I'm a PhD student in history. Had my viva a month ago... I felt it had been pretty average at the time. Before the viva, my supervisor had told me multiple times that I had every reason to be confident and that my work was very good. I was, therefore, quite shocked when my examiners gave me a revise & resubmit verdict with an 18-month deadline (albeit with no second viva).
On Friday, I got my examiners' report, and it was absolutely devastating. They completely tore me apart. I had made very serious errors in approach and write-up, gotten terminology wrong, and in general had presented my thesis very poorly. While my thesis had the "potential" to pass, it will require significant reworking.
Needless to say, this is an extremely humiliating experience, not least as I really thought I had produced something solid. I feel I have let myself down and wasted the last 3 years. I had niggling doubts about the quality of my work but I just figured that was normal for a PhD. What's worse is that I also teach - and I can't help but feel like a complete fraud when marking students' essays.
Meeting my supervisor later today. Not an experience I'm looking forward to.
Anybody have some R&R success stories to give me hope?
No need to feel humiliated. I already established that when I do eventually become an academic, any student who fails a viva under my watch is 100% my fault. This is on your supervisor. Personally, every one of my thesis chapters have been read and edited by both of my supervisors 3-5 times. I see a lot of supervisors take a "laissez-faire" approach to their candidates, and obviously the danger is a half baked thesis. The errors you described should have been caught by a keen supervisor.
If I were you, i'd ask my supervisor what they thought about the critiques, and how come he/she did not catch these errors. Good luck, at least you don't have to do the Viva again and its just major corrections.
This is part of science, and it will never end (even as a Professor, submitting papers and grants). You should take the comments you received and improve your work. Clearly, some negative comments can be personal and not constrictive. try to identify these and filter them out.
I don't see this as a failure (pm133 describes this as your failure). Just a possible outcome - not one that you were expecting or would have hoped for - but you will pass in the end if you persevere. Good that you do not have to redo the viva. I agree with pm133 that the thesis is your responsibility. But as Fled says, the supervisor plays a big role. There are many cases of successful R&Rs. Hopefully someone will share on here, or perhaps even a general google search will help you find some encouraging accounts - or chatting to trusted mentors in your institution might lead to some encouraging stories being shared. Making major revisions on your thesis does not make you a fraud either. I know lecturers who mark undergraduates work and they themselves have not done a PhD. You are in the process of one. Keep going forward. All the best.
OP I hope you had a constructive meeting with your supervisor. There are many examples where students have turned things round from this point and nobody ever asks what the original outcome of the viva was - they're only interested that you passed.
A couple of suggestions that your supervisor might already have made:
1) put the report out of sight for a week and be nice to yourself. You are almost certainly reading the worst possible interpretation into it now. When the immediate hurt has calmed a little, then making a plan is easier.
2) I'd suggest starting a big chart - the items that need addressing on the one hand, and action points needed to achieve them on the other. Try to break it down into detailed tasks. You must feel overwhelmed and it can be much more manageable if you see lots of small tasks rather than rewrite theoretical approach chapter.
3) Then decide a logical order. Do you need to go back into archives? If so when would it be possible to do that? From that perhaps agree a schedule with your supervisor about when you will revise each chapter.
4) Try to keep moving through your tasks steadily. Just because your uni has 18 months rather than the 12 months others do in this scenario, doesn't mean you need to take 18 months. You've clearly got a lot to do, but if you get started after a short break, then the sooner it's over. The people who struggle with an R&R are generally the people who put off starting the corrections.
5) It sounds from your description that you've maybe used a theoretical framework your supervisor wasn't familiar enough with - it might also be worth considering whether anyone else in your department could help advise / check that bit of the R&R so both you and your supervisor feel confident about the re-submission.
Hi there Ciniselli - I am also a historian - so sorry to hear. It's a difficult one isn't it? Where does your responsibility and and where does your sups begin, or where does their responsibility end and yours begin! Is it a problem of methodology/theory or archives? Whatever it is I just want to wish you strength and resilience - one thing at the time. You can do it!
Thanks for your messages, all.
I have calmed down somewhat and taken a more pragmatic view. Fundamentally, my examiners are just trying to guide me towards better scholarship. It is difficult - and to be really honest, quite embarrassing - to accept that I still need such extensive guidance when many of my peers do not, but I clearly do and denial won't help. Much as it hurts, I do feel grateful to my examiners for taking such a detailed look at my work and providing me with detailed instruction about how to improve. Guess I kinda forgot rule #1 in academia: don't take feedback personally.
Some (but by no means all) of the major points my examiners had a problem with are things my supervisor directly told me to do. My meeting with him was very, very encouraging, though. He was very supportive and I came out of the meeting feeling considerably less defeated than I did earlier int he day.
So, bit of a short-term meltdown, I suppose. I imagine it won't be the last one, either - PhD students are no stranger to those. But I am determined to finish this project and to finish it well.
Needless to say, while I intend to keep my relationship with my supervisor healthy, this experience has made me somewhat sceptical about his advice (and also that of my second supervisor). So I will look to getting my work proofread by more people before I resubmit, and to tackling the examiners' recommendations piece by piece.
Hi Ciniselli, I would also say remember that at this stage, some things do come down to different approaches and differences of opinion, as suggested by the fact that your examiners want you to undo some of the things your supervisor told you to do. Yes, hopefully the corrections will lead to a better piece of work, but try to remember that even experienced academics get major corrections to do on papers they've submitted. Please don't feel that all this is about you personally. You are well on your way to having your PhD.
I got the same result on my first submission and had much the same feelings. It's pretty devastating to be almost at the end of your PhD journey, only to find you have another 18 months and a whole lot more work to do. Try to see the positive side, though: your examiners are giving you another chance to produce a better thesis, and telling you specifically what you need to do to pass. You will get a copy of their viva report, but I'd recommend now also noting down any suggestions they made during the viva, while it's fresh in your mind.
By all means discuss the revisions with your supervisors, but, importantly, make sure you do exactly what the examiners have requested, as they will be the ones, not the supervisor, who will decide whether to pass you or not!
My second submission passed without further corrections, as it happens, so it can be done! Lots of people on here have been through the same, so it can't be all that rare an outcome - I suspect people just don't discuss it much in real life because like you they feel humiliated. But it happens, and it's not the end of the world. Get on and do the corrections, and you'll have your PhD soon.
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