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Preparing for the PhD Viva

Preparing for the PhD Viva 10
Preparing for the PhD Viva Matthew Fisher, Dpt. Infectious Disease EpidemiologyPreparing for the PhD Viva Why this presentation • What is a viva voce (‘live voice’) examination • What can you expect • How can you prepare • A personal reflection on the process from a ‘survivor’ and an ‘examiner’ A common perception of the viva voce is this……when actually it should be more like thisA PhD is about… • Knowing your field thoroughly • Making a useful contribution • Mastering appropriate techniques and knowing their limitations • Communicating in a professional way • Making something ‘your own’A PhD is about… • Knowing your field thoroughly • Making a useful contribution • Mastering appropriate techniques and knowing their limitations • Communicating in a professional way • Making something ‘your own’In ‘Imperial speak’…A Viva is about… • Examining the candidates knowledge of their subject (is the work your own Do you really understand it) • An independent assessment of ‘quality’ • Allowing the examiner the opportunity to clarify queries that arose during the reading of the thesis • To give you the opportunity to ‘defend’ the thesis in person • To assist in deciding how and where to publish the research ……..ANDA Viva is about… • ENSURING THAT THE THESIS IS NOT PLAGIARISEDThe procedure at Imperial College ( /thesisandvivas) Examiners appointed make sure that your supervisor knows the procedure guidelines Before you can submit your thesis or have a viva voce examination you, your supervisor and your department/division will need to complete examination entry forms 4 months before your final submission date Examiners read theses and prepare preliminary reports independently which they exchange prior to the viva. Viva usually arranged by supervisor or The Viva other member of supervisor’s Department. Examiners viva student after a previva meeting. If the student agrees, the supervisor Award of PhD recommended subject to no or may be present at the viva. minor corrections. Student makes corrections which are checked by examiners. The designated Examiners agree joint written report and checker(s) of the required corrections then complete send this (plus the theses if they have them) another form (Certificate of Completion of Minor to Research Degree Examination Office; Amendments) to certify that the thesis is now otherwise the student is responsible for satisfactory and that the degree can be awarded submitting the final copies to the SenateHouse Research Degree Examination Office. Senate House Research Degree Examinations Office sends result to student including examiners joint report. This correspondence also copied to College Registry. Copies of the thesis are sent to the Senate House Library, which then sends a copy on to the Imperial College LibraryThe Viva – The examiners • You should have a role in picking your examiner • However, this will not stop them from falling into three types Adversarial Some examiners will challenge your views, in order to hear your argument. Friendly Detailed Interested Some examiners Examiners will make inspect every word and phrase. you feel at ease. They will want you to explain “On page 32, you say ... your research. please explain.”The Viva – What to Expect • Before the viva, both the external and internal examiners will have (hopefully) read the thesis. •They will have both written preliminary reports •They will have exchanged these before the viva • Before the viva starts, the examiners will meet and discuss their preliminary reports. •They will also discuss strategy. How are they going to ‘play’ the viva…The Viva – What to Expect • The responsibility for ensuring that ‘good practice’ is followed depends on both examiners. • Start with polite introductions • The ‘Chair’ should be clear – this is usually the Internal they should introduce the external examiner will start the viva • Chair should explain that this is a ‘focused discussion not an interrogation’ • Chair should briefly review the process and procedures (They should know them)The Viva – What to Expect • They will start with an easy ‘warmup’ question, usually ‘tell us in brief what your thesis is about’. Can you summarise your PhD in 3 minutes • They may ask you about what is your ‘original contribution’. Claim a ‘fresh approach’ or a ‘new perspective’ rather than world shattering originality. • They may ask you to reflect on the strengths and weaknesses of your study. The weaknesses are tricky this is not an invitation to publicly destroy your work. Look at weaknesses in terms of limitations. Difficult decisions had to be made in planning the research, leading to subsequent tradeoffs. Then, focus in on the need for future work.The Viva – What to Expect • Every viva is different. However, it should procede logically.. General What is your motivation What is your contribution Theoretical framework Talk us through the main research questions that you were trying to address What shaped your literature review Methodology/Analysis What informed your choice of methods Could it have been done in another way Which aspects of the work could be taken further Open forum Strengths/weaknesses. Future plans Any questions for usThe Viva – Do’s and Dont’s Don’t Do Be dogmatic Be thoughtful and reflective Be defensive Be honest Be longwinded Be concise (but do not give oneword answers) Try to please examiners by ‘contriving’ Carry out some ‘homework’ on the to include their work in the references examiners and their work Demand certain examiners, for Have some involment on in discussing example, for being the ‘expert’ in your and choosing the examiners field Be ‘laid back’ and blasé Be prepared. But not overprepared, for example, by trying to predict questions Be apologetic for what you have Be confident, but not overconfident done pp 194, Wellington et al.Prepare yourself • Know your thesis inside out • What have you done • Why have you done it • What have you found • What are the implications • Prepare several bullet points on eachPrepare yourself • Know the Imperial Rules and Regulations • Arrange a mock viva to practice your general oral skills and ability to respond to challenges on details of the thesis. Don’t try and secondguess questions (but prepare for the ‘stock’ questions). Do you have future plans What are they • Talk to others who have had vivas recently. Avoid the horror stories – they are not helpful • Eat well. Sleep well. Don’t drink. Be Calm. Don’t over caffeinate – you will have plenty of natural adrenalinThe Viva – The Verdict There a gradations between a straight pass or fail • ‘Pass’ highly unusual. They probably didn’t read it. • ‘Minor Amendments’ Typos. Small underlying changes. A small quantity of additional information. This is the most usual outcome. • ‘Resubmission’ Varies from rewriting chapters to changing dataanalysis or discussion. Maybe further data collection. Timelimited to a year. • ‘Fail’ This is a very uncommon decision which usually reflects a failure in the system, usually your supervisor.The examiners fill out an ‘Examiners Report’The Viva – The Verdict •After the viva the examiners will write a joint report stipulating the corrections that are needed. This will be sent to the student. make sure that this happens fast while it is still fresh in their minds •The final joint report (with the preliminary reports) will be attached to the signed IC Examiners sheet and, once the corrections have been checked, this will be submitted to registry. •At this point you are home and dry •Check whether the Dpt. has money to help you print your final bound thesis copies…and finally…
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