It's been over a week since I had my viva. I wanted to create a post about my experience as a form of pay back, as I found other similar posts extremely helpful during the run to the dreaded day.
So, the main points I wanted to cover are:
- Structure: I was not required to do a short presentation at the beginning. The Chair began and covered what they needed to cover. After that there was no small talk; the examiners went straight down to business! They started at the beginning of my thesis and went through it chapter by chapter, taking turns to raise any areas of interest/concern.
- Examiners: both my external and internal were fair throughout the entire process and very professional. They never once tried to 'trip me up', but did at points push ever so slightly for a more detailed response to certain questions. My supervisor spent a long time choosing the right people, which came through in the final experience.
- Questions: the examiners asked very pertinent questions, which showed that they read my work in detail. Even though it's called a defense, I didn't fully appreciate the extent in which I would be explaining why I chose to define X in that way, why I used X research design over another, etc. The large majority of questions were within this area. They never questioned me on any of my findings per se. I would describe this part of my viva as more of a discussion than a defense. They did how ask all of the core questions I came across in my viva prep research: Why this topic? What would I do differently?
- Length: in total, the viva itself ran for 55 minutes. After that, I waited another 20 minutes outside of the room with my supervisor. We spent another 15 minutes going through the result and required corrections.
Continued on the next post...
- Result: I was awarded a pass subject to substantial corrections, which are to be completed within a 6 month period. I completely agree with their reasoning for giving me substantial corrections. In a nut shell, I need to create a new chapter by taking the findings of two small pre-research studies that are currently placed in the five main results and discussion chapters, to help with clarity and transparency. The other small changes, they said, will help take my PhD to the next level.
- Corrections: The examiners verbally went through what I need to change, but advised me that I would receive a detailed reported outlining exactly what would be required. They even said themselves not to do anymore or any less than what would be detailed in the report.
My key piece of advice to anyone approaching their viva is to pick out the key aspects of their study (definitions, key literature, methodological design, etc.) and get your reasoning for choosing these aspects very clear in your mind. I was subsequently told by my supervisor and the Chair that I defended my thesis very well.
People said to me that it will be an enjoyable experience, as it will likely be the only time I will get to discuss my research in detail with peers. I COULD NOT DISAGREE MORE WITH THIS STATEMENT! I was so nervous of saying the wrong thing, even at the end once the result had been awarded, that I couldn't get out of the room quick enough! I know for a fact that there are people who DID really enjoy the experience. Unfortunately, I was not one of them ;)
Feel free to ask anything that I may not have covered above.
All the best to those still on their PhD journey! I WILL see you all at the finishing line 😊
Well done RLD! You are more than half way there!!!!!
It is really good that the examiners explained what they want. It helps a lot!
I am sorry that you did not enjoy the experience, to tell you the truth I didn't either. It is s very stressful experience, although as time goes by you will feel better about it.
As someone with no virtually no viva experience I wondered if I could ask something - are the questions about key aspects of the research things that you haven't already clarified on in the write up? Or are they seeking a verbal demonstration of what you have already written, or just further elaboration?
I would say a bit of both. Some things I hadn't fully clarified in my writing, but others I gave a very similar response to that detailed in my thesis, which they appeared to be happy with and didn't question me any further. I think the latter may have also been due to them not fully being aware/forgetting that I had already covered it elsewhere in my thesis.
I took in so many notes! I had a printed copy of my thesis, with lots of additional handwritten comments. I also had a pile of those small record cards, each with a potential question and my preferred answer. Finally, I had a printed A3 MS Excel table listing the main details of each of the existing studies in my area. The only thing I referred to during the entire viva was my printed thesis, which was to find and direct the examiners to a particular page number to show that I had included something which they said was missing.
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