Three Cheers!

As far as I know a round of applause isn’t that common immediately after a viva. Maybe if you have a group of friends and colleagues on hand, perhaps with a bottle of something sparkling, there’ll be a call to applaud you. Probably circumstances won’t make it happen for you, but that doesn’t mean you don’t deserve it.

We clap our hands when we’re happy. We clap our hands at the end of something good. We clap our hands to show others that we agree. We do it to show respect.

There are lots of reasons for you to get a round of applause. I hope you do!

Whatever Comes Next

Remember at the end of your PhD – after the viva is done, after the corrections are finished, when you can breathe – take a moment to pause.

Whatever you do afterwards – whether you’re returning to a role you’ve had before, continuing with research in some form, going on to some new challenge – take time to unpack what you’ve got from your PhD.

Whatever comes next, you can meet that challenge in a new way.

Whatever comes next, you have talent that you didn’t have before.

Whatever comes next, you can draw on your experience, your grit and your commitment to getting something big done.

Your PhD is a big deal. Now go do the next big deal.

Who? You!

Doctor Who was first broadcast fifty-five years ago today. Given my past posts on superheroes, it should come as no surprise I’m a fan. One of the highlights of my time recording interviews for the Viva Survivors Podcast was interviewing Tatiana, whose love of Doctor Who helped her through her PhD.

The Doctor is a time-travelling alien who helps people. They’ve taken on the name as a signifier. It tells people something about themselves. It’s not the name they’ve always had; it’s something that marks them out because of what they’ve done and what they intend to do.

That’s a little like you, right? After your viva, you’re a doctor. You did the work, so you get to be a doctor. That title means something.

Being a doctor, like being the Doctor, sets expectations. People make assumptions about what PhDs are like, what they do and what they “should” do. I think it’s better to set your own expectations. You’re talented to have achieved what you have. Keep being talented: expect yourself to do good things, but pick the things you want to be good at.

Whenever an actor is ready to step down from playing the Doctor, the character regenerates into a new persona. Passing your viva, getting your doctorate is similar. You’re the same underneath, but there’s also something different about you now.

What will be different? And what will you do with the difference?

Onwards

After your viva there’s more to do. Not your corrections, not wrapping things up, not admin. Your PhD is coming to a close…

…and the rest of your life is right there waiting for you.

You’re not the same. Your PhD means something. What might it mean for you?

A change of title? A mark of respect? New opportunities? More money? More responsibility?

While you’re doing your PhD, it could feel like the most important thing you’ll ever do. Afterwards, as you go on, you have to find something else. So what will it be?

Expect Corrections

Most people have to do some. They’re not a punishment. They’re your examiners saying, “Here, you missed this,” or “This is good, but if you try this it will be better.”

Or occasionally, “That’s not how you spell that!”

You can’t predict exactly what you’ll be asked to do. Most PhD candidates will get minor corrections. Some don’t get any. Some are asked to do major corrections or resubmit. Check with your institution’s regulations about what different outcomes could mean for you. Be sure so you can plan ahead.

Expect that you’ll have some corrections to do, but expect that your thesis – and you – will be pretty good by the time your viva comes around.

A Really Cool Post-Viva Idea

Last month I came across a lovely idea by Dr Kay Guccione: Corrections Club!

I love the idea of a dedicated space and time in a university’s calendar that says, “Come here and get it finished!”

Even if you’ve got more to do than will fit in a couple of hours, this will help along the way. If you’re not at the University of Sheffield like Kay, see if you can set something going at your own institution. It only takes a couple of people to start something awesome.

Turn up, get to work and celebrate with others that you’ve all almost passed the final finish line for your PhD!

Synonyms for Corrections

There are lots of words we could use.

Revisions. Amendments. Tweaks. Updates.

All nouns, the thing itself, but you’re doing something when make your corrections. Often it’s framed as a final hurdle, grumble grumble, a bit more work from the examiners and the PhD process. I think the best word to focus on is “improvements” – your examiners have spotted some ways that you can make your thesis better.

Of course, ten years ago, when I started my corrections I did not think of them as improvements. I gritted my teeth and got to work, but felt frustrated. “Why do I have to do this now? Weren’t the last three and a half years enough?”

No. They weren’t. A few more weeks was all it took and my thesis was better as a result, and that’s the point of corrections. Your examiners want to help you make your thesis the best presentation of your research that it can be.

You might not feel that way when you get your list of corrections (or revisions, improvements and so on) but I hope you will by the end.

Ten years later I feel grateful my examiners gave me the opportunity to help my thesis be better.