A curated selection of useful things for postgraduate researchers finishing their PhD or preparing for their viva.
Viva Stories from 2020
Vivas moved online because of the pandemic, and this added a new way for PhD candidates to be worried about the viva. Thankfully, lots of people generously shared their experiences of having a viva over video – and having a viva during lockdown! Here are some stories that I’ve been sent or spotted on Twitter. Get in touch and send me your story or one that you spot and I’ll add it to the list 🙂
- “My On-line Viva Experience” by Matjaz Vidmar
- “Viva via Zoom!” by Fiona Scott for Sussex Research Hive
- “Literally a list of what I was asked in my medicinal chemistry viva” by Fiona Scott – a follow-up post that Fiona generously wrote which summarises everything that came up in her viva!
- “Virtual viva: a PhD lockdown story” by Gemma Griffiths
- “Online Vivas are the new norm but what are they really like?” by Think Ahead Sheffield – collecting five stories of vivas over video
- A generous Twitter thread by Viki Male on how she prepared to examine a thesis and be an examiner for a recent viva.
- An in-depth series of posts by Dr Marina Noelia Cantarutti on how she prepared for her viva – there’s lots of depth and reflection in these about one person’s journey to getting ready and the result.
This Twitter thread on video vivas I curated might be helpful too, as well as this tweetchat that I did with the @virtualnotviral Twitter account!
Viva Stories and Advice
I have been bookmarking blog posts and articles about the viva for a long time – here are a selection that look really interesting. I find it fascinating that there is such a diversity of experiences, often underpinned by common themes and explorations.
- Martin Partridge, “Experiencing my PhD Viva“
- Jenna Condie, “Don’t mock the mock“
- Athene Donald, “The Viva Experience“
- Simon Leather, “Are PhD Examiners really Ogres?“
- Aleks Krotoski, “[PhD] Viva preparation advice?“
- Tara Brabazon, “Take the heat out of trial by fire“
- University of Sussex Doctoral School, “Surviving the Viva: a first hand doctoral experience” (would love to credit the author if anyone knows who they are!)
- Grant Gibson, “The PhD Viva: a thing of nightmares? Some reflections from a recently viva-ed PhD student“
- Alex Hope, “10 PhD Viva Survival Tips“
- Carly Chadwick, “How I Survived my PhD Viva“
- Nadine Muller, “Surviving Your Viva Voce“
- THE and Tara Brabazon, “PhD Surgery: how do I prepare for a PhD oral examination (viva)?“
- Pat Thomson, “handing in the PhD – yes, it’s a checklist!!“
- Pat Thomson, “preparing for the PhD oral exam“
- Pat Thomson, “how an examiner reads a thesis“
- Sophie Coulombeau, “Surviving the Viva: Tips and Reflections“
- Emily Cooper, “Demystifying the Viva: Some Reflections on my Experience“
- Sam Relton, “How to Prepare For Your Viva“
- Eljee Javier, “I had my PhD viva, and I enjoyed it. There, I said it.“
- Mari Martiskainen, “How to not just survive, but to enjoy your PhD Viva.“
- No More Blue Mondays, How I Met My Viva series
- Dennis Nguyen, “The PhD Viva“
- Megan Crawford, “Being an external examiner for a doctorate“
- Paolo Oprandi, “Had I anything new to say?“
- Dr Mike, “Surviving your Viva – Getting it (Ph)Done“
- We The Humanities / Viva Survivor Q&A from 6th August 2015
- Fiona Noble, a series of three posts
- Jonathan Downie, “after the viva is over“
- Liam Peter Temple, “PhD: Surviving the Viva and Some Reflections“
- THE/Kevin O’Gorman, “Ten tips to help you pass your PhD viva“
- Matthew Partridge, “Viva day“
- Jill Berry, “preparing for – then surviving – the viva“
- Kerry Parker, “PhD complete!“
- Jenna Murray de Lopez, “We need to talk about… Corrections part 1” and “We need to talk about… Corrections part 2“
- Thesis Whisperer, “4 things you should know about choosing examiners for your thesis“
- Chris Keyworth (on Thesis Whisperer), “What do examiners think of the PhD by publication?“
- Salma Patel, “My PhD Viva experience“
- Robin Hadley, “My viva-voce preparation and experience“
- Nora Williams (on the NRN Blog), “Surviving Your Viva“
- Arnoud van Vliet on PhD Talk, “The textbook pantomime villain? An external examiner’s view“
- Ellie Mackin on Jobs.ac.uk, “Confession: I Didn’t Prepare For My Viva!“
- Aliandra Lazzari Barlete, “A 10-Day Run Up to My PhD Viva: An Alternative Tale“
There is a wealth of material on the viva and viva preparation out there on the internet. I’m very happy that Viva Survivors has been so valuable to so many people since I launched it in June 2012, both as the podcast and the blog. It came out of a workshop that I deliver called Viva Survivor; often on the workshop one of the common pieces of feedback I got was that it was great to hear my story as well as the advice or techniques I was trying to pass on. This got me thinking, and eventually lead to the podcast, and then later the blog.
Many institutions offer similar training, but if you’re interested in having me talk to you and your colleagues then please get in touch or pass my details on to your graduate school.
Now, over to you!
What other great articles, videos and resources are out there to help PhD candidates prepare for the viva? If you know of something that you think will be useful then please email me and I’ll take a look at it.
Remember, viva experiences and thesis examinations differ all over the world. The podcast is typically UK-centric. In Kashmir, PhD students have to provide a feast. Do you have to fight snakes as part of your viva? Rarely, but if you do then McSweeney’s has got you covered with the following article: FAQ: The “Snake Fight” Portion of Your Thesis Defense.