Getting a PhD: Preparing for your viva


    I don’t mind telling you that I was very nervous about my viva for two main reasons: first, I was aware of some of the gaps in my work. It is well known that research never ends, but I worried that I could have done a bit more to ‘push the boundaries of knowledge’. My external examiner is an expert in my particular field (all external examiners are experts, but not always within your core research area). So I imagined him asking me why I didn’t include some analyses, then asking me to return to the lab to do them. Second, I'm more comfortable with writing than I am with speaking, so the thought of spending x hours talking about my work was not exciting.

    Well, I got to work finding out as much as I could to equip myself for the viva. I sorted out the logistics by asking around - my supervisor, colleagues, and useful websites. I got tips on how to:               - get set for the viva.
                   - create a thesis defence checklist.
                   - think through potential viva questions (here and here).
                   - find out about others' viva experiences.
    Finally, like all endeavours in life, confidence is key, so I constantly reminded myself that I knew my stuff – I did most of the experiments myself, read the papers, wrote the entire thesis, and was aware of the research's context. In the end, the viva went okay; I defended on the 24th of November 2016. I could have done better, but could have done much worse as well. Both internal and external examiners were really awesome. I passed with minor corrections (4 weeks to submit the corrected thesis). Relief!

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