Asking Why

I’ve been looking through the Viva Survivors archives lately – there’s over 1500 posts to take a look at if you’re looking for more help! – and a post from the past that stood out to me was Your Greatest Hits.

I like writing all kinds of things, from tiny posts to great big essays, reflections and list posts. I like the five questions in Your Greatest Hits for exploring the best parts of a PhD and thesis:

  • When were you most engaged during your PhD?
  • What do you want people to refer to in your thesis?
  • What would you most like to build on?
  • Which of your chapters or results is closest to perfection and why?
  • What parts of your research are least important?

I wrote it in the early days of the daily blog, and I still like it. With hindsight I can’t believe I left something crucial out of most of these questions. Asking what and when helps but you also have to ask “Why?”!

When were you most engaged? Why?

What do you want people to refer to? Why?

What would you most like to build on? Why?

“Why?” helps you reflect as you prepare for the viva. “Why?” can also help in the viva to prompt your responses or to unpick a question from your examiners. If the why of a question is so silent that you don’t hear it, don’t be afraid to ask it yourself.