Phd Viva - Strategies for success

PhD Viva – Strategies to Help You Succeed

PhD vivas are designed to test your knowledge of the research area and ascertain that you have conducted the research yourself. Preparing for your viva is a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are some strategies to succeed at your PhD viva.

Strategy 1: Review your thesis before the viva

The PhD Viva is an examyou should ensure that you are well prepared before attending this exam. Ensure that you start reviewing your thesis at least two weeks before the viva from beginning to end. Doing so will allow you time to familiarise yourself with what you might have forgotten. The examiners will be asking you questions about every aspect of the thesis, and for you to pass, you need to evidence that you wrote the thesis yourself and can have thorough conversations about the topic.

Strategy 2: Familiarise yourself with your methodology 

The research methodology is one of the most important aspects of any PhD thesis. It is essential that you are familiar with your methodology, as this will be one of the questions asked in the viva. It’s good to know how much time you invested in your research and what methods you utilised to answer the research questions at hand. It would help if you were comfortable explaining this part of your thesis to anyone. The examiners will ask you to justify why you made certain choices and possibly to explain particular methods used. You should also be familiar with other alternative methodologies that you have chosen not to use for your study.

Strategy 3: Review most recent literature not covered in the thesis

Your viva will be held within about 4-6 weeks of submitting your thesis for most people. For others, it might be longer, but whatever the case, you should ensure that you review the most recent literature in your field and research domain before attending the viva. Your viva examiners will want to know that you are up to date on research in your area. You want to be comfortable answering questions focused on who the new authors in the research area are, recent news about the research domain, new approaches discovered in the research domain, and what they mean for your research.

Strategy 4: Prepare to explain your contribution to knowledge

To be awarded a PhD degree, PhD candidates need to show that they have made a significant contribution to knowledge. During your PhD viva, the examiners would want to know more about your contribution to knowledge, be ready to explain these clearly without waffling. Some examiners might also want to debate your contribution to knowledge briefly; be prepared to discuss the theories or approaches you have built on and what your contribution to knowledge means for the world at large.

Strategy 5: Prepare some answers to common questions

PhD vivas can be long and unique, but there are many common questions that you could be asked, make sure you are prepared for them. You want to have a clear idea of answering many of these questions. One way to prepare for these questions is by creating a “cheat sheet” or answering key to use when you practice. You can also research and read about other theories in your field and write out your opinions about them. 

Since some of the most common questions on PhD vivas are opinion based, it’s important to be able to answer them clearly with your opinion

– I find this theory interesting because  

– I believe this theory is correct because

– I agree with this theory because

– I disagree with this theory because

– I like this theory because

Strategy 6: Make sure you practice reading aloud 

The viva could involve reading aloud from a text to answer questions in many cases. For this reason, ensure you prepare by reading out loud at least two times a day for the two weeks before your exam. You should practice neither too fast nor too slow and try different accents and inflexions. It will help you keep your pronunciation consistent and allow you to read without stumbling over words.

Strategy 7: Prepare difficult questions for yourself 

Since you have completed the thesis and research yourself, you need to think deeply about possible questions that the examiners could ask you. Write these questions down and prepare detailed answers for them. If you are in a research group, it is worth asking your colleagues to come up with some questions that they would ask you if they were examiners.

 

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