Week to viva - haven't prepped!


I have my viva next Monday afternoon, and I haven't done any prep yet. I'm in the humanities - any tips for what I need to focus on this week?

I'm worried that I don't know the literature very well... I have been doing my PhD part-time for 9 years so some of the things I've referenced only a little bit were read a looooong time ago, and my memory is not brilliant. Are they likely to ask me specific questions about the contents of literature, or more about where my work sits within the field? If it's one of the key texts then I can say more, but I'm specifically talking about things that I've not looked at in huge detail..


Hi boakster

Congrats on getting this far and good luck with your viva next week.

I'm humanities too and had my viva at the end of September (passed with minor corrections). I was worried about the lit too, but I didn't get asked anything specific about key texts. The only thing they asked me outside of my own project was if I had heard of a certain researcher / paper that related to my topic - I hadn't and I wrote the details down and made 'interesting' style noises! That was fine.

Apart from that I was asked specifically about what I'd done and why, and a lot about the impact of my research and where it sits in the field(s), what had happened in certain situations in my research, why I thought certain things had come up/happened and others hadn't, and so on.

The main thing was that I went with a list of typos / alterations I'd make - I showed them this and they seemed happy that I'd been through the document thoroughly and was aware of some of the things they were going to suggest anyway.

I also knew where to find everything they referred to - if they asked about a specific example or referenced something, I was able to take them to the page and point out where I'd spoken about it or explain what I meant. I think that was also really important in my confidence that I knew my thesis inside out (and better than they did!).

I hope that helps - feel free to shout if you need / want any more info. And good luck!


The key thing you have to answer is what is your contribution, and why do you deserve to get a PhD. Yes that has to be situated in the wider literature, but the literature review is not that important. What counts is what you have done for your PhD, what the results are, and why it is important enough for you to be awarded a PhD. Focus on that.


P.S. I was a history PhD student.


Hi theboaster. Viva finally yaay!
I can only echo what the others have said above. Not being in the humanities I can't offer you advice on what to focus on. However, when I did my viva about two weeks ago (I passed with minor corrections), one of the things I was asked was the novelty of my work and my contribution to the wider literature out there. During the viva itself most of the stuff I got asked was basic chemistry, stuff you learn from the days when you start to learn about chemistry!
Also, both my examiners were nice which put me at ease - I won't lie, I was quite nervous at the beginning but settled in as time when by. Mine lasted for nearly 3 hours.
Best of luck and I hope everything goes well. After 9 years I'm sure you're looking forward to being on the other side!
Best wishes!


Thanks everyone, that's really helpful. I'm going to try and enjoy it and I definitely think I can talk about my work in the way you describe above, in the broader sense of where it sits in the field and what contribution I've made... I'll revise the key texts I've used as back-up just in case. And the typo/amendments idea is great too

Well done Cherub for your recent success, and Glowworm for yours back in September!