Common Qs About The Viva: What Are Minor Corrections?

I’ve been talking to PhD candidates about viva prep for over four years, and there are some questions that regularly come up at workshops. I’ve started answering some of these on this blog, but thought it might be useful to answer some of the most frequently asked questions all of this week. Let me know what you think in the comments, and please give me some questions for future posts!

What are minor corrections?

I think that this question comes up a lot in my viva preparation workshops because people want to know what might be in their future. Hopefully they know that most PhD candidates have to make some amendments to their thesis, and so it’s useful to know what sorts of things come up. As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, typical items on a list of minor corrections could include:

  • spelling mistakes and typos: I was terrible for missing “the the” in my thesis!
  • corrections to grammar: some grammar rules are easy to miss; if your examiners spot things they are not just being pedantic – they want your thesis to be the best it can be.
  • amendments to tables, references, diagrams: usually to make things more clear.
  • small amounts of copyediting: rewording sentences and paragraphs to make the meaning more clear.

There is a hope that a thesis will be read at some future date by someone wanting to build on your research. Corrections are asked for, in part, so that the book you have produced will as helpful as possible.

Check the regulations

Every university has slightly different regulations regarding thesis submission and examination. Make sure that you check to see what your institution classes as minor corrections, and, if you’re concerned at all, what kind of things are more indicative of major corrections. From past conversations with representatives of graduate schools and examiners, a typical first indicator that major corrections are required is that substantial copyediting or possibly re-interpretation of results is needed.

Your institution will also have regulations about the length of time given to complete corrections. This is worth checking out in advance of submission. Let me make that bold: find out how long your institution gives you for minor corrections. It is likely that you will have some amendments to make; it is also likely that after your viva you will have other things going on in your life – work, job hunting, research, maybe even a holiday – and completion of your corrections might need coordinating around these activities and the rest of your normal life. With the information though, you can begin to think about how you might work to make any necessary amendments to your thesis.

Remember as well: whatever your examiners expect from your corrections is something that they think makes your thesis stronger. Maybe it is purely cosmetic, removing typos and correcting grammar; maybe it is subjective, like rewording sections. Whatever they suggest, it is their belief that doing them makes your thesis better. If you have any real concerns about changes, talk to them about it, but follow their final decision.

Thanks for reading this post! Either tweet common viva questions at me for future posts, leave them in the comments or drop me an email!

Nathan (@DrRyder and @VivaSurvivors)

PS – check out my Patreon campaign for the Viva Survivors Podcast!

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