Viva- and APR- countdown
So you’ve submitted and the day is coming – Viva day! (Or, for those of you in year 1 & 2 = APR day!)
While this post is geared primarily towards the Viva, in many ways the APR are mini-Vivas, and much of this advice still applies! So have a read and hopefully assuage some of that “defense anxiety”!
In addition to reviewing a copy of the UofG Viva procedure details discussed in the PGR Handbook (you can also find those specific to a College, like these, for the Social Sciences), I highly recommend attending one of the Viva workshops that are offered for PGRs (you can find these through your MyCampus page). I attended one a while back and have already gone back a few times to review the notes from it! (And I haven’t submitted yet!) There are some really good blog posts on Tips for Surviving the Viva and a few Top Tip articles too, but I’m going to discuss the top three things you should do 1) three weeks out 2)one week out, and 1) the day of the big event.
THREE WEEKS PRIOR:
Take a short BREAK, if possible. You’ve worked hard and you deserve a small breather. This is also particularly beneficial when you read your thesis afresh. Think about not just structure, but the BIG picture, and look for weak areas. Make notes of references and possible questions.
Talk to your supervisor, of course, but also ask other Viva survivors for advice. Someone who has completed a PhD in last few years will have vivid APR and Viva memories to share. Listen to them and consider their advice.
Review the main elements of assessment:
Contribution to field
Critical judgement and testing of ideas
Read some of your external examiner's output, in order to be familiar with their interests.
TWO WEEKS PRIOR
Test your own work. Can you clearly articulate why you chose this method/approach (can you explain its advantages and limitations)? Review how you’ve used support from literature, how this connects to your research and methods, and how this contributes to the field:
Continue to read not only the relevant literature but the of the external’s contribution to the field as well, if you can. This could give you some insight on the types of questions they might ask you. Externals will ask questions designed to see if you really understand your own argument, so practice by making sure you can justify a position which the examiner might have a problem with. Take legible, condensed notes that you can refer to on the day.
THE NIGHT BEFORE/DAY OF
Review the condensed notes you plan to take with you into the Viva. You should take a copy of your thesis with you (most people recommend a hard copy in addition to your laptop. Try to avoid caffeine and alcohol, which will help you get a good night’s sleep. Lay out your clothes the night before. This seems like a silly thing, but knowing that you’ve put thought into being comfortable and professional-looking gives you one less thing to stress out over later! First impressions count.
Be punctual, sober, and pleasant but most importantly, try to be positive and confident – your smile and your self-assurance will make the best impressions, and keep you calm during the Viva. This is the moment your practice questions and reviews will pay off.