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Tips about PhD Viva

Thursday, July 10th, 2008 @ 10:23 am
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My supervisor recently sent out some useful tips in relation to going through the Phd viva examination and i thought it is useful to record here. One of the things he draws attention to is to avoid responding to a question like  ‘why you did something in your thesis’ by  ” because my supervisor told me to” . This may be true but it is not enough. If we are advised to do something it is good to ask why. Then we have a rationale for what we did. Below are some good points to keep into account about the viva, as outlined by West and Nolan (2008, research conference presentation, University of Manchester, 2nd July 08):

THE VIVA

Your external examiner is usually the most powerful of your examiners you’re your homework on her/him.

Check everything your external examiner has published and refer to anything however vaguely relevant in your thesis.

Your most likely result is to be asked to make some amendments to your thesis – be prepared for this outcome

In reading your thesis before the viva and talking with one another your examiners will have reached a provisional verdict which you are unlikely to change. I have seen this happen in only 1 viva in 20.

One of the tasks of the examiners is to convince themselves that the thesis is your work and nobody else’s hence some of the questions.

If you say something good in response to a question that you have not written in your thesis you might well get asked to add it. So try and speak only what you have written! Remember the viva is based on what you have written!

It is ok to be nervous and to ask that a question is repeated or to say that you don’t understand.

Examiners will almost always have found something that they feel can improve your thesis. It is up to them how much they just tell you this and how much they ask you to add to your thesis.

It is impossible to predict all of the questions they will ask some are pretty obvious – e.g. contributions to knowledge, justifying your methodology etc.

After the viva is an anti climax and to do the requested changes is a real chore. Take a couple of days off unless you have only very minor changes to make.

Most staff in our school have been viva-ed. We remember what it is like as do those who get viva-ed ahead of you.

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2 Comments for
“Tips about PhD Viva”


  1. F., your blog and research journey is an inspiration and also your efforts in categorising and recording experiences.



  2. thanks Rosie, i imagine that such blogs are useful tools in doctoral research, especially in the reflexive field of counselling and psychotherapy


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