Useful Questions

The two most useful questions for a PhD candidate to reflect on, particularly after submission, are:

“When is my viva?” and “How do I feel?”

The first is often a useful prompt to realise that there is still time. There’s always time to do something to get ready. If you have ten minutes to go you can still breathe, try to relax, check your notes and remind yourself that you’re almost done. If you have ten days then you have lots of time to prepare and build your confidence. If you have just submitted your thesis you have time to take a break. If you’ve not submitted yet then you know your time is best invested in getting your thesis finished.

The second question has a partner: “So what can I do?” If you feel relaxed, what can you do to build on that? If you feel nervous, what can you do to calm yourself? If you feel unprepared then what can you do to get ready? If you feel afraid who could you talk to so you can get help? If you feel confident, how can you maintain that for the viva? It’s good to reflect on how you feel; it’s better to take the time after that to think about what you need to do next.

“When is my viva?” and “How do I feel?” are good questions to reflect on for a candidate.

“When is your viva?” and “How do you feel?” are fair questions to ask a friend after they’ve submitted their thesis, provided you have time to really listen and then ask one more question:

“Do you need help?”