Labels

PhD student or postgraduate researcher?

Examiner or academic?

Expert or experienced?

Prepared or ready?

The labels we use make a difference. They’re a part of the story we tell ourselves about a situation.

Some labels help and others don’t.

What labels have you chosen for your examiners? What labels describe you? And are they the most helpful labels for your viva and the end of your PhD?

Time Passes

It’s ten years since I finished my PhD and I’ve written several posts in the last few months referencing this. It’s like a little star whose gravity I can’t escape. I enjoyed my PhD, and have very few regrets or complaints about my time as a PGR, but I think one of the great differences to then and now is just how much support is available for researchers.

There are more visible sources in everything from skills development, professional help and support for the mental health challenges that some researchers can face. By no means have any of these areas been “solved” for PGRs, but the last decade has seen an explosion in approaches, resources, workshops, books, seminars, webinars and more importantly the culture around support for PGRs.

In the sphere of viva help, there are lots of resources, workshops and help out there (just like this site!) – but one of the key culture changes is the number of PhD graduates who write about their viva experiences now. This is completely different from my experience a decade ago. I knew no-one who shared what happened above and beyond a quick “I passed and it was fine!” person-to-person.

A long time ago I started the Elsewhere page on this site as a collection of useful resources beyond this site. There are a lot of stories on that page, but it’s while since I’ve updated the list. I don’t always have much time to go actively looking for more viva stories (but I’ll put an afternoon in the diary for the autumn to do an update). If you’ve written something, or know someone who has, then do drop me an email or a tweet with a link and I’ll add it to the page.

Stories matter. They help. The more we see stories of viva success, the more we can promote the idea that success is the norm, that fear and worry are based on the outliers. Stories change culture.

The End Is Nigh!

I’ve met people who are doom-and-gloom because they’re near the end of the PhD. Typically this is because their viva is coming up, though there can be a host of reasons – general concern about examiners, wondering about corrections, worries about the future, and so on. It is worth spending effort to work on these issues. Figure out what’s troubling you, start to think about what you could do to work it out.

It’s also worth finding out more about general viva experiences and expectations. A lot gets said about the viva, not all of it good, not all of it true. Generally? The viva’s an interesting discussion about your work.

If you can find enough true stories of the viva, then perhaps other concerns might melt away.