the news, but it's definitely good news! My, what a relief. I can't even verbalise it. Thanks people for being patient with me! :)


Yay!!! Congratulations Ant :) You've inspired me to keep going! :)


Well done Ants, and now enjoy and celebrate, then...relax :-)


Quote From Ants:
My corrections were approved yesterday. I'm still having trouble digesting the news, but it's definitely good news! My, what a relief. I can't even verbalise it. Thanks people for being patient with me! :)

Hi Ants :)

How are you doing?! Has the excellent news sunk in yet?! I'm still struggling to process my corrections approval! Felt very emotional ordering my PhD gown etc this week! Still can't believe it's all over.

Massive anticlimax though when I heard the news! I just wanted to sleep!! Congratulations again Ants :)