01 Hello and Welcome

01 Hello and Welcome

Hello and a very warm welcome to this course on preparing for your viva. I suspect you've heard lots of viva horror stories and these are rolling around in your head and making you feel very anxious about the whole process. I'm here to demystify the viva and guide you through your preparation. Here's what we're going to cover.

[00:00:21] First of all, what is a viva? I think if we understand exactly what's involved and the purpose, it makes it less scary. How do you prepare? I'll guide you through a step-by-step process. What on earth will the examiners ask me? It's impossible to predict exactly what they're going to ask you, but I'll help you anticipate some questions and practise answers.

[00:00:45] How do I deal with nerves? Everyone is nervous before their viva, but there are some strategies you can use to manage those nerves and make them help you. And what happens next? How do you manage corrections? When do you know the outcome of your viva? And there are a few points that we won't cover.

[00:01:03] I'm not going to be going into regulations. You're all from different institutions, which will have their own regulations. I won't be going into special thesis formats in any great detail. Some of you might be doing a thesis by papers, which is where you submit a collection of journal articles instead of a thesis.

[00:01:22] Some of you might be doing a practice-based PhD. The advice in this course is very much based on the traditional style of thesis, but much of it will apply to those special formats as well. If you are pursuing a special format, it's even more important that you check the requirements because they might be very specific.

[00:01:42] And also I won't be covering non UK vivas. So this course is based on the UK system. The PhD examination process is very different in other countries. There might be some overlap, but I won't be addressing that at all. So the very important point from this section is to check the regulations at your institution.

[00:02:02] There will hopefully be a handbook or some webpages that you can consult. Make sure you understand exactly what's required. I'm going to help you demystify the viva so you understand exactly what's required. We'll work on a clear preparation strategy so you can plan your time in the months and weeks leading up to the viva.

[00:02:23] I'll give you guidance on feeling more confident. Performance is such a big element of the viva. If you feel confident, your examiners will feel more confident in your research. And an idea we'll revisit throughout the course is the circle of control. Maybe you've come across this before. There are three concentric circles. In the center is the circle of control.

[00:02:46] This is what you can control directly. You'll notice it's the smallest circle by far and in the middle we have the circle of influence. This is where you can influence events, but you don't have complete control. You might have to negotiate with other people. And finally, the biggest circle is the circle of concern.

[00:03:06] So that's everything that affects us, but we have absolutely no control whatsoever. I'm going to help you to understand what's within your control and what you can influence, and also helping you to focus less on that circle of concern. When we think about those viva horror stories, that's where they sit; we need to move into the centre and think about what we can control and influence.

[00:03:31] And there are three main elements of the viva that we can control. They are preparation. So what are you trying to achieve? That's understanding what's required. Planning - scheduling your time to make sure that you've covered every stage of the preparation process. And finally, performance. Thinking about your tactics on the day, demonstrating your confidence and giving the best possible account of your thesis.

[00:03:57] Preparation, planning and performance are the three modules of this course. You can use this course in any way that you like, but here's what I suggest, that you watch all the videos through once and you schedule some time for the activities. Although the course is relatively short, the activities will take you a long time because this is your viva preparation, so make sure you've got some time set aside for this. It is much more likely to happen if you've booked it in your calendar and you've got enough time.

[00:04:25] You're not trying to do it in a rush. When you're working on the activities, try to get yourself into a relaxed state. Have a cup of tea and some snacks. Once you've worked through the activities, then you can start putting it into practice. Undoubtedly alongside those viva nightmare stories in your head, you've got lots of questions and concerns. What happens if my mind goes blank? What if the examiners are horrible to me? That's exactly what we're going to address in the next video.

Questions to ask

As I mentioned in the video, regulations and viva formats differ according to your institution and your discipline. Here are some suggested questions for you to ask:

  • Where can I access the regulations?
  • How quickly are vivas usually scheduled?
  • What's the procedure for selection external examiners?
  • Who will attend my viva?
  • Is there a standard viva format or any conventions?
  • Should I give a presentation?
  • Can I have a mock viva?