Advice Isn’t Enough

You can read books about the viva. You can ask your supervisors for their advice. You can talk to friends and colleagues about their experiences. Get lots of recommendations.

And then you have to do something.

Take all the ideas and take action. Take everything you know about your research and thesis, factor in everyone’s advice, hints and helpful suggestions and take action.

Action that helps you remember what you need.

Action that helps you reflect on what you’ve done.

Action that helps get you one step close to where you need to be for talking to your viva.

At some point more knowledge and advice isn’t enough. You have to do something to help you get ready.

How Will You Feel?

I ask “How do you feel?” a lot.

By my records I’ve asked this question in seminars and webinars at least 300 times, to over 5000 PhD candidates. It’s good to reflect on in a seminar but that’s one moment, weeks or possibly months before the viva.

I can’t ask the title of this post because it would be impossible to answer well! Who knows how you will feel on the days leading up to your viva, or in the moments before it. It’s helpful to reflect on how you might feel though, because however you feel, now or later, there is always something positive you can do to help for the viva.

  • If you felt worried: you could ask someone you trust for advice.
  • If you felt unprepared: you could make a plan and help steer yourself closer to ready.
  • If you felt great: fantastic! Now, what could you do to really hold on to that feeling?

However you feel now, there’s something you can do to help yourself. However you might feel in the time leading to the viva, there will be something you can do to help yourself. Reflect, then decide on what you’ll do to help.


Today’s not just any day. It’s my birthday!

It’s not just any birthday. It’s a big birthday!

People feel all sorts of things about big birthdays.

Some are happy, some are sad. Some want to party, or be left alone. Some want to make big changes, or feel happy just going on as they were.

And perhaps some people, today, don’t quite know what to think or do about their big birthday. There’s so much going on in the world. Parties are more or less impossible, for very good reasons, and celebrating doesn’t feel as important as it might otherwise. For some people, a big birthday might leave them really wondering what to do.


Vivas are a lot like big birthdays. People respond to them in many different ways too.

There are lots of things that impact how a candidate feels about their viva. There isn’t a default feeling or set response. Happy or sad. Excited or worried. One candidate needs help from others while another desperately wants to be left alone. There are just so many emotions and needs that can be floating around a PhD candidate as they get close to their viva.

Whatever those emotions and needs are though, they will need to do something. To build on their confidence, or do more to get ready. To unpick an uncertainty, or ask a friend for support. To take it easy or work that little bit harder. Every candidate, once they’ve figured out where they are, can map out where they need to be – then do something to get that little bit closer to being ready and being in their viva.


It’s my birthday, and I don’t quite know what to do with myself, but I can at least do something nice: if you’ve been thinking about whether or not to buy any of my viva-related ebooks – all available here at Payhip – then the next few days might be a good time to pick them up. Use the code NATHANISFORTY at the checkout before next Sunday (24th January 2021) and you’ll get 40% off. Simple as that.

Now I’m going to take the rest of the day off! That’s a start 🙂

Thanks for reading.