Teaching PhD students to get ready for the viva

The time between submission of their PhD theses and the viva can be a tricky one for PhD students. In my own experience, the viva is often viewed as very mysterious as well as challenging, daunting and downright scary.

As part of the Faculty of Humanities doctoral research training programme at the University of Southampton, I teach a session which is aimed at providing research students with practical tips and advice on preparing for the viva and at giving them an opportunity to talk about their research to other students.

Although universities have their own sets of procedures and regulations for the PhD in general and the viva in particular, preparation can be greatly helped by the range of open educational resources now accessible (many of which are student-friendly). My own session draws on one adapted by my former colleague, John Canning and available as an OER on Humbox. The original version was developed as part of an excellent set of OERs on research skills produced by the University of Leicester and available on Jorum. The viva materials are very thorough and really give the students a lot to think about; enabling them to go away and work on questions relating specifically to their own research. They also strongly encourage talking about research. I would highly recommend these resources.

Other resources and articles relating to the viva which are worth a look are listed below:

Finally, this article from the Independent includes useful advice on how to shine at the viva.