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The thesis and viva voce
by Christopher Teh Boon Sung, Ph.D.
Fac. of Agriculture, UPM
christopherteh.com
christeh@yahoo.com
Tel: 03-89474858
WHAT IS VIVA
AND HOW IT IS CONDUCTED
PART 1
What is viva voce?
• Literally, "viva voce" means “by the living voice” or “by word of
mouth”
• Today viva means oral examination – thesis defense
• The final hurdle of your postgraduate research degree
• No marks given for viva but it is used to evaluate the worth of
your work and thesis
http://rahmitanotes.blogspot.com/2008_06_01_archive.html
Mohd. Said Bashir defending his thesis on Apr 19, 2008
UPM’s viva room
Projector & screen for
presentation
TV & video camera for
teleconferencing
Purpose of viva voce
• The purpose of the viva is to validate your thesis and show the
examiners:
• that the thesis is your own work
• that you understand what you have done and written
• that you are aware where your work sits in relation to the
wider research field
• that your work is of sufficiently high standard (in terms of
scientific rigor and writing maturity)
• that you can defend your work in response to the examiners'
questions
Who are in the viva?
• Examiners
• 1 external examiner (may not be present)
• 1 or 2 internal examiners
• 1 chairperson
• Your supervisory committee
• at least one of them
• The candidate (you!)
http://education.exeter.ac.uk/images/mtl_viva_1.jpg
External examiner
• Expert in the field of the candidate’s research
• Must be from outside UPM
• Can be from
• local universities – for MSc only
• foreign universities – MSc and PhD
• For foreign students, examiner from the same nationality is not
recommended
• Must have at least 10 significant journal publications in your field
of work
• Must graduate at least 1 student at the same level of your
degree
• Not involved in your work/research
• e.g., any joint publications can be problematic
• May not attend your viva
• Foreign external examiners rarely attend
• Local external examiners may come especially if one of the
internal examiners is unable to attend your viva
Internal examiners
• One or two examiners from within UPM
• Masters – 1
• PhD – 2
• Have expertise your field of study
• Can sometimes be stricter than the external examiner!
Chairperson
• Have graduated at least one postgraduate student
• Not necessarily has the expertise in your field of research
• Duties include to
• moderate/coordinate the discussion/examination
• ensure all examiners’ questions are adequately answered by
the candidate
• NOT become an examiner!
• but will ask questions on behalf on the external examiner
based on the examiner’s report if the examiner is not
present
• Write a report on the outcome of the viva
Supervisor and co-supervisors
• One or more of your supervisors will come
• They will come and sit and listen but they will not participate in
the discussion unless asked by the examiners or chairperson
• Do not depend on your supervisors or co-supervisors to bail
you out of tough questions!
• reflects badly on you as it shows you cannot defend your
work well
• Do not become angry if your main supervisor does not attend
your viva
• It is your thesis defense, not theirs
Selection of viva committee
• Candidate can suggest names for the viva committee, but
ultimately, the main supervisor must ask and appoint the
examiners and chairperson
• Choose the best people who can understand, correct, and
improve your work
• But some faculties have different rules: viva committee selection
is confidential
Viva outcomes
• Seven outcomes:
• Accepted with distinction
• Accepted with minor modifications
• Accepted with major modifications
• Oral re-examination (Re-viva voce)
• Re-submission of thesis
• Re-submission of a PhD thesis as a Masters'
• Fail/reject
• These outcomes are not exam grades (e.g., A, A-, B+, B, B-, C+,
C, C-, D, F)!
• Outcome will not appear in your certificate
Aim for these outcomes
Bad, bad, bad!
- It’s over…
Thesis Acceptance/rejection categories
• Accepted with distinction
• minimal corrections needed for spelling, grammar, and
syntax
• met all criteria for award (e.g., no. of publications and
number of credits)
• 15 days for correction
• Accepted with minor modifications
• reformatting of chapters
• revision of literature and/or objectives
• correction of references
• minor spelling, grammar, and syntax errors
• 30 days for correction
• Accepted with major modifications
• extensive revision of thesis to improve quality
• re-analysis of data
• removal of chapters
• re-discuss your results
• major corrections in spelling, grammar, and syntax
• 60 days for correction
• Oral re-examination (Re-viva voce)
• fails the first viva voce
• second viva and final viva to be conducted within 60 days
• Re-submission of thesis
• scope of degree not met
• objectives not met
• serious flaws in methodology and analysis
• requires additional experiments or data collection
• 2 semesters or 1 year for res-submission (repeat the whole
thesis submission and viva process)
• Re-submission of a PhD thesis as a Masters thesis
• scope of work not suited at the PhD level
• 60 days for correction
• Fail/rejected
• very serious flaws in work
• plagiarism detected
A note on plagiarism and fabrication
• Very serious offense
• Plagiarism
• Not just copy-and-paste work
• Stealing of ideas or work
• Without proper citation or credit
• Copying of results (from tables or charts)
• Data fabrication
• “Create” results (fake data)
• Work results cannot be reproduced
• Can come back and haunt you even after your graduation
• Degree can be revoked
Appeal against viva decision
• You can appeal a decision by the viva committee if you think it is
incorrect
• Fill in the relevant form from SGS and provide supporting
documents for your appeal
• The following criteria is included for appeal cases to be
considered:
1. At least one member of the supervisory committee is present
at the viva
2. Appeal letter is officially submitted by the supervisor.
3. No scientific misconduct such as plagiarism, falsification of
data, cheating has occurred.
4. There is evidence to support case including report (s) from
independent expert opinion, journal papers (preferably ISI
papers), if relevant.
5. Evidence of conflict of interest by examiners is provided, if
relevant.
6. Contradicting statements on the outcome of the
examination in the report by Chair of Examination
Committee, if relevant.
• Note: Criteria 1, 2 and 3 are compulsory. In addition either
criteria 4 or 5 or 6 is also required for SGS to consider the case.
• Deadline for submission of appeal letter is one month after viva
date.
Minimum no. of publications
• For GRF (Graduate Research Fellowship) holders:
• PhD level - 2 journal publications (or accepted)
• MSc level - 1 journal publication (or accepted)
• For others:
• PhD level - 1 journal publication (or accepted) and 1 article
submitted
• MSc level - 1 journal submitted
• Some faculties have stricter rules than this
• Please check with your faculty
• Problems have occurred because of this stricter rules
• Some students cannot achieve the minimum
requirements
Correcting your thesis (after the viva)
• You can ask for extension for thesis correction
• but for not reasons regarding busy work schedule or for
frivolous reasons
• Make ALL corrections as requested by your examiners
• Do NOT pick and choose which corrections you want to do
• Corrections based on examiners’ and chairperson’s reports
and corrections written in your thesis copy
• You can see/contact your examiners to resolve any
• contradictory corrections suggested by two or more
examiners
• unclear corrections or comments
• disagreement with the corrections
• give your reasons for your disagreement
• but ask yourself first: “Was my
writing/explanation/presentation unclear?”
Final thesis preparation
• Guidelines and forms can be downloaded from SGS website
• www.sgs.upm.edu.my/THESIS
• NEW guidelines since Jan 2014:
• Submit your thesis in double spacing for ease of corrections
by the viva committee, but in final form, your thesis must be
prepared
• in single spacing and printed on both sides of paper
• but in double spacing for between paragraphs and
sections
• using 80 g paper
• Check other requirements as listed in the SGS website
HEADING INTO YOUR VIVA
PART 2
Preparing for your viva
• Go through your thesis
• Familiarize yourself with your own thesis!
• You should know where to find “what” in your thesis
• Anticipate the questions you can be asked during the viva
• All questions will be related to four general areas:
• What is it about?
• What did you do?
• What did you find?
• Why does that matter?
• If possible/allowed, find out who are your examiners
• What are their research background and expertise?
• What have they published, and mostly in what field?
• Read some of their articles to understand their interest
• Ask your supervisory committee as some of them might
familiar with one or more of your examiners
• Prepare a 20-minute presentation and run it through your
supervisory committee for their feedback
• If possible, prepare a mock/trial viva with your supervisory
committee
• Bring supporting documents (books, publications, photos, saved
website information) into your viva in case you need them to
defend your work
• documents preferably in softcopies for easy retrieval
• Bring pen and a notepad!
• to jot down the examiners’ comments/suggestions
• Bring a hardcopy and softcopy of your thesis
• Do NOT discuss your viva or your thesis with any of the
examiners prior to your viva
What happens during a viva?
Committee
discussion
Oral
presentation
Q&A
Committee
discussion
Verdict
Committee
discuss
among
themselves
Your oral
presentation
Question
and answer
Committee
assess your
defense
Committee’s
decision
In UPM, viva often lasts between 1.5 to 3 hours
What happens during a viva?
• A 20-minute oral presentation of your work
• Focus on:
• Problem and justification of study
• Objectives
• How you did your work (methods)
• Results – what you obtained/observed
• Discuss/explain your results
• Conclusion – not a summary!
• Integrate review of literature with the above rather than have
a separate section on literature review
• Avoid a lengthy presentation
Q & A
• Key areas examiners will evaluate your work:
• Is the problem of study clear and important?
• Are the study’s objectives clear, achievable, and sufficient?
• Are the methods used sufficient?
• Are the results clear, sufficient, and important?
• Can the results be explained clearly and sufficiently?
• Have the study’s objectives been achieved?
• Is the scientific work robust/rigorous?
• Is the level of work sufficient for the awarded degree?
• Are the presentation of work and writing in thesis adequate?
• What happens when you think the examiners have
misinterpreted/misunderstood your work?
• Do not be so quick to blame the examiners
• Ask yourself first:
• Was your explanation in your thesis clear?
• Did you accidentally omit important information?
• Evaluate the validity of the examiners’ comments
• Explain to clear up misunderstandings
VS
Which do you prefer?
Scenario A Scenario B
• Do not take criticisms of your work personally
• do not take offence, be defensive, be offensive, or be angry
http://drprem.com/love/defensive-people
Go ahead, ask
me anything…
What to avoid
• Develop a “siege mentality” during intense questioning
http://listverse.com/2013/10/26/10-amazing-military-victories-against-the-odds/
ATTACK!
What to avoid
• Heated verbal fight
• Some examiners, unfortunately, can conduct their
examination as if they are challenging you
• some personalities are more prone to such an approach
• Do not take offence
• A relaxed, thoughtful, and non-confrontational response
from you will help rebalance the discussion
What to avoid
• Lying, evasive, or “talking in circles”
• Blame, blame, blame …
• your supervisors or university, your data, situation, the whole
world, everyone else
• without sufficient problem solving efforts
• Using the arguments like
• “it is like that”
• “based on many years of experience”
• “that was beyond the scope of my study“
• “this happens in every study”
• without giving a convincing argument to support the
statement
Better …
• A friendly, useful, and meaningful discussion
• Be confident and eager to share your work
• Take time to consider before replying
• Remember to breathe and speak reasonably slowly
• Enjoy the opportunity to talk about your research
• You are supposed to be the expert in your own research!
• Your examiners can add value to your research
• More insightful analysis or interpretation of your work
Abba Nabayi’s viva on April 5, 2016
Watch video
Resources
• “How to defend your dissertation” video series by Dr. Marche
• https://youtu.be/jsE1mi8Lz4o
• Abba Nabayi’s viva interview
• https://youtu.be/UpuNtuAvo8k
• Uni. Putra Malaysia Thesis
• http://www.sgs.upm.edu.my/THESIS
• “Your viva voce exam” by Uni. of Leicester
• www2.le.ac.uk/departments/gradschool/training/eresources/s
tudy-guides/viva/print
• “The viva voce exam” by Uni. of Sheffield
• www.shef.ac.uk/medicine/current/postgraduates/viva
Blog: www.christopherteh.com/blog/2016/04/viva-voce/
Notes: www.christopherteh.com/thesis-and-viva-voce.ppt
THANK YOU
Good luck!

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thesis-and-viva-voce preparation for research scholars

  • 1. The thesis and viva voce by Christopher Teh Boon Sung, Ph.D. Fac. of Agriculture, UPM christopherteh.com christeh@yahoo.com Tel: 03-89474858
  • 2. WHAT IS VIVA AND HOW IT IS CONDUCTED PART 1
  • 3. What is viva voce? • Literally, "viva voce" means “by the living voice” or “by word of mouth” • Today viva means oral examination – thesis defense • The final hurdle of your postgraduate research degree • No marks given for viva but it is used to evaluate the worth of your work and thesis http://rahmitanotes.blogspot.com/2008_06_01_archive.html Mohd. Said Bashir defending his thesis on Apr 19, 2008
  • 4. UPM’s viva room Projector & screen for presentation TV & video camera for teleconferencing
  • 5. Purpose of viva voce • The purpose of the viva is to validate your thesis and show the examiners: • that the thesis is your own work • that you understand what you have done and written • that you are aware where your work sits in relation to the wider research field • that your work is of sufficiently high standard (in terms of scientific rigor and writing maturity) • that you can defend your work in response to the examiners' questions
  • 6. Who are in the viva? • Examiners • 1 external examiner (may not be present) • 1 or 2 internal examiners • 1 chairperson • Your supervisory committee • at least one of them • The candidate (you!) http://education.exeter.ac.uk/images/mtl_viva_1.jpg
  • 7. External examiner • Expert in the field of the candidate’s research • Must be from outside UPM • Can be from • local universities – for MSc only • foreign universities – MSc and PhD • For foreign students, examiner from the same nationality is not recommended • Must have at least 10 significant journal publications in your field of work • Must graduate at least 1 student at the same level of your degree
  • 8. • Not involved in your work/research • e.g., any joint publications can be problematic • May not attend your viva • Foreign external examiners rarely attend • Local external examiners may come especially if one of the internal examiners is unable to attend your viva
  • 9. Internal examiners • One or two examiners from within UPM • Masters – 1 • PhD – 2 • Have expertise your field of study • Can sometimes be stricter than the external examiner!
  • 10. Chairperson • Have graduated at least one postgraduate student • Not necessarily has the expertise in your field of research • Duties include to • moderate/coordinate the discussion/examination • ensure all examiners’ questions are adequately answered by the candidate • NOT become an examiner! • but will ask questions on behalf on the external examiner based on the examiner’s report if the examiner is not present • Write a report on the outcome of the viva
  • 11. Supervisor and co-supervisors • One or more of your supervisors will come • They will come and sit and listen but they will not participate in the discussion unless asked by the examiners or chairperson • Do not depend on your supervisors or co-supervisors to bail you out of tough questions! • reflects badly on you as it shows you cannot defend your work well • Do not become angry if your main supervisor does not attend your viva • It is your thesis defense, not theirs
  • 12. Selection of viva committee • Candidate can suggest names for the viva committee, but ultimately, the main supervisor must ask and appoint the examiners and chairperson • Choose the best people who can understand, correct, and improve your work • But some faculties have different rules: viva committee selection is confidential
  • 13. Viva outcomes • Seven outcomes: • Accepted with distinction • Accepted with minor modifications • Accepted with major modifications • Oral re-examination (Re-viva voce) • Re-submission of thesis • Re-submission of a PhD thesis as a Masters' • Fail/reject • These outcomes are not exam grades (e.g., A, A-, B+, B, B-, C+, C, C-, D, F)! • Outcome will not appear in your certificate Aim for these outcomes Bad, bad, bad! - It’s over…
  • 14. Thesis Acceptance/rejection categories • Accepted with distinction • minimal corrections needed for spelling, grammar, and syntax • met all criteria for award (e.g., no. of publications and number of credits) • 15 days for correction
  • 15. • Accepted with minor modifications • reformatting of chapters • revision of literature and/or objectives • correction of references • minor spelling, grammar, and syntax errors • 30 days for correction
  • 16. • Accepted with major modifications • extensive revision of thesis to improve quality • re-analysis of data • removal of chapters • re-discuss your results • major corrections in spelling, grammar, and syntax • 60 days for correction
  • 17. • Oral re-examination (Re-viva voce) • fails the first viva voce • second viva and final viva to be conducted within 60 days • Re-submission of thesis • scope of degree not met • objectives not met • serious flaws in methodology and analysis • requires additional experiments or data collection • 2 semesters or 1 year for res-submission (repeat the whole thesis submission and viva process)
  • 18. • Re-submission of a PhD thesis as a Masters thesis • scope of work not suited at the PhD level • 60 days for correction • Fail/rejected • very serious flaws in work • plagiarism detected
  • 19. A note on plagiarism and fabrication • Very serious offense • Plagiarism • Not just copy-and-paste work • Stealing of ideas or work • Without proper citation or credit • Copying of results (from tables or charts) • Data fabrication • “Create” results (fake data) • Work results cannot be reproduced • Can come back and haunt you even after your graduation • Degree can be revoked
  • 20. Appeal against viva decision • You can appeal a decision by the viva committee if you think it is incorrect • Fill in the relevant form from SGS and provide supporting documents for your appeal • The following criteria is included for appeal cases to be considered: 1. At least one member of the supervisory committee is present at the viva 2. Appeal letter is officially submitted by the supervisor. 3. No scientific misconduct such as plagiarism, falsification of data, cheating has occurred.
  • 21. 4. There is evidence to support case including report (s) from independent expert opinion, journal papers (preferably ISI papers), if relevant. 5. Evidence of conflict of interest by examiners is provided, if relevant. 6. Contradicting statements on the outcome of the examination in the report by Chair of Examination Committee, if relevant. • Note: Criteria 1, 2 and 3 are compulsory. In addition either criteria 4 or 5 or 6 is also required for SGS to consider the case. • Deadline for submission of appeal letter is one month after viva date.
  • 22. Minimum no. of publications • For GRF (Graduate Research Fellowship) holders: • PhD level - 2 journal publications (or accepted) • MSc level - 1 journal publication (or accepted) • For others: • PhD level - 1 journal publication (or accepted) and 1 article submitted • MSc level - 1 journal submitted • Some faculties have stricter rules than this • Please check with your faculty • Problems have occurred because of this stricter rules • Some students cannot achieve the minimum requirements
  • 23. Correcting your thesis (after the viva) • You can ask for extension for thesis correction • but for not reasons regarding busy work schedule or for frivolous reasons • Make ALL corrections as requested by your examiners • Do NOT pick and choose which corrections you want to do • Corrections based on examiners’ and chairperson’s reports and corrections written in your thesis copy
  • 24. • You can see/contact your examiners to resolve any • contradictory corrections suggested by two or more examiners • unclear corrections or comments • disagreement with the corrections • give your reasons for your disagreement • but ask yourself first: “Was my writing/explanation/presentation unclear?”
  • 25. Final thesis preparation • Guidelines and forms can be downloaded from SGS website • www.sgs.upm.edu.my/THESIS • NEW guidelines since Jan 2014: • Submit your thesis in double spacing for ease of corrections by the viva committee, but in final form, your thesis must be prepared • in single spacing and printed on both sides of paper • but in double spacing for between paragraphs and sections • using 80 g paper • Check other requirements as listed in the SGS website
  • 26. HEADING INTO YOUR VIVA PART 2
  • 27. Preparing for your viva • Go through your thesis • Familiarize yourself with your own thesis! • You should know where to find “what” in your thesis • Anticipate the questions you can be asked during the viva • All questions will be related to four general areas: • What is it about? • What did you do? • What did you find? • Why does that matter?
  • 28. • If possible/allowed, find out who are your examiners • What are their research background and expertise? • What have they published, and mostly in what field? • Read some of their articles to understand their interest • Ask your supervisory committee as some of them might familiar with one or more of your examiners • Prepare a 20-minute presentation and run it through your supervisory committee for their feedback • If possible, prepare a mock/trial viva with your supervisory committee
  • 29. • Bring supporting documents (books, publications, photos, saved website information) into your viva in case you need them to defend your work • documents preferably in softcopies for easy retrieval • Bring pen and a notepad! • to jot down the examiners’ comments/suggestions • Bring a hardcopy and softcopy of your thesis • Do NOT discuss your viva or your thesis with any of the examiners prior to your viva
  • 30. What happens during a viva? Committee discussion Oral presentation Q&A Committee discussion Verdict Committee discuss among themselves Your oral presentation Question and answer Committee assess your defense Committee’s decision In UPM, viva often lasts between 1.5 to 3 hours
  • 31. What happens during a viva? • A 20-minute oral presentation of your work • Focus on: • Problem and justification of study • Objectives • How you did your work (methods) • Results – what you obtained/observed • Discuss/explain your results • Conclusion – not a summary! • Integrate review of literature with the above rather than have a separate section on literature review • Avoid a lengthy presentation
  • 32. Q & A • Key areas examiners will evaluate your work: • Is the problem of study clear and important? • Are the study’s objectives clear, achievable, and sufficient? • Are the methods used sufficient? • Are the results clear, sufficient, and important? • Can the results be explained clearly and sufficiently? • Have the study’s objectives been achieved? • Is the scientific work robust/rigorous? • Is the level of work sufficient for the awarded degree? • Are the presentation of work and writing in thesis adequate?
  • 33. • What happens when you think the examiners have misinterpreted/misunderstood your work? • Do not be so quick to blame the examiners • Ask yourself first: • Was your explanation in your thesis clear? • Did you accidentally omit important information? • Evaluate the validity of the examiners’ comments • Explain to clear up misunderstandings
  • 34. VS Which do you prefer? Scenario A Scenario B
  • 35. • Do not take criticisms of your work personally • do not take offence, be defensive, be offensive, or be angry http://drprem.com/love/defensive-people Go ahead, ask me anything…
  • 36. What to avoid • Develop a “siege mentality” during intense questioning http://listverse.com/2013/10/26/10-amazing-military-victories-against-the-odds/
  • 38. What to avoid • Heated verbal fight • Some examiners, unfortunately, can conduct their examination as if they are challenging you • some personalities are more prone to such an approach • Do not take offence • A relaxed, thoughtful, and non-confrontational response from you will help rebalance the discussion
  • 39. What to avoid • Lying, evasive, or “talking in circles” • Blame, blame, blame … • your supervisors or university, your data, situation, the whole world, everyone else • without sufficient problem solving efforts • Using the arguments like • “it is like that” • “based on many years of experience” • “that was beyond the scope of my study“ • “this happens in every study” • without giving a convincing argument to support the statement
  • 40. Better … • A friendly, useful, and meaningful discussion • Be confident and eager to share your work • Take time to consider before replying • Remember to breathe and speak reasonably slowly • Enjoy the opportunity to talk about your research • You are supposed to be the expert in your own research! • Your examiners can add value to your research • More insightful analysis or interpretation of your work
  • 41. Abba Nabayi’s viva on April 5, 2016 Watch video
  • 42. Resources • “How to defend your dissertation” video series by Dr. Marche • https://youtu.be/jsE1mi8Lz4o • Abba Nabayi’s viva interview • https://youtu.be/UpuNtuAvo8k • Uni. Putra Malaysia Thesis • http://www.sgs.upm.edu.my/THESIS • “Your viva voce exam” by Uni. of Leicester • www2.le.ac.uk/departments/gradschool/training/eresources/s tudy-guides/viva/print • “The viva voce exam” by Uni. of Sheffield • www.shef.ac.uk/medicine/current/postgraduates/viva