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Thesis forum: The viva

Dr Christiana Tsaousi (School of Management) was our second speaker at the June thesis forum. She completed her PhD at Leicester in 2010 and recently returned to take up a position as Lecturer in Marketing and Consumption. She reflected on her experience of completing a PhD and preparing for the viva. She described the difficulty of working in a new area of study but emphasised how important it was to talk to her supervisors throughout the process. She found that meeting them and discussing data left her feeling confident and with a renewed energy and purpose. Frequent deadlines worked well in keeping the thesis on track and regular feedback helped to chart progress.

Unlike our other speaker, Christiana didn't use any manuals or guides during her PhD. She said that help books can be useful but it is still down to you to produce the dissertation. Her own dissertation only had real structure a few months before submission. Remember that every PhD is unique! It might be that yours takes shape and form right at the end. Try to leave a few months for editing and proofreading, if possible. For those worried about when they would feel finished, Christiana explained that a saturation point does come eventually.

Christiana submitted in July 2010 and had her viva in October 2010. Her advice for the viva was that you can't prepare enough. Don't study though. Go through your PhD over and over, annotate and mark up to help you navigate the document easily during the viva.

Key tips:
  • Be clear about your theoretical contribution. If you used a particular theoretical framework, why did you use this, why not something else?
  • Make sure you can talk with confidence about your methodology. 
  • Be confident about your data and clear about your empirical contribution.
  • During the viva, don't worry if you freeze. Be honest and ask for time to think the question through. 
  • Try to arrange a mock viva beforehand. You need to get used to the idea of answering on your work.
Christiana acknowledged that the viva can seem like a mountain you have to climb and something to be scared of. But if you are well prepared, this shouldn't be the case.

Further resources:
PhD Viva has a handy collection of resources and viva stories.
Twitter users can follow @phdviva or look for conversations using #phdviva
10 PhD Viva Survival Tips (@DrSustainable)
UoL Graduate School resources (including The Good Viva video)

There will also be the chance to hear from researchers who have recently passed their viva at future thesis forums. The next will take place on Tuesday 10th July, 3.30-5pm, Library Seminar Room.

Hope to see you there!


  1. Hi Helen,

    Thanks for mentioning PhDViva and spreading the word.

    Best wishes,
    Salma (Editor at PhDViva)


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