Responsibility

Picture two friends: the first has just passed their viva, the second is trying to unpick what happened…

…I was really lucky with the questions-

-lucky? Why, were they easy?

Well… No, they were pretty challenging in places. I was lucky because I knew how to answer them well.

Lucky? The answers just came to you?

…noooo, they were things I’d considered before. Or I could figure them out. They were tricky, but I could deal with them. I guess it’s lucky my examiners decided to ask those particular questions.

There’s that word again! Lucky? Did they just use a big list of random questions? Was it super-lucky that those were the ones they picked off the list?

OK, I see what you’re saying! My thesis will have guided them a bit-

-“a bit”?!

…I don’t know! What do you want me to say?!

Your thesis didn’t just happen! None of it’s “luck”! You did this!

I know, I know. I get what you’re saying… I still feel lucky!

…did you get corrections?

Yes.

Do you accept responsibility for them?

Of course!

Then accept responsibility for the rest too!

It’s not luck that did your PhD or helped you through the viva.

Accept responsibility.

Fate Accomplished

“What determines your fate in the viva?” is one of the more unusual questions I’ve been asked in seminars.

  • Could it be your topic? Perhaps you need to choose something that resonates with your examiners and others.
  • In which case, could it be your examiners? Maybe you need the “right” ones to listen to you, read your work and ask the “right” questions.
  • So maybe the biggest element is your supervisors? Their mentoring helps develop you and your thesis over many years.
  • But then surely it has to be your thesis, right? A great thesis means you’ve shown yourself in a good light.

The common factor is you. You undertook the topic, you wrote your thesis, you worked with you supervisor and you’ll answer your examiners in the viva. It might be overreaching to claim you determine your fate in the viva, but you’re definitely the biggest factor of your own success.

(Apologies for the title! It just jumped out at me!)