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Ideas for students who get ready for dissertation defence?

A trickle of sweat might have escaped as you read the title of the article. For, dissertation viva reminds the survivors and the future defensors of clammy hands, anxiety and nerve-wracking minutes. Finishing thesis, per se, is a strenuous climb; the storm that follows, viva, marks the last leg of one's research. But, frankly, defending your research thesis can be made easy with proper, constructive and well-planned preparation, such that nothing comes as a surprise on the day of viva. This article aims to dispel your wasteful fears about defending your thesis through answering certain pertinent questions.

What is a viva?

A viva is a live presentation of your thesis followed by an academic discussion spearheaded by a cohort of alike-minded research savants.

What is the purpose of a viva?

A viva proves that

  • The thesis is a product of your own critical faculty.

  • You have intensive and extensive knowledge of what you have written

  • You're aware of the bigger picture or the wider context in which your thesis has placed itself

  • There is a scope for your research to be taken further and contribute to the corpus of writings related to your field.

Phd Thesis / Dissertation defense

How to prepapre for your viva ?

The viva calibrates your ability to support your argument critically. Follow the steps given below to score a winning inning.

  • Mark the date for your viva and works towards it by mapping out a timetable. Customarily, viva is scheduled a few weeks after the submission of your thesis, allowing time for you to prepare.

  • Know who has been deputed to be your examiners. Examiners who are appointed are usually subject-experts in your field of research. So, their questions are most likely to intersect with their own works, publications. Make sure that you read through their work, to suspect questions.

  • Read thoroughly your thesis. Flag the pivotal claims that you've made in your research. Do not avoid the weak parts. It is these weak parts that may attract most questions. Hence, be prepared to confront questions related to these parts.

  • Duly bookmark the passages in the thesis that you may want to cite for easy accessibility. Use ‘post-it notes’ to pin to the pages for quick references during viva.

  • Prepare a succinct summary of your thesis such that a couple of minutes is allotted for each chapter.

  • Identify strengths, weaknesses and original contribution of your research.

  • Infer the denotations of your research thesis in academia and real-world setting.

  • A proper simulation of your thesis viva in the form of a mock viva will go a long way in righting your stage fright. Heeding counterarguments in this stage will help you with improvisation and spontaneity.

  • Sort out the venue and time of your via. Decide on wearing a dress that you are most comfortable in.

Some of the generic questions that appear in a viva are as follows:

  • If funds are pumped, how would you herd your research work?

  • How would you structure your research trail if you were to begin again?

  • What's new in your field of research since you completed your thesis? Would a further literature review engender any major changes in the trajectory of your research?

On the day of viva:

  • Do not point your own weaknesses, as in, do not mention what your research failed to achieve. Rather, mention how you explore the uncharted areas with further funding.

  • Try getting off to a good start, as this would set the tone for the rest of your viva.

  • Make sure that you take criticism constructively and not personally. Be keen to demonstrate your professionalism by a non-confrontational tone.

Facing examiners might be like walking on a thin rope. But with verve, calm and confidence one can unequivocally score a perfect shot.


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