In this episode of R, D and the Inbetweens, I talk to Dr. Connor Horton, Dr. Daniela Lazaro Pancheco and Dr. Edward Mills about their experiences of doing minor corrections after their viva.
Music credit: Happy Boy Theme Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/
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Hello and welcome to R, D and the in-betweens.
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I'm your host, Kelly Preece, and every fortnight I talk to a different guest about researchers development and everything in between.
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Hello, everyone. Welcome to the latest episode of R&D and the In-betweens. I'm your host, Kelly Preece,
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And today we've got another compilation episode for you.
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So a number of you have been asking to do an episode on corrections, so corrections after you've had your viva.
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So I have spoken to recent graduates about both minor and major corrections, and for this episode,
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I'm going to be talking to Connor, Daniela and Edward about their minor corrections.
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Yes, so my name is Connor. I used to study - well did a PhD in - cell biology at the university between 2015 and 2019, and then came out into the
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COVID 19 job market, and have now found a job in medical communications where I'm writing for an agency in London.
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So I guess the first question is: what was your viva experience like,
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and what did you get in terms of corrections afterwards? Yes, so my viva was actually a really good experience, actually.
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I was always told that old adage, it's the only time that anyone's going to be really interested about your work,
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so you should enjoy it because you're never going to get as many questions about your work again.
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So, yeah, mine was was really good. I had a really good external assessor, and a good internal assessor.
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And I think the whole process took around two and a half to three hours.
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So my viva corrections were minor corrections, which was which was good because you would have that.
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worry going in. You know, like how much am I going to have to actually don top of this?
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But it was really things like, you know, adding in more sections of things they wanted included.
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So I had to put those in, remove certain figures or change figure legends.
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And then most of it was kind of grammatical and yeah, just punctuation and capitals and things like that.
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So it wasn't actually too much, which was just great. Yeah.
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And I think that's reassuring for people to hear that minor really does mean minor.
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And you know, it's it's has to be stuff that can get done within within three months.
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But for many people, it's stuff that can be done within a couple of days.
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Yeah, when you see minor and you actually see what the revisions are, you're like, 'actually, it's not as bad as I thought it was going to be.'
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So it's not as bad. And I was going to say, how were the revisions and the corrections communicated to you?
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So it was quite nerve racking when I went into my viva because of course,
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I did it in the time before COVID, where we did it all with physical copies and in person.
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And you see examiners come in with a copy of your thesis that is just absolutely covered in Post-it Notes and you're like,
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Oh my God, like, was there that much wrong with it? A lot of it is comments that they have or things that they want to touch upon.
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But I think when I received my final set of corrections, it very much was, you know,
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a kind of a table of how the whole thing went and my kind of like, 'overall
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satisfactory' or like the kind of comments that they had about the viva process.
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And then underneath was a list of like what page number there was and then what needed changing and what line and things like that.
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So it's very much it's very quick to do because it corresponds to, yeah, it's two specific pages,
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so you can just quickly whizz through it and and find the bits that they're talking about and correct them.
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And I think, again, that's another thing that causes people anxiety, it's that sense of, well,
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you know, 'am I going to be in the dark about what it is they actually will want me to do?'
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whereas actually examiners tend to be pretty specific and prescriptive about what the changes are that they want to make.
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Yeah, I don't think it was unfair at all and what they said, and I think everything was quite clearly put across.
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But I think you've also got to remember that that they're not looking for excuses to fail you, that they're looking for a lot of reasons to pass you.
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And you know, they want you to do the best that you can. And that really came across in the discussions that we had.
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They were really encouraging and they really wanted to encourage a great discussion and really kind
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of tease into the knowledge that I had and allow it to come out and they're not trying to trick you,
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which I think is another thing. You know, a lot of people think that it's like a good cop bad cop routine when you go in. They were both,
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you know, really pleasant in my experience, really wanted to talk about the science.
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And I think everything that they gave me was corrections was entirely fair. And yeah, they were incredibly transparent, which is good.
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So. And how did you approach that period or the kind of time you took to undertake those corrections?
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Did you just kind of print off a list and tick them off as you went through; you know, how did you actually go about it?
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Yes, so I think I did what most people did and came out the viva and was like, 'Oh my God, thank God, that's done.'
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My viva was in November, so I was very much like, 'Oh,
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I'll have Christmas and I'll sit on these for a bit and you know, I'll do it in the in the new year.'
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But I think it's fair to say as well that there was an element of burnout that I was kind of experiencing after my Ph.D.
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I think like,
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you're always operating at incredibly high level for (I think my PhD was four years) and you're always operating at maximum capacity.
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And yeah, you get you finally finish and, you know, everyone tells you, oh,
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you got to submit your thesis and then you submit your thesis and then you'vew gotta have a viva and then you have your viva,
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And even then it's it's still not over.
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So mentally, it was kind of like, 'when is the final bits?', you know, and when you get to the corrections, that is very much the final section.
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But I think mentally for me is just never really see the end in sight because every time you have an ending, there's another bit to be done.
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And so to approach the corrections, yeah, I had the list, went through,
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ticked them off, mase sure that everything was like absolutely perfect before sending it back.
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And then even when you send them back, you're like, 'Oh, will my examiners agree with the corrections that I've made?'
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Or, you know, there's still an element of uncertainty.
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It wasn't until I actually got my certificate in the post that I could actually kind of relax a bit and be like, 'Oh, it's it's over.'
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You know, it's done. And did you hear quite quickly that your corrections had been accepted?
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The whole process was very quick, actually. So I submitted my thesis in September, my viva was in November.
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I submitted my corrections in January and I think a week later I got an email saying that it had been approved by the Senate of the university.
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And that a PhD would be awarded.
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So I kind of look back on that and I was like, I don't know why it took me so long to do that because it could have been done before the new year.
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But I think, yeah, you've got to have that kind of aspect of - mentally,
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You've also got to do what is right for you as well, and you have three months to turn them around.
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So. Yeah, and I think that's really,
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really important actually that you recognise that the kind of the impact of the burnout and that you've got three months,
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it doesn't make any difference to anybody other than you,
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You know, if you submit within a week or within at the end, the end of those three months,
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it's how you manage your time depending on what other responsibilities you have or you know what other pressures you have,
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but also, you know your well-being. Yeah, exactly.
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Yeah, that's probably a take-home message from this, I think, is, you know, look after yourself first.
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And I was very lucky to have supervisors that kind of agreed to me on that and very supportive for the whole process.
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My name is Daniella Pacheco. Right now, I work as a postdoctoral research assistant at the engineering department.
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My research is currently focussed on the study of the intervertebral disc in order to improve the testing
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for new therapies that eventually will lead to treat degeneration in the spine and low back pain.
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So I did my viva back in 2019.
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It was quite a good experience, I would say.
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Fortunately, the outcome of my viva, I passed with minor corrections. Once we completed the viva and my viva lasted almost three hours,
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I - they mentioned that they will send a report with all the notes and the recommendations for me to to make the corrections.
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And what I received was a very detailed list that was numbered with very specific parts to be corrected on my thesis. More than content,
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it was a week of editing, a week of going into more detail having some explanations and very little technical
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corrections in terms of the content of what I wrote for my dissertation or for my thesis.
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I waited around a month for my list of corrections.
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To be honest, I thought it was quite a long proces: I emailed asking when I'm going to receive this.
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In that case is a little bit tricky as well because I was an international student back then.
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So all these processes linked to my visa and my time started to apply or go back
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to my country or where my - where I'm allowed to take any extra work as well.
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So time is also something that you should pay attention on.
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If that's something that you worry about, like, you communicate that to your department.
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That's probably my recommendation there. So I received this document Word lwith, as I mentioned, a numbered list. In my case,
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There were around 20 lines or 20 corrections. As I mentioned before, they were very specific in terms of 'Line 16,
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Page - number of the page, number of the paragraph', and then a little bit description of what they wanted for that paragraph to change,
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for what they want, if they require more detail,
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if they want, if they say it wasn't clear enough that the content was okay based on their discussion on the viva, but it required some rewriting.
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And so are some rewording in some cases,
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they ask at part of my conclusions to add content and be more explicit on my suggestions or recommendations for future work.
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So I will say some of them were very editorial that were very easy to address.
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And in terms of content they were, they were quite descriptive of what they expected based on our discussion.
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I mentioned that there were around 20 corrections on this list. There were two pages in a Word
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Document, so even where there were quite a lot of corrections suggested there,
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They were easy to address and they were briefly but clearly descripted.
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It took me around probably three hours to do the whole corrections.
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So in my case, it was very simple. Even when it took me three hours, which I was very glad,
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once the process - I spent a month before receiving a little a bit of stress and anxiety,
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and just thinking 'how long this is going to take?', even when I have three months and they were more than enough.
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And even because I was applying for different visas and I was checking where my opportunities were in terms of jobs,
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I waited till the last week to submit my corrections.
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So I sent the I sent the corrections to my internal examiner through an email.
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It was quite a very informal but clear process to follow there. Hello, my name is Edward Mills.
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I am a lecturer in medieval studies here at the University of Exeter, and I completed my viva in October 2020.
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So can you tell us a little bit about your corrections? So you got minor corrections, is that correct?
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That's correct, yes. Minor corrections.
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So first of all, can you tell us a little bit about how your examiners talked to you about your corrections in the viva?
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So my examiners gave me minor corrections at the end of viva life.
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They were very helpful actually in distinguishing, both in the viva and in the report they sent to me afterwards, thesis corrections
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which would need to be completed in order for the thesis to be accepted on revision
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and then possible future corrections if the thesis were to be published as a book.
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They made it clear that the corrections to have the thesis accepted for the first part of those two were fairly minor,
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but they were clear from from the end of the thesis - from the end of the viva onwards.
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So when you say they were fairly minor (yep), can you elaborate on what that is?
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Because I think for a lot of people, until they go through it,
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They don't actually know what minor corrections entail.
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So minor corrections for me meant corrections that could be achieved within a period of about three months.
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So my viva was in October, and I had until, I think, mid-January to actually submit those corrections.
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I'm actually looking now at the spreadsheet I made with all of the corrections that I was given on it.
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And they ranged from picking out particularly
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Unclear or problematic single phrases that I've used, so I've got one example here, which says simply,
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I've talked about 'reductive modern understandings', and I was asked to unpack that debate, make it a bit clearer what that precisely meant.
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Another example of something similar to that: I was asked to provide my definition of the term 'didactic', however broad it might be.
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I just use that term and left it hanging. I was asked to clarify that slightly.
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So we're talking about really, really specific things.
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Yes, I think everything in my minor corrections was within an individual chapter.
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There was nothing that cuts across the board of chapters. And so how were these corrections communicated to you?
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So in two ways, I think. The first was during the viva itself.
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I, it became clear as the examiners went through my thesis - and they did take a fairly linear approach during the viva -
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which bits they returned to and where I could probably expect comments.
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But the main way in which I got corrections was in the Examiner's report,
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which I received about three or four weeks after the viva. Which I should say is completely normal.
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Yes. It does take some time and your correction period.
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Whatever it is, three months for minor, six months for major, et cetera, doesn't start until you get that report.
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It doesn't start on the day of the viva. It does make for a slightly nervous three weeks after the viva.
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Yes. Yes. Worth pointing out. But when I got the report back.
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The thing that I noticed it was for me, it was a PDF document.
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And the thing that I noticed when I looked at it was it was - I was given effectively page reference,
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possibly a quote from my thesis and then a question.
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So for example, 'are you making assumptions here?'
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Question mark. And the expectation was for me to answer that question or clarify or resolve something that I left hanging.
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So there was nothing ambiguous about the corrections that they wanted you to do.
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No, they'd made it clear to me that I couldn't go back to them directly, but that I could go through my supervisor once.
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But I think, what I mean more is the list that they gave you.
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It's very clear what they expected you to do to. Resubmit and pass.
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Yes, I would. I think I was very fortunate in that respect.
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And I think it's fair to say with with minor and major corrections, actually there is, you know,
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There's a level quite a level of specificity of what it is the examiners want you to do.
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Yes, I've actually got one example here on the spreadsheet, which is perhaps a little detailed,
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but I'm going to give it because it's a really good example of a single minor correction.
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OK. So on Page 304, for example, the examiner has asked the question, 'French is indeed a language of court and cloister,
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But why does this make it ambivalent as a language?', which is a really specific and also a really good question.
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And then I fixed that by changing the term from 'ambivalent' to 'polyvalent'.
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That was an example of a super-specific correction. And so you mentioned a spreadsheet.
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Yes. So this is something about how you - how you managed and responded to your corrections.
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Could you tell us a little bit more about that? Yes. So the simple answer to that is:
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I went and made a spreadsheet because I noticed that all of my comments on things to fix came in the form of questions,
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I thought the easiest way of doing it would be to copy and paste the entire document
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into an Excel spreadsheet and break it up so that for each row in a spreadsheet,
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I would have a page reference, whether it was a minor correction for the thesis or future one,
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and I would focus on the kind of minor corrections for resubmission.
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I then had a box next to it, which said, 'changed?' with an X on it when I done that and then details as well. The details column said
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Something like, for example, 'added a note on Page 248 to clarify this' or 'fixed awkward phrasing.'
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And so was this just for your own benefit or was this something you had to submit, or ... I didn't have to submit it, actually, but I chose to.
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It was mainly for my own benefit so that I could make sure that I'd done everything.
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The other thing to note is that as I added a little bit of material (and I did tend to find that the process of making corrections involved
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adding a little bit of material to the thesis here and there), the page numbers would go out of whack.
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So it allowed me to say things like 'fixed awkward phrasing (brackets was on page 247 in the original; now page 249.)
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And that meant I could go and check things very quickly. I then made the decision when I was.
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Resubmitting - well, not resubmitting, when I was submitting the revised thesis, I should say,
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with the minor corrections incorporated - to send in the spreadsheet alongside it.
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There's no requirement to do that, but I thought it might improve my chances of not being sent back again with corrections.
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And indeed I was actually told that my internal examiner very much appreciated that, specially because it made her life a lot easier.
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So that was my next question: so what happened when you'd done the corrections?
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So when I'd done the corrections, there was a period of waiting. So you submitted them again, but just directly to the internal examiner,
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was that correct? I actually submitted them to the postgraduate administration team.
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Yes. Rather than to the Examiner directly. It's their job then to to pass that on and indeed to manage the process.
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And then you had another period of waiting. I did.
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I had a slightly longer period of waiting than the period between the the viva and the and the report,
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which is perhaps understandable because it's the way these things work.
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Again, it's a perfectly normal thing because at some point your examiner, internal examiner, needs to sit down and read the corrections.
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And, you know, depending on how minor they are, you know, even if you know they are the kind of things that you're talking about,
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it will take some time for them to read and digest and reflect.
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And so it's not something that can be done kind of ad hoc.
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It's something that they need to kind of focus on. So sometimes it will take a few weeks to get back to you,
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although it might be worth thinking about how you can make your life easier for your internal examiners if that one of reviewing it,
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such as, for example, with a spreadsheet, because that would help the internal examiner to track their progress as well.
00:20:43,130 --> 00:20:46,130
And that may have from a purely selfish perspective made them a little better
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disposed towards me while they were making those comments on the corrections.
00:20:50,150 --> 00:20:53,570
I'm yeah, I'm not sure it can influence their decision, but it shouldn't -
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But it for certain can't hurt. Exactly. So. So how did you find out that the corrections have been approved? Via email,
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Actually! I got an email saying that my corrections had been approved and I had been recommended for an award.
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Effectively the the next meeting of the appropriate committee would review things and hopefully approve it.
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That went through, I think, on something like the 8th or the 9th of February.
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And then on the 11th my birthday, I actually got confirmation.
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I got the infamous email that begins 'Dear Doctor Surname'.
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So 'Dear Dr. Mills'. What a birthday present! I know, right?
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Thank you so much to Connor, Daniella and Edward for their time and insight into their process of receiving and doing their minor corrections.
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But of course, minor corrections is only part of the story.
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In our next episode, we'll be talking to researchers about the process of doing major corrections. And that's it for this episode.
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Don't forget to like, rate and subscribe, and join me
00:22:03,900 --> 00:22:30,552
next time, where I'll be talking to somebody else about researchers, development, and everything in between.
The Messy Podcast
From researcher to Youtuber to author - an interview with Simon Clark
Being a neurodiverse PGR
Dealing with failure
Tales of major corrections
Researcher Takeover - Talking about Thematic Analysis
All about burn out
Being a Mature PGR
Being an internal (viva) examiner with Professor Michelle Bolduc
Preparing for your (HASS) Viva
Preparing for your (STEMM) Viva
Mentoring and Coaching with Dr. Kay Guccione
Taking a break take 2 - with Dr. Edward Mills
Doing non-traditional research with Lizzie Hobson
Changing supervisors with Maria Dede
Adapting research projects due to COVID-19 with Léna Prouchet
Working with an industry partner with Léna Prouchet
The Supervisory Relationship (from both sides!) with Edward Mills and Tom Hinton
The Optimistic Curmudgeon
Just Dumb Enough Podcast
The Jordan B. Peterson Podcast
Daily Easy English Expression Podcast
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