Viva survivor

Well, I’ve done it. I’ve passed my PhD viva voce exam. Go me!

No, not that kind of Viva... (Picture source: Wikimedia Commons)

No, not that kind of Viva… (Picture source: Wikimedia Commons)

Doctor Jeckythump, I presume?

Er, not quite (at least, I don’t think so). My PhD has been awarded a pass, albeit with ‘major corrections’. This means that while my thesis was deemed original enough to warrant a PhD, there’s still some work to do on it. So I’ve passed, but somehow it doesn’t feel like it.

I noted earlier this week that I was nervous about my viva. I couldn’t help thinking that despite positive comments and feedback I’d received over the last four years or so – from the quality of my writing, to faculty- and university-prizewinning posters, to presentations at conferences held under the auspices of the Tyndall Centre and the Royal Geographical Society (both Postgrad and Annual RGS conferences), to other ‘impacts’ outside of academia such as a post for The Green Car Website and an interview for Road & Track magazine – it could go wrong here.

It was a gruelling experience, and I did rather tie myself up in knots on a couple of occasions. My Director of Studies was present (at my request) though wasn’t permitted to say anything throughout and, as we left the room for the examiners to begin their deliberations, all I could think was “Crap”. Speaking with him after the final verdict, he said I’d had quite a grilling and was pleased with how I’d handled it.

The upshot was that the examiners felt that while my thesis was an engaging read, I could have made more of my data and some aspects of my epistemology needed polishing, though more details about the exact corrections needed will follow in due course.

So my thesis is still a work in progress – at least I won’t have to do the viva again!

It’s been a while…

My PhD was duly submitted – now it’s crunch time.

On the 'write' lines? My PhD thesis manuscript (Picture source: author's photograph).

On the ‘write’ lines? My PhD thesis manuscript (Picture source: author’s photograph).

It’s been some time since I last blogged – in May last year, in fact. Back then, as I embarked upon finalising draft(s) of my PhD, I blogged about ‘geographical inspiration’, about the practical, philosophical and analytical walls and subsequent doubts pertaining to my PhD and how, despite this, I might actually know what I’m on about after all.

Much of my blogging silence was due to finalising my PhD manuscript, which was submitted in September, with other various bits and bobs, such as my part-time job in a bookies, also providing a distraction from blogging since then. Now it’s crunch time as I head down to Coventry later this week for my viva voce, the formal ‘defence’ of my thesis.

Preparation for my viva has included reading – and re-reading – my thesis, and gleaning tips from websites like and also from other viva survivors (thanks Mark Horton & Sue Challis); reading about the viva in Patrick Dunleavey’s ‘Authoring a PhD’ has assuaged some viva worries (for now, at least). Even so, I’m nervous about the questions I’ll be facing.

What is the PhD about? How was it done? Why was it done? Why was it not done another way? What was the point? What is it’s contribution to knowledge? Where next? Another question to ponder is whether or not I’ll be a gibbering wreck at the end of it.

I’ve no idea if my viva be a forensic, in-depth grilling or a huge expansion of the presentations of I’ve given at various conferences during my academic ‘career’ so far. Either way, I’ve been assured by several people – my PhD supervisors, family, colleagues (both PhD and in the bookies) – that I’ll be okay. We’ll see.

Wish me luck – I’ll no doubt be posting the outcome on here later this week.

Oh, and a belated Happy New Year!