Get Corrections Done

Big or small, whether they feel fair or not, after the viva just get your thesis corrections done. Your examiners will be clear about what needs doing and why – if there’s any doubt in your mind, ask them.

Corrections are a part of the process; no-one wants to do them, but they’re required for a good reason. They help to make your thesis that little bit better, more valuable or easier to read.

Unless you have a very good reason to think that your examiners have made a mistake: say thank you, make a list, make time to do them and get them done.

Corrections & Confidence

Consider making two lists as you read your thesis in preparation for the viva.

On one list, make a note of any typos that you find or any sentences that you think need revising. On the other, make a note of anything that you think is good, great or amazing.

After you’ve made your lists put the first one away until after the viva. You’ll find it useful then to help you complete your corrections.

Look at the second list every day on the lead up to your viva. Remind yourself that you have done good work and you can be confident that your thesis has value.

Corrections need to be done eventually. Before the viva it’s far more important to look for things that will help your confidence.

What Do You Do With Typos?

After submission you need to read your thesis to prepare for the viva.

Inevitably you’ll find a word that is in some way wrong. It’s not spelled correctly, it’s the wrong word, you meant something different or perhaps it is a string of words that don’t communicate what you need.

What do you do?

If the typo is simple then you have two choices: underline it in the text or make a clear list. After the viva, when you have to complete corrections, you have an easy-to-follow guide of what to do. You don’t need to correct them now. Marking it in your thesis or having a list is enough for the viva.

If the typo is more complicated then it’s probably best to make a note in the margin of what would be better for your thesis or – if needed – write a longer explanation on a Post-it Note and stick that in. Then you can explain things better – if needed – in the viva and complete the correction more easily afterwards.

Either way, a typo is just a slip that got past you when writing up. It’s part of the process. You get to make it better.

Do Your Corrections

If your examiners ask you to complete corrections for your thesis after the viva there’s a reason.

Corrections don’t mean you did anything wrong. Most candidates are asked to complete them because it’s hard to get everything right.

Just get them done. Unless you’re positive a request is asking too much or misses something important, say thank you and get the corrections done.

Then move on to something more important.

Clumsy Paragraphs

Everyone writes them. Too-long sentences or a missing conclusion. Half-finished thoughts or poorly-punctuated points.

Despite your best efforts, you might not find clumsy paragraphs in your thesis until after submission. Don’t stress too much, there’s a chance to get it right – two chances actually!

First in the viva, there’s the chance to set the record right with your examiners. Explain what you really meant and make it clear. They’ll listen. They might have questions or need things in more detail but you have the opportunity to get it right.

Your second chance is in your corrections. Most candidates have corrections to complete after the viva. This is a great opportunity to get your thesis as good as possible. Never perfect! But better.

In your preparations you have to do two things. Read your thesis carefully to see if something isn’t quite right – that’s the easy step. Step two, if you find something, is to hold on and accept that it’s going to be OK; the clumsy paragraph or section can be fixed but you have to wait for the viva to start that process.

It will be OK. Everyone makes mistakes. In the viva process everyone gets the chance to correct them.

Avoiding Corrections

If you go for a walk on a rainy day you can step around as puddles as much as you like, but your shoes are probably going to get pretty wet. That’s just what happens. You can’t avoid it.

If you submit a PhD thesis you can proofread and edit for months beforehand, but your examiners will probably find something for you to correct. That’s just what happens. You can’t avoid it.

If your shoes get wet on a rainy day then there’s simple steps you can take afterwards to dry them.

It’s the same with corrections. You’re given a list. You know why your examiners are asking for the corrections: to help make your thesis the best it could be. Not perfect, but the best that anyone could reasonably expect. To complete them you make a plan, work carefully and get them done.

You should obviously work to submit the best thesis you can, but you can’t do much to avoid corrections.

Unlikely Unconditional

If your idea of viva success hinges on your thesis passing with no corrections, then you’re probably going to feel disappointed. A few years ago I asked a lot of people about their viva experiences and only around 10% said that their thesis passed unconditionally. Simple statistics say you’re highly likely to need to do something to correct your thesis.

It’s unlikely you’ll pass with nothing to do, but not unfortunate. It could be uncomfortable or stressful if you’re already busy, but corrections are requested because they’re necessary. They’re not something that only the lucky avoid; despite writing, rewriting, feedback and years of work, it’s extremely unlikely that you would write tens of thousands of words in a book and have it beĀ just right. It’s just one more step in the process from the start of the PhD to the end.

The best you can do is your best. Write the best thesis you can, based on the best research you can do. Do your best in the viva. Then, most likely, do your best after that to make small changes to make your final thesis the best you can make it. Never perfect, but certainly good enough.

Clearing Up The Vague

You have to read your thesis to get ready for your viva, even if you don’t want to. You thought about it, you wrote it, you rewrote it and now you’re done-

-except you read it and you think you could still do some more.

A paragraph that meanders. A section that is too long, or perhaps too awkward. The odd typo or twenty is fine, but what about the places that proofreading forgot? What about the vague sections that sort-of-but-don’t-quite make the point you wanted?

You grin and bear them in the viva, if they’re brought up. You explain what you meant, and what you would do to make it better – not perfect, never perfect – but better in your corrected thesis.

And when you see them during your prep you think, you write and maybe rewrite again, leaving a note in your margins or on a Post-it, clearing up the vague that you left in. They don’t disqualify you or your thesis at all.

There’s just that little bit more to do, then you really will be done.