How not to melt down before your Viva

Thesis completed? Yes! Thesis printed and sent to examiners? Yes! Viva date set? Oh yes!

So now what? Well, my Viva date is two weeks away and I’ve started to panic. Churning tummy, nightmares about my last viva (Russian undergraduate degree 20 years ago) and grouchy behaviour with everyone who comes into contact with me.

So here’s my selection of the best advice I’ve had for dealing with the symptoms of extreme stress:

  1. Take long walks.

Sounds obvious, but the effect of sunshine and exercise is beneficial for getting the brain going. A good viva performance will depend on being able to make connections between different parts of your thesis: how the research question drove the methodological choices; how the results combined to answer the research aim.  As my supervisor advised me: take lots of long walks to feel better.

2.  Read around the subject

I know how Bourdieu was applied in my thesis, but what else has been going on in the wider field? I found Ben Fine’s entertaining book on the mis-use of Bourdieusian theory  and it has re-energised my love for Pierre Bourdieu: my key theoretical influence.


3. Reread your thesis, summarising every paragraph into one sentence

Yes, it’s time-consuming, but it helps you to re-formulate your argument. All those sentences can be put into a one-page document which summarises each chapter. In a few days time,  I will have 260 pages summarised into 6 pages. And re-reading is surprisingly cheering: it’s really not a bad piece of work!

The most helpful pre-viva checklist I found was this one  from the University of Leicester. It is feasible and practical. Give it a go.

How did you survive your viva? Do you have any tips from your own experience to share?