Viva Questions...

posted
10-Oct-19, 17:31
by Kahn
Avatar for Kahn
posted about 1 month ago
Hey All!

I have my viva in exactly one month and one days time. My supervisors seem to be quite happy with my work and I believe that I should be able to defend any potential questions regarding my research. However, I have obviously been going through all the general questions available on the internet and I am finding some of them quite difficult to be honest.

For those that have had their viva, and I know the answer to this question is going to vary from person to person, what percentage of the questions would you say were general and what percentage were specific?

Some of the questions that I am struggling with are like:

1) Did your research questions change over the course of the project? (What if the research question didn't change? If I tell them that the questions were well thought-out and fill a particular gap in the literature hence didn't require any changing (although I could have extended the work but funding constraints prevented this) would that be ok? Or do I have to make something up so as to show them that I was able to adapt and make changes as I went on?

2) What problems did you have in the analysis? (I didn't have any problems.... I found three areas where I could fill a gap in the literature and devised a plan on how I would go about testing my hypotheses. The analysis was very straightforward and the results supported my predictions). If I say there were no problems in carrying out the analysis would that make me seem as being unable to be reflective?

3) How has your view of the area changed as you progressed through your research? I don't know what to say about this? That its very broad and interdisciplinary? I already knew that though...

4) How have you changed as a result of undertaking this project? I have become more efficient as a researcher, learned new methodologies etc. and I can no longer tolerate trivial/petty conversations. Is that ok?
posted
10-Oct-19, 17:37
by Kahn
Avatar for Kahn
posted about 1 month ago
Sorry just two more...

5) What surprised you the most? My research wasn't really surprising at all. What I was surprised about is academia itself. Prior to the PhD I had thought that academics would always be engaged in conversations regarding exciting cutting-edge research and general ideas etc. However, I was later surprised by finding out that there are academics who treat their work as a publication factory. Moreover, they have very little knowledge/insight outside their very particular specialty. For instance, general philosophical discussions etc. Is this answer OK?

6) If you started this study again, what would you do differently? How do I answer this? I would honestly have done everything exactly the same way... I planned and managed my time relatively well (stayed in my dorm for 80% of my 3 years) working on my research and thus finished on time.. Yes, If I had more funding I would have extended my research but that's an answer to another question...

Please help!
posted
10-Oct-19, 20:31
Avatar for Tudor_Queen
posted about 1 month ago
Hi Kahn

I think all vivas are different and the best advice I ever had and would give anyone else is just to know exactly what you did and why you did it. That is all you can be questioned on, reasonably. So if you know that then although you might need to look at things from different angles etc, you should be sorted. Now I'll try answer your questions based on my experience and opinion.

1) No need to make anything up! I can't imagine you being asked this but if you are then it is just out of interest probably - not to test anything. If they didn't change, they didn't change!

2) Say exactly what you said here! But again, I seriously can't imagine this question being asked!

3) Hmm, I think they'd make the question more specific... like what do you think of x theory now? An example from my viva is that there is a debate in my field and people tend to take one side or the other. They asked me which side I was on! I couldn't have prepared for that question. But I knew what debate they were referring to, so could spend a moment reflecting and then give them an answer based on what I thought.

4). Oh my goodness! I wasn't asked this! But seriously, if that is how you feel then just answer it that way.

I'm just going to stop now and say that really these questions are things you probably don't need to be preparing for. Not that they won't come up, but it is way more important to just know your thesis the best you can. I'd spend the time preparing for that and then answer any curve balls on the spot. You just can't prepare for every question they will ask. But if you put your time in preparing for the ones you CAN prepare for (i.e., the science), you should be sorted.

All the best!!!
posted
10-Oct-19, 20:46
by Kahn
Avatar for Kahn
posted about 1 month ago
Thank you! Yeah, there are so many lists of potential questions on the internet but having read through the forums it seems as though most of those questions don't actually get asked! I will take your advice and just mostly focus on my thesis :)
posted
11-Oct-19, 00:38
by abababa
Avatar for abababa
posted about 1 month ago
General questions usually mean either:

1) It's the start of the viva, and the examiners are trying to de-stress you a bit by giving you some easy questions which you googled in advance and can knock out of the park.

2) It's the end of the viva, it's gone well, and they're genuinely interested in your future plans, and how they could support.

There are really no right answers to these questions, in the sense of them meaningfully affecting the viva outcome, unless you really shoot yourself in the foot ('I definitely evolved as a researcher because I realised I could fake data and get away with it!').

The traps on the questions you list, broadly speaking, are:

- How has your view of the area changed? Trap: if it hasn't, you've learned nothing and found nothing out.

- What problems did you have? Trap: If no problems, is your thesis 100% flawless on this, or are you being naive?

- How have you changed? Trap: I am exactly the same as I was when I started with a Masters, but expect a PhD now. Explain what you have learned.

- What surprised you? Trap: If nothing you discovered was scientifically unknown or unexpected, how is this research? Think of surprised not in the literal 'gasp' sense, but in the 'I found something new out' sense.

- What would you do differently? See 'What problems did you have'. Trap: Attempting to argue your PhD is completely flawless. Slightly flawed with awareness of flaws is a PhD; Flaws with a complete lack of awareness of these flaws is a possible fail.
posted
11-Oct-19, 10:31
by pm133
Avatar for pm133
posted about 1 month ago
Honestly, if this is what you end up being asked I would suggest that you've passed.
They should be asking serious questions about your research, not faffing about with nonsense about "how you've personally grown as a researcher".
I would have played all of those questions with a straight bat and one sentence answers.

Not one of them is a good question to be asking in a viva other than to perhaps relax you at the start. I would be seriously annoyed at being asked them after 3 years of working my butt off.
posted
11-Oct-19, 16:48
edited about 6 seconds later
by Kahn
Avatar for Kahn
posted about 1 month ago
Thank you for your comments! They really help :)
posted
11-Oct-19, 17:09
edited about 1 second later
by Kahn
Avatar for Kahn
posted about 1 month ago
I love the academic and graduate school community so much. I am the first in my family to have ever gone to university let alone pursue a PhD. I was raised in a council estate under pretty deprived conditions but luckily I was able to receive scholarships for my Masters and PhD (before SFE were giving out loans for these). Now I am back home and honestly miss the academic environment so~~ much :'(

Its not so much about the research environment per se but being around enlightened, educated and open minded folk.. Since I have been back home all I hear is trivial gossip. The people here are so close minded and completely lack ambition.

Sorry for the random comment, I just wanted to state my feelings somewhere.

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