How long to prepare for a viva?

posted
06-Jan-12, 13:45
by Jenni
Avatar for Jenni
posted about 5 years ago
Hi everyone,

I have found this forum quite late in my PhD unfortunately! It looks like it could have been very helpful at many points along the way!

I am due to submit my PhD in humanities related subject at the end of Feb and have my viva at the end of March. I think this seems pretty quick but, due to many reasons i won't go into, this is how it has to be! So my question is, is 3 or 4 weeks long enough to prepare for a viva? I have no idea where you really start and how to prepare if I am honest! I should also mention i will be working full time in this in-between stage before the viva.

Any advice would be greatly received! Any tips on how to prepare or what to expect would be great :)

Jen
posted
06-Jan-12, 14:10
edited about 17 seconds later
by Delta 4 star member
Avatar for Delta
posted about 5 years ago
You've plenty of time because you'll just have submitted and so your thesis should be fresh in your mind. I did mine about three or four weeks after submitting and think it's much better than having to wait. Good luck.
posted
06-Jan-12, 14:46
Avatar for Dalmation
posted about 5 years ago
Hi Jenni! Like you, I wish I had stumbled upon this forum much earlier in my program. I was able to find a lot of great tips just by searching "viva."

My viva is scheduled in February, and I talked with my boss about it. He graduated from the same university, and has been an examiner. His advice was to demonstrate that you addressed the purpose of the research. He said his first questions are "What was the purpose?" and "Did you reach the purpose?" He also said that most humanities students don't spend enough time on the conclusions, usually because they write this chapter last, and don't give themselves enough time. The third interesting point that he made was that he has only had one failed viva, and this was because the student became "overly defensive" and didn't listen to the questions. He explained that by "overly defensive" he meant that although students should defend their work, the purpose of the viva is to demonstrate what one has learned. His view is that acknowledging weaknesses (preferably before the examiners do) demonstrates more understanding than rejecting every critique offhand. In this particular case, the student just became angry.

Some of the pointers I picked up from other people on this forum is to look into your examiners' current interests and recent publications. This makes sense, because profs do have a tendency to want to talk about what's of interest to them. Also, check what has most recently been published about your topic. I found this great advice, because a lot can happen during those months you're immersed in writing, and it demonstrates good scholarship. (I don't remember who said this on the forum, but thank you!!!)

I'm not sure how to answer you question about exactly how long it takes to prepare. My sup told me to prepare a ten minute introduction. Perhaps others will have a better sense of how much time is required. I'm interested to hear what others have to say...

You've come a long way - congratulations and good luck!!!
posted
06-Jan-12, 22:34
by olivia 3 star member
Avatar for olivia
posted about 5 years ago
Yes, I think 3-4 weeks is optimal. Longer than that, and you can drive yourself to distraction by over-studying, with little effect, or starting to forget things.
Reading through the thesis, noting any new publications, having a practice viva ( where you can get helpful feedback) are all good ways to get started. Its impossible to anticipate what questions could be thrown at you, while there are some that are predictable, they might not get asked. Your best basis for preparation is to be very familiar with your work, and comfortable answering questions and having a conversation about it.
posted
09-Jan-12, 10:17
by Jenni
Avatar for Jenni
posted about 5 years ago
Thank you for all the advice. Glad to hear people think 3 weeks is long enough!

I am already having viva nightmares so it looks like it is going to be a long few months! :)

Jen
posted
09-Jan-12, 10:21
by sneaks 5 star member
Avatar for sneaks
posted about 5 years ago
yep mine's less than a month away and I haven't started prep yet - probably will tonight. :$

I've got an awful memory though, so any sooner and I'd have had to do it all again anyway.
posted
09-Jan-12, 10:29
by ady 5 star member
Avatar for ady
posted about 5 years ago
Mine is much less than a month away and though I have been tipping away at it for a while I have really only seriously been prepping for the last seven days. I am having recurring nightmares that I will be asked something like "Jones, (2004), exactly what is his argument...?" Gulp, you mean I am supposed to remember something I read two years ago :-(

I know you said you were not going to read viva books Sneaks (and I am with you on that) but I found an online pdf link to Rowena Murray "The viva" very helpful as was a five page pdf "Tips on how to prepare for a viva" very good.

Good luck January vivaees(up)
posted
09-Jan-12, 10:53
edited about 25 seconds later
by sneaks 5 star member
Avatar for sneaks
posted about 5 years ago
ooh do you have links for those?

I'm at the point now where I am just raging at the process -moaning about the lack of structure/fairness/consistency of vivas in general.

I'm sure this will pass and I'll eventually get on with some prep.

I am writing up a journal article, well 2 actually (deadline 7 days before my viva), so that is kind of prep too isn't it????
posted
09-Jan-12, 10:58
by ady 5 star member
Avatar for ady
posted about 5 years ago
'Tips on how to prepare for a viva' @
http://www.booksie.com/other/article/wintom/tips-on-how-to-prepare-for-a-viva/nohead/pdf/ver/8

and Rowena Murray 'The Viva' @
http://www.research.stir.ac.uk/documents/SeminarNotes-VivaNotes.pdf

I'm giving a 10 minutes presentation at mine. I am using a laser pointer which makes me look much more efficient (lol) but
expect to be so nervous that the red dot will probably be shaking madly!
posted
09-Jan-12, 11:01
edited about 21 seconds later
by sneaks 5 star member
Avatar for sneaks
posted about 5 years ago
Ah my hubs did a presentation in his - I liked that cos it breaks the ice and also uses up time! BUt sup hasn't discussed my viva at all with me, so not really sure what she expects.

Thanks for the links!
posted
09-Jan-12, 16:16
edited about 21 seconds later
by olivia 3 star member
Avatar for olivia
posted about 5 years ago
to the extent you might be asked to do something from memory in the viva, remember your thesis... its like having an open book exam... ask the examiner to refer to the part of the thesis where x is located-- whatever they are asking you, if you need to prompt your memory, or you yourself can say, hang on, its in the thesis, one moment, and find it... then read to jog your memory. The viva is after all about the thesis and its not an exam per se where you have to memorise everything. The examiners should have read your thesis and no doubt will have it tabbed with areas they want to question you on, so fair game in my opinion to ask them to guide you to the part of the thesis that generated the question, when needed.
posted
09-Jan-12, 16:44
by Delta 4 star member
Avatar for Delta
posted about 5 years ago
Quote From sneaks:

I'm at the point now where I am just raging at the process -moaning about the lack of structure/fairness/consistency of vivas in general.

I'm sure this will pass


Not for me it hasn't. I think it's a horrible way to part judge someone's work. Said it well before viva, close to viva and still think it's an unfair process. Needs an overhaul I think...

You'll all do very well though
(up)(up)(up)
posted
09-Jan-12, 16:51
by ady 5 star member
Avatar for ady
posted about 5 years ago
Hard to really suggest an alternative as there would always be the doubt if everything rested on the thesis that some people might submit a more 'collaborative' work. However, having read up on vivas recently they do seem to vary widely and wildly!!!

Thanks Olivia for reminding me it's an open book exam, I will do that if I get stuck (up)
posted
09-Jan-12, 17:10
by Jenni
Avatar for Jenni
posted about 5 years ago
Open book exam sounds a lot less scary! :)

I agree, it does seem an odd way to examine 3 years of someones life! I get really nervous and go blank when just talking to academics at conferences so i dread to think what i will be like in the viva.

I also can't recall every reference in my thesis and i am hoping I don't get shown up for this in the viva!

Again, thanks for the advice. Nice to know I am not the only one with viva concerns! Now to finish the actual thesis... :-s
posted
09-Jan-12, 17:14
edited about 23 seconds later
by sneaks 5 star member
Avatar for sneaks
posted about 5 years ago
personally I think providing a PhD by publication i.e. 3 good quality journal articles should be the new standard, as then its peer reviewed and you have practiced actually being a researcher, like you will for the rest of an academic career. I'll NEVER write a thesis again (Please please I don't want to!!!)

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