How I prepared for the Viva

This day 2 weeks ago I defended my EdD thesis and was successful in achieving my Doctorate without corrections. I was over the moon and the outpouring of good wishes and  congratulatory messages have been amazing. But like others who have shared finishing up experiences I was also dazed and confused and exhausted. 

Over the past two weeks,  5 years worth of stress have poured out of my body. When people ask how I am celebrating, I describe catching up on sleep,  slowly starting to engage with once-upon-a-time activities like yoga, cooking, and tending to neglected flower boxes outside my apartment. In the next while I will watch out for post doctoral burnout and maintain a balanced and restful pace of life…..

Anyway I want to blog about my Viva preparation, what I did and what worked for me. There are a great many blogs and helpful websites available to assist preparation for the Viva. Firstly, while I could not nominate examiners directly, I suggested examiners that I respected in the area of research and that  I thought would be interested in the research and provide valuable critique. Then I did the following:

  • Collated potential Viva questions *
  • Scripted  answers to each of these questions
  • Got friends to ask random questions from my list of questions
  • Read my thesis again
  • Annotated chapters of the thesis with memos and post-its
  • Made notes of potential corrections (typos, unclear sentences)
  • Arranged a mock viva
  • I presented the main points of my thesis to work colleagues who provided feedback

The main benefit of the preparation was hearing myself talking about the research. Until that point I had articulated my thoughts on paper, so ‘talking-out-loud’ about the research was really important to develop my confident speaking voice.

My supervisors also gave worthwhile guidance; one piece of advice was about being agreeable with critique rather than defensive and argumentative, but using provocative questions as starting points for discussion on why I made certain decisions in the research process.

Before the Viva, I practiced some mindfulness techniques and reminded myself to:

  • Smile
  • Believe in myself
  • Know that I was prepared
  • Not let fear take over
  • Be open to questions, not guarded

I hope that this post might be useful to anyone preparing for the Viva. Very best of luck with it and in hindsight it was an exciting opportunity to share years of dedicated hard work with other interested scholars.

*I collated questions from my supervisors and blogs about the Viva:  Preparing for your viva and The examiner-perspective lens for doctoral editing

  • Why did you choose this topic for your doctoral study?
  • Can you describe the different steps involved in your research?
  • What is your “USP”? What is new and different about your topic?
  • What led you to select these models of…?
  • What are the theoretical components of your framework?
  • Which overarching philosophical or theoretical assumptions have you been working within? Why? How did it work out?
  • How did concepts assist you to visualize and explain what you intended to investigate?
  • How did you use your conceptual framework to design your research and analyse your findings?
  • How did you arrive at your research design?
  • What other forms of research did you consider?
  • How would you explain your research approach?
  • Why did you select this particular design for your research?
  • What is the link between your conceptual framework and your choice of methodology and how would you defend that methodology?
  • Can you explain where the data can be found and why your design is the most appropriate way of accessing that data?
  • How would you justify your choice of methodology?
  • Please explain your methodology to us.
  • Why did you present this in the form of a case study?
  • What choices of research approach did you consider as you planned your research?
  • Can you tell us about the “quasi-experimental” research that you used?
  • How do your methods relate to your conceptual framework?
  • Why did you choose to use those methods of data collection?
  • What other methods did you consider and why were they rejected?
  • How did you arrive at your conceptual conclusions?
  • What are your conceptual conclusions?
  • Were you disappointed with your conclusions?
  • How do your conclusions relate to your conceptual framework?
  • How do you distinguish between your factual and conceptual conclusions?
  • What is your contribution to knowledge?
    How important are your findings and to whom?
    How do your main conclusions link to the work of [other famous scholars]?
    The absence of evidence is not support for what you are saying and neither is it confirmation of the opposite view. So how do you explain your research outcomes?
  • If you were given a block of new funding now, how would you like to follow up your work?
  • Thinking about your examiners: what links their work with your own research? Have you got hold of some of their published work to get a feel for how they work and how they discuss research?
  • What would you do differently if you were starting again?
  • What has been happening in your field since you did your research? Is a further literature review necessary? How does your research fit into this updated context?



About Muireann O'Keeffe

I am an educational developer currently working at DCU. I have a passion for researching and evaluating technology that can support and enhance learning. In the past I have taught on Masters programmes (Msc Applied elearning & Postgraduate Diploma in Third level Learning and Teaching) as well as Leadership development programmes.
This entry was posted in EdD, Mindfulness, professional learning, survivephd, writing and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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