I’m a big fan of creative thinking tools. The Disney Method is one I like a lot. It forces you to break creative thinking into stages by adopting three personas:
- Dreamer: think of as many ideas as possible; encourage brainstorming; remove constraints and see where thoughts take you.
- Realist: think about what would work practically; explore within resources and deadlines; see what can be achieved.
- Critic: think about what won’t work in your ideas; test them to destruction; find problems to solve.
At the end of this kind of process, ideas are stronger and more clearly defined. You can see whether or not they will actually be useful.
Maybe something like this could be a useful framing when it comes to look back over one’s research too:
- Dreamer: what did you want to do when you started? What were your big goals? How high were you aiming?
- Realist: what did you actually do during your PhD? How did you tame your objectives? In what ways did you have to adjust the scale of your ambitions?
- Critic: where are the problems with what you’ve done? What could people object to? What would you do differently, and why?
You might not get these exact questions in the viva, but they might not be a million miles away either. Tools like this can be useful to unpick and explore. They can boost your confidence at going over your research in the viva.
Bonus questions: Which are you most like in your day-to-day, a Dreamer, a Realist or a Critic? How well does that work for you?