This week I sat my viva and passed with corrections. It has been a long four years of research that has culminated in earning the title Doctor. I am lucky to say I have a full-time lecturing job, I had to balance work with submitting the thesis and then preparing for the viva. My colleagues and management have been fantastic at supporting me through these final stages. Also, Twitter has been an amazing resource to use as support and it was through a last-minute (four days before the viva) conversation on Twitter that I was recommended Rowena Murray’s book: How to Survive Your Viva: Defending a thesis in an oral examination.
The book turned out to be a great resource and one I wished I had found earlier in the process. It gave me strategies to help me answer types of questions that might arise.
I had had a mock viva run by a professor at work, and it had gone poorly – that’s the polite way of explaining the experience. It felt like I couldn’t form words or coherent thoughts to reinforce my claims. It was only an hour long, but had left me with a sense of dread about the actual viva. This dread was misplaced, from the outset the examiners put me at ease. They explained that it was going to be an in-depth conversation about my work. They both explained that they had enjoyed reading my thesis and then the conversation started. My supervisor was in the room silently taking notes throughout. I had feared an interrogation and the reality couldn’t have been further from it. We talked and discussed processes, steps I’d taken, decisions I’d made, and why I’d used certain theory or words. The two hours flew by.
By the end I was drained, but felt I’d done my best. My supervisor and I waited outside the room nervously. When the examiners called us back in, they announced ‘Congratulations Dr Symons, you’ve passed your viva with corrections. We really enjoyed the conversation and thank you for your maturity and professionalism.’ We then chatted a bit longer about my lecturing role and what I have been up to and exchanged contact details. After the whole process had officially ended, my supervisor, external examiner and I went for a celebratory coffee.
Right now, I feel drained and it feels surreal. I can’t quite get my head around the fact that it is near enough all over. My corrections will take a little while to work through alongside my teaching load, and I’ve been warned that motivation can be difficult at this point. I have a copy of the notes my supervisor made, and have been confirmed as correct by my external examiner, and the notes I made during the process, but I’m taking a couple of weeks off from looking at the thesis. As my external examiner said – ‘it’s an honour to have your work hosted and placed in the university library for anyone who may wish to read it from now until forever.’
Dr Helen Symons