Think Again

Like most PhD candidates, after my viva I had corrections. For two of my chapters in particular, my examiners were convinced I had proved what I stated, but they didn’t like how it was explained. It read too much like a story, they said, not like maths at all. They told me I had to correct it by re-ordering those chapters.

It seemed impossible. I had spent almost three years developing my explanation. As far as I was concerned, this was the only way to do it. Slowly though, I restated all of my terms. Bit by bit I built it back up. In the end, the chapters were shorter, more precise, easier to read and more effective at communicating the algorithms I had developed. My thesis was profoundly better as a result.

I’m grateful that my examiners gave me the opportunity to re-explore one of my big results. I’m grateful because it gave me a chance to start again: I knew the result was true and I worked out a more helpful way of communicating it.

On the run up to the viva, it could be useful to take a step back. Explore whether or not there are alternate ways of expressing your work. If your thesis is finished it can still be valuable to let your mind wander. How else can you explain your research?