More Things I Don’t Know

Two years ago I shared this little post about things I didn’t know about the viva. Two years on and I have thoughts about some of these!

  • What percentage of candidates fail their viva? Around 0.1% is my estimate, based on lots of conversations with doctoral college staff.
  • How well does a viva over Skype work compared to an in-person viva? What’s Skype…? Online vivas seem to work well, all things considered, and like anything just require a little adjusting to.

I’m still wondering about thesis-by-publication differences, and the vivas of full-time and part-time researchers.

I also realise that I don’t know for sure how common a presentation is at the start of the viva (they seem to be quite rare). It’s unclear whether or not the switch to Zoom vivas is going to be remain common in the long term. I don’t know if there is a universal viva prep help idea that can make a difference for every candidate (though I keep working on it!).

I’ve accepted that there will always be things I don’t know about the viva. Some I can find out, some I can explore and make sense of, and some things might always remain unknown. I can keep exploring a little but I also have to focus on what I do know, what I can share and how I can help.

Consider your research. There are things you don’t know. You can explore that a little, to be sure of what you don’t know and why – but keep your focus squarely on what you do know, how you can be certain, and how you can best share it with others.

There’s always more. But by now you must know enough.

Things I Don’t Know

There are lots of things I don’t know about the viva.

I don’t know if there’s any great differences between the vivas of part-time and full-time PhDs.

I don’t know how well vivas over Skype work compared to vivas in person.

I don’t know what percentage of people submit a thesis-by-publication.

I don’t know all of the regulations for all of the universities in the UK. (but I’m working on it!)

And I don’t know what percentage of candidates fail their viva, because universities are very reluctant to share that sort of data.

I have theories or ideas about all of these; hunches based on incomplete information, or ideas about how to get more stats. I’d like to explore these topics and many others, I just need to find the time to do it.

But the information is out there.

On smaller scales, your personal scale, the information is out there. There are regulations for your institution. You have a supervisor who can help shape your expectations. There are graduates you can talk to about viva experiences.

Figure out what you don’t know about the viva, then get to work finding out more.

(and I’ll do the same!)