Responses and Answers

I try to be careful in my choice of words. Recently I’ve started to use the word response instead of answer when I explore viva questions with PhD candidates. Because of talks, quizzes, game shows, tests and the basics of conversation, we expect that questions have answers.

When someone asks, you answer. When your examiner asks, you need to answer…

…except what if you don’t know?

What if you’re not sure?

What if there is no “True Answer” to a question?

A question might not have a definite answer, but you can always give a response.

Your response could be a hunch, a theory, an idea, a gut feeling, a reason, a piece of evidence. It could be saying, “I don’t know, and here’s why…”

Not every question in the viva will have an answer. Every question can be responded to.

What could you do to respond as well as possible in the viva?