Surviving the Viva Brian Ford-Lloyd Director of the
Surviving the Viva Brian Ford-Lloyd Director of the University Graduate School (from the School of Biosciences) Read the Code of Practice http://www.as.bham.ac.uk/legislation/docs/ COP_Assessment_Research_Degree_Theses. pdf By the end of this session you will: Have
a clear idea what structure the viva normally has Understand what examiners will be looking for from the viva Understand what you need to do in preparation for the viva Have a better idea of how to demonstrate your knowledge and understanding in a viva What is a viva for?
The purpose of the viva is an oral defence of your research and your knowledge of the academic area in which your research has been carried out It usually lasts between 1.5 and 4 hours You need to be able to explain and defend: what you have done what you know about the subject area the other research that has been carried out on
this general topic the foundations of knowledge on that topic What do examiners do before the viva? Read the Thesis Identify typos Look for material that is unclear, poorly presented or possibly wrong Mark every point with a post it note?? Extract key issues and select questions to
explore the candidates (your) knowledge (examiners may reinterpret data if appropriate) They may check on prior work In the viva The viva should allow You to defend your thesis and clarify anything raised by Examiners Examiners to probe your knowledge in the field Examiners to be assured that it is your own work
Examiners to come to a definite conclusion about the outcome of the examination They should/may not give you an indication of this but how it went will give you an idea Preparation Re-read your thesis and write a one-page summary for each chapter Prepare example answers and take in notes with you but do not read these out! Get your peers to ask you all the questions you are dreading
Study the background of your examiners Tips for during your viva
Dont rush your answers. Take your time. Have a drink of water or use phrases such as Thats a good question to give yourself time to think. Discuss. Dont answer questions with yes or no, but justify your comments with examples or evidence. Answer assertively but dont be defensive. The examiners are not there with the intention of failing you; theyre on your side. Stay calm. Dont forget, this is the one exam where you are likely to know more about the subject than those giving the marks! The examiners want to get
the best out of you. As long as you do the preparation, youll be fine. Work in groups In your groups/pairs: Think up examples of questions you might be asked in your viva e.g. what led you to pursue this area of research? Write these questions down on paper Discuss in your groups/pairs
Some possible questions What in your view is the main contribution of this thesis? How does this relate to xxxxs work?
What was your thought process that lead you to try that approach? Summarise the basic theory behind this approach. Tricky ones Be prepared for: Are you sure about that? It is legitimate to check your thinking and to
challenge you Even negative feedback requires an answer Think & try to respond constructively: Rephrase your point Do not be defensive or dogmatic Make explicit links to the question you were asked Rowena Murray, Surviving Your Viva Now, the real thing (on DVD)....
How was it for you? What was as you expected? What was not as you expected? What did you learn? The role of the external examiner? The role of the internal examiner? The role of the chairperson? Presence of supervisor? Possible outcomes?
Summary of viva tips Know your examiners work & quote it! Know your examiners likes & dislikes Organise a mock viva If you dont know, dont bluff Enjoy the academic banter and debating have fun relishing the intellectual exercise. Be delighted that someone has read you work in detail.
Some references How to survive your Viva Rowena Murray, Open University Press (ISBN 0-335-21284-0) The Research Students Guide to Success, Pat Cryer, Open University Press (ISBN 0-335-20686-7) The Unwritten Rules of PhD Research, Gordon Rugg, Marian Petre, Open University Press (ISBN 0-335-21344-8) How to get a PhD, Estelle M Phillips and Derek S Pugh, Open University Press (ISBN 0-335-20550-X)
Caution Another source for information about what actually happens in vivas are websites where students report their experiences. Some are specifically intended to help you prepare for your viva see a site by Joseph Levine, which has a helpful account of the processes: www.learnerassociates.net And......GOOD LUCK!
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