How I am preparing for a Viva.

I am in the midst of preparing for my Viva (verbal defence)! 

For some context; as I have written in previous blog posts, my University is one of the first in Australia to have a compulsory Viva for all PhD students. I think our process is slightly different to that of other countries, as we get feedback from the reviewers before our defence and then these can be discussed in the Viva. 

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I wanted to share how I have been preparing for my Viva:

  • I printed out my thesis and had it bound.
  • I created a ‘preparation schedule’ to ensure that I was organised and that I had enough time dedicated to the various tasks I need to do. I created this schedule by making a table on word. 
  • I purchased Viva Cards online and started to get my partner to quiz me on these. Typically we do this while we are cooking dinner and usually get through 3-4 cards a night, 4 to 5 nights a week.
  • I was absolutely dreading opening my feedback when I received it, however I finally built up the courage! I had a quick read through it and was pleased that there was nothing too major. Then I shut my laptop and enjoyed a night off! 
  • The next day (after my night off) I printed out the feedback and then started going through it and making the changes to a new version of my thesis word document (in track changes). I also highlighted the changes I made in the bound version of my thesis. I started with the easy changes (spelling/grammar etc.) before moving onto the much more time consuming ones. Any feedback that I was unsure of I did not address, as I will wait until after the defence for these. 
  • I created a table of feedback. Not only did I make the feedback changes on both an electronic version and printed out version of my thesis, I also created a feedback table. I typed up each of the comments, noted the page the comment was for, and then noted the changes I made based on this feedback or any questions I have for the examiners.
  • I wrote an overview of my entire thesis and also an individual overview of each of my studies. The aims, key findings, methodology, recommendations etc. I then read over these summaries numerous times and started to ‘present them’ out loud to myself.
  • Two weeks out from my Viva I started to re-read my entire thesis. I think this is something that we all dread. We are pretty over our thesis by this point and finding silly errors in it realllly sucks. But it is important to review your thesis before the Viva. I started by reading through, highlighting errors, using post-it notes to expand on sections + provide justification, and I jotted down the key references from my thesis. 
  • I then printed out the key references and re-read them to refresh my memory. I wrote down short summaries of these on post-it notes and placed them on the thesis pages that they were relevant to. 
  • Then I searched for any new references in my topic area that may have been published since submitting my thesis and ensured that I read and noted these.
  • The weekend before my viva I re-read my thesis again, practiced saying things out loud, and wrote down any other key things that I felt was important to take into the Viva with me.

After my Viva, I will reflect on this preparation and if there is anything I would have done differently, but for now these are my tactics. 

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