In this episode I talk again to Edward Mills who appeared on the second episode of the podcast. Sincer we last spoke Edward has submitted his thesis and passed his viva with minor corrections, and in this episode we'll go right through that process from submission, to prep, to the viva itself and doing the corrections.

You can find out about the Viva Survivors podcast and resources Edward mentions on the Viva Survivors website.

Music credit: Happy Boy Theme Kevin MacLeod ( 
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License 


Podcast transcript

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Hello and welcome to R, D and the Inbetweens.

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I'm your host, Kelly Preece, and every fortnight I talk to a different guest about researches, development and everything in between.

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Hi, everyone, and welcome to the latest episode of R, D in the In Betweens.

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Today, I'm really pleased to be joined once again by Edward Mills,

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who I spoke to very early on in the kind of the days of this podcast about writing up during the time of Corona virus.

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And today, I'm really delighted to be talking to Edward about his experience of the VIva, which he passed last month with minor corrections.

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So, Edward, tell us what you've been up to since we last spoke.

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Well, it's a it's been a busy few months. I had my viva at the start of October.

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And since then, I've been waiting for and subsequently received my corrections, which I'm currently working on as ever with postgrad life.

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Plenty of other things have come up and got in the way as well. But it's been a it's been an exciting period, I think.

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And I'm looking forward to talking about it today. Yeah. So. As I said at the start, you passed with minor corrections, which is absolutely fantastic.

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Thank you. Let's talk. Okay. I think it'd be easiest to talk if we talk chronologically.

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Yeah. So talk to me about submission.

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What was that like? So submitting was terrifying.

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I actually started to think about submission a long time ago,

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mainly because I'd spent the last year procrastinating by doing my acknowledgements, of course, Naturally

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And. I really looked forward to the moment when I go up to the sid desk, the student information desk we have here in Exeter, and hand in my thesis,

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having done it with a few other people before and having kind of helped them out and been with them and

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taken the photos of them getting their thesis printed in the student print room just above all of that jazz.

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I'm really looking forward to it. And then the rona happened.

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Oh, she did. Yes. And unfortunately, that got in the way slightly.

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So therefore, my submission process involved hitting send on an e-mail entitled My PhD Thesis.

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Yeah, it doesn't quite have the same celebrator moment to it as kind of taking having a picture taken in the in

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the forum and but especially not when you get an out of out of office reply email in response to it.

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Yes. Yes. Because I sent over the weekend.

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But I mean, even though the the moment of submission, perhaps perhaps less celebratory, I imagine the time afterwards wasn't any.

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Was it about as anticlimactic as it usually is? Yes.

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So in practical terms, what it meant for me was not sending a PDF, but sending a onedrive because my thesis was quite large.

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And then the file size, not necessarily in terms of intellectual knowledge, but in terms of file size.

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It was a minor corrections would disagree with you. In terms of file size, it was surprisingly large.

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So what I ended up doing was having several PDFs chapter by chapter with high res images and then a single one for the whole thesis,

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volume one and volume two with low resolution images on it.

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So I'd send that link off and then I had a minor panic because I couldn't quite grasp what I'd done.

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I wasn't quite able to understand the enormity of having submitted a thesis.

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Luckily, I was doing some work the following morning so I couldn't focus too heavily on that.

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But it was a slightly anticlimactic period, especially because not a lot happens between the submission and the Viva period.

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You're in that sort of no man's land, apart from the occasional email from your internal examiner to confirm dates and times.

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And then you get the teams notification in my case saying Edward Mills, viva,

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because, of course, you did an online Viva, which will come to you in a moment. Yes, absolutely. Well, how so?

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How long was the gap between submission and Viva? So I submitted on I think it was.

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It was something like the 5th of September. OK. Or the note was a little early in that.

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So I think that the twenty eighth of August, something along those lines and my viva was on the 5th of October.

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So it was just about a month and a half. That's pretty... It was a fairly speedy that the regulations say it was.

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So it's to be within what, three months. Yeah, but it's one of those sort of at Exeter

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Certainly the regulations are within usually within three months because there were all sorts

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of reasons why it might need to go beyond three months in terms of availability of externals,

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etc, etc. But my my viva itself was on the 5th of October.

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So within within a couple of months after submission, even if I can remember the exact date when I when I hit submit or send one.

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So when did you start preparing for the viva?

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I think preparing for the viva actually began before I submitted to a certain degree.

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I've been very fortunate to have a wonderful,

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wonderful PhD supervisor and on a few occasions we did discuss things in the thesis I was drafting them that we thought were defensible.

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That would need to be defended at the Viva.

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So particular decisions we'd taken in terms of why I'd taken intend to structure in terms of points of focus, in terms of what I hadn't focussed on.

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But in practical terms, I would certainly say that the main prep for the viva actually happened fairly shortly beforehand.

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I spent the first couple of weeks after I submitted doing teaching.

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Which meant that I was something external to the university, which meant that I wasn't really looking at the thesis all that much,

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that's probably a good thing in terms of having a fresh pair of eyes to come back to it. Yeah.

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We always advise that. I'm hoping at some point you took some form of a break. Oh, absolutely.

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I, I, I did a a big celebratory bike ride, which those of you who remember my previous podcast will remember talking about whizzing downhills going.

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We it's it's not how everybody would choose to celebrate, but it's how I chose to sell.

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Well indeed. We were still inside while we were under restrictions in the UK.

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So celebrations have taken on a very different meaning in the last six months.

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Yes, this is very true. But in the stage, running up to the viva itself, I think most of the prep that I did falls into two stages.

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The first was learning about the Viva itself and understanding a bit more about what the viva would be and what it would be like.

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That included a lot of things I did before I submitted, including attending some of the sessions.

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thedoctoral college offers. Thank you for the plug, I think. All right.

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now worries. And that also included talking to quite a few people who'd been through Viva, both in my discipline,

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which is modern languages and mediaeval studies, and also outside of it as well.

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So. Just to pick up on that, I. When you when you were speaking to people.

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Yes. About their viva experiences, what were you asking them?

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I was asking them to describe how their viva experience was, if there was anything that they did not expect in their viva, OK?

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And also what they might have done differently and what advice they might have for me.

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And I got a very wide range of pieces of advice coming back at me.

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And I think the thing that emerged throughout all of that was you're the expert.

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It's difficult to believe that. I'm sure that something will come back to later in the podcast. But that was the main theme that came out from it.

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One practical piece of advice that I received, which I would very much recommend people do, is to produce a.

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e prep document of some form and a friend of mine very kindly passed on theirs,

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which basically included brief summaries of some of their chapters.

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I expanded that myself to make it the thesis on one side of a4 or summarised each section of my thesis.

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This is moving on to sort of the second stage now,

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which is annotating and improving and augmenting the thesis, if you like, for the Viva and like augmenting.

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Oh, yes, absolutely. So it's a VR thesis some way. We'll talk about that in a second.

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And I adapted that to my thesis on one side of A4, which made it much easier to refer to.

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And as a piece of advice I've actually had given and a number of times by.

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Academics and researchers to actually being able to articulate it on one side

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of A4 and either in kind of precis form or in bullet point form is really,

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really important because it helps you. Crystallise and consolidate what the main driver of it is, which is often something you're asked to do right.

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The beginning of the viva is a warm up question, but will come back. Oh, absolutely.

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And I was very much hoping that I'd have to do it, octosylabic couplets, but unfortunately, that never happened.

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Yes. Well, I think that might be a challenge for most people. There's also a bit niche isn't it.

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The other thing I did, based on that particular piece advice, my friends,

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which I heartily recommend, is producing what I called the kind of nightmare sheet

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which was basically all of the questions I hoped I wouldn't be asked, but expected I probably would be.

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Yes. So questions about why you've done this or any holds you think you might have spotted so that you can look at that.

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There is no rule against taking notes into your viva. Certainly here at Exeter, I know the rules may vary always read the label.

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But in Exeter, it was it was something I did check with my chair of the Viva.

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And there were no issues there whatsoever. And that led me on to this sort of second stage of prep, which was the augmented or the annotated thesis.

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Everyone talks about annotating your thesis or be reading it before the viva.

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I came across a term in a podcast called Viva Survivors,

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which I'm sure people listening to this podcast may already have heard, and we'll put a link to it in the show notes.

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But the advice there was to think of notes you add to your thesis as augmenting them.

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The point being that you're making those notes so that you can further them in the Vivas.

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So you want to make your thesis more navigable for you. You want to make your thesis more friendly for you.

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And you want to make your thesis. Searchable figures.

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Yes. And that's precisely what the notes were about.

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I divided my notes into three types, a different colour highlighter for each one typos, which rapidly became just a list at the end instead.

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That was much easier. Yes. Danger points, which were things I suspected will be picked up on no relation to Danger Mouse.

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And then also points for expansions are things I've discovered since submission

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or things I thought I could say more on if I if I were given the opportunity.

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Those were the ones where I knew I could go off on a little kind of excitable tangent,

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which is something I'm sure we'll talk about in the viva itself.

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So those were the two steps really of prep the beforehand the kind of discovery about the viva and the initial thinking about how I'd approach it.

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And then the actual sitting down and reading through the thesis again and augmenting the reading through it actually took place fairly later on.

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So I, I finished reading it. You know, in the days before the viva rather than like a month beforehand, that.

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But I imagine that is even more fresh in your mind. Yes, that's one advantage of doing it that way.

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You're absolutely right. So did you do any kind of did you a mock viva?

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Did you do any practise aloud of answering the

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You know, you said about your nightmare sheet. Did you practise verbally the answers to those questions or was it all very kind of

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The augmentation and the prep documents were paper based. I wondered if you did anything.

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So I've. Try to sort of speak about my research.

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Throughout my thesis, I'm quite lucky to have been given the chance to do that and we've taken the chance to do that in various places.

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So it wasn't my first time speaking about my thesis in in some detail.

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And I think that's one of the reasons I didn't do a full mock vivA.

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What I did do, though, is on the morning of my of my thesis, Viva I.

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I was lucky enough to meet my supervisor and said to him, Wait. Could I ask a favour?

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Would you be willing to make me uncomfortable?

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You ask me all of the really, really hard questions that I don't want to be asked, as unreasonable as you might think they are having you.

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And they've been with me on this thesis journey. Can you put me on the spot, please?

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And then we'll discuss the responses I give to that.

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And obviously, that was basically a chance for me to practise, referring to the nightmare scenario sheet.

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And how was that? Supposing you were awkward, because my supervisor, when I get on quite well.

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So it was very strange to hear him picking up so many things that we'd already discussed.

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Obviously, there was. This is the other danger of doing that. Yeah. There was another practical issue on my part, which is I don't.

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In order to have a mock viva, in some respects, that needs to be done with people who are intimately familiar with your thesis.

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And that wasn't necessarily the case for me, that there were that many people who could do that.

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Yes, of course, it depends a lot on the department that you're in.

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I would always advocate making the mock viva's something you're doing for years rather than something that you have before the Viva.

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But of course, it is a really useful tool. I know plenty of people who've had one and would recommend one as an essential part of it.

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Yeah, and I think that's part of the kind of the subjective nature of this.

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You know, it's about finding the kind of preparation that works for you.

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So you've said about the morning of the viva, you speak to your supervisor, got them to ask you awkward questions.

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And we mentioned earlier your viva was online as so many Vivas that are taking place now.

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Ah. And I would imagine increasingly in the future and the majority of vivas will be at the very least blended, if not online.

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Can you talk a little bit about your feelings about doing the Viva online So online vivas

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I think, as you say, it's going to become more and more the norm.

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Yeah. In the future, even after restrictions are eased.

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I myself didn't have too many qualms about doing my Viva online it

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Didn't seem to me to be a huge change, and in some respects it has its own advantages, which we'll talk about later, I'm sure.

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It was nerve wracking, of course, being on my own in a room.

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I was basically in my flat before the viva started.

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And I was just sitting there looking at this incoming teamn notifcation called Edward Mills.

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Viva which is faintly errifying. Yeah, rather ominous name for me.

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I did have to go and stick a sign on my on my flat door saying, please don't disturb.

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Viva in progress. Thanks very much. Say it was.

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It was an. Ominous and slightly nerve wracking experience, but it's not as big a deal beforehand as I'd expected it to be.

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Indeed, during the Viva itself, I guess there's all that much to say about the fact that it was online.

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And that seems to be what so initially when, you know, all these things started moving online,

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one of the conversations a lot people were having was kind of like, we know how do we support be able to do online?

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And as people started to do them and upgrade Vivas as well. The thing that came back was actually materially it's not very different.

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No. And we did have a requirement to say this was myself.

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The were all those in attendance. So myself, the internal, the external.

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And there was a chair as well in my viva, a non examining independent chair

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To say that we did not feel that the viva had been conducted unfairly and that we did not feel that there was any detriment to having conducted online.

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That's a very important thing to note. Having the viva online did have one advantage to it, and this is, again,

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something that I checked with the chair during the viva itself, which is I was able to share my screen.

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Yes. And this is one practical thing that I found very, very useful because I was able to pull up.

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In my specific case, I work a lot with mediaeval manuscripts.

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So in my case, I was able to pull up images and to show those images in a greater resolution than could be shown in the images from my thesis.

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Absolutely. And certainly, you know, in a Face-To-Face viva, you could take in a USB stick with similar content on.

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And then if you were asked and there's usually a computer in a room because when when isn't there a computer in a room these days?

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You could show it, but much, much less clunky and much easier to kind of prepare for and to do in the moment.

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And also, of course, having a PDF copy of your thesis on the computer in front of you means it's searchable.

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you probably remember I checked this with you before the viva

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Whether this was alright or not Yes. But you can just control F and find a particular term.

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And then flick to that page in your in your printed theses, which I would very much recommend you.

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You have for anyone who's visualising this at home, by the way, I have this on  the table in front of me right now.

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This is what thesis sounds like. Sorry. I'm sure anyone who wasn't expecting that will thank me.

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Their ears will thank you later. Yes. I believe the phrase is RIP headphone users.

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Yes. Really sorry. So. How long was your viva?

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Long, very long, specifically four hours, which I'm not I'm not gasping in a in in shock because I already knew this.

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This is why I asked you. But the so at Exeter four hours is the absolute absolute maximum.

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It could be. Yes, it is. Yeah. And isn't it right that your examiners spent basically no time discussing the outcome because

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they had to get the result back to you and do all of that within that four hour time limit?

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Yes. So if I remember this correctly, we had a two hour slot, basically, then another two hour slots.

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We had a break in the middle, which was ten minutes. We went through it chapter by chapter.

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So the break came after about two hours for about 10 minutes or so.

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And then after that, just about three hours and 40 minutes into the viva and the chair pointed out that they had to finish the viva soon

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And therefore, I was asked to leave the room, the virtual room.

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This is the thing people have asked this in. Q And A's I've been involved with since then.

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Yes. So leaving the room literally means, in this case, hanging up the teams call and then rejoining 10 minutes later.

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What did you do in that 10 minutes? Mostly pacing nervously around my small flat.

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Yeah. Guess at least if you're in the department, your your supervisor will , will be physically there,

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and people tend to go to people's offices or they'll go to their office or, you know, they'll have people to interact with.

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That must have been even though it was only ten minutes.

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It must have been an incredibly nerve wracking ten minutes. Yeah, it was nerve wracking.

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There's actually no requirement for supervisors to attend.

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No, it's it's an option. Yes. Many supervisors might want to.

00:21:02,000 --> 00:21:07,000
My supervisor was very keen to give me the choice of of him not attending if if I'd rather not.

00:21:07,000 --> 00:21:15,000
Yes. I was perfectly happy for him to attend. And in fact, it was slightly easier in some respects than it would have been if I had been in in person,

00:21:15,000 --> 00:21:21,000
rather because he was able to mite himself and turn off his video. So he was in kind of unannounced observing background.

00:21:21,000 --> 00:21:24,000
Yes. Which which is if you're doing it face to face, exactly how it should be.

00:21:24,000 --> 00:21:30,000
Yes. So. How was it four hours?

00:21:30,000 --> 00:21:36,000
I mean, for a lot of people who listening to this, that's going to sound like a horror story.

00:21:36,000 --> 00:21:45,000
So tell us how it was. Well, I think the first thing to say is it was four hours because there was a lot to talk about.

00:21:45,000 --> 00:21:51,000
Not four hours because they were testing how long I could go without having a drink over a cup of coffee.

00:21:51,000 --> 00:21:54,000
Incidentally, the answer to that question is four hours. Yes.

00:21:54,000 --> 00:21:58,000
Generally, though, the viva was a really positive experience.

00:21:58,000 --> 00:22:03,000
And that's not something that I was expecting.

00:22:03,000 --> 00:22:07,000
It's something that you hear from. A lot of people say no, actually really enjoyed them all the time.

00:22:07,000 --> 00:22:19,000
But going into the viva, I did not expect that my my pathological fear was of major corrections or revise and resubmit

00:22:19,000 --> 00:22:29,000
And neither that is necessarily bad outcomes. It's important to say, but I had it in my head that they were.

00:22:29,000 --> 00:22:35,000
But if I can enjoy the Viva. Anyone can, because I was terrified beforehand, is what you say about that.

00:22:35,000 --> 00:22:43,000
Yes. So in terms of how the viva actually went. Each of my examiners took the lead on a different Chapter

00:22:43,000 --> 00:22:51,000
It just so happened that my internal examiner was an expert in one of the things I discussed in the chapter, which, you know, is not always the case.

00:22:51,000 --> 00:22:56,000
No. And it's not always the case that they do go that kind of chronologically through their thesis.

00:22:56,000 --> 00:23:02,000
It's much more common in the sciences, but less so in the humanities. So it seems like it's interesting.

00:23:02,000 --> 00:23:03,000
Interesting that they took that approach. Yeah.

00:23:03,000 --> 00:23:08,000
It's worth noting the examiners did explain at the start of the viva what they'd done

00:23:08,000 --> 00:23:13,000
What they'd done beforehand, which is that they'd met together. And then they'd compared notes.

00:23:13,000 --> 00:23:19,000
Yes. So they clearly had a strategy in mind, like in terms of what actually happened.

00:23:19,000 --> 00:23:26,000
First, we had a little bit of admin at the start where the way the chair sort of clarified what

00:23:26,000 --> 00:23:32,000
would be going on and what her role was and asked if you had any Gwenny questions and,

00:23:32,000 --> 00:23:36,000
you know, maximum time limits and so on and so forth.

00:23:36,000 --> 00:23:43,000
But I was very lucky, actually, in that my internal took the lead on a lot of the a lot of the kind of admin stuff.

00:23:43,000 --> 00:23:50,000
And as a way into the viva itself, she actually explained what the thesis was measuring.

00:23:50,000 --> 00:23:54,000
And I'm sure that the... You mean the examination criteria?

00:23:54,000 --> 00:24:02,000
Yes. Things like the ability to create new knowledge and satisfactory literary presentation, listening presentation, conceptualising a project, adjusting its design.

00:24:02,000 --> 00:24:06,000
Those five ideas, I'm sure listeners to this podcast have come across before.

00:24:06,000 --> 00:24:17,000
Yeah. So how did they start the questioning? Well, they started by telling me that I had passed

00:24:17,000 --> 00:24:21,000
They did not tell me what kind of pass it was. Yeah.

00:24:21,000 --> 00:24:26,000
So that's. Again, that's relatively unusual.

00:24:26,000 --> 00:24:33,000
So a pass would mean you would be one of a kind of three of the four possible options, an outcome.

00:24:33,000 --> 00:24:36,000
So you either, no corrections, minor corrections or major corrections.

00:24:36,000 --> 00:24:41,000
And it's important to say that it's not common practise necessarily to do that.

00:24:41,000 --> 00:24:49,000
Some examiners do, some examiners don't. But if they don't do that, it doesn't mean that you've got to revise and resubmit or anything like that.

00:24:49,000 --> 00:24:52,000
It's just it's a stylistic thing.

00:24:52,000 --> 00:24:59,000
It's also worth saying, I think, that they were not saying, as you probably pointed out, that I had passed with minor corrections.

00:24:59,000 --> 00:25:06,000
They were simply saying that I would not have a revise and resubmit, which again, is not necessarily a comment on the quality of the thesis.

00:25:06,000 --> 00:25:14,000
You've said before that. They reflects much more than just how good or bad the thesis is in and of itself.

00:25:14,000 --> 00:25:19,000
Questions about the scope of the thesis and so on come into the decision for revise and resubmit

00:25:19,000 --> 00:25:23,000
Oh, yeah. But it's it's a complex. So it's a complex.

00:25:23,000 --> 00:25:28,000
Yes. Yeah. It really is thing. And a lot of it is the difference between certainly between minor.

00:25:28,000 --> 00:25:35,000
and major is still the amount of time it would take you to do the corrections rather than the supposed flaws or weakness in the thesis,

00:25:35,000 --> 00:25:38,000
which I think is how, you know, when you were saying about you were concerned about getting you know,

00:25:38,000 --> 00:25:44,000
you were convinced it was going to be major corrections or a revise and resubmit. We tend to think about that on a kind of.

00:25:44,000 --> 00:25:49,000
You said it yourself. Good or bad, pass or fail. And flaw based model.

00:25:49,000 --> 00:25:57,000
Whereas actually, it's it's not about that. It's about what needs to be done to bring the thesis to a pass

00:25:57,000 --> 00:26:01,000
Yes. And what how long that will take.

00:26:01,000 --> 00:26:11,000
Quite right. Yeah. My approach when I got told that it was a pass, I assumed that it was go they were going to be corrections.

00:26:11,000 --> 00:26:15,000
I always assumed I would get corrections. I think that's a healthy way of doing it.

00:26:15,000 --> 00:26:18,000
Statistically, much more likely. Yes.

00:26:18,000 --> 00:26:28,000
And my decision when I heard that you've passed this is about improving and rendering the thesis was to say, okay.

00:26:28,000 --> 00:26:33,000
Right. My job now for the next, however long it would be would be to convince the

00:26:33,000 --> 00:26:39,000
examiners that I should be awarded minor corrections rather than major ones,

00:26:39,000 --> 00:26:45,000
both by defending what could reasonably be defended and justified decisions I'd made,

00:26:45,000 --> 00:26:53,000
and also by showing them through my knowledge of the topics and through my engagement with the thesis since the viva

00:26:53,000 --> 00:26:58,000
that the changes that I would need to make, that I would not be able to sort of.

00:26:58,000 --> 00:27:05,000
Justify not doing could be made sufficiently quickly for them to count as minor rather than major

00:27:05,000 --> 00:27:10,000
which comes back to your point about how it's a time thing, rather than a quality thing.

00:27:10,000 --> 00:27:13,000
So what kind of things did they ask you?

00:27:13,000 --> 00:27:20,000
So some questions that they asked me were very specific, and I think that a lot of the time when people are prepping for the viva

00:27:20,000 --> 00:27:26,000
what they want to know is what questions you ask, what questions you ask. And as a kind of what what questions am I going to be asked?

00:27:26,000 --> 00:27:31,000
Whereas actually that there isn't a kind of apart from the warm up questions like.

00:27:31,000 --> 00:27:35,000
So tell us a little bit about your argument or how you came to do this research.

00:27:35,000 --> 00:27:41,000
The questions are so detailed and so specific that it's very difficult to kind of compare notes,

00:27:41,000 --> 00:27:45,000
as it were, across different Vivas and across different topic areas.

00:27:45,000 --> 00:27:51,000
Yes. So my question, for example, on my certain.

00:27:51,000 --> 00:27:58,000
Lack of criticality in accepting a characterisation of Anglo norman literature as precocious

00:27:58,000 --> 00:28:03,000
would probably not come up in most people's vivas to give an example of a very specific question.

00:28:03,000 --> 00:28:10,000
However, the kind of general sentiment behind that would come up, which is a certain lack of political distance in adopting critical terms.

00:28:10,000 --> 00:28:20,000
Yet another example of that. The first question I was asked in the entire Viva was.

00:28:20,000 --> 00:28:26,000
How do you think your writing style affected Your argument?

00:28:26,000 --> 00:28:31,000
Wow. Not that I have to say that's not what I've heard before or words to that effect.

00:28:31,000 --> 00:28:42,000
And it came back to a tendency in my writing generally actually to set up binaries and work to

00:28:42,000 --> 00:28:46,000
problematise, them? That's diving in at the deep end.

00:28:46,000 --> 00:28:53,000
Even though those binaries might not necessarily be accurate.

00:28:53,000 --> 00:29:00,000
So I set myself up frameworks within which I have to work, which are occasionally a little bit restrictive in what they allow me to do.

00:29:00,000 --> 00:29:06,000
And there were several examples of this throughout the thesis. But yes, it was diving in at the deep end.

00:29:06,000 --> 00:29:12,000
It was an excellent question. I should add, my internal examiners had also been an examiner for my upgrade.

00:29:12,000 --> 00:29:20,000
Viva! And what that meant was I was able to make connection between the upgrade viva the feedback and the Viva aims

00:29:20,000 --> 00:29:24,000
So to give one example,

00:29:24,000 --> 00:29:30,000
I would probably need to justify a slight methodological distinction between Chapter one and the rest of the thesis.

00:29:30,000 --> 00:29:36,000
Chapter one is quite linguistic in its approach. The rest of the chapters are much more traditionally literary.

00:29:36,000 --> 00:29:43,000
And in justifying that I went back to the feedback that I received in my upgrade viva from my upcoming internal examiner,

00:29:43,000 --> 00:29:52,000
who suggested that I need to develop a methodology that ranges beyond the close reading to embrace theoretical insights related to my materials.

00:29:52,000 --> 00:29:56,000
And I use the linguistic chapter as an example of how one might do that.

00:29:56,000 --> 00:30:06,000
There were others throughout, of course, but that's an example of how the experience of the upgrade Viva actually helped me to develop the

00:30:06,000 --> 00:30:13,000
viva itself when it came to sitting down in front of that same examiner again three years later.

00:30:13,000 --> 00:30:18,000
That's really brilliant. And so what you know, you said that the questions are very specific.

00:30:18,000 --> 00:30:26,000
And, you know, you had one about the writing style and kind of setting binaries and dichotomies and theoretical frameworks.

00:30:26,000 --> 00:30:31,000
What other what other topic areas were the questions they asked you in?

00:30:31,000 --> 00:30:37,000
So the question's broadly fail into sort of three groups, if you like.

00:30:37,000 --> 00:30:43,000
They were often focussed around specific points in the thesis of why you characterised X as Y.

00:30:43,000 --> 00:30:52,000
But for the broad trends, questions included why I chose to cover certain types of text in my thesis and not others.

00:30:52,000 --> 00:30:58,000
So is that to do with my primary data kind of thing? Yes. Is to do with what my what my source material.

00:30:58,000 --> 00:31:07,000
Yes. Yes. And also why not others related to that was why I'd chosen to focus on texts in French of mediaeval England as opposed to,

00:31:07,000 --> 00:31:11,000
say, continental French material. And there were good answers to both of those.

00:31:11,000 --> 00:31:14,000
One one acceptable answer is simply scope.

00:31:14,000 --> 00:31:21,000
But there were also more discipline specific reasons, as well as to why the French in mediaeval England is worthy of study in its own right.

00:31:21,000 --> 00:31:25,000
Yes, there were theoretical questions about the frameworks that I'd used.

00:31:25,000 --> 00:31:30,000
So, for example, how I was how I was using certain tools from manuscript studies.

00:31:30,000 --> 00:31:33,000
So to to look at some of these mediaeval books.

00:31:33,000 --> 00:31:41,000
But one thing that stuck out at me was the tendency for the examiners to very kindly divide their feedback into kind of corrections and comments.

00:31:41,000 --> 00:31:46,000
So did they articulate that in the in the viva? Were they making very clear what was a correction?

00:31:46,000 --> 00:31:50,000
What were the comments? What they said was they would produce two reports effectively.

00:31:50,000 --> 00:31:54,000
OK. And what they did in the end was use one report with a preface to all of the all

00:31:54,000 --> 00:31:59,000
of the kind of things to highlight for possible future publication with comment.

00:31:59,000 --> 00:32:03,000
And they were they saying that in the main body of the viva or just in the kind of feedback that.

00:32:03,000 --> 00:32:07,000
No, they said fairly early on in the viva as well.

00:32:07,000 --> 00:32:11,000
But I didn't know stage by stage as they went through what was what.

00:32:11,000 --> 00:32:15,000
No, but that's a massive hint. It is.

00:32:15,000 --> 00:32:16,000
And I was very fortunate in that respect.

00:32:16,000 --> 00:32:22,000
And I know that's not that I may not be standard practise, although, of course, it's that there is no such thing as standard practise for either.

00:32:22,000 --> 00:32:27,000
No. A lot of the time, you know, if if they think that it's, you know, there's nothing to worry about,

00:32:27,000 --> 00:32:30,000
they will try their best to kind of indicate that to you in various ways,

00:32:30,000 --> 00:32:38,000
like saying, you know, well, when you think about publishing this or they're not specific things to do with the examination and the outcome.

00:32:38,000 --> 00:32:44,000
But there are ways to kind of guide you towards or at least sort of reassure you that this is going to be all right.

00:32:44,000 --> 00:32:49,000
Don't worry. That's true. Although that doesn't necessarily mean that the comments for publication are Minor.

00:32:49,000 --> 00:32:51,000
It's worth noting that the one of my comments,

00:32:51,000 --> 00:32:57,000
if I want to publish one thing I these do is seriously reconsider the methodology behind one of my chapters.

00:32:57,000 --> 00:33:02,000
Yeah. That does not make it ineligible at PhD level for an award.

00:33:02,000 --> 00:33:10,000
No, but it was a an interesting sort of critical reflection on what might be needed to do how and when.

00:33:10,000 --> 00:33:14,000
And I get the impression I'll be using the corrections that I've got.

00:33:14,000 --> 00:33:20,000
Which Examiners is also worth stressing produce have to produce a written report on Viva with a list of corrections,

00:33:20,000 --> 00:33:22,000
including typos that they would like you to make.

00:33:22,000 --> 00:33:32,000
I'm going to be using this list of corrections for at least the next year rather than just to kind of get myself to the next hurdle,

00:33:32,000 --> 00:33:39,000
which would be submitting my revisions. So where are you in the process now?

00:33:39,000 --> 00:33:45,000
I'm currently at the stage of making the revisions that I have to make with a view to submitting them before Christmas.

00:33:45,000 --> 00:33:57,000
If all goes well, it's an exciting time. I mean, I'm I'm very lucky in that the feedback that I've got is comprehensive, which means that I can.

00:33:57,000 --> 00:34:06,000
Reflect on them. And there's plenty of material left to work with. So the report you've got are the corrections very specific?

00:34:06,000 --> 00:34:11,000
Yes, they are indicated by page. Oh, wow. So I'll I'll give an example.

00:34:11,000 --> 00:34:20,000
Yes. By all means. Yes. So. So, for example, I have on page 22 a comment saying,

00:34:20,000 --> 00:34:26,000
why is the Anglo norman text society unusually assiduous as opposed to various other text editing bodies?

00:34:26,000 --> 00:34:30,000
And then a wonderful comment here. Very few adverbs earned their place in prose.

00:34:30,000 --> 00:34:38,000
And then you open up a can of worms worth scrutinising the impulse to use an adverb in most cases, and almost always an improvement to edit them out.

00:34:38,000 --> 00:34:44,000
That's a very specific comment, but also a much broader idea about my writing style, which I very much appreciate it.

00:34:44,000 --> 00:34:48,000
So you're working through the report? Yes, absolutely.

00:34:48,000 --> 00:34:55,000
Enjoying turns of phrase like that is taking into account to make the thesis better.

00:34:55,000 --> 00:35:02,000
That's one of the most exciting things, actually, about it. It's not just a question of taking another hoop to jump through.

00:35:02,000 --> 00:35:08,000
It's about engaging again with something that I spent four years of my life very close to and developing

00:35:08,000 --> 00:35:15,000
in collaboration with people who've read it very closely and have provided very detailed feedback.

00:35:15,000 --> 00:35:20,000
So how much longer do you think you have to do on the corrections?

00:35:20,000 --> 00:35:26,000
Not a huge amount more. I've had the meeting with my supervisor to discuss it on stage.

00:35:26,000 --> 00:35:31,000
I'm starting to make the minor corrections, some of them I can make immediately.

00:35:31,000 --> 00:35:32,000
A lot of them are typos.

00:35:32,000 --> 00:35:40,000
I have a list that I provided, a list in the viva itself, which got some went some way to suggesting that I there would be minor changes.

00:35:40,000 --> 00:35:46,000
What the major ones I would hope. I'm anticipating I should get it done before Christmas, as I say.

00:35:46,000 --> 00:35:51,000
And that's alongside other work that I am taking on the moment as well.

00:35:51,000 --> 00:35:53,000
And I guess that's that's the final question.

00:35:53,000 --> 00:36:03,000
What next or afterwards when you finally get that email that says, Dear Dr. Edward Mills, what are you gonna be doing?

00:36:03,000 --> 00:36:08,000
Probably doing a happy little dance around the kitchen is the honest answer to that.

00:36:08,000 --> 00:36:13,000
First of all, good. I'm very, very fortunate to be involved in some some postdoc work.

00:36:13,000 --> 00:36:19,000
And, um, I'm exploring my options at the moment. If anyone needs Star Trek, translated into Anglo Norman French.

00:36:19,000 --> 00:36:23,000
I strongly encourage you to contact me. Oh, wow. I really.

00:36:23,000 --> 00:36:29,000
I've done this. Yeah. Oh gosh. Yeah, it's niche. But then niche is kind of a PhD anyway, isn't it.

00:36:29,000 --> 00:36:39,000
It really is. So you you said earlier on that in the run up to your viva, you asked people that you knew that had done vivas

00:36:39,000 --> 00:36:47,000
What kind of advice they had ans. What would you do now that you've had your viva?

00:36:47,000 --> 00:36:53,000
What would you say? What are you going to say when inevitably other students ask you that question?

00:36:53,000 --> 00:36:59,000
Not any piece of advice, but something that I didn't believe at first.

00:36:59,000 --> 00:37:05,000
Everyone says going into the PhD viva either you're the expert, you're the expert, you're the expert.

00:37:05,000 --> 00:37:10,000
I did not believe that. No-one does. Well, few people believe that.

00:37:10,000 --> 00:37:18,000
But as someone who didn't think that he was the expert until he was given some positive feedback in the viva.

00:37:18,000 --> 00:37:23,000
And who even now really doubts that he knows anything at all.

00:37:23,000 --> 00:37:29,000
You are the expert. You really are. And if you can believe that even slightly before the viva,

00:37:29,000 --> 00:37:34,000
you put yourself in a much stronger position to take criticism and take comments on board for what they are,

00:37:34,000 --> 00:37:42,000
which is not attempts to bring you down for the sake of it. But attempts in good faith to improve a piece of work that.

00:37:42,000 --> 00:37:50,000
The examiners, in all likelihood, really enjoyed reading. Thank you so much, Edward, for taking the time to talk to me again,

00:37:50,000 --> 00:38:01,000
particularly during the busy period of doing those corrections alongside other work, which I am sure he is eager to get done as quickly as possible.

00:38:01,000 --> 00:38:32,885
And that's it for this episode. Don't forget to, like, rare and subscribe and join me next time whn I'll be talking to someone else about researchers, development, and everything in between


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