Huge congratulations!!! A fantastic result!!! Well done :)
Hi guys - well here is my story.
I completed my thesis after 2.5 years. It sounds good but the reality is that I found myself between deadlines in terms of winter and summer graduation. If I really pushed myself I could hand in early and make it for winter graduation so thats what I did. The reality was about 4-6 weeks of literally getting up at 8am, working til 3pm, going to the gym, spending time with the fam, and then working from 8pm to 3am. I was going to sleep thinking about the final chapter and redrafts, dreaming about them, and then waking up and getting stuck back into it. Finishing the thesis to the standard I was happy with was the most physically challenging (and rewarding) part of the process. I am in the humanities and my thesis was 90,000+ words - each chapter an individual analysis of a particular issue that related to the overarching theme. I guess that's why it was such an "ambitious" (groan - I heard this from everyone from day one and now hate the word) project.
So I handed in on time but had to wait 8 weeks for confirmation of the date of the viva. This was definitely the worst part of the entire process. I didn't know whether I should forget about the thesis or keep it in my mind. In the end up I start prepping about 3 weeks before the viva - reading the chapters; preparing the big questions; and then rereading the chapters and picking out possible areas of ambiguity or weakness. I then spent about a week taking every opportunity (driving, walking to the gym, on the cross trainer lol!) verbalising my answers to try get comfortable talking about my work.
With such a long time between the submission date and the viva I was ready but really nervous too. I managed to eat a good breakfast and a light lunch even though my stomach was churning!
I'm glad to take this opportunity to talk about my viva experience as I am feeling (at the moment at least) that it was a little bit of an anti-climax. I don't know how this will read but I think I'll put it out there anyhow. I think I had built it up into a type of physical challenge - I had prepared various answers; memorised key texts and articles, thought of criticisms and counter-criticisms in relation to each chapter. I was expecting to be challenged chapter by chapter and theme by theme... but the reality was that we had a very cordial, even pleasant chat about the big themes related to the project. I wasn't challenged on any level regarding any point made in the thesis. I was simply asked for my definition of the key concepts that appear in the thesis at various points. I gave my definitions (some prepared; some ad-libbed), and these were accepted. That really was that. It lasted under an hour and I was sent out of the room for 1 min and called back in and told the good news. The chair was very bubbly but I don't think I really reacted - its a very surreal experience. For my minors they have asked me to change my use of two words in the thesis.
Possibly my issue is that I have heard many people say that we as PhD students should take advantage of the Viva as it may be the only chance we'll ever have to talk in depth about our work. I am just feeling that that didn't happen in my viva experience. I'm not sure exactly why, but I just didn't feel challenged at all.
I am not saying that I am so good and it was easy; I'm not saying that at all. I was just expecting a more in depth, critical discussion of my work. Again I'm not saying we didn't talk about anything - all the major themes were covered and when speaking about them I backed up my answers with specific examples from the thesis - I was just expecting a different type of experience. I think this reflects more on me than the examiners or more than the university. I think I had just built it up into something that it didn't turn out to be.
I really hope I don't come across as a moaning minnie and I don't want this to reflect upon other people's experiences here in the forum. I am fully aware how lucky I am to have gone through the PhD relatively unscathed and come out the other side. I am over the moon to be Dr LD. I just had never read about this type of viva before and thought I should put it out there rather than simply writing a "I had a good experience and I passed" story. I do think the word anti-climax is the fairest word I can use at the moment. Maybe I'll feel differently in a few days or weeks when I process everything.
I felt exactly the same as you after my viva. Mine lasted just over an hour, and I came out feeling bewildered as they hadn't asked me any of the 'big' questions I had spent weeks preparing for. I think I had built it up in my head to be this big final battle between me and the examiners, and in the end it was just a nice gentle chat with them just asking for clarification on a few minor points. Like you, I felt the whole thing was an anticlimax at first, but after a few weeks I just felt really grateful that I could look back on my viva as a pleasant experience and a nice end to all that hard work. Hopefully you will feel the same too!
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