the thesis and viva voce n.
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The thesis and viva voce

The thesis and viva voce

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The thesis and viva voce

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  1. The thesis and viva voce by Christopher Teh Boon Sung, Ph.D. Fac. of Agriculture, UPM Tel: 03-89474858

  2. You can download these slides from: •

  3. What is viva voce? Mohd. Said Bashir defending his thesis on Apr 19, 2008 • Literally, "viva voce" means “by the living voice” or “by word of mouth” • Today viva means oral examination – thesis defense • The final hurdle of your postgraduate research degree • No marks given for viva but it is used to evaluate the worth of your work and thesis

  4. Purpose of viva voce • The purpose of the viva is to validate your thesis and show the examiners: • that the thesis is your own work • that you understand what you have done and written • that you are aware where your work sits in relation to the wider research field • that your work is of sufficiently high standard (in terms of scientific rigor and writing maturity) • that you can defend your work in response to the examiners' questions

  5. Who are in the viva? • Examiners • 1 external examiner (may not be present) • 2 internal examiners • 1 chairperson • The candidate (you!) • Your supervisor and co-supervisors • one or more of them may not be present

  6. External examiner • Expert in the field of the candidate’s research • Must be from outside UPM • Can be from • local universities – for MSc only • foreign universities – MSc and PhD • For foreign students, examiner from the same nationality is not recommended • Must have at least 10 significant journal publications in your field of work • Must graduate at least 1 student at the same level of your degree

  7. Not involved in your work/research • e.g., any joint publications can be problematic • May not attend your viva • Foreign external examiners rarely attend • Local external examiners may come especially if one of the internal examiners is unable to attend your viva

  8. Internal examiners Two examiners from within UPM Have expertise your field of study Can sometimes be more strict than the external examiner!

  9. Chairperson • Have graduated at least one postgraduate student • Not necessarily has the expertise in your field of research • Duties include to • moderate/coordinate the discussion/examination • ensure all examiners’ questions are adequately answered by the candidate • NOT become an examiner! • but the person can ask questions on behalf on the external examiner based on the examiner’s report if the examiner is not present

  10. Supervisor and co-supervisors • They are invited to attend the viva, but their attendance is optional • They will come and sit and listen but they will not actively participate in the discussion unless asked by the examiners or chairperson • Do not depend on your supervisors or co-supervisors to bail you out of tough questions! • reflects badly on you as it shows you cannot defend your work well • Do not become angry if they do not attend your viva • It is your thesis defense, not theirs

  11. Selection of viva committee Candidate can suggest names for the viva committee, but ultimately, the main supervisor must ask and appoint the examiners and chairperson Choose the best people who can understand, correct, and improve your work

  12. What happens during a viva? • A 20-minute oral presentation of your work • Focus on: • Problem and justification of study • Objectives • How you did your work • Results – what you obtained/observed • Discuss/explain your results • Conclusion – not a summary! • Integrate review of literature with the above rather than have a separate section on literature review • Avoid a lengthy presentation

  13. Q & A • Key areas examiners will evaluate your work: • Is the problem of study clear and important? • Are the study’s objectives clear, achievable, and sufficient? • Are the methods used sufficient ? • Are the results clear, sufficient, and important? • Can the results be explained clearly and sufficiently? • Have the study’s objectives been achieved? • Is the scientific work robust/rigorous? • Is the level of work sufficient for the awarded degree? • Are the presentation of work and writing in thesis adequate?

  14. Thesis Acceptance/rejection categories • Accepted with distinction • minimal corrections needed for spelling, grammar, and syntax • met all criteria for award (e.g., no. of publications and number of credits) • 15 days for correction

  15. Accepted with minor modifications • reformatting of chapters • revision of literature and/or objectives • correction of references • minor spelling, grammar, and syntax errors • 30 days for correction

  16. Accepted with major modifications • extensive revision of thesis to improve quality • re-analysis of data • removal of chapters • re-discuss your results • major corrections in spelling, grammar, and syntax • 60 days for correction

  17. Oral re-examination (Re-viva voce) • fails the first viva voce • second viva and final viva to be conducted within 60 days • Re-submission of thesis • scope of degree not met • objectives not met • serious flaws in methodology and analysis • requires additional experiments or data collection • 2 semesters or 1 year for res-submission (repeat the whole thesis submission and viva process)

  18. Re-submission of a PhD thesis as a Masters thesis • scope of work not suited at a PhD level • 60 days for correction • Fail/rejected • very serious flaws in work • plagiarism detected

  19. Appeal against viva decision • You can appeal a decision by the viva committee if you think it is incorrect • Fill in the relevant form from SGS and provide supporting documents for your appeal • The following criteria is included for appeal cases to be considered: • At least one member of the supervisory committee is present at the viva • Appeal letter is officially submitted by the supervisor. • No scientific misconduct such as plagiarism, falsification of data, cheating has occurred.

  20. There is evidence to support case including report (s) from independent expert opinion, journal papers (preferably ISI papers), if relevant. • Evidence of conflict of interest by examiners is provided, if relevant. • Contradicting statements on the outcome of the examination in the report by Chair of Examination Committee, if relevant. • Note: Criteria 1, 2 and 3 are compulsory. In addition either criteria 4 or 5 or 6 is also required for SGS to consider the case. • Deadline for submission of appeal letter is one month after viva date.

  21. Minimum no. of publications • For GRF (Graduate Research Fellowship) holders: • PhD level - 2 journal publications (or accepted) • MSc level - 1 journal publication (or accepted) • For others: • PhD level - 1 journal publication (or accepted) and 1 article submitted • MSc level - 1 journal submitted

  22. Correcting your thesis (after the viva) • You can ask for extension for thesis correction but for not reasons regarding busy work schedule or insufficient time given • Make ALL corrections as requested by your examiners – do not pick and choose which corrections you want to do • Corrections based on examiners’ and chairperson’s reports and corrections written in your thesis copy

  23. You can see/contact your examiners to resolve any • contradictory corrections suggested by two or more examiners • unclear corrections or comments • disagreement with the corrections • give your reasons for your disagreement • but ask yourself first: “Was my writing/explanation/presentation unclear?”

  24. Final thesis preparation • Guidelines and forms can be downloaded from SGS website • • NEW guidelines since Jan 2014: • Submit your thesis in double spacing for ease of corrections by the viva committee, but in final form, your thesis must be prepared • in single spacing and printed on both sides of paper • but in double spacing for between paragraphs and sections • using 80 g paper • Check other requirements as listed in the SGS website

  25. Preparing for your viva • Go through your thesis and anticipate the questions you can be asked during the viva • All questions will be related to four general areas: • What is it about? • What did you do? • What did you find? • Why does that matter?

  26. Find out who are your examiners • What are their research background and expertise? • What have they published, and mostly in what field? • Read some of their articles to understand their interest • Ask your supervisory committee as some of them might familiar with one or more of your examiners • Prepare a 20-minute presentation and run it through your supervisory committee for their feedback • If possible, prepare a mock/trial viva with your supervisory committee

  27. Bring supporting documents (books, publications, photos, saved website information) into your viva in case you need them to defend your work • documents preferably in softcopies • Bring pen and paper! • to jot down the examiners’ comments • Do not discuss your viva or your thesis with any of the examiners prior to your viva

  28. During your viva … • Some examiners, unfortunately, can conduct their examination as if they are challenging you • some personalities are more prone to such an approach • Do not take offence • A relaxed, thoughtful, and non-confrontational response from you will help rebalance the discussion

  29. Avoid • giving a general, resigned declaration that "this happens in every study" • blaming your supervisors • blaming your data or situation but without sufficient problem solving efforts • saying "that was beyond the scope of my study" without giving a convincing argument to support the statement • dismissing as unimportant what has been identified as a weakness in your study

  30. Instead, • be confident and eager to share your work • take time to consider before replying • remember to breathe and speak reasonably slowly • not take the criticism personally • not take offence • not get angry • enjoy the opportunity to talk about your research • No time limit for viva but it often lasts between one to three hours

  31. Resources • Your viva voce exam by Uni. of Leicester • • The viva voce exam by Uni. of Sheffield •

  32. Good luck! Thank you