Digging Deeper With VIVA

Earlier this year I shared my directed thinking tool, VIVA, which is really useful for analysing chapters of your thesis in preparation for the viva. My general suggestion for VIVA is to take a sheet of paper and divide it into four sections. Then in each section make notes about the chapter you want to reflect on but directed by a specific keyword:

  • Valuable (to others): what would someone else find valuable in this chapter?
  • Interesting (to you): what interests you about the work?
  • Vague: what doesn’t seem clear when you read it?
  • Ask: what questions would you ask your examiners if you had the opportunity?

This kind of directed or prompted thinking can build a really interesting reflection and summary. It’s enough to simply reflect and make notes, see where your thinking takes you. You can go much deeper if you want to though. First, simply asking “Why?” after each of your responses helps:

Why would they find that valuable? Why are you interested in that way? Why is it not clear? Why do you want to ask those questions?

Or for Valuable you could dig into different audiences: is there more than one kind of value that someone could look for? Has the Interesting component of your research changed over time? How can you make something Vague more clear? If there was only time to Ask one question of your examiners, how would you prioritise?

Questions lead to answers sometimes. In my experience they nearly always lead to more questions. That’s not a bad thing if you’re trying to think deeply about something. If you use VIVA, think about how you can use follow-up questions to reflect on your research.

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