Counting Chickens

Don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched

…especially with the viva…?

Don’t count them.

Spend your time counting something more worthwhile.

Count the number of days you’ve spent on your PhD.

Count the number of papers you’ve read and referenced.

Count the times you’ve made breakthroughs.

Count the times you’ve heard someone say, “Interesting…” after you’ve told them about your work.

Count the times you’ve stood up and presented.

Count the ideas that you’ve come up with.

Count the ways that you’re a better researcher now than when you started.

What does all of that add up to?

Nothing poultry.

(sorry, couldn’t resist!)

Don’t expect there to be nothing to challenge you in the viva, don’t expect to fail; know that you’ve got the tools and talent to meet the questions of your examiners. Instead of assuming you’ll pass, or worrying you won’t, do what you can to remind yourself of why you’re there and how that happened.


I have that phrase about “a particular set of skills” from the movie Taken in my mind a lot when I start workshops. Not for the attitude, because I don’t want PhD candidates to see the viva as a fight to the death. The phrase resonates because candidates come equipped with a skill set, knowledge and experience to match what their examiners bring to the table. When it comes to examiners’ questions, candidates know a lot and can work out a lot because of the talent they’ve built up during their research.

Don’t forget: you can’t do a PhD without developing your particular set of skills.