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Viva Voce FAQs

In this section

  • Overview
  • Viva by Video conference
  • Frequently asked questions
    • When will be viva be scheduled?
    • 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?
  • Viva Voce Advice Interviews
    • Approaching the Viva
    • The Purpose of the Viva
    • During the Viva
    • Lessons for the Viva

Overview

All candidates for doctoral degrees and for the degree of MPhil are required to attend an oral examination (Viva Voce) after the first submission of the thesis. In the case of MA by Research degrees, an oral examination shall be held where one or both examiners considers this to be necessary to the examination process, at the discretion of the examiners.

Viva by video conference - guidance for students

Vivas may be held fully online, in person or with one or more parties joining remotely. It is not necessary to receive approval from the Doctoral College prior to making arrangements for the video conference, although you will be asked to confirm by email that you are happy to proceed in this way.

Full guidance on the process is provided by the Doctoral College

Viva by Video ConferenceLink opens in a new window

Frequently Asked Questions

When will my viva be scheduled?

Examiners are asked to examine the thesis within a maximum of four months from the date on which they receive it (two months for Master’s by Research) as Examiners need sufficient time to read and asses what you have written.

Your internal examiner will contact you directly to organise the date, time and location of the viva interview.

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 requirement of the degree of PhD, a thesis shall constitute a substantial original contribution to knowledge, which is, in principle, worthy of publication. The thesis shall be clearly and concisely written and well argued and shall show 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:

Recommendations available to ExaminersLink opens in a new window

  • 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.
  • Major corrections - You will be sent notes for guidance prepared by the examiners on the revisions you are required to undertake, which will need to be completed within 12 months or such shorter period as recommended by the examiners. Please not that this outcome should not be construed in any way as 'failure' but rather as an opportunity to present your research in the best possible way and in line with the examiners' recommendations
  • 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). 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. See the After the Viva section for further details

Viva Voce Advice Interviews

Some of our former students made short videos about their experiences of having a viva. Watching these may help you prepare for your own viva.

Approaching the Viva
The Purpose of the Viva
During the Viva
Lessons for the Viva

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