Sorry in advance for the long post ahead.
I started working whilst writing my PhD thesis (in the UK) and although it’s been really tough working in my job in the day and on my thesis at night, I finally finished my thesis. Since I left university to start work, my supervisor has slightly changed and he is not as friendly as he used to be, although not rude. He is known for being more interested in the work that his students do for his own benefit rather than the benefit of the student’s PhD, and therefore as smart as he is, he is not that good in supervising students.
Anyway, my viva is in two weeks and as most people, I’m extremely nervous and the more I read, the more I feel there is still a lot to learn before going in the viva and I feel that there are lots of questions that the external examiner can ask such as “Why haven’t you done this to test that?” and I don’t think I have an answer to that. My supervisor has chosen an external examiner from Italy, who works in the same discipline but in a different field. While he knows about some of the things I did in my work, he doesn’t know a lot about the other things, which I consider to be the main part of my thesis. I’m afraid he’s going to focus on the things he knows, which I consider to be not a main part of my thesis at all, and leave the main parts in my thesis which he doesn’t know much about. He looks like he publishes a lot of journal papers, much more than my supervisor, and in 2017 alone he published around 10 journal papers. Also, my internal examiner doesn’t know much about my work but he is really nice and he was my examiner for the MPhil/PhD upgrade viva. He didn’t really give me a hard time and I used the advice he’s given me to finish my final thesis.
My supervisor and his wife are my external examiner’s friends and after the viva, they are going to show him around in the UK in the weekend and then my supervisor is flying back with him to Italy to give a short course in his university. Also my supervisor and the external examiner recently wrote a book chapter together so they know each other very well. Do you think the external examiner can fail his friend’s student? I recently sent a soft copy of my thesis to my external examiner and he sounded friendly in his email reply, saying that he will enjoy reading my thesis, which put me at ease slightly. However, I noticed a few typos and grammatical mistakes (less than 10) recently which worried me slightly.
Any advice on the whole situation would be highly appreciated as I think I’m freaking out a bit.
I am at the stage of waiting for a viva date, and I will tell you the advice I had from my supervisors, which I have found helpful. They said that if you are asked a question at the viva and can't quite answer it, in all likelihood it will become a correction, rather than a reason to fail you. I went to a viva workshop and the trainer said the percentage of people who actually fail a viva is very low (something like 1 or 2 percent) - the only guaranteed way to fail a PhD is not to submit your thesis! I think the odds of passing are very strongly in your favour. I would recommend doing a search for typical viva questions and having a think about these, and if anyone (eg your supervisor) can help you practise with a mock viva, this is meant to be a good idea too. Good luck!
Hi Eng28, I've been through the usual range of emotions during my part time PhD program. Had to do a total rewrite of Thesis two months before final deadline (7 years as I've done part time it whilst working) and on anti anxiety medication last three months. However viva is tomorrow and I am delighted to be able to say I suddenly feel very calm. There is nothing more I can do and the process of the program has been very rewarding, so much so that I would say it would be worthwhile whatever the outcome tomorrow.
I think you'll be fine. You'd have to do very badly in the viva to fail, especially as the examiner and your supervisor are Friends - of course this improves your chances.
A word of caution though - my external situation was similar to yours in that he wasn't an expert in my area. This did mean he focused on areas of his interest rather than the main premise of my thesis and he didn't really understand a lot of the ideas in my work, causing us to go back and forth over whether what I had written was correct. There's not much you can do to prevent this - just hold your ground in the viva if you are right and if you are able to do so, otherwise it will end up being a correction that you may not want to make.
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