Transfer Viva coming up, was given negative outlook, need advice

11-Jul-14, 23:46
edited about 18 seconds later
by Penpen
Avatar for Penpen
posted about 6 years ago
Hello all,

I'm in need of advice on how to cope in the run up to my transfer viva (transferring from MPhil to PhD). It's a long story but I'll keep it short.

1. I was originally supposed to transfer to PhD in 2013, but this was ultimately decided against since due to personal problems I took a suspension for a year.
2. I attempted transfer 6 months ago and failed, was told to finish with MPhil.
3. I appealed this on the basis of my retroactive suspension and funding problems that have plagued my project since the beginning. This was upheld.
4. I am now being told by a member of my appeal committee what it is I have to do to transfer this year, but she basically said "I don't think you'll manage it". Wow, thanks for the vote of confidence!

I feel like I've been quite thoroughly messed with. I've jumped through endless hoops and changes in my project and endured the stress coming back from suspension, attempting to transfer once and appealing only to be told it was all essentially for naught anyway! How am I supposed to motivate myself to do enough work to qualify for transfer if my own viva committee have essentially said "eh, we'll probably fail you anyway"?

I'm feeling quite depressed, and could use some advice on how to motivate myself to try and pass despite this negative feedback.
12-Jul-14, 00:04
edited about 18 seconds later
by Fled
Avatar for Fled
posted about 6 years ago
Well at my Uni, we have something similar, after the first year of the PhD programme, we have an upgrade panel meeting, where you basically defend your 1st year of research and get officially upgraded and green lit for full PhD thesis submission in 2-3 years.

This has been likened to a mini viva, where you defend the robustness of your research. On AVERAGE, what is expected is your first 2 chapters, usually your introduction and literature review (or equivalent) which is about 20,000 odd words. And of course a detailed proposal of how you intend to structure your thesis from start to finish. Thats the technical requirement at my uni.

Now with that out of the way, forget what the appeal committee jackass told you, and ask yourself, can you deliver on time? Do you honestly believe in the quality of your proposal? What do potential supervisors think? Get some feedback, get reading and then get writing. This is your dream. Don't expect anyone else to buy into it. Its yours, so its on you to make it happen. If not at this institution, at the next one.

The only 2 methods I have found to 100% stop a determined human is a) if they give up or b) if they get hit by a bus.
12-Jul-14, 00:10
by Penpen
Avatar for Penpen
posted about 6 years ago
Thanks very much Fled :)

Yes I need to produce my lit review and a work chapter in about 3 months, plus any additional work I have done on another following chapter. While this is doable (the first work chapter is on it's way to being finished) it's a tight schedule and I struggle with tight schedules!

I DID believe in the quality of my proposal, as did my supervisors, but then my viva committee said they didn't so honestly I'm getting conflicting messages. The problem is of course that, although they may be a jackass, the person who said they may fail me IS one of the people who ultimately decides whether to pass me or not. It's doesn't really help when you suspect that your examiner already has a biased opinion.
12-Jul-14, 12:03
by emmaki
Avatar for emmaki
posted about 6 years ago
It is a difficult situation, but I would suggest just one thing: Get advise from your supervisor and start working on your report!

Have you talked to your sup? What is his/her view about the failed transfer report? Have you got any feedback from the committee? Have you discussed it with your sup?
Do have this discussion and then make a list of all the amendments that need to be addressed and work through them one by one.

Good luck!
12-Jul-14, 14:13
edited about 12 seconds later
by CR1980
Avatar for CR1980
posted about 6 years ago
Just to add to the already good advice you've been given - is there training at your institution for upgrade events? If so, maybe try to get along?

Otherwise, is there someone (or more than one) in your department who have successfully navigated the upgrade recently (or with the same committee). Can you have a coffee with them to get tips? I found actually the best help was from fellow students a year or so above me who had been through the process. Having access to someone elses report, just for structure/content can be massively reassuring that you have done a lot and you are on the right track. I've always found other students to be helpful allies in situations like this.
13-Jul-14, 11:26
edited about 8 seconds later
Avatar for bewildered
posted about 6 years ago
Penpen remember upgrade is not about the quality of your proposal. It's about whether the work you've done since suggests that there is a viable PhD there and that you have the skills to do it. You will probably have had a report from the original failed upgrade - what did they identify as the main weaknesses? Was it primarily the lack of work or was it more about quality? I think you need to be clear what their main concern is. If it's that they doubt you will finish the thesis to the required standard within the time limits, then I think you need to push on and produce as much material as you can (working under time pressures is part of a PhD and unfortunately even if you don't like it, you've got to live with it) and also think about producing a detailed timetable for finishing on time. If it's more about the quality of what you submitted last time, then have another look at your literature review - have you clearly identified the gaps in the literature i.e. showed what the potential your thesis has for making an original contribution? Were there things they thought were missing?
I'd also ask yourself whether the MPhil option might be the best thing for you right now. Are you in the right place emotionally / physically to put yourself through a few more years of this? I'm just worried by the statement that you found returning from the suspension of studies so stressful. Finishing with an MPhil now doesn't preclude a PhD in the future when things are going better for you, don't risk your health for a piece of paper.


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