How important is the internal examiner

posted
25-Jun-20, 17:03
by Phd2020
Avatar for Phd2020
posted about 2 weeks ago
I’m someone who has been doing his Phd no guidance what so ever other than some occasional comments about spilling and punctuations.

Recently, my supervisor first phd student failed her Viva and this news has literally wrecked my life.

On top of that my supervisor has just told me that she has spoken to a member of the department to be my internal examiner. I told her that you should have discussed this with me first and that I don’t want this member to be my examiner for two reasons: first she used to work in Oxford and she has very high and rigid standards. She is fair but really really tough and not a nice person in general. I still don’t know who will be my external examiner. But it doesn’t matter as I feel I’m doomed and my supervisor said that the she can’t change her now because she already agreed to be assigned as my internal


My question is how important is the internal ?? What should I do now
posted
25-Jun-20, 19:03
edited about 1 second later
by rewt
Avatar for rewt
posted about 2 weeks ago
Both examiners are important and either one can be influenced by the other. Traditionally the internal is less critical and more supportive than the external but that is not always the case. I think is rather inappropriate for your supervisor to choose without asking you but I would ask your supervisor why she was chosen. While you may consider this internal rigid and with high standards they could have a very different reputation during examination. The fact you consider her fair is a very good sign as she might be more receptive during your viva.

On a cynical note, you can try to find a conflict between you and this proposed internal. Have you worked together, have you or your supervisor published with the internal or have you had any major issues with the person? It won't make you any friends but the easiest way to remove an examiner is by finding a conflict.
posted
25-Jun-20, 19:34
edited about 10 seconds later
Avatar for Tudor_Queen
posted about 2 weeks ago
Your supervisor sounds a bit rubbish. But re feedback, it could be that your work is really good so their comments are minimal. To find out and try get some more substantive feedback before the viva you could have someone else read your thesis.

Re the internal. I think it's hard to judge which way examiners will go. I read that new, inexperienced and potentially insecure ones can be really harsh and nit picky as they may be trying to prove themselves. That said, my internal was new and she wasn't that way. Incidentally, my external seemed to take a more leading role. I'm not sure I'd bother trying to change your examiner, as you never know, this one might be fine and the one you choose might be a nightmare once in the room! But if you did want to, I think Rewt's idea is a good one, if you can find some conflict of interest and say you'd rather switch. Another idea is make sure you discuss your external with the supervisor, so you at least get a say in that.

Good luck with everything.
posted
26-Jun-20, 10:40
edited about 11 minutes later
by pm133
Avatar for pm133
posted about 2 weeks ago
I know things seem tough right now but honestly having a mindset of "this news has literally wrecked my life" is not helping you at all.

Things have happened which you can't control. You need to be focussing on getting back through that thesis with a fine tooth comb and covering it with post-it changes before the viva. You also need to find someone who can read your thesis and give you some feedback. The rest of the stuff, you need to let go because you can't control it.

Oh and BTW, my internal examiner sat quietly until the very end of my VIVA and then accused me of fabricating some results because he wrongly assumed that a tool I was using didn't report some material properties that I had included. I pretty much exploded on the spot and told him that the fact he didn't know how the tool worked was no excuse for making thinly veiled attacks on my integrity. I remember leaning in and saying "I didn't sit down and make these numbers up out of fresh air". Then the external stepped in to calm things down and tell the internal that the tool did in fact give these numbers. Things got wrapped up pretty quickly after that and I passed with minors. The external told my supervisor that the viva went extremely well and that he couldn't understand why I was so quiet afterwards. Honestly, these people........ :-D

So, my internal tried to sabotage me right at the end of the viva because he couldn't think of what else to ask to justify his presence. That's probably not what you wanted to hear.
posted
26-Jun-20, 11:57
edited about 10 seconds later
Avatar for Tudor_Queen
posted about 2 weeks ago
Quote From pm133:


Oh and BTW, my internal examiner sat quietly until the very end of my VIVA and then accused me of fabricating some results because he wrongly assumed that a tool I was using didn't report some material properties that I had included. I pretty much exploded on the spot and told him that the fact he didn't know how the tool worked was no excuse for making thinly veiled attacks on my integrity. I remember leaning in and saying "I didn't sit down and make these numbers up out of fresh air". Then the external stepped in to calm things down and tell the internal that the tool did in fact give these numbers. Things got wrapped up pretty quickly after that and I passed with minors. The external told my supervisor that the viva went extremely well and that he couldn't understand why I was so quiet afterwards.


Honestly!!!!

But yeh totally. Get someone to give you some feedback on your thesis. And just make sure you know what you did and why you did it (even if you've since reflected about certain things and would do them differently - be ready to discuss - it shows you are a scientist, have independent thought, and have developed). Good luck!
posted
26-Jun-20, 13:58
by eng77
Avatar for eng77
posted about 2 weeks ago
I agree with pm on focussing on what you can do. Also there is no point in discussing why supervisor chose this particular examiner. This is also past. In my MRes, the examiner was harder than the external. You do not know if she is good/bad at examination until you see.
posted
26-Jun-20, 15:26
edited about 23 seconds later
Avatar for Tudor_Queen
posted about 2 weeks ago
I agree. It is rather disheartening that your supervisor's first student failed though. I would want to get some feedback from someone else on my thesis, as I wouldn't feel I could trust their judgment at all. My aim would be to be able to go into that viva feeling confident. Even if my thesis isn't the best (mine wasn't), knowing that I can defend it.
posted
26-Jun-20, 15:49
edited about 17 seconds later
by pm133
Avatar for pm133
posted about 2 weeks ago
TQ, yes that really happened. I can laugh about it now but that might have caused me serious problems had I been a bit younger and less experienced in handling unreasonable people. Just glad I no longer have to work amongst them.
posted
26-Jun-20, 17:44
by Phd2020
Avatar for Phd2020
posted about 2 weeks ago
Thank you all for your replies, Question now is: how can I find someone to evaluate my work? Would it be wise to write to the head of the department asking her to appoint someone to read my thesis?? Or what exactly should I do,
posted
26-Jun-20, 18:40
by pm133
Avatar for pm133
posted about 2 weeks ago
No. If you do that your supervisor will get to know and that has to be avoided at all costs.

Ideally you want to chat privately with any member of academic staff that you have built up some kind of relationship with from your time there, that you can trust and who will actually be prepared to do it and keep it low key so your supervisor isn't alerted. To improve your chances you should tell them that you only want them to skim the thesis and give you a feel as to whether it is of the correct standard.
posted
26-Jun-20, 18:59
by rewt
Avatar for rewt
posted about 2 weeks ago
I completely agree with pm133 but would like to add that you can ask someone to look at one chapter specific to their expertise. An academic would be more willing to read one chapter on their expertise and a bit of flattery always helps.
posted
26-Jun-20, 23:58
edited about 53 seconds later
Avatar for Tudor_Queen
posted about 2 weeks ago
It doesn't have to even be someone closely related to the area, as long as they are in the same overall area and so know what's expected in your department /research area. I think I'd try asking someone to skim read it and if you can't find anyone willing to do that, then maybe try the one chapter approach that rewt suggests. I just think if at all poss it would be better to get someone to give judgment / feedback on the whole thing. But even a chapter is better than nothing.

Do you have an academic tutor you could ask perhaps? I don't think it needs to be secret really, as long as it's not framed as oh I don't trust their judgment so could you take a look. I dont think it'd be the end of world if your supervisor found out. I often ask others to look at my papers that are co authored with my supervisors. Just cos I want the extra feedback.

I don't think it's critical BTW. No one read mine other than my supervisors. It's just that it might help you feel more confident.

Good luck!

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