Hi all, I'm new to the forum but have found reading through some of the old posts to be quite helpful as I have my PhD viva coming up in just over a week. I submitted in November and have since had time to read through my thesis a few times and highlight potential problem areas as well as go through some recent literature and think about general questions like contribution to knowledge, future work etc. I'm expecting some corrections of course and have made a list of all the typos and a few other mistakes (not anything major thankfully) I found in the submitted copy.
However, there are a few things that make my case a bit unusual, and for that reason I'm feeling extra nervous! Firstly, I started my PhD in 2008 and left in 2012 to start a job overseas when I had just written a (very rough) first draft! In the meantime it took me over two years to finish writing (at times I thought I never would). So despite the fact that I know my thesis pretty well I'm afraid that I'll stumble when asked to justify things I did years ago of which I don't remember every detail, or that they'll pick on things such as my literature review not being up to date (when I felt that I had to draw a line somewhere as I didn't want to cite things that make my work seem outdated in the thesis!). Secondly, I had never even heard of my external examiner till my supervisor told me his name when I was submitting (I had suggested a couple of names but they weren't available) so despite the fact that I've since read some of his papers (he's in a different but somewhat related field), I have no idea what to expect and am worried about this unknown quantity. I guess I just need some moral support and to hear from people who have gone through this as well! Any replies would be appreciated :)
Congratulations on making it that far. Good luck with your viva. I also took ages to do my PhD and faced similar problems to yours.
I was also concerned about how up-to-date my bibliography were, but I made an effort to update the thesis as much as possible in the end. I don't think that you have much to worry about. My supervisor once said that the doctorate is only *a piece of research*, it does not reflect on ALL research done out there. It is only based on what the student had in hand while studying. So, as long as your thesis does not miss any major studies, you should be ok.
Read your thesis very well, and when you are asked to justify decisions that you made 5 years ago, tell your examines that you did x because it make sense at the time, when you considered your research before that date. Your examiners understand that your research was done in stages. They also understand that you were 'testing things' to make sure they work. There really is no right or wrong as long as you can justify things. As long as you can justify what steps you took and why, you are fine!
Don't worry. I had never heard of my external either. Mine was a VIP in my field, with a very high academic position (I don't recommend students to take such examiners if they can avoid them, as they can get very picky).
So. although I first received an R&R, the external examiner's comments made my resubmitted thesis flourish! I must admit that the mysterious external, who was completely unknown to my department, was ever so good! Even better than my internal! It took me some time to realise this, as naturally, I was very upset with the R&R result to start with. But upon looking at his comments, I realised that the examiners were indeed trying to help!
Read the academic work of both internal and external. In the viva, mention their work if you can, and discuss it with them!
Remember the GOLDEN RULE:
During the viva, and during job interviews, try to impress your examiners or interviewers, but at the same time be prepared to get impressed by them. Many people forget that in vivas and job interviews, all parties are equally 'examined' and interviewed. Everybody loves a few flattering comments about themselves in conversations!
Thanks for the posts marasp! It's definitely reassuring to read them and there's some good points in there, especially about seeing the positive side of things and knowing your examiners' work (I know my internal's work quite well, but I brushed up a bit more on the external's stuff today, and tried to think about how his work could potentially link with mine)!
It can be difficult for uni to find two examiners that are a good fit for your project, my internal examiner had only a tangential connection to my topic (but was a good examiner). Expect that you might be asked about developments since your submission and how they affect your conclusions.
Remember this and by all means trust it: of everyone in that room, YOU know most about the subject under examination. Know it inside out.
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