PhD thesis standards

posted
15-Mar-19, 11:16
Avatar for softykitty
posted about 1 month ago
Hi folks, I have submitted my PhD thesis a couple of weeks ago, the viva will come soon. I'm quite worried with the viva result. As you all know, it could be minor correction, major correction, or even MPhil. I checked some thesis from previous PhD students in our school, I found those theses don't have a universal level. I can spot lots of grammar mistakes, some of them even used screenshot as a figure in the thesis, but these students got a minor correction. I also heard lots of ridiculous stories about the viva. I'm so confused with the standards of PhD thesis. My supervisor will read through every word and pick up any misused comma in my thesis, but some of PhD students are very "lucky" and they seem to pass their viva easily. Their supervisors have a title of professor! Maybe I was only able to spot any shallow mistakes but couldn't see their analysis in depth? The regulation of my school requires two examiners, one internal examiner and one external examiner, two of them should be selected by main supervisor. Does the viva fully depend on the supervisor?
posted
15-Mar-19, 14:27
by Zena85
Avatar for Zena85
posted about 1 month ago
No it does not, I had a bad relationship with my supervisors and they did not read my thesis properly. I sent my thesis to a colleague to fix the English (he is native English speaker) and he corrected everything from English to figure captions. When I went to my viva, the external was in charge of the questions and she asked from chapter seven to chapter one and back to chapter five. She wanted first to make sure I am the one who wrote the thesis, and make sure I understood what I wrote and finally to make sure I understood the background of my research. Once I proved that to her, she was happy. She asked me to write her an equation that I did not put in my thesis, I apologised and said I do not remember the equation so she started half of it and I finished it. She asked me about a concept that I dealt with but I was not fully understood it and she explained it to me. It is fine if you don’t remember or you didn’t cover the material in depth, what is matter is you can answer honestly and prove that you are the one who did the work and why you did it in that way. She did not agree on one of my results but I showed her in the literature someone had similar conclusion to mine and explained why I took it in that way and why I was happy with that , I wasn’t wrong but in real world it can cost money, and I showed her I did understand that and she was happy with that and i got minor corrections. Guess what, English and add extra figures and extra equation. Read your thesis and understand everything in it and why you chose the way that you chose and show understanding of your thesis and your research and you will be fine. Good luck with your viva
posted
16-Mar-19, 14:10
edited about 25 seconds later
Avatar for softykitty
posted about 1 month ago
I also had lots of arguments with my supervisor, he does not suggest me to submit my thesis, and he said I will at best get major correction. He made it clear that he cannot stop me from doing that cause he had no control on this issue. I really don't understand why he said something like that one day before the submission date. I had no choice and I'm not going to quit or ask the university to give me a Master degree. I have to prepare for this viva, but I think the viva can be quite personal. I heard some examiners will go through each word and check your reference. I also heard some examiners got the thesis a couple of hours before the viva, they just attend the viva and do some improvisation. Given my current situation, I need to fully prepare for this viva. I'm just confused why some PhD students can easily pass their viva and their examiners were not demanding at all. Thanks for sharing your experience anyway!
posted
17-Mar-19, 12:18
edited about 8 seconds later
by rewt
Avatar for rewt
posted about 1 month ago
I don't think your supervisor has much of an impact other than choosing the examiners. Examiners can vary a lot and have massively different standards. Unofficially your supervisor will know stringent the supervisors are and can choose easy examiners to get a poor student through. If your supervisor purposefully chooses people they don't know or have a reputation for being a stickler, prepare for the worst.

Though one of my supervisors reportedly had a 40min viva because their supervisor knew the external and wanted the viva done fast so they could go to the pub. Obviously they were not independent. Also my supervisor has already organised my external who said "the concept alone is worth a PhD". He is also a well-renowned professor who has reportedly never given someone a fail in a PhD viva in over 10 attempts. The guy reportedly looks for the "contribution to knowledge" over the small details. The system can be massively gamed if you can find easy examiners.

Your supervisor can't openly ask your examiners to fail but he can make it difficult. I would assume that you have to meet high standards and have an answer for everything.
posted
17-Mar-19, 14:27
edited about 4 seconds later
Avatar for softykitty
posted about 1 month ago
Yeah, I also heard lots of similar stories, the viva itself is very personal, there is no transparency at all. I just wonder what impact will it make on the supervisor if his PhD student failed in the viva? Certainly it will not damage too much on the career of his supervisor, but I presume it should not be a good side for his reputation and future promotion. Will the supervisor put barriers in front of his student on purpose? I'm too confused. As far as I know, it's typical that academic researchers are lack of social skills, and some of their behaviours are not even like normal human beings. If they stick to the rules and follow everything in logics, I guess I need to prepare for the worst. My supervisor told me he found two people for the external examiners, they will be selected by the head of school. All of them are his former colleagues, I met one of them before, he is a friend of my supervisor. But my supervisor haven't kept in touch with the other guy for almost ten years because that guy stole his research and published a paper, but he still pick him as a candidate to be my external examiner, because his research area is quite similar with the topic of my thesis. That is the weirdest thing I have ever heard.
posted
18-Mar-19, 18:50
edited about 8 seconds later
by Zena85
Avatar for Zena85
posted about 1 month ago
Quote From softykitty:
I also had lots of arguments with my supervisor, he does not suggest me to submit my thesis, and he said I will at best get major correction. He made it clear that he cannot stop me from doing that cause he had no control on this issue. I really don't understand why he said something like that one day before the submission date. .

My supervisor said exactly the same and he also said that I might get resubmission, but honestly they don’t have any input on the results. Honestly I filed a complaint against my supervisors and one of them is the head of the department and I passed my viva with minor corrections. The viva depends on you and how you are going to answer the questions. Do not mention your supervisors at all during the viva even if your supervisor is the one who told you to do a specific thing. Say I did this for this reason and this reason, if the examiner said your approach is wrong say thank you for your opinion and you appreciate that but your reasons were those. You may ask for more explanation but you never agree that you were wrong.
I may suggest you ask some colleagues or staff to give you a mini viva, I did that three times with different people and it was quite interesting. I learned a lot from it.
posted
18-Mar-19, 21:13
Avatar for softykitty
posted about 1 month ago
Quote From Zena85:
Quote From softykitty:
.

My supervisor said exactly the same and he also said that I might get resubmission, but honestly they don’t have any input on the results. Honestly I filed a complaint against my supervisors and one of them is the head of the department and I passed my viva with minor corrections. The viva depends on you and how you are going to answer the questions. Do not mention your supervisors at all during the viva even if your supervisor is the one who told you to do a specific thing. Say I did this for this reason and this reason, if the examiner said your approach is wrong say thank you for your opinion and you appreciate that but your reasons were those. You may ask for more explanation but you never agree that you were wrong.
I may suggest you ask some colleagues or staff to give you a mini viva, I did that three times with different people and it was quite interesting. I learned a lot from it.


Thanks for sharing your experience, that's very encouraging. The problem is why they can make such conclusion if they had no absolute control on this matter. I'm just trying to understand the reason behind their behaviour. Why did they make their PhD student feel so bad? They wouldn't benefit anything from this. I'm not sure if I will file complaint later on because our school has quite bureaucratic system, which means the staff are always right and the student will be blamed for anything. The PhD coordinator in our school is not doing well with his own PhD student, but he is still in charge. The ball is always on their court, that's the sad truth.
posted
18-Mar-19, 22:48
by rewt
Avatar for rewt
posted about 1 month ago
Quote From softykitty:
Thanks for sharing your experience, that's very encouraging. The problem is why they can make such conclusion if they had no absolute control on this matter. I'm just trying to understand the reason behind their behaviour. Why did they make their PhD student feel so bad? They wouldn't benefit anything from this. I'm not sure if I will file complaint later on because our school has quite bureaucratic system, which means the staff are always right and the student will be blamed for anything. The PhD coordinator in our school is not doing well with his own PhD student, but he is still in charge. The ball is always on their court, that's the sad truth.


PhD supervision can be one smart socially awkward person trying to guide another smart socially awkward person. That sounds like it can cause friction and it isn't always the supervisors fault.

A PhD should be awarded when someone writes a thesis on their work showcasing their accomplishment as independent researcher. The problem is "fuzzyness" on the standard of work and how independent you should be. Two smart socially awkward people may have different perspectives, standards and availability. That is why I always say you should choose the PhD on the project and the supervisor match.

Though on a side note - I was talking with an old school professor who is in 70s and he said PhD supervision has changed massively during his life. Reportedly after his first year of his PhD he would only meet his supervisor once every 2 months or so, just so the supervisor could check he was still studying. He also reportedly only had 1 major draft of his thesis before submission where the supervisor gave general comments on the content but nothing more. Back then it was expected that you learnt from other sources and not rely on your supervisor. I know things have changed but it does show that there is no clear right/wrong way and things are always changing.
posted
19-Mar-19, 20:15
Avatar for softykitty
posted about 1 month ago
Quote From rewt:
Quote From softykitty:


That's very true, I wish I could post this thread earlier, then I would be less frustrated. I saw too many PhD complaining about their supervision process. Some of them even changed their supervisors at the beginning, which seems like a wise decision. The whole supervision is mutual, the fault is neither on the student nor the supervisor. We are just different working style. I realised this issue initially, but I thought the smartness of my supervisor can guide me through and help me overcome the barriers, but we had constant argument and conflict during the weekly meetings, my thesis plan kept being delayed. He tried to help me in his way, which makes me frustrated and depressed. When I realised this is not going the right way, it is already too late. PhD has standards, but it is just interpreted in different ways by different person, which causes PhD thesis in different academic level.

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