Coming Soon: Viva Survivor Workshop


For the longest time I’ve wanted to deliver an independent workshop to PGRs. Don’t get me wrong, I love working in universities, and I plan to keep doing that for a long time to come. But I wanted a new challenge and I wanted to share my Viva Survivor workshop with PGRs at institutions that I don’t routinely visit. It seemed like an intractable problem for a while, but then I found Ziferblat, a really great meeting space in Manchester.

Thus I present, Viva Survivor, a three hour viva preparation workshop in Manchester on the afternoon of June 29th 2016. Full details are at the Eventbrite booking page, but here’s the short version: Viva Survivor is a workshop designed to help PGRs effectively prepare for the viva. If you come then by the end of the session you will have

  • identified what examiners are looking for when they examine your thesis;
  • discussed the many ways that others can support your preparation;
  • explored valuable viva preparation methods;
  • established realistic expectations for your viva;
  • discussed common questions about the PhD viva.

I want to make this a really special session, I want people to leave knowing that they are set for the viva, that they know what to expect and what to do. I’m going to be providing excellent supporting materials, including ebooks, print books, handouts and some other interesting things – plus hopefully some things to make participants smile! And Ziferblat is going to be providing an excellent venue and refreshments for the day.

Sound good? I hope so. Please come! More details and booking is on the Eventbrite page; places are limited and while I want to run more of these in the future I have no dates or plans at the moment. Please share this with others, let them know that there is an independent workshop happening to help PhD students prepare for the viva. Come along and meet PGRs from other institutions, find out how to prepare and what to expect.

If you want to know more, then get in touch: drop me an email, tweet at me or leave a comment here! I’ll be posting a lot over the coming weeks about the details of the workshop, announcing things about the various parts that I’m excited about. If you want to know details today, then please contact me.

Thanks for reading, and if you can, please help me share this exciting new opportunity with others.

Nathan (@DrRyder and @VivaSurvivors)


quick thought

Isn’t A Blog Supposed To Have Writing And Stuff?


A combination of things have meant that I’ve not been maintaining this space as regularly as I have in the past. Mostly due to focusing on other projects and getting things in order for the rest of this year. The kind of work that I do can have a certain seasonality to it, and my diary is pretty jam-packed for the next six or seven weeks.

I do plan to post something once per week or so from now on, but the topics will be quite wide for now. While I decided to stop a writing project that I had been working on (which might be the subject of a blog post of its own), I have not stopped writing. At the moment the ideas are fermenting away: at a certain point this mixture of thoughts will explode I’m sure, and I’ll be on my way towards my third book!

Until then, take a look back through the archives, get ready as the 50th episode of the Viva Survivors Podcast is coming soon, and I’ll be back soon with weekly posts.

Thanks for reading!

Nathan (@DrRyder and @VivaSurvivors)


On YouTube: Preparing for the PhD Viva

In the last post I talked about going down to London for the day in order to meet Emma Cole and film a video for her vlog. We chatted for the best part of an hour, and now Emma has edited it down to the best bits. You can follow this link to watch it on YouTube, or click below the more tag to see where I’ve embedded it.

It was lots of fun to make this, and I know that in the few days that it’s been up so far a lot of people have already seen it, which is great. If you watch it and you have some questions or comments then get in touch – and be sure to drop Emma a comment or thumbs up on her channel!


“The Viva: Who? What? How?”

Next Tuesday I’m releasing my second book on viva preparation, “The Viva: Who? What? How?” which has the subtitle of Frequently Asked Questions About The PhD Viva. What does it look like? I thought you’d never ask, the cover looks like this:

"The Viva: Who? What? How?"

I had a lot of fun writing Fail Your Viva, and I’m really pleased that people have found it so useful. Last year, as I continued to deliver viva preparation workshops, a thought crossed my mind but I didn’t know what to make of it: people ask me a lot of questions on these workshops, that’s interesting, perhaps I should record them. In the autumn when I started writing this blog regularly I thought that a little series of posts on the common questions about the viva process would be something that people might find useful. The comments and shares that those posts got told me that people wanted more – and then the idea for the book hit me. A book answering the frequently asked questions about the PhD viva.

Et voila!


Viva Survivors Update

While I continue finishing my second book on the viva, it seems only appropriate to share some of the recent episodes of the Viva Survivors Podcast over here! I’ve interviewed two recent PhD-completers in the last few weeks, and both episodes are now up over on Viva Survivors.

First of all, in Episode 35 I spoke to Dr Eljee Javier, who told me all about her research in the experience of visible ethnic minorities who were native English speakers engaged in teaching English to non-native speakers. It was great to get a flavour of her research, then also hear about her viva experiences.

Two days ago I posted the latest episode, Episode 36, where I spoke to Dr Anna McFarlane, who recently completed her PhD on William Gibson, one of my favourite contemporary authors. It was interesting to hear about her research – and also to have an interviewee on the podcast who had, what we might call, an atypical viva experience – albeit quite a good one! You’ll have to listen to see what I mean.

These were two great interviews; I’m always looking for more people willing to share their PhD and viva stories, so please get in touch!

Thanks for reading.

Nathan (@DrRyder and @VivaSurvivors)


news viva

Viva Survivors Podcast: Past, Present, Future

In case you didn’t already know – like I don’t talk about it enough – I produce the Viva Survivors Podcast. It’s an ongoing project of interviews with PhD graduates about “their research, their viva, and life after the PhD.” It came out of a desire to share the stories of what the viva was like for people; I had an idea that the horror stories that everyone seems to know about were, for the most part, myths – I wanted to share real stories. I was, and still am, delivering viva preparation workshops, and I thought as well that by learning more about what people had done to prepare for their vivas I would be able to help PhD candidates more.

I also thought it might be a lot of fun to do! And as time went on I realised what a tremendous learning experience it was for me too.


Making the Viva Survivors Podcast

I’ve been producing the Viva Survivors Podcast for around two and a half years now, and every now and then I get asked questions about how I do it and how everything works. One side of it is the interviewees and their stories, and I ask (a lot!) for volunteers to come and share their stories. Then there is the nuts and bolts of how I produce episodes. Podcasting is often seen as a useful means to communicate research and ideas about doing research, so I thought I would take an opportunity to talk about the tools and services that I use. Hopefully this is helpful to someone reading!