In this episode, guest host Dr. Edward Mills talks to Dr. Bice Maiguashca, Associate Professor in Politics about preparing for your viva in HASS subjects.
This is the second in a new series of podcasts on the viva, being developed as part of a suite of online resources by Edward for the University of Exeter Doctoral College.
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/
00:00:09,170 --> 00:00:15,800
Hello and welcome to R, D and the In Betweens, I'm your host, Kelly Preece,
00:00:15,800 --> 00:00:32,520
and every fortnight I talk to a different guest about researchers, development and everything in between.
00:00:32,520 --> 00:00:40,180
Hello and welcome to the latest episode of R, D and The Inbetweens, this is the second episode in a series where our guest host,
00:00:40,180 --> 00:00:46,470
Dr. Edward Mills, talks to academics and examiners all about the viva process.
00:00:46,470 --> 00:00:50,040
In this episode, Edward is talking to Bice Maiguashca
00:00:50,040 --> 00:01:00,000
who is an associate professor in the politics department at the University of Exeter, giving her experience and advice as an examiner,
00:01:00,000 --> 00:01:01,950
as a supervisor,
00:01:01,950 --> 00:01:11,250
and reiterating some of the really excellent advice and support she's given to our PGRs over the years through our Preparing for your viva workshops.
00:01:11,250 --> 00:01:20,490
So it's over to you Ed. hello. Today I am speaking with Bice Maiguashca, who is a professor in the politics department,
00:01:20,490 --> 00:01:29,280
about her experiences as an internal and external and also as a non examining independent chair.
00:01:29,280 --> 00:01:34,410
OK, so could you start just by saying a little bit about yourself, please?
00:01:34,410 --> 00:01:44,130
Sure. I'm an associate professor in the politics department and my research, very broadly speaking,
00:01:44,130 --> 00:01:50,850
is on the politics of resistance and more specifically on left politics.
00:01:50,850 --> 00:01:56,910
So left social movements as well as left politics in Britain.
00:01:56,910 --> 00:02:03,930
And I tend to approach the subject from a feminist perspective. So that's my academic sort of area of expertise.
00:02:03,930 --> 00:02:09,450
And so what can I ask? What's your experience as an examiner then of PhD thesis?
00:02:09,450 --> 00:02:12,870
I have both taken on both roles.
00:02:12,870 --> 00:02:14,850
Well, actually all three roles.
00:02:14,850 --> 00:02:27,840
I have been the supervisor, a supervisor to ten students, 10 PhD students, and I have been both internal examiners and external examiners.
00:02:27,840 --> 00:02:33,600
And in addition, I've also played the role of independent chair on numerous occasions.
00:02:33,600 --> 00:02:37,650
I suppose the first thing to ask is a question that I've asked everybody I've spoken to thus far,
00:02:37,650 --> 00:02:44,430
which is when you're examining a PhD thesis as an internal and external examiner,
00:02:44,430 --> 00:02:49,120
what do you do when you when you get a thesis in front of you for the first time?
00:02:49,120 --> 00:02:57,270
Yeah. Yeah. Well, the first thing you do is you decide when you're going to at what point you're going to
00:02:57,270 --> 00:03:03,270
read it and you want to make sure when you do that you have several hours ahead of you.
00:03:03,270 --> 00:03:08,280
In other words, at least in my experience, in my view, you can't read a thesis
00:03:08,280 --> 00:03:13,230
or at least I can't read the thesis over several days in small chunks.
00:03:13,230 --> 00:03:24,510
So I pick up the thesis and I make sure that I have three to four or five hours to focus on it, to make myself comfortable with something.
00:03:24,510 --> 00:03:31,770
And I read the introduction and the conclusion, and this may be very individual,
00:03:31,770 --> 00:03:39,780
idiosyncratic thing to do, but for me, I need to have a general map of the thesis before I dive in
00:03:39,780 --> 00:03:45,780
So I want to have a sense of what the story line is.
00:03:45,780 --> 00:03:52,950
In other words, a thesis for me and for no academic. is never read sort of as a myth, as a mystery novel, if you like,
00:03:52,950 --> 00:03:59,220
where the the the the plot line emerges at the end or the punch line emerges at the end.
00:03:59,220 --> 00:04:06,870
We like to know what's going on, what the aims of the thesis are, what the argument is going to be foregrounded at the beginning.
00:04:06,870 --> 00:04:14,820
So I read the introduction. I then read the conclusion. So I have a sense of the both, if you like, the bookends of the thesis.
00:04:14,820 --> 00:04:20,220
I have an overall map of the thesis in my mind, and then I dive into Chapter one,
00:04:20,220 --> 00:04:26,520
start looking for story line as well as the evidence which is going to sustain it.
00:04:26,520 --> 00:04:30,570
Reading the introduction, the conclusion of the thesis. Yes, some examiners may do that.
00:04:30,570 --> 00:04:38,190
Some some may not. But it's interesting to hear you talk about the the storyline of a thesis.
00:04:38,190 --> 00:04:40,710
Could you say a bit more about what you mean by the story line?
00:04:40,710 --> 00:04:50,430
Yeah, OK, so I think it's very important that the introduction of a thesis does four things and they all add up.
00:04:50,430 --> 00:04:58,020
If you like the story line in some sense of the thesis, the first thing that the introduction needs to do,
00:04:58,020 --> 00:05:08,970
in my view, is establish the puzzle or the problem or the research question that the student is trying to tackle.
00:05:08,970 --> 00:05:16,430
So what is the thesis about and what questions is it trying to answer?
00:05:16,430 --> 00:05:24,140
The second aspect, if you like, of this storyline has to do with the answer to that question.
00:05:24,140 --> 00:05:30,960
In other words, what is the argument? Of the PhD
00:05:30,960 --> 00:05:36,620
What is the thesis? That the student is putting forward.
00:05:36,620 --> 00:05:47,300
So that's the second bit, the third part of the storyline is why that question needs to be answered in academic terms.
00:05:47,300 --> 00:05:56,630
What is important about that question? Another way of putting this part of the storyline is to call it the rationale of the thesis.
00:05:56,630 --> 00:06:00,950
What is the rationale of the thesis? And you can have two types of rationale.
00:06:00,950 --> 00:06:09,840
You can have an academic rationale. In other words, there is a gap in the literature or perhaps there is a gap in the literature.
00:06:09,840 --> 00:06:19,460
But this is an important question and hasn't been studied. And the second form of rationale that might be relevant, particularly politics students,
00:06:19,460 --> 00:06:25,700
perhaps to others, is that there may be a political or social rationale for doing the thesis.
00:06:25,700 --> 00:06:34,290
In other words, it's tackling a particularly important political or social problem that begs to be solved.
00:06:34,290 --> 00:06:47,300
And the fourth thing that I think a reader needs to find in the introduction is an explanation of how they proceeded to do the research.
00:06:47,300 --> 00:06:52,300
In other words, what's otherwise called the methodology of the thesis.
00:06:52,300 --> 00:06:59,760
So just to recap, in the introduction of the thesis, the reader is looking for four things.
00:06:59,760 --> 00:07:04,420
What is the puzzle? What is the argument of the thesis?
00:07:04,420 --> 00:07:10,150
Why does the puzzle and argument matter? In other words, contribution to knowledge?
00:07:10,150 --> 00:07:19,810
And finally, how has the student undertaken this research and why have they made the choices that they have in terms of methodology?
00:07:19,810 --> 00:07:32,200
Those four pillars hold up thesis in many respects and need to be foregrounded in the introduction and then perhaps revisited in the conclusion.
00:07:32,200 --> 00:07:35,860
I don't know how you wrote your introduction, but does that sound familiar to you?
00:07:35,860 --> 00:07:44,590
That sounds very familiar, particularly given the advice that a lot of people are given to do their introduction last.
00:07:44,590 --> 00:07:50,560
Right. OK, certainly that might sound slightly odd in the.
00:07:50,560 --> 00:07:57,730
Does that sound odd? This this may or may not make it into the final cut? I think I've heard people say it before, but I don't think it's realistic.
00:07:57,730 --> 00:08:09,850
So what I would say is that your the introduction of all the chapters in your thesis is the one that perhaps is rewritten and evolves the most.
00:08:09,850 --> 00:08:13,450
In other words, I think one can't write it at the end.
00:08:13,450 --> 00:08:20,030
One has to write it at the beginning because it's usually provides the student with a roadmap of what they intend to do.
00:08:20,030 --> 00:08:26,830
And I always get my students to turn their research proposals or proposals into some form of introduction.
00:08:26,830 --> 00:08:32,800
As they expand on the puzzle, they expand on the rationale and they expand on the methodology,
00:08:32,800 --> 00:08:36,580
even if they're not entirely sure about the argument itself,
00:08:36,580 --> 00:08:47,320
because they still have to do the research, if you understand what I mean, and they then go back and revisit the introduction as they move forward.
00:08:47,320 --> 00:08:51,970
So I think there are multiple iterations of an introduction.
00:08:51,970 --> 00:09:01,480
Go back to it at the end of the thesis when you finish the whole draft and yes, indeed, one then goes and edits it, the final draft, so to speak.
00:09:01,480 --> 00:09:05,650
At the end of the writing of your thesis, you need a copy, if you like,
00:09:05,650 --> 00:09:10,810
a draft of the introduction at the beginning as well to give you focus and direction.
00:09:10,810 --> 00:09:18,610
Yeah, I think that's very fair. Actually, a lot of my introduction was written in the first year of the thesis but was then quite substantially revised.
00:09:18,610 --> 00:09:21,760
Once the argument had become clearer.
00:09:21,760 --> 00:09:31,360
I suppose to an extent the kind of solution part of your four stage, your four pillars might be the bit that needs to be rewritten most.
00:09:31,360 --> 00:09:39,010
But that's a that's a very good point, actually. Thank you. What contact do the internal and external examiners have before the viva?
00:09:39,010 --> 00:09:43,420
And what do they what do they have to produce before the viva starts?
00:09:43,420 --> 00:09:53,800
So the internal and external normally contact each other after they've read the thesis.
00:09:53,800 --> 00:10:06,340
In fact, it's the been the internal job to organise the time and place of the vivaand to agree that with the external and the student,
00:10:06,340 --> 00:10:13,120
then the internal and external, each separately without consulting with each other.
00:10:13,120 --> 00:10:26,110
Write What's called a preliminary report in that preliminary report, they normally start off by summarising what they think the PhD is trying to do.
00:10:26,110 --> 00:10:32,710
So their understanding of what the aims of these are, the rationale and the methodology.
00:10:32,710 --> 00:10:36,410
So that's normally the first couple of paragraphs of the preliminary report.
00:10:36,410 --> 00:10:43,360
That's why it's so important in your introduction, you make sure that those key aspects of the thesis are clear.
00:10:43,360 --> 00:10:47,920
Then they go on to assess each one of them in some detail.
00:10:47,920 --> 00:10:59,800
In other words, they they offer their evaluation of how well the student has done each and then they determine a preliminary outcome.
00:10:59,800 --> 00:11:07,930
In other words, they recommend minor revisions or major revisions or a pass, an unconditional pass.
00:11:07,930 --> 00:11:16,510
Those preliminary reports are then exchanged prior to the viva, usually some days before.
00:11:16,510 --> 00:11:21,910
And so so that each can reflect on the views of the other.
00:11:21,910 --> 00:11:30,430
Then they usually meet wherever the is taking place, often over lunch prior to the viva or or over coffee.
00:11:30,430 --> 00:11:36,100
They discuss their agreements and disagreements before they go in to the viva
00:11:36,100 --> 00:11:41,620
So when you when the student enters into the room, internal and external have already met each other.
00:11:41,620 --> 00:11:46,210
They've already had a substantive discussion about the thesis and about their views.
00:11:46,210 --> 00:11:50,670
It will always be some differences and they will have come to.
00:11:50,670 --> 00:12:01,020
An initial view on the thesis and its quality and the recommendation they would like to make at the end of the two or three hour,
00:12:01,020 --> 00:12:10,320
viva students will be asked to sit out to the outside and the internal and external will deliberate once again and see whether,
00:12:10,320 --> 00:12:16,410
in fact, their view still stands or whether, in fact, they want to shift that view based on viva
00:12:16,410 --> 00:12:18,360
That's why the viva does matter.
00:12:18,360 --> 00:12:27,940
So jumping forward slightly, then let's just imagine you sat down with your cup of tea on the thesis, which is a lovely image, by the way.
00:12:27,940 --> 00:12:35,470
What would you advise a student to be to be doing in that time, this kind of awkward 70 days?
00:12:35,470 --> 00:12:40,150
I mean, it can be it can be a significant amount of time between the Viva and the submission and viva rather
00:12:40,150 --> 00:12:43,930
So what would you how would you recommend a student spend that time?
00:12:43,930 --> 00:12:55,330
Well, I think you normally have about, am I right, three months between submission and the actual viva.
00:12:55,330 --> 00:12:58,690
That was certainly the case for me. I think it can be slightly more than that.
00:12:58,690 --> 00:13:02,000
But also, yes, it can be more.
00:13:02,000 --> 00:13:10,330
But regardless of how long you have, I think the first thing you should do is actually take a rest.
00:13:10,330 --> 00:13:20,200
You probably will working very intensely on your project until submission point, and you're probably saturated by it.
00:13:20,200 --> 00:13:26,770
And I think I say that you should take a rest, not just because you should take care of yourself and for well-being reasons,
00:13:26,770 --> 00:13:34,630
but also because while you're taking a rest, you are gaining critical distance from your thesis.
00:13:34,630 --> 00:13:45,460
And I think that's very important. Before you go into the viva that you develop some critical distance from it so that when you return to the thesis,
00:13:45,460 --> 00:13:51,510
which you must do in order to prepare for the viva, which is worth doing.
00:13:51,510 --> 00:13:58,410
You know, it's not that you've forgotten what you've written, but that you can somehow see it through clearer,
00:13:58,410 --> 00:14:04,080
more self-critical eyes, and I think that perspective is crucial.
00:14:04,080 --> 00:14:09,750
So after you've taken perhaps two or three weeks off, perhaps even a month, if you can,
00:14:09,750 --> 00:14:14,100
it could involve a holiday, but it also could involve just doing other work.
00:14:14,100 --> 00:14:19,530
What you want to do is turn your mind away from the project, think about other things,
00:14:19,530 --> 00:14:24,420
and then come back to it afresh and you will see it with different eyes.
00:14:24,420 --> 00:14:32,040
And that experience of coming back to your project after leaving it for a little while is both exhilarating and exciting.
00:14:32,040 --> 00:14:37,050
Also a little scary and sometimes a little frustrating because you, of course,
00:14:37,050 --> 00:14:43,530
reread it and realise the strength of the thesis as well as its limitations.
00:14:43,530 --> 00:14:52,050
But I think that's very important that you go into a knowing its strengths because you might even be asked this question by a cheeky external.
00:14:52,050 --> 00:14:57,480
What are the strengths of the thesis and what do you think the limitations of your work are?
00:14:57,480 --> 00:15:07,290
So once you've, if you like, undertaken the moves to put you in that perspective or to acquire that perspective,
00:15:07,290 --> 00:15:18,540
and you need to prepare to answer four questions, there is no way you're going to have a viva without being asked all four of these questions.
00:15:18,540 --> 00:15:25,280
And of course, they're not going to be surprising because they pertain to the four pillars, if you like, of the the storyline of the.
00:15:25,280 --> 00:15:31,070
The first question you're going to be asked, and sometimes it comes up at the very beginning of your viva,
00:15:31,070 --> 00:15:35,630
is your research question, your puzzle, your problem?
00:15:35,630 --> 00:15:41,540
They may ask they may ask the question in different ways. Why did you choose this topic?
00:15:41,540 --> 00:15:47,570
What brought you to this question? Why did you think it was so important?
00:15:47,570 --> 00:15:52,270
But they will ask you to explain your puzzle.
00:15:52,270 --> 00:15:59,390
In other words, the aims of your thesis. Second of all, they will ask you.
00:15:59,390 --> 00:16:09,170
What your argument is. So, in fact, I have been in the viva once where I think the external I wouldn't have done it this way,
00:16:09,170 --> 00:16:16,480
but the external the first question she asked was, so tell me in two sentences what your thesis is.
00:16:16,480 --> 00:16:26,720
But you need to practise articulating the argument of your thesis in one or two sentences just in case you're put on the spot.
00:16:26,720 --> 00:16:32,240
Third, you're going to be asked questions around the rationale of the thesis,
00:16:32,240 --> 00:16:43,720
why you thought it was an important project to pursue in academic terms, and what do you think the contribution to knowledge is?
00:16:43,720 --> 00:16:49,270
And finally, they're going to ask you about how you did your research.
00:16:49,270 --> 00:16:57,790
So in other words, your methodology, the entire viva, will be structured around those four broad questions.
00:16:57,790 --> 00:17:08,090
And depending on your answers, you will get subsequent questions pushing you to illuminate the work that you've done.
00:17:08,090 --> 00:17:12,050
So I would prepare for the viva in the interim,
00:17:12,050 --> 00:17:18,920
I would not believe what I've heard from some students and some colleagues that the viva doesn't really matter.
00:17:18,920 --> 00:17:22,910
Some people would argue that in the end, what really matters is the thesis itself.
00:17:22,910 --> 00:17:31,130
In other words, what you've written, that is what's being tested and that what you actually say in the viva is neither here nor there,
00:17:31,130 --> 00:17:39,500
apart from the fact that one of the purposes, one of the functions of Avivah is to actually establish that you're the author of the.
00:17:39,500 --> 00:17:42,740
So that's that's that's one function.
00:17:42,740 --> 00:17:53,330
But I would argue that preparing for the viva is incredibly important for the outcome in two ways, one, emotionally and psychologically.
00:17:53,330 --> 00:17:58,340
In other words, you're more likely to have a good experience in the viva.
00:17:58,340 --> 00:18:02,900
In other words, a good conversation with your internal and external,
00:18:02,900 --> 00:18:10,590
if you know your thesis well and you're prepared to answer questions around those four pillars.
00:18:10,590 --> 00:18:21,810
And I think, second of all, if by any chance there is a difference of opinion between the internal and external about what the outcome should be,
00:18:21,810 --> 00:18:30,030
let's say minor revision versus major revision, your answers to those four very broad questions.
00:18:30,030 --> 00:18:36,890
can help them decide whether it's going to be minor or major.
00:18:36,890 --> 00:18:48,710
So I strongly advise students to prepare for the viva both so that they have fun and also so that the outcome is as good as it can be.
00:18:48,710 --> 00:18:53,150
There was one term that you used there, which I think a lot of people will have heard many,
00:18:53,150 --> 00:18:57,020
many times, but I think it might be worth spending them to unpick if that's OK.
00:18:57,020 --> 00:19:00,770
It's the idea of the Viva as a conversation,
00:19:00,770 --> 00:19:07,310
which I think is connected to what you were saying earlier about how depending on the answers you give to certain questions,
00:19:07,310 --> 00:19:11,000
the the examiners can go down different roads.
00:19:11,000 --> 00:19:18,320
So when you think of a presumably a good viva as a good conversation, what do you what do you mean by that?
00:19:18,320 --> 00:19:22,400
How is it different from, say, an interview, for example?
00:19:22,400 --> 00:19:34,550
I think conversation or dialogue as a way of describing the thesis as well as viva is, is a helpful way of thinking about the whole process.
00:19:34,550 --> 00:19:41,640
So let me start by saying that in many respects, a thesis or a PhD
00:19:41,640 --> 00:19:50,880
Is in fact, the product of a conversation, so in the rationale of your of your thesis,
00:19:50,880 --> 00:20:01,210
where you explain why you pursued this particular puzzle, you will need to lay out an academic academic conversation about your topic.
00:20:01,210 --> 00:20:04,330
It's often called the literature review.
00:20:04,330 --> 00:20:15,430
So the thesis itself represents a conversation between a group of academics who may agree or disagree with each other and yourself, in other words,
00:20:15,430 --> 00:20:26,610
when you write a thesis as a student, you are intervening or you're seeking to intervene in a dialogue amongst experts about the subject.
00:20:26,610 --> 00:20:36,230
When you do your Viva. Then you have a second type of conversation, you have a conversation with two experts in the field.
00:20:36,230 --> 00:20:44,960
About the conversation you've had in your thesis. So in other words, with your with your viva
00:20:44,960 --> 00:20:53,420
your internal and external are interested not so much in determining whether they agree with your
00:20:53,420 --> 00:21:03,800
answers or not or whether they understand how you've come to them and why you've come to them.
00:21:03,800 --> 00:21:11,390
Which comes itself to another point, which I think you may have raised in the discussion that I was actually in your experience.
00:21:11,390 --> 00:21:19,310
Is it possible to pass a viva, even if you examine it, totally disagree with your conclusions?
00:21:19,310 --> 00:21:26,390
I think that depends on what one means by disagree with one's conclusions.
00:21:26,390 --> 00:21:36,380
I'm speculating here. I'm not in the sciences, but I'm wondering whether perhaps in the sciences that may not be possible.
00:21:36,380 --> 00:21:41,540
In other words, if they think that you've done i don't know you've performed
00:21:41,540 --> 00:21:49,280
like the formulas incorrectly or misunderstood your formulas or use the wrong ones and therefore have the wrong outcomes,
00:21:49,280 --> 00:22:00,680
it's quite possible that perhaps you don't pass. I think in the social sciences, there's it can be a matter of interpretation.
00:22:00,680 --> 00:22:09,150
So in the social sciences, what they will be checking and what I would check for is the level of scholarship.
00:22:09,150 --> 00:22:11,220
Involved in the thesis.
00:22:11,220 --> 00:22:22,440
In other words, has this student engaged with the right, with the relevant literature on the subject, or have they missed certain literature?
00:22:22,440 --> 00:22:30,140
Do they show a good grasp of the conceptual and empirical material that's out there?
00:22:30,140 --> 00:22:39,140
And have they managed to mobilise evidence to sustain the argument that they're making?
00:22:39,140 --> 00:22:46,820
If they do all of that, and I still disagree perhaps with either the direction they've taken or,
00:22:46,820 --> 00:22:53,930
as you put it, the outcomes, then yes, yes, they will still pass.
00:22:53,930 --> 00:23:05,940
I've had a number of students who have mobilised or deployed theoretical perspectives that I don't find particularly interesting and or helpful.
00:23:05,940 --> 00:23:11,160
And a brilliant thesis can be written using both theoretical perspectives,
00:23:11,160 --> 00:23:15,840
even if I'm perhaps not enamoured with them because I think there are problems.
00:23:15,840 --> 00:23:22,350
So I might raise those problems in the viva to make sure they understand the limits of that perspective.
00:23:22,350 --> 00:23:28,560
But I'm going to be very happy passing them if they have done a good job mobilising evidence
00:23:28,560 --> 00:23:34,420
for their case and showing a good understanding of the theoretical perspective and its limits.
00:23:34,420 --> 00:23:35,170
So thank you for that.
00:23:35,170 --> 00:23:43,216
I think that's a really good clarification of a point that a lot of people will have heard but may not have been able to express in detail.
00:23:43,216 --> 00:23:50,716
So let's jump forward now to the Viva itself. I mean, with everything we've spoken about, this has been Viva to some degree, but.
00:23:50,716 --> 00:23:55,776
As an examiner, whether an internal or external.
00:23:55,776 --> 00:24:11,046
What frustrates you in a viva, I think some viva I've really enjoyed some this and I found other viva is very difficult to get through.
00:24:11,046 --> 00:24:21,516
I think one of the things that students should keep in mind, as I said earlier, is that viva is a dialogue.
00:24:21,516 --> 00:24:34,416
It's a dialogue between three people, sometimes four, depending on whether you have two externals and one internal or just one external, one internal.
00:24:34,416 --> 00:24:44,946
And I think students should keep in mind that although it's intimate and that there are only three of you in a room or perhaps four,
00:24:44,946 --> 00:24:50,046
but somehow externals and internals are people, too,
00:24:50,046 --> 00:24:58,026
and that they may also come to the viva with their own baggage and in fact, may feel a little bit nervous.
00:24:58,026 --> 00:25:04,056
In other words, it's a performance and the student is performing, but so is the internal and so the external,
00:25:04,056 --> 00:25:08,886
especially if there's an internal chair and internal chair presence as well.
00:25:08,886 --> 00:25:18,426
And so what one wants in the performance of the viva is everyone to listen to each other,
00:25:18,426 --> 00:25:24,546
to be respectful and polite with each other and to enjoy it.
00:25:24,546 --> 00:25:31,626
So one of the things that frustrates me, if you like, is and I realise it can't be helped,
00:25:31,626 --> 00:25:38,916
is that if a student is so nervous that they can't engage in that dialogue.
00:25:38,916 --> 00:25:46,596
In other words, if they haven't prepared and therefore thrown by questions about what their puzzle is or what their thesis is,
00:25:46,596 --> 00:25:52,026
etc., then that conversation can slowly grind to a halt.
00:25:52,026 --> 00:25:58,356
And that can be frustrating for for the student, but also for the internal and external.
00:25:58,356 --> 00:26:03,216
So, in fact, you want the students to go into the viva, not only well prepared, in other words,
00:26:03,216 --> 00:26:11,706
they know their thesis well, but also hopefully you want them to go in with some enthusiasm.
00:26:11,706 --> 00:26:16,506
Remember, the internal and the external are experts in the field.
00:26:16,506 --> 00:26:23,406
And therefore, this is the you should see the viva as an opportunity to have a good natter with two people in your
00:26:23,406 --> 00:26:34,566
field who are interested in your project and who may well in the future become referees for jobs.
00:26:34,566 --> 00:26:41,286
So I think I realise this is a big ask because it's normal to be nervousl, to be nervous,
00:26:41,286 --> 00:26:45,576
but I strongly believe that preparing for a viva can actually reduce that
00:26:45,576 --> 00:26:53,816
problem and help you perform in a relaxed and congenial way in the actual viva
00:26:53,816 --> 00:26:58,846
I think my advice to students who are going into the viva.
00:26:58,846 --> 00:27:04,726
Is that they to the best of their ability, and I understand it's a nerve wracking moment,
00:27:04,726 --> 00:27:13,216
but they must try very hard not to become defensive in the viva
00:27:13,216 --> 00:27:21,346
I think I have been in some Vivas where the student has become overly defensive.
00:27:21,346 --> 00:27:33,916
I realise it's partly because of nerves. And as a result, the conversation has become stilted and in fact, sometimes uncomfortable.
00:27:33,916 --> 00:27:42,086
So remember, students need to remember that the internal and external, it's part of their job.
00:27:42,086 --> 00:27:48,556
It's part of their mandate to critically interrogate the piece of work in front of them
00:27:48,556 --> 00:27:56,316
and to engage you in a robust conversation about its strengths as well as its limits.
00:27:56,316 --> 00:28:07,296
So while I'm not suggesting you should concede on every point raised by the internal or external critical point, you must defend the.
00:28:07,296 --> 00:28:15,936
You must not become defensive. You must acknowledge that there are some limits to it.
00:28:15,936 --> 00:28:21,186
And you must show an understanding of why those limits arose.
00:28:21,186 --> 00:28:30,036
But whatever you do, don't go in there defensive because it will make your internal and external examiners defensive in return.
00:28:30,036 --> 00:28:34,656
So would you mind saying a bit more about major correction?
00:28:34,656 --> 00:28:42,126
Because I know it's something a lot of people are worried about. What's your experience with major corrections as opposed to minor?
00:28:42,126 --> 00:28:47,136
I think there are more major revisions than people realise. Let me put it that way.
00:28:47,136 --> 00:28:53,406
I think students often think that getting major revisions is a disaster.
00:28:53,406 --> 00:29:03,366
It's not. It's not. I mean, if you look at the if you look at the what do you call it from the description of each category,
00:29:03,366 --> 00:29:13,266
minor revisions should arguably only involve changes to the text typos or adding references or
00:29:13,266 --> 00:29:21,906
perhaps adding a table and perhaps adding a little bit of research in one discrete chapter.
00:29:21,906 --> 00:29:32,696
Anything more than that, anything that would require you to do the cuts across the chapters, for example, will go under major revisions.
00:29:32,696 --> 00:29:42,296
And yet that that may be necessary and may not take that long to do so, I think a lot of students do get major.
00:29:42,296 --> 00:29:52,676
That's my impression, especially since I think some years ago they made a change and they narrowed minor revisions down to two very small changes.
00:29:52,676 --> 00:29:56,606
So I would just encourage students to to not panic.
00:29:56,606 --> 00:30:01,856
They get major revisions to see that is eminently doable.
00:30:01,856 --> 00:30:08,006
I really like your point about cutting across chapters, being major revisions, minor revisions.
00:30:08,006 --> 00:30:14,846
And my impression is that minor revisions should be contained, containable,
00:30:14,846 --> 00:30:22,196
so we can go anywhere from typos to adding sections of a chapter, perhaps even sections to chapters.
00:30:22,196 --> 00:30:29,576
But anything that requires changing the story line, as I put it, is usually goes under, Major.
00:30:29,576 --> 00:30:41,876
I mean, keep in mind, Edward, that sometimes an external and internal will decide to give the student major revisions in part,
00:30:41,876 --> 00:30:49,016
in part to help them out and give them enough time to make those revisions.
00:30:49,016 --> 00:30:56,396
So remember, the difference between minor and major is not just about quality, if you like the thesis,
00:30:56,396 --> 00:31:04,586
but it's also about the amount of time that the internal and external deemed to be necessary to make the changes.
00:31:04,586 --> 00:31:09,476
And in order to determine that, they often ask student.
00:31:09,476 --> 00:31:13,796
What their needs are and what they're doing and how much time they need.
00:31:13,796 --> 00:31:20,096
Sometimes you might have a student that's working full time, for instance, they've had to get a job and therefore,
00:31:20,096 --> 00:31:26,006
the internal and external might make a decision partly about whether it's minor or a major,
00:31:26,006 --> 00:31:30,846
partly in terms of the amount of time that they think the student needs.
00:31:30,846 --> 00:31:40,966
So it's a strategic decision as well. And the last question I want to ask was a specific one about the the role of the chair, if that's OK.
00:31:40,966 --> 00:31:47,466
So. Increasingly at Exeter, and certainly in light of coronavirus,
00:31:47,466 --> 00:31:58,206
we're seeing a lot of PhDs being examined with this mysterious extra person on the panel who shouldn't and
00:31:58,206 --> 00:32:02,946
arguably make a huge amount of difference to the outcomes of either but whose role is very important.
00:32:02,946 --> 00:32:11,616
So could I ask you to say a bit more about that role, this non examining independent chair position, which I understand you've done yourself?
00:32:11,616 --> 00:32:23,916
Yes, although I have to say that I would I would question the idea that the independent chair plays any role in determining the outcome of viva,
00:32:23,916 --> 00:32:28,986
and that's not their role. The role of the of the independent chair,
00:32:28,986 --> 00:32:38,436
the non examining that's the key non examining independent chair is simply to to assess that you
00:32:38,436 --> 00:32:46,626
like and to monitor the viva and make sure that it is conducted according to the regulations.
00:32:46,626 --> 00:32:53,526
So they will not have read the thesis, they will have no view on on the content of it.
00:32:53,526 --> 00:32:58,236
They will have not be asked for their view on the outcome.
00:32:58,236 --> 00:33:08,616
The only thing that they are responsible for is the conduct of the viva itself and that it is conducted according to the rules.
00:33:08,616 --> 00:33:10,986
Can I ask a related question to that?
00:33:10,986 --> 00:33:19,326
This is something I've always wondered myself what once the candidate is asked to step out of the room or in my case,
00:33:19,326 --> 00:33:26,826
to temporarily leave the team's meeting as it was, because I had, of course, virtual viva
00:33:26,826 --> 00:33:29,916
What kind of things are actually said between the examiners?
00:33:29,916 --> 00:33:38,226
This is just a personal question I've always wondered this is it kind of oh few or is it kind of a OK or does it very much depend on the viva?
00:33:38,226 --> 00:33:45,876
It very much depends on the viva. And sometimes there is an overview, especially if the student is either very nervous,
00:33:45,876 --> 00:33:52,836
in which case the conversation is stilted and that's felt by all concerned or in the case where
00:33:52,836 --> 00:33:58,626
a student can be very defensive or just show no understanding of the weaknesses of the case.
00:33:58,626 --> 00:34:03,726
In all three cases or scenarios, vivas can be painful.
00:34:03,726 --> 00:34:11,586
And so the supervisors sorry, not the supervisor, the internal and external can sometimes be relieved at the end.
00:34:11,586 --> 00:34:16,266
Usually, however, and most of the Vivas I've done, it's very rare that that happens.
00:34:16,266 --> 00:34:22,656
By the way, most of the five years I've done the the internal and external look at each other
00:34:22,656 --> 00:34:26,946
and most of the time we've enjoyed the conversation we've had with the student.
00:34:26,946 --> 00:34:37,836
And in my experience anyway, is often and attempt to be as generous with the students as possible, generous and supportive of the student.
00:34:37,836 --> 00:34:44,616
And I think sometimes there's a misunderstanding that the job of the internal is to defend the students.
00:34:44,616 --> 00:34:50,496
The job of the external is to be the critical interrogator.
00:34:50,496 --> 00:34:53,016
In my experience, that's not the case.
00:34:53,016 --> 00:35:00,576
In my experience, the world of the internal is really only to make sure again, especially if there's no independent chair,
00:35:00,576 --> 00:35:07,386
that the Viva has been conducted in a way that is consistent with the regulations.
00:35:07,386 --> 00:35:13,326
Apart from that, both the internal and the external are expected to ask tough questions of the students.
00:35:13,326 --> 00:35:21,486
And it's not the role of the internal so-called defend the student unless unless they feel that the viva is taking
00:35:21,486 --> 00:35:27,216
an uncomfortable turn and that the external is being overly critical or destructive in their manner.
00:35:27,216 --> 00:35:31,386
But apart from that, both internal and external have the same role.
00:35:31,386 --> 00:35:39,486
In other words, they're there to assess the scholarship of the student and to determine whether it meets the required standards.
00:35:39,486 --> 00:35:44,706
What's your opinion on Mock Vivas? Do you tend to encourage your as a supervisor,
00:35:44,706 --> 00:35:51,426
your your students to have them always is a mock or something that you're kind of doing all through your PhD?
00:35:51,426 --> 00:35:54,636
I would actually encourage students to go through Mock Vivas
00:35:54,636 --> 00:36:05,286
I think it's good practise if for no other reason that it might help students manage their nerves.
00:36:05,286 --> 00:36:09,996
So if they performed the viva already with their supervisor perhaps and a friend.
00:36:09,996 --> 00:36:19,386
So I did it once with a colleague of mine, we both sat and pretended to be the internal and external and put the student through a grilling.
00:36:19,386 --> 00:36:27,216
And I think it worked very well. And hopefully it helped the student prepare for the viva because they were less nervous
00:36:27,216 --> 00:36:37,266
when they went in and they understood the kinds of questions they would be asked. So I think mock vivas are are are to be encouraged.
00:36:37,266 --> 00:36:41,376
Thanks again to Bice for that really illuminating conversation and discussion,
00:36:41,376 --> 00:36:46,206
which I'm sure will be very useful to those of us preparing for Vivas at the moment.
00:36:46,206 --> 00:36:54,696
Thank you so much to Edward and Bice for such an illuminating and supportive discussion.
00:36:54,696 --> 00:37:01,386
Our next episode will be the last one in this mini series on the Viva guest hosted by Edward
00:37:01,386 --> 00:37:07,776
In that episode, he'll be talking to one of his own Viva examiners. And that's it for this episode.
00:37:07,776 --> 00:37:10,896
Don't forget to like rate and subscribe and join me.
00:37:10,896 --> 00:37:37,505
Next time we'll be talking to somebody else about researchers, development and everything in between.
Being a neurodiverse PGR
Dealing with failure
Tales of major corrections
Tales of minor 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 (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
Preparing for your upgrade
The impact of Covid19 on research projects with Ellie Hassan
Copyright © 2006-2022 Podbean.com