Recent Writing, Part 1: The Why

Last week I published my second book, The Viva: Who? What? How? and as part of the process of publishing I want to spend a little time this week thinking over what that has been like. In my day job, we frequently extol the virtues of “Plan -> Do -> Reflect -> Review” – the cycle for experiential learning. And I also really like that call to arms that has done the rounds a fair bit in recent years, “start with Why”. So today I’m exploring the Why of writing a book. Tomorrow I’ll come to the How, and on Friday I’ll explore What, which in this case means reflecting and reviewing the process to see what I’ve got from it this time around and what I would share.

The Why

I’ve been keenly interested in the PhD viva for almost five years. My interest – and in particular my interest in helping postgraduate researchers prepare for it – just keeps on growing. Over the last five years my involvement has looked like this:

  • 2010: Does a few workshops on viva prep in one university.
  • 2011: Expands into other universities.
  • 2012: Still more universities; starts the Viva Survivors Podcast.
  • 2013: More unis, podcast, publishes first ebook (Fail Your Viva).
  • 2014: More unis (!), podcast returns to regular schedule, research into viva experience, first steps at research dissemination, starts writing second book.
  • 2015 so far: More workshops, regular podcast, more research and publishes The Viva: Who? What? How?

Every year I’ve done more on the viva, and in different ways. I think it’s important that PhD candidates know that the viva is something that can be enjoyed. I think it’s important that they know there are useful and effective ways of preparing for it. In the latest book I wanted them to get a sense that it was also something which didn’t have to be a mystery: people have lots of questions about the viva, and there are some answers out there.