Episode 60: Dr Ania Gruszczynska

Sixty episodes! Sixty!

In Episode 60 I’m chatting to Dr Ania Gruszczynska, who completed her PhD at Aston University in 2010. Ania’s research is in sociology and gender studies, and her thesis was titled Queer enough? Contested terrains of identity deployment in the context of gay and lesbian public activism in Poland.

We explore how she came to look at this area of research, how she prepared for the viva and what happened on the day. We also talk about how her role as an IT Project Manager, and Ania tells me about her PhD Career Coach service, something that’s well worth checking out. You can find Ania on Twitter here.

As ever, drop me a line if you’d like to be a part of a future episode, and if you have any questions, comments or suggestion then feel free to email or tweet at me. Also, check out my ebooks and books on viva preparation – including The Viva Prep Handbook, which I launched this month.

Thanks for reading!

Nathan (@DrRyder and @VivaSurvivors)

The Viva Prep Handbook


Last week I delivered my independent Viva Survivor workshop. I’ve been excited about the possibility for a long time, and to finally do something in this way was great. I’ll try to write something about it soon, but wanted instead today to share something that I made for the workshop: The Viva Prep Handbook.

The Viva Prep Handbook_AIt started life as wanting to do a nice two-page handout for participants. It grew into a small zine, a 12-page booklet dense with practical viva preparation. It’s concise, around 3000 words, and I really like how it turned out. Here’s how it begins:

It may be that you have a luxury of time available to you between submission and the viva. It is more likely that you may have no choice but to prepare in your spare time because of work or life circumstances. This is not a problem. Why? Because this is how many PhD graduates have prepared for the viva. You can do it too.

Through the rest of this concise book I will be presenting tools and processes that you can break down into small, manageable tasks and activities. Viva preparation is not a full time job: follow these tips, tools and processes to manage your time and energy well.

You can see more about it over on the Books page, along with the print edition of my first book Fail Your Viva. It costs £3.49 to have one delivered to your door (and there are options if you want to buy it in bulk too, or buy it with Fail Your Viva). Sales help to support the podcast’s overheads and my business. I like the short but useful format of the zine, and I think I will make a few more guides like this before the end of the year.

If The Viva Prep Handbook sounds useful to you, go ahead and order a copy from the Books page – or via the Paypal button at the bottom of this post – I’ll get it in the post to you as soon as possible! And if you want to know more, just drop me an email.

Thanks for reading.

Nathan (@DrRyder and @VivaSurvivors)

The Viva Prep Handbook

Episode 59: Dr Helen Kara

Hello! 🙂

In this episode we’re not looking at viva experiences, but catching up with a previous guest on the podcast. Dr Helen Kara shared her experiences in Episode 33, and told us about how she completed her PhD part time and what happened in her viva. For Episode 59 she’s sharing her experiences as an alternative academic, and telling me a little about what it means to be an independent researcher. Helen shares some great advice for anyone who is thinking about this as a career path – plus we make time to talk about our recently self-published book Self-Publishing For Academics!

Self-Publishing For Academics - 625sideYou can find Helen on Twitter as @DrHelenKara and I recommend checking out her Amazon author page for a full listing of all of the books she has written for researchers. If you’re just starting out on your PhD, or know someone who is, then check out her book Starting Your PhD: What You Need To Know, it’s 100% free and 100% helpful.

Get in touch if you’d like to be a part of a future episode, it’s always great to hear from people who want to share their PhD and viva experiences. If you have any questions, comments or suggestion then email me, tweet at me or leave a comment on this post. And if you’ve found the podcast useful then please pass it on! 🙂

Thanks for reading!

Nathan (@DrRyder and @VivaSurvivors)

Episode 58: Dr Hamish Cox

In this episode I’m talking to Dr Hamish Cox, who had his viva earlier this year at Cardiff Metropolitan University. Hamish’s research looked at creating an intervention for positive youth development through sport. His PhD was part of the KESS programme, and we talk about that as well as how he prepared for his viva and what happened on the day. You can find Hamish on Twitter as @PhD_Sport_Psy.

As ever, it was great to create this episode and I’d love to do more. Please get in touch if you want to come on the podcast to share your PhD and viva experiences: you can find me on Twitter as @DrRyder and @VivaSurvivors, or you can email me. If you’re looking for more information on viva prep then check the Other Resources page, the Archive and my ebooks on viva preparation.

Thanks for reading!

Nathan (@DrRyder and @VivaSurvivors)

Viva Survivor Workshop Update 1!

A week ago I announced my viva preparation workshop, Viva Survivor, which is taking place on June 29th in Manchester. I’ve been delivering these workshops in universities for six years, but this is the first time that I’ll be offering it directly to PhD candidates – and I want to make it extra special for people who are coming. Over the next four weeks I’ll be blogging here and over on my work blog about the behind the scenes things as I prepare for this workshop; this is my first update over here, so let’s recap:

I’m writing a blog post soon for my main work blog about books, but here is a sneak peek: I’ve created a paperback print run for my first book Fail Your Viva!


Participants at the workshop will receive a copy as part of their participant pack, and I made a print run of 100 copies to be able to offer the book directly. I’ve created a books page where you can order them from me, and have a stack of padded envelopes ready and waiting to send them on their way. I love reading books on my Kindle, but there’s something awesome about a print book. If print is more your thing, then maybe this is what you’ve been looking for! Check here for more details.

I have some more great things to share about the workshop over the coming weeks – and plus next week the podcast is four years old, so I’ll do something fun over the week to celebrate that 🙂

Thanks for reading – check out the Eventbrite page for more details, and if you know someone who might be interested then feel free to share this with them!

Nathan (@DrRyder and @VivaSurvivors)

New Viva Preparation Workshop!

Two posts in one week! 🙂

Eagle-eyed visitors to the site might have spotted a new addition to the pages; that’s a link to a description of the Viva Survivor workshop that I’ve been delivering at universities since 2010. I thought it would be useful to make that connection on here – some people know me for the podcast, some people know me for the workshop, now everyone will connect me to both.

I love doing Viva Survivor, and I’ve delivered it to almost 2000 PGRs around the UK. For the longest time I’ve wanted to deliver an independent workshop to PGRs. I plan to keep delivering the session in universities for a long time to come, but I’ve been thinking about new challenges for a while. An independent viva prep workshop that was open to PGRs from any university seemed impossible for a long time until I visited Ziferblat, a really great meeting space in Manchester.

As a result of finding that venue, I present Viva Survivor, a three hour viva preparation workshop in Manchester on the afternoon of June 29th 2016. Full details are at the Eventbrite booking page, but here’s the short version: Viva Survivor is a workshop designed to help PGRs effectively prepare for the viva. If you come then by the end of the session you will have

  • identified what examiners are looking for when they examine your thesis;
  • discussed the many ways that others can support your preparation;
  • explored valuable viva preparation methods;
  • established realistic expectations for your viva;
  • discussed common questions about the PhD viva.

I want to make this an amazing experience: I want people to leave knowing that they are set for the viva, that they know what to expect and what to do. I’m going to be providing excellent supporting materials, including ebooks, print books, handouts and more, maybe a few surprises to make people smile! And Ziferblat is going to be providing an excellent venue and refreshments for the day.

Sound good? I hope so. Please come! More details and booking is on the Eventbrite page; places are limited and while I want to run more of these in the future I have no dates or plans at the moment. Please share this with others, let them know that there is an independent workshop happening to help PhD students prepare for the viva. Come along and meet PGRs from other institutions, find out how to prepare and what to expect.

If you want to know more, then get in touch: drop me an email, tweet at me or leave a comment here! I’ll be posting details about the workshop over the coming weeks, announcing things that I’m excited about. If you want to know more now then please contact me.

Thanks for reading, and if you can, please help me share this exciting new opportunity with others.

Nathan (@DrRyder and @VivaSurvivors)


Episode 57: Dr Emmanuel Mogaji

In this episode I’m talking to Dr Emmanuel Mogaji, who completed his PhD at the University of Bedfordshire earlier this year. Emmanuel’s thesis research looks at how the public perceives bank advertising, and it was really fascinating to hear about how his research and how he prepared for his viva. He was a Three Minute Thesis finalist at his university in 2015, and you can find him on Twitter as @e_mogaji.

Would you like to share your viva experience? It would be great to hear from you! Please get in touch if you want to come on the podcast.

Thanks for reading!

Nathan (@DrRyder and @VivaSurvivors)

Episode 56: Q&A Special 1


A few weeks ago I asked for your questions for a Q&A episode, and here we are! Thanks to those of you who submitted questions; there were only a couple of you, but the questions that were asked are really important to the viva process. I hope that the answers are helpful, I was able to share a mix of some of the research I’ve done in the last few years and also some of my opinions about how to prepare well. One of the questions wanted to know about the comparison between vivas in the UK and in Europe, something I don’t know a lot about: if anyone has any links to resources about this area then do let me know!

I had fun recording this episode, and if it seems like a useful thing then let me know, and maybe it can become a quarterly bonus or special episode. You can find me on Twitter as @DrRyder and @VivaSurvivors, or you can email me. And please get in touch if you want to come on the podcast to share your PhD and viva experiences!

Thanks for reading!

Nathan (@DrRyder and @VivaSurvivors)

Q&A Episode Coming Soon


One of the few podcasts I regularly listen to is the Tim Ferriss Show: I highly recommend it, Tim interviews people about how they manage to be excellent in their fields. It’s a wild ride sometimes, and he has a huge variety of people on his show. I don’t think that the Viva Survivors Podcast is a “wild ride” but I think it’s great that there is such a variety of PhD graduates who come on here to share their experiences.

A few times now, Tim has had special Q&A episodes and listeners ask him all kinds of things – anything and everything really. It struck me a month or so ago that this might be a useful thing to do on Viva Survivors, at least every now and then. I used the poll function on Twitter to see if this was interesting to followers, and got a couple of positive votes, and also heard from several friends to say that this was a neat idea.

So let’s do it!

Read More

Episode 55: Dr Anna Mackenzie

The Viva Survivors Podcast returns! I needed to take a break to start a few other projects – one or two of which you might hear about on here in due course – but now we’re back.

In this episode I’m talking to Dr Anna Mackenzie, who completed her PhD at the University of Chester in 2015. Anna’s research looked at gender and genre in the works of Shakespeare, and we talked about her PhD, future research plans looking at Shakespeare and Doctor Who, and her new role as a member of the “hidden academic network”. You can find Anna on Twitter as @DrAnnaMack. She’s previously written about her viva experiences here, and you can read her thoughts about post-PhD life here.

You can find me on Twitter as @DrRyder and @VivaSurvivors. Please get in touch if you want to come on the podcast to share your PhD and viva experiences. Come back soon for details on the upcoming Q&A episode!

Thanks for reading!

Nathan (@DrRyder and @VivaSurvivors)