In seven days, I sit my viva voce, that part of the PhD candidate’s self-imposed intellectual insanity aimed at determining whether s/he has personally created sound original research that contributes something to the academic dialogue. If the viva is successful (given the varying degrees of ‘successful’), the candidate passes and forces everyone s/he knows to call him/her ‘Doc’ for at least a month. We won’t think about what happens if the viva is not successful.

Like any good academic exercise, there are books (and books), presentations and other resources dedicated to helping the hapless student pass this oral examination. But rather than blindly trawl through those and get myself in a tizzy about this choice, I’m going to follow my friend Thea’s lead and reach out to people who have personal experience of the process.

So, if you have any recommendations on how to pass a viva, please please please do pass them on.

Before I offer up the titbits of advice I’ve already received, though, I am in search of specific advice from anyone who’s gone through this process in the UK already: I have had conflicting recommendations on whether I should mention my work with BBC2’s Digital Revolution. Some suggest that I should avoid talking about it at all costs, others recommend mentioning it (but not dwelling, obviously) to demonstrate my continued participation in the field of research. Please do let me know what you advise.

And now, here are the pieces of advice that have already come my way:

From Twitter

  • t_basi Try this – it helped me prepare and I had only one paragraph of corrections.
  • RenZephyr remember you are the expert :)
  • tomabba Tag thesis with post-its. Remember to breathe and repeat questions aloud before you answer – gives you time to think.
  • austin heap …enjoy it!
  • Kiteaton …Think: It’s just another weird ol’ meeting to go to.

There are others that have, unfortunately, been lost in the bytes of time…

via email

  • From Dr. Dad: …It’s a bit like an initiation, basically exploring the limits of your knowledge, so it’s a bit anxiety-provoking…When they ask a question, take a breath, then answer it. If they get to the limit of your knowledge, ask them to go on to something else (giving them the option of coming back to the subject); after all, what else is there to do?
  • From Dr. Mom: …Do something wonderful and relaxing the night before so you are put into a positive frame of mind.

From a conversation on a train in New York (with Dr. Mom):

Create a power point presentation for yourself with the following information:

  • Background: 4 points on ‘Why was the research undertaken?’
  • Hypotheses: what were the Research Questions to answer?
  • Method: 3-4 points on why the particular location of study (in my case, Second Life) was useful, what were the ethical issues, what were the challenges of the environment?
  • Outcomes: results for each study (but don’t break each down: give a general outcome of the whole thesis and how each study’s outcome fit into this), plus the important features in each
  • Implications of the findings: 4 points

Look at each examiner’s POV: what will they see as important? Relate this to the Implications

Consider the following questions:

  • Why choose this methodology?
  • Have you considered other factors that may have contributed to the outcomes?
  • Are there any other interpretations of the results?

And finally, here’s a PP presentation Mark Eyles passed onto me a long time ago. I’m awfully glad I kept it around for now: