Viva in 2 weeks


I don't think Im doing any of this right. I have a mock viva in a few days and still havent managed to answer a lot of the questions I've posed to myself. My viva is in 2 weeks and the hugely interdisciplinary nature of my research means that trying to remember/revise a lot of the work I've dealt with is proving a nightmare.

When the question who are the key theorists in your area comes up, my mind goes blank because i end up thinking 'well in journals no one seems to be writing about what Im dealing with'. In a completely different subject area - one of my disciplines here are a few people, and over here are a few, but is there a list of people who bang on in my subject area are key influences?.. No.

Part of the nature of the research is its multidisciplinary nature, and its relative freshness. But this is posing a real pain. I'm completely stressed out I cant remember every bit of every article or book I've referenced and I have a huge suspicion that Ive probably missed something vital and stupendously important in my research. My supervisor, he is so busy all the time and I don't think he had even read my work which I have difficulty remembering at the best of times.

Oh this is turning into a rant. Im sorry. I have 2 weeks, I have a list of questions and I really think this thesis isn't going to pass. Im the world's worst research student, I wrote in fits and starts and have a minimum retention for knowledge. I feel like Im well out of my depth and I don't know what to do. Im almost afraid of reading the last chapter of my work because it was done so quickly for submission, its littered with just rubbish. Im heading to the library tomorrow to check out some journals which are in a completely different subject area, because one of the theorists who publishes in them is someone I use.

I had an alarmingly vivid dream that they thought my work was plagarised and everyone hated me and I got thrown out of the whole program. Im really panicking I havent referenced something properly or paraphrased correctly and its come up as plagarism.

It doesn't help that my 2 supervisors have both said oh you'll be fine, but Im very aware they havent read it. I just see these people who have done so much work passing and they deserve to, but I know I'm an awful postgrad, I know I never got 'into' the work. Everyone keeps telling me Ill be fine but I see the time ticking away and it doesn't feel like it will be.

Sorry for this rant guys but I am so stressed at this point. Everyone I talk to seems to be a model student and it makes me feel worse. Does anyone know what I mean?



Hello Liminalplace

You have reached the end of your doctoral research AND submitted your thesis. Be happy! Many doctoral candidates don't get that far. Liminality does involve feeling rather lost and unsure ~ but it also includes knowing that there is a way forward. So move onwards confidently through the threshold portal of understanding.

Mock vivas are an opportunity for YOU to discuss and defend your work. You will find that you know far more about it than those who are the mock-examiners. They may well ask searching questions but this is what a scholarly discussion is all about. Enter into it and respond as an equal. Be willing to disagree on issues where you know that you are on safe grounds. Also be willing to accept alternative ways of seeing your work ~ as different paradigm perspectives. Then use the experience as a dry-run at your proper viva. You can learn from it but it is only a mock and not the real thing!

Be resilient and schoalry and enjoy it!

BYE vernontrafford



Thanks for that Vernon, I confess I am sitting here actually shaking at the prospect of another day trying to cram information into my head. I think it maybe doesn't help that a few of the scholars who havent been particularly kind to my work in the past will be attending. I know I should be glad of this, use their difficult questions to find holes in my research in advance of the viva. But here I am being a silly person cowering at the prospect. Where has all my confidence gone? I used to be very confident now 3 years in, it seems to have evaporated!


Hello Liminalplace

Some more tips . . . . .

Make brief notes of your 'good ideas.' Recognise that you are the person they have all come to hear and be very happy about that. Your work over the past years has been at a high level of scholarship ~ otherwise you would ot have reached this position now. So discuss your approach with a trusted colleague and make sure that you are clear on your conceptualisation and in particular how you arrived at your conceptual conclusions. Know how your work accords with other schoolds of thinking in your area and be ready to cite and quote if necessary to support your arguments. Protect your research boundaries.

You can do it!

BYE vernontrafford


Thank you! Really good advice there I'm just trying to take it all on board, its a bit overwhelming.


Hey Liminalplace...

I have my viva in under a week and have just had my mock viva. It went swimmingly! I opted to not have a formal mock, but instead more of a chat with my supervisor who asked me questions and talked through the process (for the millionth time). It helped loads!! He managed to calm my nerves so much!! Everyone's different, but my main issue is that I have no confidence in my own ability and always feel like a fraud. I've decided that this isn't the case and am going to spend the next few days working on my confidence issues. As long as your confident in your ability and your research, you can't go wrong (from what I'm told!)

Some questions my supervisor said which might come up and could trip you up are:

1.) what part of the research are you most proud of?
2.) If you could do it again, what would you change?
3.) where next in the research?

My sup also said that chances of getting a question you have prepared for are slim as your examiners have different agenda's to you. He said for his viva he prepared for loads of questions but didn't get any of them in his viva. Basically I think the key is to just know your research, be confident and passionate and see the viva as a chance to express yourself.

Good luck!


Liminalplace, first congrats on submitting, that is a big thing! (up)

I do know what you mean about the interdisciplinary thing, I too got really anxious about that and felt I knew nothing and was probably an utter fraud and would be unmasked as a pretender during the viva. But how can you be an expert in several disciplines after a PhD when some people spend their whole academic careers being an expert in just one? It's just not possible. I tried to focus on why it was interdisciplinary, what did each discipline offer and why did I need that to answer my research question? Just in a few sentences, that's enough. Why did sticking within one discipline not do the job for that question, what did each one lack that made me pick the route I took? Maybe that would help you too...?

The thing about key influences - who do you cite a lot or whose work do draw on significantly, even if it's miles short of what you're writing about? It might be a couple of books where you build on their work and take it in another direction, or plug a gap in their thinking by taking it in another direction.

Don't try to memorise every single refence you've used, but think about the bigger picture, step back from it. I worried about that issue as well, but my supervisors said the overall argument was more important than memorising every obscure citation I'd made. If they ask about one reference you can always look it up.

I got really anxious about my mock and my hair started falling out and I had nightmares as well. After the mock I felt loads better and spent the week after that just reading my thesis as much as possible and resting, as instructed by my sups. It'll be over before you know it! :-)


Ruby Jinkim thank you so much its made me feel a lot better. Had a session with the uni counsellor today, first time ever but it was very comforting that she told me she sees an awful lot of PhD students. Im glad I went, its nice when someone at least knows about the difficulties of doing what we do.
She said that I set myself unrealistically high goals which make it very hard to achieve them. I think we can all relate a little to that. But Im very very happy to hear that Im not the only one feeling like this because honestly I thought it was just me. That perhaps there was something wrong with me...

Anyway gang I better get back to it. Any more advice throw it at me!


I have my mock-viva on Monday, so I know how you're feeling!

Best of luck!


I did an interdisciplinary PhD so I understand where your frustrations are coming from. To make matters worse my internal examiner wasn't even connected remotely to any of the areas I was using and the external examiner was only minorly involved in one part. However, that turned to be to my advantage as they both were genuinely interested in what I had done as it was quite novel - it extended on some work someone had done that nobody else really seemed to have picked up on.

Don't expect to remember every single reference in detail, it's just not possible. Have a good understand of the broader areas to show you do understand how each key area fits in the overall body of work. To be honest, I found (on a personal level) they weren't there to try and get out every last detail as some kind of trick question - just to make sure you understand how it all weaves together.

They were far more interested in the actual original work I presented and how I brought together lots of different disciplines. It wasn't even particularly successful but it was 'novel' and hence could be improved and refined by others later on.

Try not to panic too much about it. Know the papers that led to the direction you went in and use those as your basis to describe how you came to your novel research. It'll all be fine (up)