Well finally I’m back. We’ve moved into our own place – mind you, a place where our question is not whether we’ll get burgled but rather when we’ll get burgled again – but I digress… I’ve been teaching Greek exegesis and other subjects, and have been back to the UK for my viva (PhD oral examination).
The viva was an interesting experience. I was more nervous than I’ve ever been before, and expected a barrage of confrontational objections. As it turned out, it was a positive and constructive experience. My two examiners were very encouraging from the start, emphasising that they believed the work to be worthy of publication, and that any questions they had were minor. This was a great relief – and it calmed me down somewhat! The questions that they then put to me were thoughtful, and reflected their close reading of my work. In particular, I came to see that my abstract and major conclusion were not properly reflective of the bulk of the dissertation, and that certain terminology and formatting needed to be made more consistent. This was very valuable stuff to hear – and in looking back at my material I can see that these insights were spot on. So I passed with “minor corrections” – and I’ve just spent the last week getting these corrections done. The result is a dissertation that presents my thesis more clearly and sharply than before.
So if you’re going to face a viva, be encouraged that it can be a positive and worthwhile experience! It was a a huge encouragement for me to hear from two experts that my work is worthwhile. So my advice for viva preparation is: “Believe in yourself and you can do anything”… oh no, wait a minute, that’s a bunch of half-chewed Oprah-esque “skybalon”… my advice is: “Pray like mad for good examiners!!”