Clearing Out Viva Doubts

Viva doubts thrive in wondering whether or not you really have made a contribution. Viva doubts prosper in worrying that you’re not quite good enough. Viva doubts linger around stories and what-ifs, concern that things aren’t going to go well or that others’ experiences won’t match your own.

Viva doubts are cleared away by knowledge. Asking questions leads to information that helps remove them from your mind. You can ask your supervisor about your research to gain certainty that you’ve made a contribution. You can ask yourself questions to reflect on your journey and see that you’ve become even better than you were. You can ask friends about their experiences to really see a set of good expectations for your viva.

Ask the right people the right questions and there’s no home for doubts about your viva.

In Your Way

Time or work pressure.

Not knowing what to expect.

Being unsure of how to prepare.

Hearing stories that create doubt.

There can be lots of obstacles in your way of getting ready for the way. They’re real, they are barriers. You can still be ready, but only you can take the steps to get these things out of your way.

You have to make a small piece of time for yourself. You have to find out what to expect. You can learn what to do to prepare. You can ask for more viva stories that help.

You can and you must deal with anything in your way of getting ready for the viva.

What Could I Do?

I’m fond of short questions. After a chance conversation in a workshop last month I’ve been reflecting a lot on “What could I do?”

“What could I do?” is, I think, at the heart of the research process. It’s the problem-solving question. “What could I do?” starts the journey, long or short, to the next step.

Need more feedback than you’re currently getting? What could I do?

Unsure if you’ll hit your submission deadline? What could I do?

Not feeling quite prepared? What could I do?

Examiner just challenged you with a comment? What could I do?

Around the end of the PhD, in preparation for the viva and in the viva itself, What could I do? is one of the strongest questions you could bring to bear on any challenge.

PhD done and looking for your next challenge? What could I do?

(What couldn’t you do?)

Flip It

Instead of wondering if your thesis is good, first ask yourself what you look for in a good thesis. What do people generally want?

Instead of worrying about what questions your examiners might ask, start by thinking about what questions would be in your mind when you first pick up a thesis. How would you start to unpick a large book of new research?

Instead of hoping you’ll be ready for your viva, ask what you would need to feel ready. What would you need to have or be to feel confident on viva day?

Whenever you encounter a doubt, flip it around. What can you do about it? Got an idea? Go do it.