Viva Survivors

One of the most important and most sensitive stages, for me, in my studies for the PhD was defending the dissertation (the Viva). This stage that occurs at the end of the study, which is an obsession that was hidden in my mind throughout the preparation of the study and after completion of delivery and await for the test.

I can say after completing this sensitive stage successfully, that I am very happy where it’s really  was worrying and I couldn’t pass it without excellent planning and hard work; Now, I am very glad that I have prepared well  and didn’t waste my time and I passed the Viva  successfully. I would love to share my thoughts which may help who has not yet reached this phase.

What is the discussion or debate about?

The discussion or debate is the last and most important stage in doctoral study and is a critical opportunity for the student to prove the capability of talking, defending and convincing others with the ideas and hence student must think as a researcher or scientist in his field of study. One should look at Viva as a great opportunity to speak about the work done, the gift of which may never come again.

The objectives of the Viva

I believe that there are four major objectives relies upon any doctoral dissertation defend that can be raised through the following:

  • The student has done the research by himself.
  • The student wrote the dissertation by himself
  • The student is able to research and investigate, and create new ideas in the field of expertise
  • The student is aware of the work done by PhD and what it adds to the knowledge?

Elements of the Viva

Defense in the Viva is based on three main pillars:

  • The examiners.
  • The questions.
  • The student.

The examiners

The committee is composed of an external examiner chosen by the school superintendent from outside the University’s student, and an internal examiner is in the same section or the University, where he taught the student, in addition, the student’s supervisor can participate in the Viva without being able to arbitrate during the debate.

Examiners meet before the Viva starts, and agreeing on a certain way in asking questions, then after the completion of the discussion on their final examiners they write the Viva report.

The questions

I believe that the examiners observe student psychological conditions and know the amount of worries that students have so at the beginning of the discussion they begin with ice-breaking questions by asking the students what interested them in the field of the study.

Examiners ask a number of questions that diverse and varied in difficulty, they ask all kinds of questions about the work in all the chapters from the introduction until the conclusion and even on the references.

The questions asked can be classified into three types: general questions, questions that are related to research and challenging questions.

General questions

The general questions can be as follows:

-Why did you choose this area of specialization?

-What are your the practical and scientific experiences?

-What benefit during your PhD?

-What is more loved by your domain in the PhD?

-If you back and you find a new doctorate, will you work the same way?

Questions regarding the area, research theme

The aim of examiners ask these questions to examine the student’s ability to understand the field of study and specialization, and the ability to think as a researcher. These questions could be as follows:

-What research methods you wish and would you used in your search?

-How you links between what you have found in your studies and your predecessors by those in the same field?

-What are the additions from your research in your Specialty and knowledge?
-Why do you use the method (x) and not the method (y)?

-Explain to us more what you intended to clarify in drawing (x) or table (y)?
– You used the reference (x) in the chapter (y). Explain more about the researcher’s view in that research?

Challenging Questions

The aim of examiners to ask this kind of questions to investigate the ability of the student to defend persuaded and convinced in a scientific way what work done by PhD and the questions could be on following points:

– Orientate, explain and give sense to evidence of the application of the theories used?

– Demonstrate the foundation on which the instruments and processes are valid and reliable and logically coherent with the research paradigm?

– How can you synthesise and arrange analyses in a logically consistent way?

– How did you produce the conclusions, models, typologies that demonstrate a ‘logic flow’ from research paradigm through to data analysis?

-Do you believe that what you’ve done already entitles you to get a PhD?

The Student
The most important point that must be kept by the student during his answers at the time of the discussion is to demonstrate to the examiners’ ability to understand a doctoral thesis and its ability to link his in a PhD in the broad area of specialization, as well as the student’s ability to deal calmly and thoughtfully with questions from examiners whatever way and style, if that answers as convinced and what stirs and accept the opinion and the other opinion.

What is next?
The Viva can take between one hour and a half to three hours, and after the exam finished the examiners will meet alone without the student and the supervisor and they will judge the Viva and then come back to announce the results right away in front of the student and the supervisor. The options will be

Get a PhD without modifications (a rare case you get).

– Doctoral degree provided some minor amendments within a short period of time.

– Non-degree student is an opportunity given to rewrite the dissertation and submit it again after some substantive amendments.
– Give the student a lesser degree, doctoral degree as a master’s degree (Mphil).
– Or worst case could be not have any degrees and not given any opportunity to apply for lesser ones.

Important tips
Finally, there are some important tips that student must take care of before the debate:

1) Try, publish some findings during the PhD in a scientific journal related to field of study, or to submit a scientific paper on the Conference related to the area of your dissertation.

2) The students had read and familiarize themselves with every new search in  the field of study even until after the submission of the doctoral thesis.

3) Try to summarize well each chapter of doctoral thesis on one sheet and also try to summarize each page in a line or two lines that help you during the discussion.

4) Keep your own copy of the doctoral thesis and carry it with you during the course of the discussion.

5) Read your dissertation criticized yourself by preparing a list of all FAQ with answers.

6) Working rehearsal for discussion (mock viva) with your academic supervisor and any qualified person and before the thesis defense.

7) Try to submit lecture (Oral Presentation) on your thesis on a local conference before thesis, so that test your ability to respond to questions.

8) Search and look for good scientific and practical research concerns the examiners.

9) Try, identify weaknesses in your dissertation and not shy away from discussing them as well as the strengths and its highlight.

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Published by

Khader Rajabi

I am a lecturer at Al-Quds Open University (QOU) in the department of computer science.

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