Red Flags

Are there any red flags for examiner selection? Are there people I should try to avoid?

Let’s start with a caveat: there are people in every sphere of life who build up a clear reputation for behaving badly. In academia, these are the people who everyone knows at conferences as making long self-serving comments rather than asking questions after seminars. Perhaps they’re known for arrogance or for being thoughtless and rude.

People like this have a Semaphore Guilds-worth of red flags around them.

Clear signs of this behaviour are worth avoiding if possible – if asked for examiner suggestions by your supervisor – so that you can avoid the possibility of that behaviour in your viva.


Beyond that: I can’t think of any real red flags that people have shared with me or from the general expectations and patterns of viva life.

Anecdotally, new academics could be more thorough in the viva. They may ask more questions if it’s one of their first times acting as an examiner. That’s not bad: they’re trying to do the job well. It’s not a reflection on you or your thesis. A longer viva could simply be a little uncomfortable by the end.

Beyond bad behaviour there are no real red flags unless they’re personal ones. Maybe you would prefer someone you’ve cited; a personal red flag would be someone who has no direct contact with your research. Or perhaps you want someone who could be a future collaborator. A red flag would be someone who might not connect well with your future research goals.

You don’t get to choose your examiners. You might be able to make suggestions to your supervisors. It’s worth considering who would be a good choice if you do have the opportunity – and what might be a red flag for you.

If you have red flags, who might that exclude from a list of potential examiners? More importantly, who might be a good choice for you?