Preparing for your viva

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Session 4A from City University London's Researchers' Development Day, held on Friday 4th May 2012.

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Preparing for your viva

  1. 1. Preparing for your Viva Dr Malcolm Cross May 2012
  2. 2. Information for research candidates before the viva examination• Supplied to you before the viva or on the day and outlines roles of all presentExaminers• The examiners have been appointed in accordance with the University’s policies and processes contained within the Framework for Research Degree Provision. The examiners have been given a copy of the University’s regulations to ensure that all parties have had the same information on rules, regulations and procedure.
  3. 3. Chairperson• The role of the Chairperson is to ensure that the assessment processes are operated rigorously, fairly, reliably and consistently. At the start of the viva examination the Chairperson will ask if the candidate has read the relevant information contained under the University’s Framework for Research Degree provision.• The Chairperson has a neutral role in the assessment process and takes no part in the actual assessment of the research. He/she should not be called upon for specialist discipline knowledge, but for knowledge of regulations, procedures, policy and practice as defined under the University’s Framework for Research Degree provision.
  4. 4. Process• The examination will be led by the examiners who may turn to the Chairperson and Supervisor(s) for factual advice; the Chairperson for regulations, procedure, policy and practice, the Supervisor on the particular research work and study experience. The format of the exam: there will probably be discussion on the research and the candidate (and possibly the supervisor) will then be asked to leave the room whilst the examiners make their decision, and that the candidate (and supervisor) will then be asked back to hear the outcome.
  5. 5. Reports and Formal Communication of Results• The Examiners will produce a written report of the outcome of the examination and they may make notes during the examination. They are also invited to make general comments about the University’s research study provision in a separate report.• The Chairperson will be making a record of the process by ticking the checklist and may note down comments on the process as well. These notes will not contain academic judgement.
  6. 6. Process• Both the checklist and examiners’ assessment report will be made available to the candidate, examiners, supervisor(s) and Senior Tutor/Director of Research after the examination. They will be read by the Academic Development Unit and any comments or items of good or bad practice will be brought to the attention of the Chairperson of the University’s Academic Practice, Programmes & Standards Committee for him/her to take action or refer them for dissemination as appropriate. The original will be kept in the candidate’s School/Departmental file.
  7. 7. Process• A letter will be sent to the candidate giving formal notification of the outcome of the examination and giving information on what to do next (letter of award with details of graduation, information about minor amendments or resubmission, or - very seldom - failure and appeal procedures)• The University has an equal opportunities policy for students and only matters relating to the research study will be considered in the assessment.
  8. 8. Why?• Establish that the work is your own • May involve you explaining key concepts / methodological choices • Clarifying your role if the work was part of a larger project• Enable an independent and external assessment that it meets the standards for the award• Seek to clarify areas where the examiners are unclear and which may enhance the thesis overall.
  9. 9. Why?• The viva voce or oral examination provides the opportunity for you to meet the examiners, to explain and defend your thesis, and to spend an hour or two discussing the topic on which you are an expert. This is a unique opportunity for you to engage with two independent academics who are independent from your work and have read and considered it carefully.
  10. 10. Preparation falls into two domains: technical and inter/intra personal.Technical•Assessed primarily on the product submitted•Be familiar with your work•Understand the purpose and procedures related to the viva•Understand the roles of those present
  11. 11. Interpersonal Matters• Examiners may never have met before• They may be anxious that the other has identified something they had missed• They are performing and may feel under scrutiny• Anxiety can be contagious• They are individuals subject to the same pressures as you and I
  12. 12. Intra - personal • Manage your anxiety • Deep breathing • Relaxation strategies • Positive self talk • Aim to have a conversation - never an argument
  13. 13. Some questions you might want to entertain and might be asked… • In one sentence, what is your thesis? • What have you done that merits a PhD? • Summarise your key findings? • What’s original about your work? • What are the contributions (to knowledge) of your thesis?
  14. 14. Some questions you might want to entertain and might be asked…• What were some motivating factors behind your research?• Why is the problem you have tackled worth tackling?• What is the relevance of your contributions? • to other researchers? • to industry?• How did your research questions emerge?
  15. 15. Some questions you might want to entertain and might be asked…• Who are your envisioned users? What use would your work be in situation X?• What are the strongest / weakest parts of your work?• Why have you done it this way? • You need to justify your approach – don’t assume the examiners share your view.
  16. 16. Some questions you might want to entertain and might be asked…• Why didn’t you do it the way everyone else does it? This requires having done extensive reading.• What are the alternatives to your approach? • What do you gain by your approach? • What would you gain by approach X?
  17. 17. Some questions you might want to entertain and might be asked…• Looking back, what might you have done differently? This requires a thoughtful answer, whilst defending what you did at the time.• What do your results mean?• How would your system cope with bigger examples? Does it scale up?
  18. 18. Some questions you might want to entertain and might be asked…• How have you evaluated your work? • intrinsic evaluation: how have you demonstrated that it works, and how well it performs? • extrinsic evaluation: how have you demonstrated its usefulness for external or future contexts? end
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