The Podcast is 2 and my Ebook is 99p!

Viva Survivors Podcast turns 2!

Two things happened last Friday – the podcast turned two (Happy Birthday Viva Survivors Podcast!) – and the Twitter account for the podcast picked up its 1000th follower, which is kind of neat. So… What to do to celebrate this?

A special edition of the podcast where I invite everyone back to give updates? I wish I’d thought of that sooner.

A series of Google Hangouts where I look at various parts of the viva or preparation process? Not yet, but I’m thinking about that for August (message me if you’re interested!).

A bottle of champagne? A cup of tea?

For Four Days Only!

How about… Until midnight on Friday I drop the price of Fail Your Viva to 99p (and $2.99 in the US)?

This will run from 8am Tuesday 10th June 2014 (GMT in the UK and PST in the US) until  Friday 13th June 2014 at midnight in the appropriate time zones. If your viva is coming up and you’re looking for something concentrated to give you some idea of what to expect and what you can do to prepare, then give it a go. Ben Libberton of Literature Review HQ described it as “a great book to read cover to cover if you’re anxious about your viva.”

Thank You

Thanks for coming and listening to the podcast over the last few years, for all your help in helping me to share the stories of PhD graduates – and more recently for all your help with my research into the UK PhD viva experience. The results of that will  come out over the summer, and I’ll keep looking for an appropriate way to present things as I compile the results.

Many, many thanks to the Viva Survivors who have shared their stories for the podcast – you can see all of their names on the Archive page. They’re awesome and amazing for giving their time and being so willing to help others in this way. Thanks guys.

Now, all of you 1000+ Twitter followers: go and buy a copy of my ebook for 99p (or $2.99 in the US) and tell all your PhD friends to do the same! ;)

Until next time, thanks for reading – and thank you again for all of your support over the last two years.

Nathan (@DrRyder and @VivaSurvivors)

Research Update 2: Big Spreadsheet is Bigger

It’s almost four weeks since I last updated with news of the research. This is largely because I’ve been quietly finding half an hour here and there to standardise the dataset and start to look at some basic patterns in the information. It’s going to take time, and I’m staying focussed at the moment on making sure that I have something valuable to share with people. In early July I’m delivering two sessions where I’m being asked to share my findings, so that will be the first public venue for telling people, which is very exciting.

I’d not thought about it until just as I was writing this post, but the podcast itself would be a good means for sharing what I’ve learned – perhaps a couple of shorter episodes that are targeted to specific parts of the survey? What do you think?

This is just a short post really because I wanted to ask for YOUR thoughts. I asked seven questions (eight, if you count the optional email/Twitter request) in the survey. Given the following seven questions, to which I got 302 responses, what sort of questions might I ask of the data? And what sort of things would be good to look for?

  1. When was your viva?
  2. Which university did you do your research at?
  3. What was your research field?
  4. How long was your viva?
  5. What kind of pass did you get? (No corrections; Minor corrections; Major corrections)
  6. Were you told that you had passed at the start or the end of the viva? (Start; End)
  7. What three words come to mind when you think of your viva?

Over to you: what might I look for?

Please let me know what you think, either by leaving a comment here, tweeting at me, or even drop me an email!

Thanks for reading,

Nathan (@DrRyder and @VivaSurvivors)

Episode 26: Dr George Julian

In this episode I’m talking to Dr George Julian, who completed a PhD in the Psychology of Special Education in 2003 at Cardiff University. George is the creator of VivaCards, a great little innovation in viva prep. As well as talking about her PhD and viva, we also had a chat about where these cards came from, how they might be used and what the reaction to them has been like. I bought myself a set last month and think they’re really cool: they’re great for either self-directed preparation or for helping others to ask you helpful questions.

If you’ve got any comments or questions about this or any episode, please get in touch! You can leave comments on all of the episode posts, drop me an email or tweet. I’m always looking for more people who would like to share their experiences – it would be great to hear from you.

Nathan (@DrRyder and @VivaSurvivors)

Research Update 1: Big Spreadsheet Is Big

Hello!

How are you doing this fine sunny day? (fine and sunny around Liverpool on 6th May around 11:15, your experience may vary!) I’ve switched the title on these irregular updates now, as I’m switching my focus from tweeting and sharing the survey as much as possible to delving into the responses. I’ll still accept any and all people who want to respond now, but I’ve stopped actively sourcing more.

302 responses!

You guys are amazing. I started this survey thinking that I might get 150/200 responses, which would start to sketch a picture of what the viva is like in the UK, but 302 is awesome. This gives me confidence that as well as a sketch we’re going to be able to colour that picture in! Over the coming weeks I’ll be spending evenings and free time unpicking just what I’ve collected and then delving into what it all might mean. Continue reading

Episode 25: Dr Nathan Ryder

No, that’s not a mistake in the title! For this episode I asked my good friend Dr David McGrogan (who you might remember from Episode 16) to interview me about my PhD and viva. I’ve mentioned bits and pieces about my doctoral experiences over the previous twenty-four episodes, but thought it might be interesting to talk about the viva as a whole. In the autumn it will be ten years since I started my PhD at the University of Liverpool, and so it seemed like a good sort of time to look back and reflect. I hope you find it interesting!

Just in case you don’t know, when I’m not doing the podcast I work freelance as a skills trainer in Higher Education, working primarily with postgraduate researchers all over the UK (and soon, the world!). In the last few years I’ve met close to a thousand PGRs on a workshop that I deliver called Viva Survivor, which was the inspiration for this podcast. In turn, that workshop inspired me to write Fail Your Viva, a book about viva preparation (despite the title!). A second book with reflections and practical advice on the viva is in production, with a May 28th 2014 release date scheduled.

So that’s what I do in a nutshell! If you have any questions or comments about this or any other episode then please get in touch: comment on a post, email me or tweet away!

Thanks for listening,

Nathan (@DrRyder and @VivaSurvivors)

PS: although Fail Your Viva is not yet available in print, it is now available to borrow for free from the Kindle Lending Library for Amazon Prime customers!

Survey Update 5: 384 is the Magic Number

As a pure maths PhD graduate you might expect me to be in love with numbers a bit. To think that they are quite special in fact. And I do! I’m just amazed by how amazing they are. For example, it’s possible to calculate how large a sample you need to take from a population in order to get results that reasonably represent that population!

And that’s exactly what I’ve done for tinyurl.com/VivaSurvivorsSurvey. 384 is the magic number: 384 responses from PhD graduates of UK institutions will help to make sure that the pool of data I’m drawing from is as valuable as possible. 384 responses means that I can be 95% confident in the conclusions I’m drawing, and also give me a reasonable interval around the numbers that come out.

384 responses by 30th April… Thankfully, I’ve been very fortunate so far by the responding and sharing that people have been doing on Twitter and in other places. At the time of writing (11am on April 23rd) there are 245 responses to the survey, and however many I get I know that the results are going to be really valuable to the people I share them with… But if I can, I would love to hit those “significant” numbers!

Seven days, 139 responses. Can you help? If you’ve not taken the survey yet, there are seven quick questions – it will take two minutes of your time and it’s here: tinyurl.com/VivaSurvivorsSurvey. Thank you! If you’ve completed the survey, and can share it any way shape or form, even to just one other person, please consider doing so.

I can’t wait to start analysing the data from this research, and to see what the responses say, and what picture they paint of the viva from the perspective of PhD candidates/graduates. And when it is complete, it will be the start, not the end of research in this area for me. Best to finish one project first though!

If you have any questions about this research (tinyurl.com/VivaSurvivorsSurvey) please get in touch, it would be great to hear from you.

Thank you for your time,

Nathan (@DrRyder and @VivaSurvivors)

PS – there is a new podcast today!