In Theory

It’s one thing to know all of your research really well, and to know generally what happens in the viva (expectations, structure and so on). You can have a good picture of it all in theory – but then stumble when you come to the reality of being asked questions and being forced to think, ponder, respond and engage.

So practise.

Mock vivas, meetings, seminars, presentations, conversations, impromptu Zoom-meetups, mini-vivas – take and find every opportunity you can to share your research and be asked questions about it.

Theory will only take you so far. Build confidence for the reality of the viva.

Two Reflective Mini-Vivas

I’ve been playing around with my Mini-Vivas resource recently: I have ideas for other related game-like resources, and am thinking about how to adapt it for other purposes. I happened to roll some dice to get a few mini-viva sets and the following two struck me as being particularly reflective ahead of a viva…

First Set:

  • Where did your research ideas come from?
  • How did your process change as you did your PhD?
  • How did the existing literature in the field influence you?
  • What are your main conclusions?
  • What publications do you hope to produce?

Second Set:

  • Why did you want to pursue your research?
  • How did your process change as you did your PhD?
  • How does your work build on prior research?
  • What questions would you like to ask your examiners?
  • If you could start again, knowing what you know now, what would you keep the same?

While I think it’s more useful to ask a friend or colleague to prompt you with questions as practice, that’s not always possible. There are several suggestions on the mini-vivas page for how you could use questions by yourself. The sets in this post couple help you to summarise key aspects of your research and get you reflecting on the last few years of work.

A little reflection can go a long way to helping you be ready for your viva.

Ladders, No Snakes

I’ve been thinking about my mini-vivas resource recently, exploring how to do more with it, or make it more accessible. Naturally, this gets me thinking about other possibilities for game-like resources. I hope to have more to share with you over the summer.

I don’t think I’ll make a viva prep board game. If I did it would be like snakes and ladders – but without the snakes. Every action you take doing viva prep, big or small, moves you closer to the final square, Ready.

You may make an action that shoots you up a ladder to some higher place because it just makes a big difference. Or you may simply move a couple of spaces forward, on track, making progress.

But there are no snakes. There’s no traps or pitfalls to derail your progress and move you away from the finish. You’re only moving onwards and upwards, closer with each action to being ready for the viva.

With that in mind, what small steps are you taking? What big steps could you attempt? And what are the ladders that send you closer to being Ready?