PhD thesis writing is a long road at the end of which you will have to enter for a viva examination. Just like every PhD thesis, every viva is different, depending on the requirements of your university and examination panel. Still, you need to prepare academically and mentally to make a good impression and pass your viva examination. Here, we provide the top five tips for succeeding in your PhD viva.
1. Know your thesis
To pass your PhD viva, you need to get a good understanding of what you have written in your thesis, so re-visiting and re-reading your work from cover to cover is a good way to refresh your memory and take a look at your thesis more critically. Re-reading is also an opportunity to make sure the format and content of your thesis meet the requirements and it is good to be presented to the examination panel. We would recommend you to take notes explaining the most significant parts of the thesis, such as its methodological design, aims and objectives, and key findings.
2. Plan your defence
Your defence line also plays a crucial role in the success of the PhD viva. Plan in advance what aspects of your study you will defend during the examination. In most cases, the central point of any PhD thesis is its originality and contribution to knowledge and practice. Hence, be prepared to explain why your thesis is original and how it contributes to knowledge to your examiners. Still, since no research project is perfect, it would be good to show that you have considered how you could improve your project were you to carry it out once more.
3. Keep your expectations realistic
Planning towards the viva exam is a good way to anticipate potential challenges you might face during the exam and minimise the risk of their occurrence. In most cases, the viva exam takes from an hour to three hours or even more. Hence, you must plan the steps you will take before and during the viva. Make sure you eat and sleep well the day before the exam and avoid any situations that might add to your stress level. Take a bottle of water, a pen, and a notebook in with you to make sure you have everything you need while defending your thesis.
4. Focus on your contribution to knowledge
Although the examiners will focus on various aspects of your PhD thesis, their attention will mainly be drawn to its contribution to knowledge, since it is what makes your thesis doctoral-level after all. Make sure you fully understand how your study contributes to the knowledge and practice and you can express and explain it concisely and clearly. Think about what makes your work different and unique. Remember about the notes we have previously mentioned as they can make your life much easier during the viva examination.
5. Feel positive
Finally yet importantly, try to enjoy your viva, though we perfectly understand that it can make you nervous. Sure, your examiners are likely to be the ideal professionals in the field of your interest but they are only humans after all. You could start with an icebreaker by introducing the examiners to your work and its key findings to calm down your nerves. Remember that the examiners are on your side and they want to see you do well.
The viva examination is a chance for you to discuss your thesis with experts and demonstrate your knowledge and contribution to the selected field of research. Approaching the viva as an opportunity rather than a challenge would help you successfully defend your PhD.