Postgrad LIVE! Study Fairs

Southampton | Bristol

Coventry University Featured PhD Programmes
University of West London Featured PhD Programmes
Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council Featured PhD Programmes
University of Kent Featured PhD Programmes
University of Leeds Featured PhD Programmes

PhD Discussion Forum

The following thread is brought to you by our sister Web site If you wish to reply or post your own thread, you will be redirected to this site.

This Category: > Writing up / Vivas


Is this vaguely normal a week before viva, and if so what the heck do I do about it?!?

User: AngelsandPhDDemons - 09 January 2016 14:53

Viva in just over a week away - thesis interdisciplinary.

Fretting - a lot - and would appreciate any advice on:

- I can't seem to recall the literary texts I've used - even basic storylines. No time to re read them all - have re read notes I made. Every site I've seen on viva questions seem to focus more on the 'so what' than the minutiae of the analysis - is this people's experience of literary / humanities based PhD's?

- Rereading notes has just made me feel like I've 'missed' lots (but - because interdisciplinary, couldn't include every relevant book / text / quote). I think I can defend the 'missed' bits as less relevant / lack of space - has anyone had a viva focusing on what they didn't write on & how did you handle these types of questions?

- I've re read thesis twice now & plan to re read again next week 24 hours before - it just seems so *simple*. So many of the points (even where I've got a clear 'and this is important because...') seems so obvious. But - I'm immersed in it. Is this normal?!?

- How do I move from 'any revisions are bad outcome' to (more realistic) 'revisions are a positive way to refine the work' type thinking? Any thoughts?

On the upside - only 3 pages of typed / tabulated typos (and they're mainly v v minor ie extra space needed) 😂😂

Thanks all in advance.

User: TreeofLife - 11 January 2016 11:05

What areas are your examiners familiar with? That's the area they will focus on - they are unlikely to ask questions on areas they don't understand.

They didn't me about things I didn't write about in my viva (sciences).

I think it's normal to reread things and think they are obvious - they are now, to you, and that's the way it should be.

Good luck!

User: AngelsandPhDDemons - 11 January 2016 11:16

Thank you :-)

The examiners are from two completely different backgrounds / disciplines - I'm trying to navigate the way they'll ask about very different elements of the thesis but also trying not to do a 'naive' spelling out of the relevance to either (if that makes sense). It feels very very odd to be days not weeks away now ... I swing between excitement & (more often) sheer terror!

I'm also trying hard to think that anything other than a fail (which won't happen - it's definitely my work & it's complete!) is a good outcome - kind of like a peer review <for an article in Nature>

User: TreeofLife - 11 January 2016 12:34

It is difficult to think what the examiners will focus on. The examiners in my viva were also both out of my subject area and so I had many questions on molecular biology, rather than the specific field of my thesis.

My viva was difficult because sometimes they asked really obvious, basic questions and it was hard to think whether they were actually asking that, or whether they wanted a more in depth answer. The external got annoyed when I broke things down too simply, and yet told me I was wrong when I gave a more complicated answer, because he didn't understand. I couldn't win, basically!

Even if you work out how to feel like minor/major corrections isn't a failure now, it may not make much difference once you have had the viva. I thought I would get minors and I would be happy with that (which I got) but because my viva was so horrible, I felt like I had failed anyway. It took me about a week to realise that my examiner was the idiot and not me, and I felt better once I'd realised that. (Even if that's not true I still think it, otherwise the 4 years of PhD would have been a complete waste of time, and I wouldn't be worthy of having a PhD and of doing this postdoc.)

Anyway, I'm sure your experience won't be like mine, because each viva is so different, and most people won't have the type of examiner I did, so do post an update with how it goes!

User: AngelsandPhDDemons - 11 January 2016 13:05

Ah that sounds very difficult - had you 'prepped' and answers before hand & was this useful? I've got general responses (not learned by rote but prepped) to the obvious questions (where it fits, how it does something novel etc) but have abandoned trying to second guess what they might ask!

And I will - I've genuinely no idea how it'll go - supervisor thinks pass with typos but then, they would say that - they've also pointed out that it's an exam, no way of knowing how it may go etc.

User: TreeofLife - 11 January 2016 14:05

I reread my thesis and made a list of corrections, made sure I understood the key literature and kept up date, read recent papers by both examiners and practised answers to typical questions such as 'summarise your thesis, what are the key achievements etc and why did you choose this technique etc'. I felt like they didn't really ask me these obvious questions though.

Any time they thought I knew something they just moved on. When it was clear I didn't know something or I had answered it incorrectly (or they thought I had), they kept on prodding me like I was going to pick the answer out of thin air. I think that was partly the point - I've often heard it said that examiners keeping questioning until the student says they don't know the answer.

I guess the prep helped then, because otherwise they would have hassled me with every answer I gave, so maybe I could have prepped even more in that case, but it's hard to have an answer off the top of your head for every possible question.

My supervisors also thought I would sail through my viva, and they thought my thesis was pretty perfect, so it was a shock when my examiners didn't agree!

Even though I got minors in the end (which took me a week to do), my external was considering giving me major corrections, partly because he was worried how I would do the corrections whilst working full-time I think, but also because he didn't think much of my thesis.

User: AngelsandPhDDemons - 11 January 2016 19:18

Reassuring to say that it's OK not to have all the possible answers :-) The prep is tricky as I'm trying to preempt questions that might not even be relevant - and stressing about them, rather than focusing on the strengths (I have a list of identified weaknesses or things I could have done differently / more of!)

It's amazing the range of emotions - from quiet confidence that there's some good work to being convinced there's a fatal flaw I've missed or, worse, that it's all just so obvious!

User: yanyanchenbo - 13 January 2016 12:08

Just keep in mind that you know more about your thesis than someone else including your examiners.

I just passed my viva with minor corrections (6 weeks) this Monday. It seemed that the examiners asked a lot of
questions using the word "Why". E.g. Why do you measure variable A in a particular way? In addition, if your study is based in a special context, e.g. you choose a partiluar country, think about the features of your context, how does it differ from the others. In particular, if your examiners are not very familiar with your research context, they might want to clarify something. Finally, be clear about your data if you are doing quantitative research.

I hope this would be helpful.

User: AngelsandPhDDemons - 19 January 2016 08:29

Very helpful - I passed with v minor changes :-D

Viva was absolutely lovely in the end with two very rigorous but extremely kind & helpful examiners :-D

User: glowworm - 19 January 2016 10:32

Quote From AngelsandPhDDemons:Very helpful - I passed with v minor changes :

Viva was absolutely lovely in the end with two very rigorous but extremely kind & helpful examiners :-D

Well done and congratulations!

User: TreeofLife - 19 January 2016 11:58

Congrats Dr!!

User: Hugh - 19 January 2016 14:06

Many congrats! :)

User: doctorjohn - 19 January 2016 15:44

Excellent. Well done Doctor.

FindAPhD. Copyright 2005-2019
All rights reserved.