Three Favourite Summaries

I like thinking about and developing ideas to get people creating summaries of their thesis.

An essential part of the viva prep process is to think about your research, and it’s useful to take a step back and try to think differently. Rather than let that thinking be abstract and drift away, it makes sense to capture it, both to help clarify what you think and to build a resource.

While I’ve been tinkering away on lots of ideas for a long time, when I deliver a Viva Survivor session, there are three in particular I recommend to candidates:

  1. “What’s Important?” – a simple, powerful question, framed on a single sheet of paper for each chapter. “What’s important?” can prompt a lot of thoughts in a lot of different ways, and restricting the answer to one side of paper for a chapter forces you to be thoughtful and not just wander off.
  2. Edited Bibliography – a prompt to explore the most useful references that support your thesis. Your thesis bibliography might stretch to hundreds and hundreds of articles, but what’s at the core of that? What would help a reader more than anything? What helps your research more than anything? What are the twenty or thirty most useful references? That’s your edited bibliography.
  3. A VIVA Summary – using four prompts to analyse a chapter and really direct your thoughts about your thesis. What’s Valuable to others in this chapter? What is Interesting to you? What do you find Vague or unclear? What questions might you like to Ask your examiners? These four prompts help to explore not just the ideas in your thesis, but how you express them, how you made them real and a lot more.

These are my favourites, and they can help a lot. If you try them, let me know how well they work for you!