Viva Research 2015

Last year I asked seven questions about the viva, got 302 responses to them, and used the results to start to get an idea of what the viva in the UK is like. I did this because I’m passionate about helping PhD candidates prepare for the viva, and I thought that I could:

  • find out more information to help them have reasonable expectations;
  • see if there were negative aspects in the experiences, then find ways to overcome them for future candidates;
  • see what positives were emphasised, and share these to help people prepare better.

As my previous series of posts showed, I think that there are some interesting results in the data, and I know that in my work personally – both on the Viva Survivors Podcast and on the viva preparation courses that I run – this has had a huge impact in terms of helping people. At the same time, I view last year’s survey as a starting point. This is the beginning, and not the conclusion of my research into the viva experience.

What’s Next Then?

I’m currently juggling booking paid work with finding a slot in my schedule that I can launch a second survey, to hopefully get more focussed and more nuanced responses. I’m currently leaning towards a May/June time period for data collection, with a build-up time before then so that I can prime people that the data collection is coming. I was fortunate last time to have very generous re-tweeters – and I am sure that they will be useful this time too. With a bit of warm-up time I am hoping that I can get a bigger response – enough to get some serious statistical significance with my results.

I asked seven questions in my previous survey, which were:

  1. When was your viva?
  2. What university did you do your research at?
  3. What was your research field?
  4. How long was your viva?
  5. What kind of pass did you get? (No corrections, Minor corrections, Major corrections)
  6. Were you had told that you had passed at the start or the end of the viva? (Start, End)
  7. What three words come to mind when you think of your viva?

I want to ask these questions again, but with a few additions and changes to the phrasing and also to add some additional factors. The research I did in 2014 (which I will release a pdf summary document of soon) has helpfully given me some ideas of changes to make. I have also been very fortunate to share what I do and this research with supervisors and examiners from UWE and Bangor University; they gave me some interesting questions and ideas for re-phrasing that I am looking to implement. Currently, changes might include:

  • Rephrasing a few of the questions to hopefully get answers which are unambiguous (for example, some respondents may have included time when they were out of the room and examiners were discussing in their viva length).
  • Asking a question that gives the additional data of whether the candidate was part time or full time, or possibly asking how long they spent on their research.
  • Asking how long someone had between submission and their viva.
  • Asking for details such as gender, or whether the candidate was a Home, EU or International student.

I am also strongly considering restricting responses to the period 2010-2014, in an attempt to look at a recent time period.

Two Questions

I have just two questions for you, dear reader:

  1. What else might I ask or look for in the results? Please let me know if you have any ideas of good things I could do with the new survey.
  2. When I launch this, can I ask you to help share the 2015 survey? If I can, please tweet at me and I’ll be sure to get in touch when I launch the survey.

Thanks for reading!

Nathan (@DrRyder and @VivaSurvivors)

2 replies on “Viva Research 2015”

Dear Nathan,
I am currently preparing for a viva for MLitt and have read your book with great interest. I don’t know how different a Masters viva is from PhD situation. MLitts are rare in my School so I have no one to discuss it with apart from my supervisor. I do know it is scheduled to last about two hours so is not trivial. Therefore, I would love if you would consider covering Masters vivas at some stage.
Thank you,
Maria Walsh
University College Dublin

Hi Maria,
Thanks for your comment! This is something I would love to cover too, as I know that it’s not only PhDs who have vivas. Most of my experience with viva-related things has been with PhD students – although as it happens I am going to work with some candidates today who are Masters by Research students.
Would you mind if I sent you an email? It may not be possible for me to share some blog posts or material before your viva, but it would be great to ask you some questions about your experience – it might be really valuable to others to hear abour your viva and preparation.
All the best,

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