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Starting the viva countdown

I submitted my thesis on 4th January. My viva will be in early June – 5 months after submission. It is now time to emerge from hibernation/limboland and begin to get ready for the next stage of the journey. (Actually, I started to crawl out from under the duvet a couple of weeks ago, but haven’t really started to focus properly yet, so this blog post is an attempt to kick me into action.) The plan is to write at least one blog post a week until after viva and then to either disappear into oblivion, or blog about what happens post-viva – which I do probably being dependent on the viva outcome.

When I got the viva date (about a month ago), I opened my thesis (which had been lurking on a shelf) and read it through, marking up typos and bits that could have been expressed better as I read. This achieved two purposes:

  • it reminded me of what I had written. Although there is a fair bit to groan about, I realised there is also some interesting content that is possibly more interesting than I had realised in the hiatus of getting submitted
  • identifying glitches means that I have been able to make a list of the problem areas and put them on one side – nothing I can do about them this side of the viva

Having read the thesis, I then found a notebook and without referring back to the text, I jotted down quick notes on some of the questions that appear in the multitude of  books and other advice sources on viva preparation: why this topic; what contribution am I claiming to make; who has done the main work in this area; who is my audience – and what is my message to different elements of my audience; what could I have done differently; where do I position myself; what are the strengths and weaknesses of my thesis; ideas about future research; plans for dissemination. Although these jottings can all be expanded on, writing freehand means that I was able to convince myself that I do know something about the work I have been doing for the past few years.

The next thing I did was to look again at my research questions and to make notes, again without referring to the text, on how I had addressed those questions and what I had found out. This made me think about the choices I had made about methodology and theoretical frameworks – and reminded me of how iterative the process had been.

Finally, I looked at my chapter headings and subheadings and made notes relating to each chapter. Some chapters I know well and others led to a note telling me to re-read and check out references.

So much for pre-preparation, now I need to get to know my thesis properly. I have started a ‘to do’ list. At the moment, that consists of re-reading some of the work of the main authors who have influenced me, and looking back at how the thesis outline changed as I decided exactly what to include and what to omit. Next week, I meet with my supervisors and hopefully get some guidance on what they think I need to work on.

I still need to decide whether to try to organise any kind of mock viva. I suspect the very fact that I haven’t done anything about this means I won’t. Whether I will later wish I had, only time will tell.

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