The Map Is Not The Territory

Regulations can give you the general shape of the viva, the broad understanding of the process. Stories shape big expectations, and the stories of your friends and colleagues can help you see the norms, the common practices in your department.

This is the map of the viva landscape: it could have lots detail, but it’s only a representation. All of the regulations, expectations and norms that you understand – and it’s worth taking the time to find them out – won’t be able to tell you exactly what is going to happen in your viva.

You’ll only appreciate the territory, your viva, when you’re there, when it’s in front of you. There you’ll see the unique features, the slight changes, the parts that stand out to you that others didn’t mark or notice.

The map is not the territory, but the map is still useful. You can help update it after your viva. Once your viva is done, the corrections are in and you’re getting ready to move on to life after the PhD, find ways to share your own experiences to help someone else get a sense of what is ahead of them.

(another post inspired by The Great Mental Models by Shane Parrish!)