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Post-Viva Hangover

Light headed does not even begin to cover the emotional hang-over induced by the viva experience. After the viva I had an endorphin hype mixed with equivalent measures of adrenaline [which left the bitter taste of no future prospects in my mouth]. In this post I will share some more viva preparation strategies with you and my viva-experience.

Viva Preparation Strategies

In an earlier post I shared questions with you that I initially used for preparation. However during my mock-viva I realized that preparing with a catalog of questions made me focus on these questions too strongly and set my mind in a particular way.

So I decided to use a different strategy:

  • Take the key points from my work and seek out possible issues
  • Make sure that I have strong, valid arguments for all the decisions made
  • Know thy authors
  • Have an emergency strategy e.g.:
  • If in doubt argue with my data, theories or methodology

Viva Experience

Boy was I glad to have prepared in this modular way: because the only questions that shared some similarities with any of the 50+ questions from my catalog, were the very first and very last question of the exam. Any other question was something I had not come across at all; and most of them were actually mixes of questions from different sections.

Remember how I found out that the preparation questions were divided into chapter sections for instance questions about methods or questions about the literature review etc? Well, due to the dialectic of my research [and maybe a little due to the ADD way of thinking] most of the questions I was asked incorporated aspects from different chapters—Come to think of it maybe this was just how I answered them … hm … I think I may not be able to enlighten you about this particular point. Well, either way you could be asked questions that cover Methodology, Literature Review and Analysis simultaneously or you can answer a simple question cross-referencing everything you think is important to answer it. There you go.

By the way ADD—I moaned quite a lot about difficulties of writing in a linear manner in previous posts. So remember how I lost count somewhere around the 12th time I completely re-arranged the analysis chapter? Well, bottom line, I spend months over-obsessively trying to make sense out of the illogical linear representation of my research and thought-processes, and I was proud as a peacock to have managed a coherent linear form of presentation!

BUT my internal examiner went on and on about how my writing is not linear and one has to undertake detective-work to follow and how I have to consider the reader—at which point I felt tears swelling up and I almost lost control of my facial muscles bursting out crying in self-pity during my viva. Luckily a good friend of mine told me I need to keep control over my emotions [I so totally had the Karate Kid movies in my head when he said that—the ones from the 90ies not the new one] and for some reason that helped. I did stare at my dissertation for a minute or so, blinking like a crazy person, fighting my face back into control and the tears back into my swollen throat. I managed to keep it professional! Having my inner drama queen

bursting out during an exam would probably not have done any good; and besides I had not told anyone about the ADD and the examiner did not know that she was ramming the knife into the wound again and again…

On a more positive note the internal examiner was actually really nice and she kept smiling and nodding at me and the external examiner had an amazing way to ask questions. I felt that I time-traveled attending Socrates’ school: his way to ask a question left me not feeling questioned and probed but somehow each question induced a mini-eureka event. To make it short this way of questioning made me understand; it made me realize what the problem was, instead of leaving me confused and second guessing what the problem could, would, might have been—if this makes any sense to you.

So these are the key points of my viva experience. I am proud to announce that I neither rambled, nor fidgeted [well not much anyway] and presented my arguments coherently and concise. That the examiners decided they had nothing to hold against my arguments and agreed to award the degree or recommend the awarding you know—details. [Imagine some self-backslapping here and a little bow to my bearing audience.]

Categories: Teaching

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Nathalie Sheridan

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