I've got the multi-coloured post-its out now. Which seems to be an essential part of many a PhD student's Viva preparation! Where is everyone else up to?
My supervisor advised me to read critically through the whole thesis to identify points where the examiners may have questions or uncertainties.
I had my viva last week so thought I would share my experience.
To start I asked both my supervisors for advice. They suggested looking at the following website and to practice answering the following introductory questions:
1. Can you summarise your thesis?
2. What do you think are the major/key contributions?
3. What were you trying to do in your thesis?
4. What does your thesis add to the debate?
5. Why did you decide to write THIS thesis?
6. Was there an existing argument or position that annoyed you that you wanted to argue against?
7. Where did the idea from the project come from?
8. What parts are you most proud of and are there any parts that you would do differently?
9. Why did you structure it in this way?
10. What next? How will you disseminate your work?
I asked to record the viva in advance, my supervisor said this was a good idea and the examiners had no problem with me doing so. In fact, after the viva both examiners said they were quite envious that I had recording of it. It meant that I didn't have to worry about writing anything down to remember for later. Instead, I just made a note of their question and when necessary asked for 30 seconds to a minute to quickly write down the points I wanted to make before responding.
I used coloured sticky labels to mark each chapter. I also had sticky labels to mark key theoretical sections, so that I could turn to them easily. As I'm dyslexic I like to see things spatially so I also had mindmaps of each chapter, but in the end I didn't use them.
For me the most helpful preparation was a mock viva three days before the real thing. This really helped me to get into the swing of talking about my work.
Finally, a bottle of Rescue Remedy!
The viva itself was actually a pleasurable experience. It was great to talk with two people who had read the entire thesis and I realised how much I actually did know. I passed with minor corrections.
Hope this helps.
Best of luck to everyone with up-coming vivas!
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======= Date Modified 19 Sep 2012 18:37:40 =======
Following advice, I had a look through previous Viva threads. I found the advice on the following thread from Smoobles and Dalmation especially helpful. http://www.postgraduateforum.com/threadViewer.aspx?TID=22690
I especially note the advice about writing a bullet point summary of key literature that you can actually take in with you to the viva - sounds a useful approach.
And also thank you for the feedback on your recent viva Lightyear!
Thank you Lightyear, very helpful advice and Well done!
My thesis is now full of multi-coloured post-its, blue is getting me down, it is for mistakes :((
I have got post-its for each study (I did 5 separate studies, European style) with a post-it on each discussion for each one to find them quickly.
I have also got lined post-its for areas I am going to make brief notes on, main theoretical areas I could be quizzed on.
I have also got another colour on all the main statistical procedures so that I can turn to them quickly, with notes on another lined post-it opposite.
I have yet another colour post-it on the Abstract section, Contents page, Appendix page and Reference pages because I know I am going to be so nervous that I won't find them!
My plan is to finish going through this over the next two days and then start making all the theoretical and statistical notes. I am meeting with my Prof. next week I think where I will have to confess all the errors and I will found out my date. I have only been told early to mid-October as he has been away and then went straight into hospital for an operation.
How is it going for you?
======= Date Modified 25 Sep 2012 19:24:44 =======
I have just found out that the chair person for my viva is ill so my viva has not been set ..... grrrrrrrr. My prof. has requested a new chair and a date asap. This is unsettling to say the least, that I don't even know the date, only that it will be October.
By the way, I have found in total 25 errors :( all minor points and wrongly numbered graphs except one, where I changed the graph and did not change the text to reflect this. Really worried about this now....the stress, I just want it to be over and move on.
Hi Pinkneuron: That is very frustrating and the uncertainty about when the viva will be must raise your anxiety as well. I guess the positive thing is that you will hopefully have a bit more time to prepare than you might have expected, so more time to look into new literature published since your literature review was completed and also more time to prepare the thesis document. 25 small errors doesn't sound bad to me! I think it is where a whole paragraph doesn't make sense or indeed a whole section or chapter that a problem arises. Apparently in the old days before people were able to prepare their own thesis document and a typist was relied on, final thesis documents in libraries regularly ended up with lots of small errors in them. These days I think they are just tidied up post viva because self computing and printing is so much easier.
This is a really interesting thread - I've got my viva next Wednesday and am busy launching into meltdown- I'm not sure that's the ideal preparation :-) Reading through has actually freaked me out a bit - my sup told me to wait until the week before then just read through and note anywhere where there might be problems - I started with a typo on pg 1 and went downhill from there. I haven't even got through the intro yet. Its useful to see the list of questions - I'll try and work through them and clear my mind a bit.
Hope its all going ok for the rest of you :-)
Don't worry, you are not the only one in meltdown. Reading through it has absolutely thrown me. I have decided to take my 25 known errors and change them electronically as well, so that when I get to the viva, I can actually tell them and myself that all is in hand, all known typos and errors have already been corrected. It is my way of gaining back some control. I am sure that I am going to faint! I even avoid oral presentations, opting always for posters and I loathe examinations, this is a double whammy.
It is good to find others going through the same however...keep going :-)
You sound like me PinkNeuron! I loathe speaking in public and suffer horribly with panic attacks - my trouble is that I get dizzy but also get the most awful waves of nausea such that if I speak I fear that I'll throw up - not ideal in a viva situation ;-) Glad that you're getting closer to finalising the date - I'd be going off my rocker (even more than I am already) if I didn't know the date! Its interesting that you have a chairperson - how many people will be in there? I only have the external and internal and no mock, no viva packs (what does that include?), nothing. Just an email saying show up here, then. :-)
I'm still busy trying to read through mine - I've got 113 pages in now.... I worry that its going to take longer than I've got! So far I've found 8 typos (eek!) - they are the orange index markers lol - the horrible ones!
Today was a good day. Whilst changing my errors, I found that three were not! Including one major one where I had 'misinterpreted' a graph, so I thought....but I hadn't. Suddenly I feel a bit better!
I have a short thesis, 266 pages because it is very stats intensive, so I managed to work through it quite quickly.
Yes, indeed, fainting is not all I fear will happen. I also have panic attacks before exams and feel like throwing up. So, yes, you are not the only one (Stressed).
I know my subject backwards, it is not even that which I am afraid of, it is handling 'me'!
I have arranged a 'mock viva' with two friends of mine. They are business people very interested in my research and will give me a trial run next Wednesday. I am nervous even for this but know it will be good for me.
Nearly there, nearly there.......:p
Oh yes, forgot to answer your question....I will have an internal, external, chairperson and my supervisor. The chairperson is brought in to make sure the viva goes fairly and does not become out of hand. They are from the dept. I am from but not necessarily known to me. My uni. brought this system in to give a PhD student a 'fair' trial. My viva pack was just a letter confirming my examiners and good luck wishes, information on how to submit my thesis to the library and forms to sign this off and also just admin info. about the whole PhD process. I have to say, I was quite impressed with it. It is not exactly their fault that my chairlady ended up in hospital and there is now a delay whilst they find another chairperson.
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