How to prepare for the PhD viva In 10 days

The PhD viva is an oral test examining PhD candidates to ensure that their knowledge of their subject is strong and that they understand their research. It allows the examiner to independently determine that the research was conducted thoroughly and provides a useful contribution to the field. You want to show the examiners that you are providing a fresh perspective to the field and that you can rationalise your theoretical framework, methodology and results in your work words.

The criteria for Imperial College London are as follows:

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Although it may seem like a daunting process, the viva process simply allows you to defend your project – the project of which YOU are the expert.

To prepare for the viva, the timetable below provides you with a 10 day 2-part guide that ensures that you have reflected on all parts of your thesis and familiarised yourself with your examiner’s work. Part 1 involves familiarising yourself with your examiners work, recent literature and your supervisor’s work. Part 2 is an in-depth read of each chapter, reviewing key questions and discussion points.

The 10 Day Study Timetable

Below is a study schedule to be used during the PhD viva preparation. Depending on how many days in advance you begin to study, the schedule can be expanded to allow for more days to review each chapter.

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The Chapter Summary

To thoroughly review each thesis chapter on days 5-10, a set of standard questions should be considered. Firstly, you want to ensure that you can summarise each chapter in your own words and are able to rationalise your research findings. Secondly, you should be confident in answering questions about the literature that is cited within the chapter. Referencing a paper means that you have read, considered and understood the paper in relation to your own work. The examiner can ask you about how your work is similar or differs to published literature detailed within your thesis. Lastly, you need to be able to defend your work in an academic manner, through evaluating any challenges, limitations or alternative techniques that you could have taken.

The chapter summary prompts below should be completed for each chapter, allowing you to adequately prepare for the viva.

  • Summarise the chapter
  • The key points and results
  • Key definitions
  • Discussion points
  • Important papers to note
  • Reason for choosing the particular method/s
  • Evidence for choosing the method/s
  • Methodological challenges
  • Choice of analysis
  • Limitations of method/s

By answering the above, you are able to adequately summarise your results and ensure that you can confidently answer a question to defend your work.

You’ve got this! Best wishes.


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By Amina Yonis

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