The Big What If

Your thesis isn’t perfect. You’re not perfect. Your examiners aren’t perfect. Your viva won’t be perfect.

And all of that is fine. Remove the possibility. You can’t have something related to all of this be perfect, so try not to worry about it.

There are real worries related to the viva though. There are situations that could come up, hypothetically, and it’s not wrong to worry…

…but if you find yourself worrying about some big “what if” situation then you have to do the responsible thing and think about how to make the situation better.

  • What if I forget something? What could you do to help you remember?
  • What if your examiners don’t like something? How could you engage with their questions?
  • What if the viva is long? What could you do to manage your energy levels?
  • What if something in your thesis isn’t as clear as you want? How could you make it clear to your examiners in the viva?

What do you worry about? What is the big “what if” for you?

What are you going to do about it?

Pride & Achievements

Make a list of everything you’ve done that makes you feel proud. Think about all of the achievements in your PhD. Reflect on why they matter to you.

Within that list you’ll find the strengths of your work. You’ll see your research’s contributions. You made those contributions.

Make your list. Reflect on all you’ve done. Think about why you could be confident to meet the challenges of your viva.

Different Opinions

Your examiners are allowed to have a different opinion to you.

They might favour a method, prefer an author or think that your results mean something other than your conclusion. They’re allowed to because they’re experienced: they view your work through the prism of their knowledge and talent.

That doesn’t mean they’re right. Depending on how they frame their questions and comments, you have to think and decide whether there is just your way of seeing things or if something is open to interpretation.

And if it is you have to share why you think your interpretation is the right one. Why are you convinced? What makes you sure? What could dissuade you? What possible criticisms could someone make? What might your examiners think?

Ask some of these questions before the viva and you’ll be better able to defend your research when you talk with your examiners. Why-How-What could be a useful framework to start your reflections.