Academics have a sense of what is right when they come to examine a thesis. This is underpinned by regulations but also informed by what they believe is the right way to do things. These beliefs are a mix of their previous experiences and those of friends and colleagues. This then leads to common situations like:
- Vivas beginning with simple opening questions;
- Vivas structured around the flow of information in the thesis;
- The length of a viva being typically in the two to three hour range.
Good practice builds in communities. Colleagues in a department talk now and then about the vivas they have been part of and this also produces “ways of doing things”. This leads to departments that regularly ask for prepared presentations to begin a viva or let a candidate know to expect a certain length.
Good practice isn’t good as opposed to bad! It helps to know that there is a history, a process and a way of doing things that helps the viva – and helps the candidate.
The viva is not a great unknown and so can be prepared for.