The What

What did you do?

It’s unlikely your examiners will ask you as simple a question as this to explore your PhD research but the thought will be there.

What did you do?

When your examiners ask about your research, remember that they will have already carefully read your thesis. They know what you did: they’re looking for you to be clear, concise and to dig into what you think is important to summarise.

What did you do?

It’s necessary to askĀ how andĀ why in order to explain what you did. Methods and motivations are as interesting to explore as outcomes.

What did you do?

It’s probably necessary to practise different ways of describing your research to see what works best for you. You don’t need a polished monologue for your viva, but the practise will help you to find the words when you need them.

What did you do?

Preparing A 3-Minute Summary

Three minutes is not long to share something of your work, whether on stage for a competition or as part of your viva. Depending on how quickly you talk and the emphasis you give to things, you have between 300 and 400 words at most. Exploring what you would say with that much time and that many words could be a nice way to play with your viva prep.

Start your planning by reflecting with a set of Why-How-What questions:

  • Why does your work matter?
  • How did you do your research?
  • What is the result of your research?

You can focus this more by thinking about your audience: what would they need to hear to help them understand what you’ve done or to help them see the most important aspects?

If it was your examiners, for example, in your viva, you would know that they had read your thesis. You would know that they had studied it and prepared to meet with you. You don’t need to overthink your summary, you simply have to share with them again what you think matters, why it matters – what really stands out from what you’ve done?

Three minutes isn’t long, but it can be enough to highlight something valuable, to emphasise what matters or to introduce a longer period of discussion. Take your time, use it well.