Little Lists

Annotating your thesis as part of viva prep is useful: it creates a better resource to be consulted during the viva and also focusses your attention while getting ready. You have to engage again and again to add value by underlining, highlighting and making notes in the margin. There’s plenty of space to add details but it helps to be concise and clear.

A specific, short idea for today then. Write a little list at the start of each chapter; five bullet points to capture something of the pages that follow:

  • A one-sentence summary.
  • The key takeaway of the chapter.
  • A reference that really supports the work.
  • A question to remember or reflect on.
  • Something you learned while doing the research.

A micro-review of each chapter will help sharpen your thinking while you get ready for the viva and continue to support you when you meet your examiners. Invest a little time in some little lists.

A Thesis Makeover

Between submission and the viva you have an opportunity to give your thesis a makeover. Of course, it’s great as it is, but for a special occasion doesn’t it deserve a chance to really shine?

  • You can spruce it up with short sentences in the margins to draw out key points.
  • Why not add highlighter to make key information stand out?
  • Accessorise your thesis contribution with bookmarks or Post-it Notes!

Choose your style of makeover, and create something that really works for you. There’s no right or wrong way: you have an opportunity to make your thesis more fabulous – more useful for you – for the day of your viva.

Make information stand out or easier to find. Give your thesis a makeover to make your thesis better for the viva.

Analyse & Annotate

A helpful part of viva preparation is making your thesis ready for the viva. Then, throughout your discussions with your examiners you have a silent partner, able to support how you think and what you say.

You can write in the margins, stick Post-it Notes in, highlight and underline and do anything to annotate the book and make it better.

How can you make your thesis easier to navigate?

How can you make things easier to find?

How can you make things easier to see at a glance?

Those are the key questions that help you make a well-annotated thesis. You have to analyse what you have and annotate to make it better for you in the viva. Easier navigation could be achieved with Post-it Notes or highlighter tabs. A brief note at the start of each chapter could make things easier to find. Consistent highlighting practice might help you find key words and ideas at a glance.

Analyse and annotate. Find a system that works for you. Make a list, do the work and then benefit.

Reading Allowed

It’s not a good idea to have a script for the viva. You can’t take such detailed notes in that you are effectively quoting pre-prepared responses. Besides, there are so many possible questions and variations of questions that to even attempt detailed notes would be foolish.

You can read in the viva though: your thesis is your companion in the exam, a faithful friend that has everything you need, right there for you to use.

  • Need to check a quote? Look in your thesis.
  • Got to find that exact number? Check your thesis.
  • Examiners asking something specific? It may be worth peeking at a page or two.

You might not have all the answers; your thesis might not either. But to help you respond you can read, check, quote and find things. Scripted answers won’t help you in your viva, but reading your thesis will.

Red Pen

Using a red pen to annotate your thesis can be useful. Underlining typos, circling important things, boxing off ideas.

Using a red pen also carries a lot of negative associations. Crosses in the margins of tests or essays in the past, a circled grade, a short note that diminishes effort.

Annotating your thesis is essential for viva prep. Using a red pen is not. Choose your tools. Think ahead a little for what you will need and what you can do to make the process effective and your annotated thesis useful.

Annotation & Emphasis

One way to think about annotation, as part of viva prep, is that it helps to emphasise parts of what is in your thesis. It’s not about last minute additions or pre-answering questions in the margin: annotating your thesis emphasises the good stuff that is already there, making it easier to find or easier to see.

You get to decide what you need. Make a list of what could help, then find a good way that works for you. Do a little work and you have an upgraded copy of your thesis for the viva.

Your System

Annotating your thesis before the viva can help you as you read and prepare. You then have an enhanced version of your thesis with you for the viva. Adding bookmarks or tabs to chapters and important sections can help you to find things. Highlighting references or underlining typos, as well as making notes in margins, can add layers of useful information as you refer to your thesis.

Before you sit down to add anything to your thesis though, take a few moments to create a system for yourself. Just reflect on a few simple questions then make a few simple decisions.

  • What do you need to add?
  • What options do you have so you can usefully and simply add what you need?
  • What will you do for each option?

Keep things simple, clear and consistent.

Annotated For You

Adding to your thesis is a helpful part of viva prep. Including bookmarks, underlining words or sections, writing notes in the margin or placing sticky tabs to mark things out – there’s 101 things you could do!

Thankfully you don’t need to do all of them. By spending a little time thinking clearly you can figure out what will make your thesis more useful for you.

What details will help you if they stand out? What do you want to be able to see more clearly? How could you do that?

Annotating your thesis is for you. You have to reflect and decide what added details will help you the most. Annotations are not for your examiners; they’re added to help you to perform at your best in the viva.

Again, these three questions can help you figure out what you need to do:

  • What details will help you if they stand out?
  • What do you want to be able to see more clearly?
  • How could you do that?

Once you’ve reflected, make a list and do the work.

Flick and Find

Your thesis is a useful resource in the viva, and can be made even more useful by clever annotation.

  • Add Post-it Notes or tabs to make the beginnings of chapters easy to find.
  • Add bookmarks to help you reach important parts more easily.
  • Use highlighters of different colours to make different sorts of valuable information easier to see as you flick through.
  • Explore and decide on ways to make things stand out.

You may need to flick through your thesis to find something during your viva. Making that process easier in advance can reduce the possibility for stress on the day. It could also help you reflect on your thesis during your prep.

What else will you do to make your thesis an even more useful resource for the viva?

Page 1

It’s likely you’re going to see the first page of your thesis a lot when you open your thesis. All through your prep and in the viva too you’re going to see “Chapter 1” or “Introduction” again and again. Maybe you’ll see that page so much that you start to look past it.

But what if it had a short message of encouragement you had left for yourself?

What if it highlighted three key points?

What if there was a small picture stuck in to make you smile?

Could you include a helpful reminder?

Or just three words: You Got This.

The printed copy of your thesis is a valuable resource for your viva. You can refer to it at any point, and in advance you can annotate it to make it as useful as possible for you.

So what will you add to the first page to make a difference?