Devil’s Advocate

Exploring how your research could be better while you prepare for the viva can be interesting. You’re not looking for fatal flaws, just inspecting your work and asking some critical questions. You’re not trying to anticipate criticisms in the viva, just think clearly about what you’ve done and what you could have done.

For example, thinking back, how could my PhD research have been better?

  • I could have learned C++ to make a good computer program for an algorithm I created.
  • I could have applied my results to other cases to see what was interesting.
  • I could have completed the big table of results that no-one else had done.
  • I could have finished those three other chapters.

Make sure you couple any critique with reasons why you didn’t do something different. So why didn’t I do any of these things that might have made my research better? Respectively:

  • I didn’t have time.
  • I didn’t think of some of those cases until I was writing up.
  • I wasn’t sure it was worth the effort.
  • I didn’t have time and wasn’t sure if there was something thesis-worthy in the ideas.

It could feel awkward to ask yourself how to make your work better, or ask yourself what’s wrong with it. Really, you’re just giving another check. It can also help to spot little things that need support with more ideas. Looking at your thesis with a different mindset is valuable. You’ve done a lot of good work by the time you submit.

Playing Devil’s Advocate is just taking a step back. You’re not thinking “This is rubbish, what’s wrong?” but “This is great, could it be even better?”

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