A Haiku About Thesis Corrections

It won’t be perfect.

Accept that, listen, then:

Just get them all done!

 

There’s always something. “No corrections” means your examiners didn’t see the typos! Nearly everyone is asked to do something to help make their thesis better. Smile, say thank you for the help, get the corrections done and then move on.

 

(more short viva-related haiku posts here!)

7 Tips For Completing Corrections

Most candidates will be asked to complete corrections after the viva.

Most candidates will have other things to do which could make doing corrections feel like a tricky task.

Being busy won’t excuse you from corrections; here are some ideas to help you get them done.

  1. Check the conditions of various viva outcomes in advance. How much time is given for different corrections? Factor that into your plans.
  2. Ask for a list of what your examiners expect after your viva is done. Nearly all examiners give this anyway; if you have any doubts, ask for a list of required amendments.
  3. Ask for clarification of what is expected. Ask your examiners for details of what might satisfy their requests (how much detail about a reference, say, or what wording they think is unclear).
  4. Check your current plans. If you have a month after your viva to complete all of your corrections, when could you schedule time to work?
  5. Check who needs to approve your corrections. Is it just to the satisfaction of your internal, or for your external as well? And what is the effective deadline?
  6. Make a quick plan. What are you going to do and when are you going to do it? Create a clear checklist so you can mark tasks off when they are completed.
  7. DO THE WORK! Once it is done then you’ll be over 99% finished with your PhD.

It is also useful to check what you need to do after your thesis is corrected. Some institutions have short periods between when corrections are approved and the final thesis submission. Be sure of the timeline so you are ready to meet your institution’s requirements.

Corrections are an opportunity to make your thesis as good as it can possibly be. After your viva, go do that. Get it done, then go on to the next great thing you’ll do with your life.

Correcting Corrections

Corrections don’t mean your thesis is incorrect.

They are the typos and mistakes that crept past the editing process. A correction could be a suggestion that you direct the future reader to another reference, or direction to improve clarity for that future reader. They’re the ideas from experienced academics steering your work to a good place.

Corrections aren’t the system’s response to imperfection. They’re not given as a punishment. They’re not asked for on a whim.

A list of corrections is the answer to the question, “What changes would help your thesis be the best it could be?”

A Better List Than Typos

During preparation, instead of listing thesis typos…

  • Take a sheet of paper.
  • Start reading your thesis.
  • Make a list of everything that makes you feel good.

Typos have to be fixed at some point; it’s more useful in prep to build and re-build your picture of what makes your thesis great.

This will help your confidence a lot more than being sure of all your spelling mistakes.

What Can You Do About Typos?

…Nothing really.

Your thesis won’t be perfect, but typos don’t mean serious consequences. Proofread your thesis as well as you can, but there will probably be some left. You won’t get them all. When you spot them between submission and the viva, underline them in your thesis or make a list.

Your examiners might make a list too; they’ll ask you to correct typos so that your thesis is better, but they don’t ask for corrections as any kind of punishment. Typos can distract a reader, but only a little.

You can’t do much about typos. Find them, if you can; correct them, when you have the chance. They shouldn’t be the focus for your attention. There’s more important things to do.

Almost Unavoidable

You only need to transpose one pair of letters in one sentence on one page in your thesis and you have a miskate mistake. A reference could be wrong or a diagram might need redrawing. Its likely you’ll have typos somewhere in your thesis. You could have words around switched switched around or paragraphs that need another edit.

You don’t do any of these on purpose, you want your thesis to be the best it can be. So do your examiners. Corrections aren’t a punishment or “just another part of the process”. Corrections are your examiners helping you find things to make your thesis even better. Perfect is a nice ideal, but better is the real goal.

Mistakes are almost unavoidable in the tens of thousands of words you’ll put in your thesis. Aiming for perfect won’t work. Aim for great, and after the viva you’ll get some help aiming for grater greater.

Noting Your Mistakes

They’re there, in your thesis. It’s “when” rather than “if” you see them. When you find mistakes after submission there’s not much you need to do. Correction time will come.

Highlight mistakes if you want to, underline them or make a list if that’s helpful. All of these approaches could be useful so long as they’re not a focus for your preparation or a distraction from the viva.

Personally, I like lists: a list of changes gives you a starting point for correction time. Your examiners may end the viva by giving you a list of what changes they think will help; share yours then if you like, but don’t start your viva by showing your list!

Saying, “Here are all the things I know I need to change,” while honest, may not be the best opening for the discussion…

You Get Corrections Because…

…your thesis isn’t perfect. It shouldn’t be. It can’t be.

You get corrections because you’ve probably never written a book before. The thesis you submit for your viva is the very best draft you could write.

Typos creep in. Style choices don’t quite work. You miss a reference or a full stop, a comma or the numbering of a figure.

You get corrections because you tried your very best, not because somehow you failed. Corrections aren’t failing. Corrections are part of the process.

Corrections are your examiners saying, “Here, take a look, this is how you could make this better.”

But never perfect. “Perfect is the enemy of done.” You can’t make it perfect. You can make it done.

You get corrections to get to done.

Aiming For Minor Corrections

Most candidates pass with minor corrections as a result of their thesis submission and viva examination. I’ve often been asked about whether or not there is anything specific that a candidate could do to “aim” at getting only minor corrections. It’s a tricky question, because most of the things I can think of seem obvious:

  • Submit a good thesis, and make sure you’ve run spellcheck and proofread it.
  • Take time to be well prepared for the viva.
  • Engage in a good discussion with your examiners, listening to their questions and comments.

Most candidates get minor corrections. This tells me that most candidates are doing a lot of things right (regardless of whether or not they know they are or how they feel about things!). The people who ask me about aiming for minor corrections at least have taken something else onboard during their PhD: it’s impossible to write a perfect thesis.

Aim to write a good thesis, aim to be prepared, aim to engage with your examiners – and in doing all that you’re probably going to hit near the target for minor corrections too.