The Supporting Skeleton

For a long time I’ve made the following viva prep suggestion in seminars:

Consider writing an edited bibliography. If your bibliography is a body of work that supports your thesis then an edited bibliography is the skeleton of that body, the references that give you the most support. What would they be?

Following the metaphor a little:

  • What references are like the skull, protecting the brain: what references do you really need to know?
  • What references are like the ribs? They cover your heart, the core references that support your arguments.
  • Which references are like your ear bones: small, but which can make a big difference?

Not all references are equally valuable. Not all references are present for the same reason. Useful questions can help identify helpful items from your bibliography, but unfortunately not every bone in the body can prompt one of those questions!

Still, whether you create an edited bibliography or not, do reflect and consider how different references support you and your work in different ways.