I can’t say I enjoyed this… #go_gn

… It was hard. 

I felt that my preparation wasn’t good enough and despite reading loads of questions and articulating possible answers, I didn’t perform as well as I wanted to. I wasn’t happy with how I did.

 It was super hard.

Was it so hard because I knew the mock examiners? Well, we work together closely…

During the mock viva, I didn’t have time to write anything down or search through my notes. The sticky notes on the thesis were also problematic… maybe I had too many…

  • The visualisations of the research design,
  • the outcome space and 
  • the framework 

were useful.

I should have added the page number to the above pages I had printed separately so that I can take the examiners to the exact pages in the thesis quickly. I have done this now. 

I felt that one additional diagram (not in the thesis) I had prepared around the literature review was useful but I will need to add the gaps I had identified to each section for a quick reference.

Also, I felt that having my findings, mainly the categories of description and their variations in front of me (not just the outcome space), would be useful as well as my summary sheet with my responses to the research questions (the table I had created). 

I am grateful to my colleagues who organised this mock viva. They both said it was like a typical viva. I felt dreadful until it was over… They told me that I sounded at times defensive (I even said “I have evidence of this”) kept talking after I had answered the question launching into other areas… also that I wasn’t enthusiastic enough… It was an uncomfortable experience… but an extremely useful one…

Less is more, I was told.. 

I need to get better at this viva thing!

First, I will need a few days to recover. Then I will continue my preparation. I can’t wait to jump in the deep blue sea!!! I need to fill my batteries with fresh energy to get through this…

mock_viva

Almost none of this worked… overengineering is problematic!

The countdown to the viva has started… 46 days left #go_gn

tape_measure.jpg

navy

Chrissi a computer programmer in the Navy

Yes, I got a proper tape measure (actually 2 from the Poundshop, yes, for £1 both of them and I am not throwing away the 47-150cm bit but will make a lanyard out of it). Last time I bought one I was waiting to finish my service in the Navy. I had 150 days left then. Now I have 46 until the viva. So I cut the tape to 46cm… this is my starting point… and I will cut 1 cm each day… yes, not inches… every day I will cut 1 cm until the big day when there will be no tape left. There is a strange satisfaction in doing this and seeing the time pass in front of your eyes. 

My viva date was confirmed todayIt is the 8th of September 2017 and I am pleased that I didn’t wait to start preparing for it until I knew the date. Pleased I had my own internal deadlines. The main preparation I wanted to do is done.

I have…

  • re-read the thesis carefully and critically.
  • created one page hand written summaries for each chapter.
  • made annotations throughout the thesis, initially I thought I should keep the clean look.
  • added sticky notes to help me locate things quickly… hopefully.
  • I have found a few errors… things that I should have seen… frustrating!

AND, as a result of the above, I did definitely overcome the fear of reading the thesis, which is a good thing.

thesis_all_sticky_notes

In a PowerPoint, I captured the following

  • a presentation of the study
  • questions and answers linked to the whole thesis and individual chapters
  • questions which I have found with the help of colleagues and friends and the web, of course
  • typed up the page summaries for each chapter
  • copy of all visualisations used in the thesis and two more that will help me explain the framework and my theoretical framework, I hope…

My plan is to print this powerpoint presentation and use as a mobile revision tool in the next 45 days… The whole thesis is coming with me to Greece again this year. It wouldn’t be the same without it… but hopefully next summer I will be PhD study free… 

Colleagues have offered to do a mock viva this Friday. I am very nervous.

I will also ask my boys to keep asking me viva questions on the beach. Soon they will stop asking me “Mummy, when will you get that PhD”… if I pass… 

What else do I need to get ready? 

Thank you all.

Where is the next one? #go_gn

I have now overcome the fear to find the next typo or mistake. I am at 25 and am more relaxed reading the thesis. I can now see how distancing self from it for a little while has been positive, as I have started seeing all the things I couldn’t see before. When you are working for so long on such an extensive piece of work,  you are immersed into it and I think also blinded in a way. I definitely was. You somehow stop seeing your own mistakes. I did. It is really strange and unbelievable at times especially when you spot something that is really obvious. 

Anyway,  I am progressing my revision systematically and have now an extensive set of questions and answers. Some might say that I am doing this too forensically, far too detailed. I plan to take the thesis with me to Greece in the summer. Some say, don’t. Somehow I feel better having the physically copy with me… it is not that heavy… well it is but it would go into our hand luggage. I am just hoping that I won’t forget everything and have worked really hard to bring this to completion. Wouldn’t want the viva not to go well… 

Beyond the questions I curated from various sources and thanks to all my colleagues who have also helped with links and files, see previous post, I have now started adding questions that are specific to my work and capture these on a different colour background so that I can see them easily. There are not that many yet.

So far, I have re-read Chapter 1 (Introduction) 8 (Conclusion), 4 (Constructing the collective case study) and 5 (Phenomenographic findings). Yes, in this order. I wanted to refresh my memory what I was planning to do, what I did do in the end and how I got there. Next will be Chapter 6 (Discussion) and 7 (Framework).

thesis_sticky_notes

Will they help during the viva?

Mini sticky notes have started finding their way into the thesis so that I can locate things easier during the viva. I have located the research design figures, the categories of description table, the outcome space and the framework too. These are useful visualisations that bring the whole study together. I plan to also print them out on separate sheets and take them with me for easy reference.

By the end of July, I hope to have re-read all chapters and made 1-page summaries of each and articulated specific questions linked to these. 

Thank you everybody who has supported me so far in this process and offered advice. Very much appreciated. 

My viva preparation continues…

… waiting to hear #go_gn

I submitted my thesis on the 5th of May. It is now mid June. I hope to hear soon from the university about the examiners. Getting more nervous as time passes and I haven’t heard anything yet. However, the silence has not stopped me preparing for the viva day. On the contrary, I continue preparing systematically.

My strategy so far has been to collect all questions colleagues kindly shared with me (by Mary, Lisa and Jenny) so far, others I have found online, into a presentation. I won’t use it during the viva but it does help me to keep everything in one place and create some flashcards too that will be useful when practising with family, friends and colleagues. I still have some work until then.

The presentation has three parts and 83 slides at the moment:

  1. Overview of the study
  2. Viva questions arranged in generic questions, questions linked to the literature, methodology, findings and future facing ones.
  3. Unusual questions

Each question slide has the question at the top and my attempt to respond to this and where needed linked it back to specific pages in the thesis. I suspect this will be useful. I started with the ones that were easier… but then went back into the thesis and also started re-reading specific literature to refresh my memory.

Also, I have started discussing some of my responses with colleagues (Stephen and Kath so far) and have now an extensive set of questions and answers and I go back to the questions and answers and review them. Some of my initial responses were very generic. I need to be specific and link back to the study.

stickies

My next step is to read the thesis again very carefully and identify any additional questions I could be asked and add these to the presentation. This is the time for the first sticky notes to be added and check for further typos and little things I need to change.

BTW my list of edits is now at 13… I am making the corrections in the digital version of the thesis as I find the errors and am keeping all changes in a file which I plan to share at the end of the viva.

Your tips and suggestions are very welcome.

viva preparation day 1 #go_gn

Recently, I admitted that I am scared to open the thesis I submitted exactly a month ago, on the 5th of May. Today I did… and oh dear…

…  yes, it did happen… I found a mistake… one that can easily be fixed… at least but it could have been avoided!!! I guess, only when you distance yourself from such a massive undertaking you can see your own mistakes. Anyway, it has happened now.

I decided to make a list in my blue notebook as I suspect that there will be (a few) more… at least I am sort of overcoming my fear of opening and reading the thesis.

thesis_error

Voila…

Mary, a dear colleague has given me loads of viva resources and I started reading these carefully. Tomorrow is the committee meeting that will or not approve the examiners. So soon, we will be able to arrange the viva day… when will it be? I was hoping before August but this might not be possible.

Yesterday I spoke with my dad and told him that I am worried that I will forget all the work I have done over the last 4.5 years… Anybody else has/had that feeling? I suspect that sharing this fear with my dad helped me realise that I need to get started. I need to get organised. And I started today.

After reading for the first time through the above mentioned viva resources, I decided to create a presentation that captures the overview of the study and then questions and answers and anything else I feel might be useful. A presentation might not be needed for the actual viva but the presentation format will help me prepare for the viva and print it out as flashcards. This is my idea at the moment. I will work through the resources and make sure that I will be able to respond to the sample questions, some of them appear more complex than others.

I need of course to familiarise myself with the viva format at Edinburgh Napier University but my understanding is that I will have the thesis with me, can add post-it notes, use and take notes too.

The presentation is no longer blank. The basics about the study are there already. I will continue working on the study overview and create shorter versions of it too. How about my thesis in a tweet? Then as a 2, 5 and 10 minute overview. Maybe I should record as audio too and share?

When this is done, I am going to filter out some of the key questions from the resources I have, add them to my flashcard set and attempt to respond. Further preparation is needed, I am sure. Everybody talks about a mock viva and it would be useful to organise something like this too and if I could watch or observe a viva that would also be helpful. Adam will be my first examiner. Maybe I can ask the boys too. Maybe all three of them together?

If you are reading this and have any suggestions from your personal experience, please let me know. Thank you so much.

Chrissi