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Help me please!

Hello Melifluous,

Just writing to wish you the very best for your viva, I'm sure it will go very well! I would like to say that I agree with everything 'Scatter' has written a few moments ago (but then, she is in the other room). I had my viva in October 2010, and she worked out a lot of that advice in the first place as guidance for me based on what she had done to get through her viva. And she's further refined it from my viva experience. All I can really say is "trust her - she knows what she's talking about"! I will add another very-likely-to-be-asked question, that my viva began with: "where do you see your research progressing over the next ten years?" I had expected a question along those lines, but beginning with it was a bit of a shock for me! It along with, "if you were to re-write your thesis what would you do differently?" are quite common stock questions for vivas, although I did not get the latter, for which I was a little disappointed as I had a long list of ideas...

I think I can add a couple of small anecdotes from my own experience. Maybe they'll help or be informative. Some might just let you chuckle at my expense and relax a bit!

1. errors. I know you aren't talking about a typo, but as I averaged just under three typos per page throughout my thesis (~790 over 300 pages. oops) I went in a bit nervous and feel I should probably talk about it here. I produced a list of the typos beforehand, but my supervisor advised me to keep it hidden unless called on the subject. My supervisor told me of a candidate a few years previous who got given pass with no corrections, and promptly pulled out her list of minor errors and sad 'but what about these'? they revised her pass to include a month to go and fix them! However, you also want to be willing and ready to admit any problems if asked.

2. I found out in my viva that the copy of my thesis that had been sent to my external examiner was missing ten pages from chapter 2. (it turned out they were bound into the copy that was given to my internal examiner). I think no mistake could be more mortifying than that one was! But do feel free to laugh at me here :D

3. At one point in my viva I got asked if I had applied (and not included) the methodology of a very famous professor in my field to my research, as my examiner said she would have been interested to see the results. I had not, and (especially) at the time could not have even outlined the basics of what that methodology involved. My response was simply "yes, I would be interested too!" (incidentally, I just got that study accepted for publication and jolly interesting it was too... I just wish it had been part of my thesis!)

So, mistakes and holes (and worse!) can be worked around. Prepare for them before, admit them with self-honesty and an impartial but constructive attitude and you will be fine. I ended up getting 3 months corrections for my PhD, but knocked them out in four weeks and graduated in December. In the period since finishing my PhD I have learnt more about my subject matter than I did throughout it, simply because when you are doing the PhD the goal is to get the doctorate not to produce the definitive piece. Its for this reason that theses count as unpublished works, everybody's has bits that they would change in them, word differently add or omit.

Most of all though, relax as best you can, be self-aware, confidant in your strengths and constructive about your weaknesses. Its all grist for the mill :D

Best of luck



Yep. Just to add to Caro and Delta's comments: soft binding and corrections is the norm and is in no way a critique of what you've done. But sometimes profs forget about emotions and interpretations - beyond trying to save you some money with a cheaper binding option!

If you could give a first year PhD student one piece of advice for PhD what would it be?


Having just completed my PhD last year, perhaps my thoughts are more on the end game than on the beginning, I'm also coming from the humanities so some details may differ. Nevertheless, I'll muse as best I can.

0. The PhD process is a forge and anvil. Throughout it you will smack yourself around the mind, body and soul, smelt away the dross and shape yourself into a new and different entity. Still yourself, but much more focused. You may find your memory of life before your PhD gets very vague, I personally think that this is due to your brain taking on a new shape and not being able to access the old memories - the same as when you were fourteen(ish) you couldn't remember things that happened to you when you were two, but when you were ten you could - its not the passage of time its the change in mental state.

1. Always keep your eye on the future: submission deadlines, (and future career), people further through the process and higher up the ladder than you are. A PhD is not like doing a taught Masters and its definitely not like undergrad, but if you spend too much time looking backward to those days you can stop your mind from maturing into the right setting to get through it. Counting down the days is good (if unnerving) - I had the days left numbered on the calendar counting down the final year of my PhD, and a countdown of the weeks left for the final three years (of four).

2. Remember that the process can (and I believe should) be an isolating one. Even if you are working as part of a team, you will ultimately face your viva alone and will have to be able to stand by everything in your thesis, even if your supervisor insisted that it was an appropriate/essential addition/interpretation. First and foremost you are learning to be an independent scholar.

3. Organisation of literature is essential. If you are saving PDFs rename them so that you have clear bibliographic details in the file name.

4. Keep all your hard copies of papers in one location, its much easier than searching through the house or missing something in your discussion because you had previously classified it in Subject A and then didn't look in that specific group of papers because you thought you were writing on Subject B.

5. Begin writing as soon as possible. When you are writing always think, how will this fit into my thesis? Revising your thesis plan (a single side summary) every few months is helpful. make sure you keep track of how much you have got done on the thesis as well as how much you need to do!

6. The viva is like a light at the end of a tunnel. The best thing you can do to make that light freedom is prepare for it as if it were an oncoming train. with a monster strapped to the front of it. Every single thing that you write should be mentally tested with the thought, If this is the one thing they decide to pick on that will make or break my PhD can I justify it?

7. Aim to produce the first full draft of your thesis about a year before it is due in. When you write it, taking into account the things above, do it as quickly as you can. No matter how well-written it is you will have to edit it heavily to cut out repetitions and get the flow of your argument.

8. Remember that a thesis does not have to be written in the order that it will be read in.

9. If you have to write a transfer piece / end of first year report (does anybody not have to?) the requirements may describe it as 'a sample chapter of the thesis'. DO NOT FALL FOR THIS AND ASSUME THAT THE PIECE YOU HAVE WRITTEN WILL SLOT NEATLY INTO YOUR FINAL THESIS WITHOUT NEEDING ANY REVISION. A friend of mine did this, and only re-looked at his supposed chapter-one a few days before submitting his thesis. The panic as he realised how outdated it was was terrible to see (as was the 18-month correction period he was bestowed in his viva).

10. Go to conferences, but, especially in your final years, chose them wisely. My rules for conferences were a bit self

PhD supervisor resigned, applying for post-doc

Hello all! I was wondering if I could get some advise, suggestions, comments or the such like? I had my viva in October 2010 and was awarded my PhD in November (3 months corrections, but I did them quickly) from a UK university. I'm currently applying for post-doctoral funding, looking in particular (but not exclusively) at Germany or Austria.

Anyway, my PhD supervisor just resigned out of the blue and sent me an email saying they won't be able to referee me as they will be difficult to contact and expect their reputation to diminish significantly as they will no longer be in academia. I do have a second supervisor, but they are based in a different university (and has been throughout my PhD, that is they haven't just upped and relocated). I have been advised (by a friend who is an Austrian professor) that the German and Austrian funding bodies would expect to see a strong and detailed reference from somebody involved with the PhD research based at the university where I did the research.

So, if anybody has any thoughts on how best to proceed I would love to hear them! please!!