Candidates often worry about “what they don’t know” but frame it as a nebulous fear that waits out of the corner of their eye… What they don’t know is something that examiners do know, and examiners are looking to use that against them perhaps. What they don’t know is unpredictable, unclear and uncertain. That makes it something to be afraid of.
It can seem unclear, but I think we can examine this more clearly by contrasting what you don’t know with what you do know.
What You Don’t Know
- What your examiners think about your thesis.
- What questions they want to ask.
- What the outcome of your viva will be.
What You Do Know
- Enough – you’ve read enough papers, done enough work, built up enough knowledge.
- What you think of your work, what your supervisor thinks of it, what others have told you about it.
- How to answer questions: you’ve built this talent up throughout your PhD.
- What the most likely viva outcome is, and why that happens.
Seth Godin has truly timeless advice on this sort of thing: you get to choose which list you focus on.
In this case, the second one is much, much more useful.