Once you have submitted your thesis you will be invited to defend the work at a ‘viva voce' (Latin for ‘by live voice'). The viva is a daunting prospect, but the fact that you are about to face it means that your doctorate is almost complete. Many people really enjoy this experience of discussing their research with genuinely interested experts. Remember that it is also a potentially important networking opportunity.
Take the preparation for your viva seriously and devote a substantial amount of time to it. Use our viva preparation checklist to help you to prepare.
Your institution may also offer training courses on viva preparation and there maybe opportunities to organise a practice viva, check with your supervision team for advice.
Things you may wish to take into the viva
- your thesis - marked with post-its if you wish
- a list of questions that you might be asked and your planned responses
- any questions that you want to ask your examiners
- additional notes which you have made during your revision.
During the viva
Your study will have strengths and weaknesses: it is essential that you are prepared to discuss both. You could think of any weaknesses as an opportunity to demonstrate your skill at critical appraisal. Examiners will seek to find and discuss weaknesses in all theses. Do not interpret criticism as indication of a possible negative outcome.
Examiners have different personalities, styles and levels of experience. Sometimes a candidate may feel that a challenge is made in a confrontational way. Experienced, effective examiners will not be inappropriately confrontational, but some will. Do not take offence. A relaxed, thoughtful, and non-confrontational response from you will help re-balance the discussion.
During the viva:
- ask for clarification of ambiguous questions or ask for the question to be repeated if necessary
- take time to think before answering
- be prepared to ask questions and enter into a dialogue with your examiners
- be ready to admit if you don't know the answer to a question
- be prepared to express opinions of your own.
You are not expected to have perfect recall of your thesis and everything that you have read and done. If you get flustered, or need to refer to notes your examiners will understand. They have been in your situation themselves!
After your viva
You thought it was all over... but we have compiled what happens after your viva:
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