Best of Viva Survivors 2018: Confidence

To finish 2018 I’m sharing my favourite posts from the last year. For the last day of 2018 I want to share a few posts about possibly the single most important topic there is around the viva: confidence. I’ve had this in my mind a lot for the last year, and it’s grown to be a central theme in the message I try to put across in my sessions. Here are five posts from the last twelve months that stand out to me.

  • The Knack – a story about confidence from my life, and one of the most personal posts I’ve written.
  • Mismatched – the difference between expectations and the reality of the viva.
  • The Magic Feather – where might you find your confidence?
  • Oppositeworld – a piece of thought-experiment fiction.
  • “There’s No Miracle People” – you can inspire your own confidence by looking at how you got this far.

If your viva is coming up think about what your confidence levels are like. Confidence doesn’t mean you’re not nervous. Make sure you have realistic expectations, and think about everything you’ve done to get this far. Given every challenge you’ve faced, what’s one more conversation?

It’s been great to finish 2018 by sharing some of my favourite posts! Let me know which resonated with you, and do share posts with anyone who might need them.

Come back tomorrow for the start of another year of daily blog posts about the viva! 🙂

Best of Viva Survivors 2018: Short Posts

To finish 2018 I’m sharing my favourite posts from the last year. Not every post needs lots of words to make the point. Not every post needs to be an argument or a list or a series of questions. Here’s some of my favourite short posts from the last year.

I really like how the daily blog gives me the freedom to try lots of different ideas and styles. One more day of posts still to come to close out 2018 on the blog. What has been helpful from this review of the best of the year? Let me know! Thank you for reading, and do share any posts which you’ve found helpful.

Best of Viva Survivors 2018: Lists & Questions

To finish 2018 I’m sharing my favourite posts from the last year. I find lists helpful. I find questions helpful. A list of posts about lists and questions should be super-helpful! Structure helps, and having organised sets of tasks can make prep or thinking about the viva better. Useful questions to dig into topics helps a lot too.

A real mix of topics in today’s post. What did you like? What other areas would you like to see me explore? Drop me a line and I’ll add it to my musing for 2019. Do share this post if you think it will help someone else!

Best of Viva Survivors 2018: Reflections & Summaries

To finish 2018 I’m sharing my favourite posts from the last year. Today we’ll take a look at several posts on the topic of reflections & summaries. It’s useful to take a step back from your research and your thesis and think about what it all means. If you can then create a concrete resource from that – a written summary, a list of points or a mindmap – then you’ve made something valuable.

I hope these posts help you reflect on your research as your viva approaches. I’m really quite proud of 7776 Mini-Vivas and if you’ve used it do drop me a line to let me know what you think! And do share these “best of” posts over the coming days, retweets are always welcome!

Best of Viva Survivors 2018: Viva Prep

To finish 2018 I’m sharing my favourite posts from the last year. I’ll start as I did last year with the topic of viva prep, something that’s always in my mind because of this blog and the sessions that I deliver. Here are some of the most useful posts from the last twelve months.

I hope these posts give you a good foundation if you’re preparing for your viva soon. Seen anything else you think is useful for viva prep? Let me know! And do share these “best of” posts with any friends whose vivas are in the near future 🙂

Happy Christmas!

I’m taking the next few days off from posting. If you’re preparing for your viva because it’s in January, I hope you still find time to switch off from your preparations. They can wait, and however you mark this time of year, spend time with people you love rather than your thesis.

The Viva Survivors blog will return on the 27th for five days of links to my best posts of this year. If you’re looking for help with viva prep, want to explore questions or tips, or are just looking for some reflections on the viva and confidence then check out those posts.

Very best wishes to you and yours, and thank you for reading!


Plan The Party

I’ve written before about how nervousness is strongly correlated with important things. You have a choice: you get to pick which you give attention to: do you try to make yourself feel less nervous or try to do the important thing better?

There’s also a strong correlation between important things and wanting to pay special attention to those things. Pay attention to the celebration. Decide how you are going to mark it.

Plan the party, if you’re going to have one; figure out the reward, if that’s more your thing. Tell your friends, “Help me fix this in my mind as a big deal!”

Because it is a big deal. Passing the viva, finishing the PhD, is a very big deal.

Thinking again, perhaps it’s not that there is a correlation between the important thing and wanting to celebrate it. Perhaps the celebration is a sign it is an important thing?

How Did You Get Here?

Recently, I was very happy to be invited to contribute my career story to the Sheffield v i s t a blog.

I like to reflect, and summarising ten years of work in a thousand words was an interesting challenge. It gave me a lot to think about: “How did this happen? How did I end up doing this?” The post for v i s t a was a really useful exercise for me, and I hope it’s interesting and useful for lots of other people who might read it too. Do drop me an email if you have any follow-up questions!

It reminded me of a quote I’ve shared on the blog before: “The man on the top of the mountain didn’t fall there.

If you’re coming to the end of your PhD, take a moment to look back.

Figure out how you got to where you are now. It didn’t happen by chance.

You’ve only got where you are by being good at what you do. You can keep doing that in the viva.


Take snacks.

I’ve heard of relatively few instances where refreshments were provided at a candidate’s viva. Etiquette seems to suggest not eating in the viva; do at least take a bottle of water with you.

At the break or immediately after the viva you can feel drained from the effort, however pleasant your viva might be. Take food that might help. You might not want to eat in front of your examiners, but you might need to eat something in those intervals.

In short: don’t eat in the viva, but don’t go to the viva without taking food with you!

Why You Didn’t Do More

You didn’t read that paper because there are lots of papers, and you can’t read them all.

You didn’t run that experiment because you ran a hundred others and it didn’t seem like that one would make a difference.

You haven’t thought about that, but you’ve thought about lots of other things.

You haven’t thought about this, but you can think about it right now and offer an opinion.

You didn’t do the thing your examiners suggest because you have reasons.

You didn’t do the other thing they’re thinking about because your supervisor told you it wasn’t worth it, and you agreed.

You didn’t do more because there is only so much time, so much effort, so much focus, so much thought you can put into a PhD. It’s big, but you can’t do everything.

When you think about why you didn’t do more, just pause and get your reasons in order. You will have them. You’ve not acted without thought. Put your reasons across. Maybe your examiners will want to talk more about it, maybe not.

Finally, you couldn’t do everything, but you can reflect on everything you did do. Remember your reasons for everything you have achieved, and don’t get bogged down in all of the things you haven’t done.