7 Reasons Webinar, May 20th 2020

Hi!

This is an extra post for today to announce that I’m running my 7 Reasons You’ll Pass Your Viva webinar again on Wednesday 20th May. I’ve enjoyed the challenge and delight of sharing new short webinars with PhD candidates recently. I asked on Twitter which session I should re-run and 7 Reasons was the clear favourite.

Here‘s what I said the last time I delivered 7 Reasons You’ll Pass Your Viva – I can’t find better words to explain why I’m offering this session:

This is for PhD candidates who have their viva coming up and want to know why it’s going to be fine. Lots of people tell PhD candidates not to worry about the viva – relax, don’t stress, it’ll all be fine – sentiments which don’t always help because they often miss an important Why.

For some candidates, one thing – the right thing – can be enough to make the difference and help them feel certain about their viva. I have seven reasons to share…and my aim is to convince anyone coming that they will be fine for their viva. They may have work to do, things to check or prep to complete, but when the time comes, they can be ready. They will pass.

I was blown away by the response that the session got; it was great to see that something I’d done had really connected:

I hope you can join me next Wednesday. If you’re uncertain about what to do for your viva, how you should feel about it, or just need help then this 1-hour session is for you. There are full details at the Eventbrite registration link. 7 Reasons is free to attend, but if you can make a donation to help support the work that I do and the time that goes into providing it that would be really appreciated. If you can’t, please still come – I want this session to help anyone who needs it.

Thanks for your attention, I hope you can join 7 Reasons You’ll Pass Your Viva next week!

Wishing you the very best 🙂

Nathan

Who Do You Need?

Today’s post is even more personal than yesterday’s question. It depends on who is around you, in your circle, and what they can practically offer or do for you, as well as what you really need.

The cast of characters in your preparation play could include supervisors, mentors, colleagues, friends, university staff, family members – and from a distance your examiners too.

You might need someone to ask you questions.

You might need someone to check in with you.

You might need someone to get facts from (or, in the case of examiners, facts about!).

You might need someone to tell you what you need to know.

You might need someone to tell you it’s going to be OK.

You might need someone to tell you all about their viva.

Who do you need? It could be more useful to think about what you need others for first. Once you know that, you’ll know who to ask.

What Do You Need?

Before submission you need your research to be finished and your thesis to be done.

Before the viva you need to prepare your thesis and yourself. You need to read, to think, to speak and get ready.

In the viva you need your thesis, something to write on, something to drink and anything that will help you feel good in those few hours.

After the viva you need a way to celebrate – and you will need to celebrate!

And you might need other things, far more personal than I could know or guess. What do you need? How can you make sure you have them?

Not Favours

It could be that you need a little help from others to get ready for the viva. Help with thinking and talking; questions about process and experience; maybe even proofreading or practical on-the-day logistics.

You have to defend your work solo, but there really are lots of ways others can help you prepare. Get clear in your mind about what you need, ask and explain why (if you need to), and be prepared to compromise.

It could also be the case that you see a friend who needs help. A candidate who needs someone to talk to; a colleague who needs someone to listen; a friend who has a problem that they can’t see past.

It’s OK to ask for help when you need it; it’s good to offer help when you can.

Fill In The Blanks

Who could you send this to? (after completing it of course)

Hi ______________________

My viva is coming up soon and I need your help please!

I feel _______________ about my viva because _______________________________________ . I was wondering if you could help me by ______________________________ ?

I know that you’re busy, but I also know that you’ll be a great help because _______________________________________________ . If you’ve got a lot on and can’t help, I’ll understand. If you can help, then let me know what will work for you.

If you’re free soon maybe we could chat about it over coffee at ____________________________ !

Thanks for reading, speak soon,

__________________________

Maybe your supervisor? Maybe a colleague? Your office-mate? Best friend? Think carefully about why someone could be a big help to you, and tell them.

Or maybe it’s useful just to write down and get out of your head that second short paragraph: how you feel about your viva, why you feel that way, and what steps could help.

Future Resources

I have an ever-growing list of ideas, potential projects and things to make to help people be ready for their viva. If you look around this site you’ll see lots of resources already:

  • over sixty episodes of the podcast in the archive;
  • a curated list of useful links from all over the place;
  • original free resources like The tiny book of viva prep and my first Viva Minicast;
  • pages with my ebooks and print guides;
  • and, to date, almost 250 daily viva posts!

I get stuck thinking about which future projects and resources to prioritise. Which should I do first? Are there any I shouldn’t bother with at all? What kind of resources will help? What would make the biggest difference?

Rather than try to figure it all out for myself, I’d love to hear your thoughts. If you have ideas for the kinds of resources that could help, then please, tell me! What you do you want? What do you think would help? Where are there gaps in terms of helpful resources about the viva?

Please email or tweet at me if you’ve any ideas!

Often the first step to finding a solution is really figuring out what you need. So… What do you need?

Use Your Network

It’s just you answering questions in the viva. Before then there are lots of people who can help you prepare. Think about your network. Think about the resources you can draw on. For example:

  • Do you know someone who can tell you about your examiners’ research? It could be a boost before you read some papers.
  • Do you know someone who can tell you about their viva? It could help to settle your mind about expectations.
  • Do you know someone who can listen to you talk about your thesis? It could be a way to get some useful feedback.

Who do you know, and how can they help you?

Resourced

I’m happy to be doing this daily blog, to have the podcast archive to share, a starting selection of original free resources and also some paid ebooks to offer. But I’m not the only person who tries to help people prepare for the viva. Look around you. Your university might have some great resources that it can offer; they could have a series of videos to help, posts and articles about viva experiences or resources that they’ve bought in – great things like Viva Cards or The Good Viva Video.

If you see something useful, share it. If you need something, ask people. If something doesn’t exist, make it.

I’m going to keep writing, making and helping.

Change The Story

Have you noticed there’s not a lot of love for the PhD process? Every stage seems to have some kind of negativity attached to how it’s described:

  • First Year Funk: realising that what you wanted to do is harder than you thought…
  • Second Year Blues: feeling down or bored with being stuck…
  • Final Year Fears: worrying about finishing on time or at all…

“Surviving the viva” is a theme that’s been around for a while. Negative associations with “defending your thesis” persist.

These things can’t be beaten with a throwaway line or a joke. We associate being a “viva survivor” with a story that the viva is a trial by fire, the equivalent of a planned natural disaster that can’t be avoided. But the dictionary also defines survive as “manage to keep going in difficult circumstances” – not insurmountable, just difficult. Talking about all the aspects of research and being a researcher can be difficult. Answering tricky questions about your research can be difficult. But not impossible.

So reflecting on this today I have two requests:

  • If your viva is in the past: tell future PhDs what was difficult about your viva and prep, but be honest and talk about what you did to meet those difficulties. You survived!
  • If your viva is in the future: think about what challenges might come your way, but reflect on what difficult challenges you’ve already overcome. You can survive!

One positive story is not going to change the negative associations surrounding the PhD and the viva. But lots of them…