For most students, completing a PhD dissertation is a joyous moment and one of great relief. The feeling that this lengthy project is over can be somewhat surreal. Still, handing in a printed version of one’s dissertation is not really the end of a PhD project since students then have to defend their dissertations in oral examinations know as vivas.
Great-Dissertation.com has plenty experience helping students prepare for their vivas and here we have provided a list of useful tips to help you through. At the very least, our guide should help you better understand what to expect if you are already studying for a PhD or are planning to study for one.
Vivas are not subject to any particular time limits. In reality, they can go on for an hour or hour and a half with some even lasting for up to three hours.
Usually there are two viva examiners present. One examiner is likely to come from your own faculty or university and the other is normally an external person from a different college or university. It is possible your dissertation supervisor will attend the examination but they will not be allowed to put questions to you or influence the proceedings or outcome.
The best way to describe vivas is to say they are discussions that take place between a PhD candidate and two senior academic experts from the field the dissertation relates to. These meetings are a good opportunity for you to demonstrate your in-depth understanding and knowledge of your chosen topic and to defend the ideas you have presented in your research project. Therefore, the experience can be quite challenging but one that students should enjoy and feel inspired to participate in. It is, after all, a refreshing chance to discuss your extensive knowledge with other people rather than spending hours in an office by yourself just researching and writing!
Once a viva is over, you will be asked to depart the meeting room so that examiners can arrive at a decision. This can take approximately ten minutes although, at times, it can take up to one hour. What is important to note, however, is that the timeframe is no indication of a good or poor performance on your part.
First, you may fail with no option to resubmit your dissertation. However, decisions like this are rare and often only apply when a paper is plagiarized.
Second, you may be awarded an MPhil. This can happen where examiners feel the quality or sufficiency of a paper does not merit a PhD, so you may be awarded the MPhil instead.
You may fail but be given the option of resubmitting your dissertation. This can happen where examiners feel your paper is not adequate to be awarded an MPhil but they give you chance to do additional work to raise your paper to MPhil level.
You may be required to resubmit your paper. This may happen when examiners feel your dissertation is good quality but not sufficiently complete. Hence, they give you time for additional research and the option to resubmit.
You may pass but be required to make minor revisions. This decision is the most common one and requires you to undertake some small corrections before you are awarded a doctoral title.
You may get an outright pass. Obtaining a PhD degree without the necessity for any revisions is a rare occurrence. However, it does happen and it shows that hard work does pay!
After handing in a dissertation or thesis, it is very likely you will have a few weeks to spare before you have to attend a viva. It is essential that you use this free period to properly prepare so that you leave your viva examination with a “pass but with minor revisions” at least. Because of this, our experts have put together the following list of essential preparatory steps to ensure your PhD viva is a success.
When you have done a sufficient amount of careful preparation and know how to fully defend your dissertation or thesis, it is time to start thinking about how to conduct yourself at the actual meeting. Great-Dissertation.com has a host of great tips to help you. How should you answer questions and sound convincing? What should you say and not say? The following list of Do’s and Do Not’s is designed to clarify these issues.
While most candidates are satisfied with the way their PhD vivas progress, things can sometimes digress from the expected. At times, even the least desirable outcomes can occur. In the event you think your work is not great quality, and you know you are to blame for an undesirable outcome, there is little option but to comply with the examiners’ decision. If, however, you believe a viva meeting was not conducted in an appropriate manner and the result is not reflective of your academic performance, there are certain actions you can take.
If you are a UK student, universities there usually accept appeals with regards to how an examination was undertaken. In the event you do submit an appeal, an investigative panel will be assembled to look at any issue(s) you raise. In any case, you will be required to present clear supporting evidence. Where appeals are successful, candidates get the opportunity to attend a rescheduled viva with a different set of examiners. If, however, your appeal is not successful, you may appeal further to OIA – an outside organization called the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education. But please bear in mind that appeals are not generally successful. Hence, the best option is to ensure your PhD dissertation or thesis is of an acceptable quality and that you have prepared adequately for your viva.