PhD viva: tips from former PhD students. Part 2

Here I go again, trying to wrap up the notes I took during our last Doctoral Discussion. You will find the first part of the re-cap here.

Some technical tips from the Research Administration Office

  1. Choose your examiners carefully (be careful when supervisors think of appropriate examiners). Avoid: superstars in their field (difficult to schedule a date/ speed up corrections), examiners with very different opinions in terms of the topic, a couple of examiners that has been experienced by others not to work well together. Look for: the right match in terms of seniority, help from your supervisors: trust them if they worked with examiners before.
  2. Submit your intention to submit 2 months before submission (especially international student for visa reasons)
  3. Usually, 2/3 months between submission of thesis and scheduling viva date. This process can be much smoother if candidate+supervisors start the process of looking for examiners before submission.
  4. Viva can be re-scheduled under certain circumstances. Also, if you have specific health conditions, you should inform the Research Administration Office to seek for advise on the more appropriate format for your viva.
  5. You can ask for breaks during the viva, you can ask to have an impartial person to assist your viva after approval, you can record your viva (last two can trigger ambiguous reactions from examiners).
  6. 1 or 2  students a year (over approx. 250) fail their viva, the same proportion passes without any correction. Other outcomes: minor corrections(3 months for submitting the corrections), corrections(6 months), revise and resubmit(1 year involving additional supervised research and pay same fee as pre-submission status)-yearly around 15-20% of candidates is asked to revise and resubmit.
  7. After the examiners take the decision on the outcome on the day of the viva a committee will evaluate the decision to make it official.
  8. You can’t appeal on the result of the viva if the reason of the appeal is academic judgement. There is a series of checks on the chosen examiners, so the outcome is definitive (exceptions: bias of one of the examiners/ improper conduct).

Some additional tips for the day of the viva itself

  1. Take notes only to remember different parts of the question, you will receive a formal document to remind you of all the comments and corrections the examiners might have
  2. Do not be defensive. This does not mean that you should not defend your thesis, but that you should not take it personal, and take on board useful comments and feedback the examiners might have

The University of Sussex offers a lot of support for PhD students preparing for their viva. Check out the Researcher Development program offered by the Doctoral School and feel free to approach the Student Life Centre if you are facing issues when preparing for your viva. The Research Administration Office will also be happy to help with any technical advice, remember that the Research Handbook contains a lot of information on this already.

Thanks for reading!

Looking forward to our next doctoral discussion taking place on the 13th June at 12pm in Fulton FUL-214. We will be talking about how to be conduct a successful PhD program while parenting! More info coming soon.




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