Tips on how to prepare for a viva

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Having gone through a Viva as part of the requirement for obtaining a Phd, I have some useful tips for those who are about to have their viva or those who are hoping to start on their PhD, on how to quickly and successfully prepare for a viva.

Submitted: October 27, 2009

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Submitted: October 27, 2009

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DR. WINIFRED KISITU’S PhD VIVA PREPARATION TIPS
The word Viva is very scary for everyone, and there is no one formula of how best to prepare for it. But here are a few tips that helped me to go through it successfully at 31 weeks pregnant.
A. SUMMARIZE THE THESIS IN SMALLER BLOCKS COVERING THE FOLLOWING:
· What you have done;
· Why you have done it;
· How you did it;
· What you have found;
· What the implications are.
 
B. SUMMARISE THE THESIS CHAPTER BY CHAPTER
· Make sure that each chapter covers only one page, this will make it easy for you should you require to have a quick look at a chapter during the viva. This will also make it easy for you to revise your thesis in the shortest time possible prior to your viva.
 
C. POSSIBLE VIVA QUESTIONS:WRITE THE ANSWERS DOWN FOR EACH QUESTION
1. Can you tell us how you came to choose this topic for your doctorate? Or How did your topic emerge?
2. What made you interested in doing it? Why do you think it’s important?
3. Why have you defined the topic in the way you did?
4. What were some of the difficulties you encountered and did they influence how the topic was framed?
5. What did you enjoy most about your work?
6. What would you do differently if you were starting out all over again?
7. How did your Personal Development Planning or skills training influence your work?
8. Describe the rationale of your research project?
9. What are the key findings/major contributions of your thesis?
10. What is its position in relation to the current state of knowledge in your area?
11. Why have you chosen to organize your research into these stages/chapters?
12. Is it possible to draw a general rule from your single observations?
13. How have you evaluated your work?
14. How do you know that your findings are correct?
15. How do your findings relate to the critical literature in this field of studies?
16. What is original in your thesis?
17. Did you have choices to make, for example, in choosing the data collection methods, or in analysing the data? Can you justify what you did? Or Why did you choose this method to analyze your topic?
18. Describe your methodological approach/ or What are the core methods used in this thesis? Why did you choose this approach? In an ideal world, are there different techniques you’d have liked to use?
19.  What have you learned by carrying out your PhD?
20. What do you know about the history of this particular aspect of your research?
21.  What are the recent major developments in this topic?
22. Which are the most important papers concerning this aspect of your research?
23.  How do you expect the research in your field to progress over the next few years?
24. Which propositions would you say are distinctively your own?
25. Can you take your research further?
26.  Which aspects of your thesis are worth publishing?
27. What are the main sources or kinds of evidence? Are they strong enough to sustain the conclusions you draw?
28. How do your findings fit with or contradict the rest of the literature in this field? 
29. What did you find out that surprised you?
30. Who are the main people who influenced your thinking? Why?
31. How did you select the literature? Is there anything missing from your literature review?
32. What conflicts are there in the field?
33. What are the key strengths of your thesis?
34. What are the limitations of the thesis?
35. Why are your research questions interesting or important?
36. How did you know when you were finished?
37. Is there anything original in the way you went about the work?
38. Do recent developments in the field have implications for your research questions?
 
D. AFTER KNOWING WHO YOUR EXTERNAL EXAMINER IS, LOOK FOR INFORMATION ABOUT HIM/HER
· This includes any of his publications and photograph if possible. Read some of his publications although they might not be possible in line with your area of research. This will help you to be familiar with him and his area of interest.
All the above helped me to prepare for the viva in the shortest time possible. I was lucky that out of the 38 possible viva questions that I had researched and answered during my viva preparations, five questions were asked. The day before my viva, I received an email from one of my supervisors saying, 'when you rise to the occasion, do it with style - do it with a knowing smile.  Confound them, astound yourself.Make it look easy and it will become so’. I say the same to whoever is preparing for the viva. Remember, you are the EXPERT in this particular area.
 


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