Why Do Vivas Vary?

Because every set of circumstances is unique. The candidate, the research, the supervisors, the results, the thesis, the examiners, the day, and so on…

There are common aspects. Regulations, academic culture and people’s experiences suggest probable outcomes and eventualities.

Check the regulations, explore the way vivas happen, listen to your friend’s story – but don’t expect their story to be your story.

And don’t expect your story to be completely unlike any other story you might hear.

Follow

“Is it OK to stalk your external examiner on Twitter?”

I chuckled when I got this question at a workshop. “Stalk” is funny, but they meant follow, which is fine… I couldn’t see why it would be an issue. I can’t imagine there would be an extra restriction on who you follow on Twitter on the lead up to the viva. Unless your external was pseudo-anonymously dropping huge hints with their tweets…

Learning a lot about an interesting bit of research this week! #phdchat #vivasoon

Always nice to see my research referenced in a thesis! #phdchat #vivasoon 😉

There is a difference between “effect” and “affect”! 🙁 #phdchat #vivasoon #page74thirdparagraph

It should be fine. I’ve not seen anything from universities which means you can’t follow your examiners. Don’t DM them, don’t @ them and perhaps don’t RT or favourite their tweets, just to be sure. For avoidance of doubt, check with your university’s regulations.

(meanwhile it’s absolutely fine to follow @VivaSurvivors!)

Read The Manual

Talking to friends about their viva experiences is useful. Picking up on bits and pieces of what goes on in vivas while you do your PhD is inevitable.

Generally, candidates have a fair picture of what they need to do procedure-wise; the regulations might not need to be spelled out for you, but if you have any questions, concerns or “what if….” worries:

Read the manual!

Your university has one, and it will have a lot of the answers about situations and circumstances that come up around the viva.

Find it. Read it.