Six Stories

A recurring theme on the blog is that stories matter – and sharing stories of viva experiences will help change the culture in postgraduate researcher communities. Here are six episodes of the podcast that share some good, useful stories of the PhD and the viva:

  • Dr Fiona Noble: a great episode supported by three generous blog posts Fiona wrote about the different stages of the end of her PhD.
  • Dr Tatiana Porto: one of the longest episodes of the podcast, and also one of my favourites. Tatiana and I talk about how Doctor Who helped her through the PhD.
  • Dr Katy Shaw: I’ve interviewed Katy several times for special episodes on academic jobs and early career research too!
  • Dr Fiona Whelan: Fiona describes some stressful elements of her viva, as well as the positive outcomes. Check out her site about life after the PhD too, Beyond The Doctorate.
  • Dr Laura Bonnett: I talk with Laura about what happened when her examiners didn’t agree on the outcome of her viva, and how that situation was resolved.
  • Dr Nathan Ryder: Me! Another story about viva experiences, it just happens to be mine.

I believe that the more we share stories about the viva, the more we will improve the expectations, the culture and the perception of the viva. New episodes of the podcast will hopefully appear in 2019, but if you know of more stories or helpful articles, then let me know. It all helps.

Time Passes

It’s ten years since I finished my PhD and I’ve written several posts in the last few months referencing this. It’s like a little star whose gravity I can’t escape. I enjoyed my PhD, and have very few regrets or complaints about my time as a PGR, but I think one of the great differences to then and now is just how much support is available for researchers.

There are more visible sources in everything from skills development, professional help and support for the mental health challenges that some researchers can face. By no means have any of these areas been “solved” for PGRs, but the last decade has seen an explosion in approaches, resources, workshops, books, seminars, webinars and more importantly the culture around support for PGRs.

In the sphere of viva help, there are lots of resources, workshops and help out there (just like this site!) – but one of the key culture changes is the number of PhD graduates who write about their viva experiences now. This is completely different from my experience a decade ago. I knew no-one who shared what happened above and beyond a quick “I passed and it was fine!” person-to-person.

A long time ago I started the Elsewhere page on this site as a collection of useful resources beyond this site. There are a lot of stories on that page, but it’s while since I’ve updated the list. I don’t always have much time to go actively looking for more viva stories (but I’ll put an afternoon in the diary for the autumn to do an update). If you’ve written something, or know someone who has, then do drop me an email or a tweet with a link and I’ll add it to the page.

Stories matter. They help. The more we see stories of viva success, the more we can promote the idea that success is the norm, that fear and worry are based on the outliers. Stories change culture.