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Viva Voce FAQs

In this section

  • Who will examine the thesis?
  • How are the examiners chosen?
  • Why does the viva matter?
  • How should I prepare for the viva?
  • How should I defend my thesis?
  • What might the outcomes of the viva be?


Who will examine the thesis?

Normally there will be one internal and one external examiner for your viva. Occasionally there may be two external examiners if there is no internal expertise in the topic or if you are a member of staff.

How are the examiners chosen?

Your supervisor(s) makes recommendations on the examiners to the Doctoral College via the intention to submit /nomination of examiners form. This form should be submitted to the Doctoral College at least one month before you intend to submit. The examiners will be experts in your field of study and at least one examiner will have prior experience of examining and supervising doctoral theses. Your supervisor(s) will discuss with you possible examiners and will inform you of who your examiners are likely to be.

When should the thesis be presented?

You should only submit your thesis when you have discussed this at length with your supervisor. If you intend to submit your thesis for examination more than one month before the end of your period of fee-paying registration (year 3 for full-time students and year 5 for part-time students), you should complete an early submission form. The University does not normally allow submission of a thesis earlier than five months before the end of your period of fee-paying registration. The form contains further guidance.

How long does it take between presenting the thesis and the viva?

There will be some delay between submitting your thesis and the viva. The maximum period is four months.

Why does the viva matter?

The viva can make a difference - most examiners will say their judgment of a thesis has been altered by the performance of the candidate at a viva. In addition, this is the final stage of your thesis, and to finish with a confident exposition of your material will be an important experience for presenting your research in the future.

How should I prepare for the viva?

To prepare for your viva, review your thesis thoroughly, read it again, consider the key points you want to make at the viva itself. Reflect on what the examiners are looking for - this will probably be: a clear research question(s); an appropriate methodology, reflections on methodology, conclusions based on data and sources, implications for theory and practice and for you to show awareness of where your work fits into the ‘field’.

You could carry out a rehearsal before the viva. You might like to use some of these questions to help in the rehearsal:

  • In one sentence, what is your thesis?
  • How did your research emerge?
  • What was the motivation for your research?
  • What is your contribution to research in your subject area?
  • Why is the problem you have tackled worth researching?
  • What would you do it differently if you could do your thesis again?
  • What have you learnt from your research experience?
  • What are the strongest/weakest points of your thesis?
  • Why have you tackled problem x that way?
  • What are the alternatives ways of approaching your research question?
  • What is the evidence to support assertion xx?
  • How have you tackled issues of reliability and validity?
  • How could you improve your work?
  • Has your view of your research topic changed during the course of the research?
  • What are the most recent major developments in your areas?
  • Who are the most important contributors in your field, how does your thesis support or counter their work?
  • How would you describe your methodology and why did you decide to use this?

How should I defend my thesis?

The examiners are looking for you to defend your thesis. This means being assertive and standing by your main argument, backed up with appropriate evidence, without appearing defensive or aggressive. It means arguing for your thesis but being open, for example, accepting there are aspects of the research that you could have done differently and being aware of any weaknesses. You are in a much stronger position if you can accept there are weaknesses, and say what you would do about them, rather than pretend they do not exist!

How long will the viva last?

The viva might last from half an hour to two hours, in some cases longer, in very rare cases much longer!

What might the outcomes of the viva be?

The regulations state:

“To satisfy the requirements for the degree of PhD, a thesis shall constitute a substantial original contribution to knowledge which is, in principle, worthy of peer-reviewed publication. The thesis shall be clearly and concisely written, well-argued, and shall show a satisfactory knowledge of both primary and secondary sources. In addition, it shall contain a full bibliography and, where appropriate, a description of methods and techniques used in the research.”

Here, a key criterion is whether part of the thesis is publishable – obviously, you are in a much stronger position if you have been able to publish some of your work before but, if not, be prepared to explain where you would publish it and why you think it is publishable. Using these criteria the examiners will agree on one of six outcomes which will need to be confirmed by the university:

  • Award of the doctorate
  • To make minor corrections - these really are minor corrections, typically typographical errors or some very limited rewriting. These will be explained to you and you should address them within a month. Usually, this involves the removal of typographical errors and perhaps the re-writing of very limited sections of the thesis. (If you are an MA by Research candidate, the internal examiner will email you a list of required corrections.)
  • Resubmission of the thesis. Here you will be sent notes for guidance prepared by the examiners on the revisions you are required to undertake. A time limit will be set for the resubmission. You can only resubmit your thesis once and you may or may not have a second viva examination. There will be a fee payable when you resubmit.
  • Award of an MPhil
  • Resubmission for MPhil
  • Outright fail

Many theses require resubmission and while this may be disappointing after all the work you have put in, you will have a clear set of guidelines to which to work and the support of your supervisor. It may be even more disappointing to be awarded an MPhil or asked to resubmit for an MPhil, but this is still a good degree and recognised as such.

What happens after the successful completion of the examination?

Once you have satisfied the examiners, copies of the thesis need to be deposited into the Library and the electronic repository (declaration forms required). The corrected hard-bound copy should be submitted to the Doctoral College Office for forwarding to the library. You are able to restrict access to your thesis if you wish. You will be invited to the next graduation ceremony for the formal award of your research degree. You may wish to consider publication of part or all of your thesis.



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