0

Being Examined: Tips for your viva

This wisdom comes from the 10th annual ‘Life beyond the PhD’ conference () hosted at Cumberland Lodge. I was lucky enough to win a scholarship to attend and gather a multitude of hints and tips for my academic career…Now I plan to share them here for those who wish to read them…I have also experienced a viva voce examination…so these viva tips also come from me too.

Image result

What is a viva voce?

In a nutshell it is the oral assessment of your PhD Thesis.

So your first viva tip would be….know how a PhD/doctorate/thesis is defined!…Here is a sample of some of the key phrases and expressions relating to ‘doctorateness’:

  • worthy of publication either in full or abridged form;

  • presents a thesis embodying the results of the research;

  • original work which forms an addition to knowledge;

  • makes a distinct contribution to the knowledge of the subject and offers evidence of originality shown by the discovery of new facts and/or the exercise of independent critical power;

  • shows evidence of systematic study and the ability to relate the results of such study to the general body of knowledge in the subject;

  • the thesis should be a demonstrably coherent body of work;

  • shows evidence of adequate industry and application;

  • understands the relationship of the special theme of the thesis to a wider field of knowledge;

  • represents a significant contribution to learning, for example, through the discovery of new knowledge, the connection of previously unrelated facts, the development of new theory or the revision of older views;

  • provides originality and independent critical ability and must contain matter suitable for publication;

  • adequate knowledge of the field of study;

  • competence in appropriate methods of performance and recording of research;

  • ability in style and presentation;

  • the dissertation is clearly written;

  • takes account of previously published work on the subject.

Source: Searching for ‘Doctorateness’.

The problem is…..that a range of literature has pointed out the variability in examination processes across universities, individual examiners, disciplines. Yup, this can be a fairly subjective process. So it is your job within your thesis and within your viva to make your case and convince your examiners that your work is indeed doctoral work.

Within Wellington’s (2013) framework for assessing ‘Doctorateness’, there are seven categories listed for which doctorates may contribute original knowledge. Therefore, in order for ‘Doctorateness’ to be unequivocally established for your thesis, it is important to apply the categories of this framework to each component of your research. The table below was added to my own thesis in order to prove how and why my work was indeed doctoral work.

Category number Category description Evidence
1 Building new knowledge, e.g. by extending previous work or ‘putting a new brick in the wall’. The Delphi method has been used previously to assess the workplace needs of midwifery populations (Hauck, Bayes and Robertson 2012). Yet the views and opinions of an expert panel about the design and development of an online intervention designed to support midwives in work-related psychological distress have been gathered and presented for the first time within this thesis.
2 Using original processes or approaches, e.g. applying new methods or techniques to an existing area of study. As the Delphi study presented within this thesis was a modified one, where the identity of experts remained unknown to the researcher, and free text response options accompanied each statement, it has also applied somewhat original processes and approaches to an existing area of study.

 

3 Creating new syntheses, e.g. connecting previous studies or linking existing theories or previous thinkers. Chapter one presents the first narrative review to integrate studies of midwives in work-related psychological distress (Pezaro et al. 2015). This original knowledge demonstrates how midwives working in rural, poorly resourced areas who experience neonatal and maternal death more frequently can experience death anxieties, where midwives working in urban and well-resourced areas do not. This creation of new syntheses connects previous studies and existing theories together to form new knowledge.

 

The mixed-methods systematic review presented within chapter three is the first of its kind to collate and present the current and available evidence in relation to existing interventions targeted to support midwives in work-related psychological distress (Pezaro, Clyne and Fulton 2017).

 

4 Exploring new implications, for either practitioners, policy makers, or theory and theorists. Chapter two makes an original contribution to ethical decision making, and may be extrapolated and applied to other healthcare professions who may also now consider the provision of confidential support online.
5 Revisiting a recurrent issue or debate, e.g. by offering new evidence, new thinking, or new theory. The original research presented in chapter two contributes to an ongoing academic dialogue in relation to ethical decision making.
6 Replicating or reproducing earlier work, e.g. from a different place or time, or with a different sample. The mixed-methods systematic review, presented in chapter three somewhat replicates earlier work from a different place, time, and with a different inclusion sample (Shaw, Downe and Kingdon 2015).

 

7 Presenting research in a novel way, e.g. new ways of writing, presenting, disseminating. The results of this research have been disseminated via popular media publications throughout. A further summary of this research is planned for publication. Furthermore, this research has also informed new guidance, published by the Royal College of Midwives, who also present the findings of this research in a new way. This new guidance is intended to guide heads of midwifery to support midwives experiencing work-related stress. Evidence of this can be found in Appendix 15.

 

Adapting this table to fit your own work should assist you in realizing how your own research can be argued to be doctoral work, both in your thesis and in your viva. Once this argument is clear in your own mind, your confidence should rise and enable you to direct your thoughts towards a really positive goal. Getting your PhD!…and not just because you want it, but because you are worthy of it! You have worked really hard for this opportunity, and seeing your work match up to this framework can really help you to visualize your successes. But now there are other things you can do to help you prepare…

Image result for research

Viva tips

Just because you have submitted your thesis, this does not mean you can sit back a relax until your viva day. Following a short break, and with fresh eyes, you should be revisiting your thesis and getting to know it really well. Also, be sure to keep up to date with any new research arising in your field, it may well be discussed in your viva!

Get to know your university’s policies and procedures. This will help you to prepare for how the viva voce may play out on the day. As your examiners will be drawing upon their own expertise, make sure that you also have a broad knowledge of their work!

Pick your battles. Fighting every point can be really jarring for everyone in the room, and your examiners need to see that you can accept constructive criticism and reflect. Decide what you will really defend, and what you are willing to let go of. This means that you will need to anticipate what your examiners may ask you. Here, it is a good idea to mock up some practice questions. Try defending the questions you fear most. This will help you to face your demons and formulate your arguments….constructively. An extra tip here would be to record yourself arguing your points. How do you sound? are you believable? How do you come across?

Having your supervisor with you can be very reassuring and comforting, although they may well not be allowed to speak during your viva voce. However, try to have them sit next to you or behind you, as eye contact or some other gestures, however well meaning may put you off your game.

Once you get to the viva, be prepared to break the ice. Your examiners are not ogres. They want you to pass! Starting your viva with a warm greeting can set the tone for the session, so don’t start with your defensive wall up too high! You can also set the scene with a short presentation to cover some broad points you anticipate coming up. Use this time to also show your knowledge and demonstrate your own unique way of thinking and working.

If there has been a long gap between your thesis submission and your viva, you may now have moved on to new ways of thinking or changed your original work to move on to a new project. Remember that this new work does not count in your viva. You must remain focused on what you submitted.

If the discussion moves to really complex debates, it is important to keep your cool, remain professional and don’t turn into a robot who has learnt their responses off by heart. Also, don’t be overly humble or point out your own weaknesses directly…if they are raised by the examiners, then you can show respectful considerations to other methods, but it is still important not to shoot yourself in the foot.

Your viva can last a good few hours…it is basically a brain marathon! So you will need to prepare both mentally and physically. This means de-stressing, eating and sleeping well…and generally giving time to your own self care regime. If you need a break during the session, don’t be afraid to ask for one. If you feel overwhelmed at any time, take a constructive pause to write or read and deliberate. It can’t be an extremely emotional and draining experience.

However, some people can enjoy their viva. After all, you will be speaking about your own work with experts in the field for some time. This is a chance to show off, be proud of what you have achieved and even learn more! Thinking in this positive way may make the viva experience not seem so daunting.

Image result for viva phd

I personally found my own viva experience very daunting, emotional and stressful. However, my examiners were not ogres…they too wanted me to pass and to help me make the best of my work… Following the submission of my revised thesis, I realized how much better my thesis now is because of this viva process and the input of my examiners. Having now gone beyond the viva process, I believe that I have truly earned my PhD. I worked hard for it. It didn’t come easy. It was a brain marathon. But would a PhD really be worth having if it was easy to achieve?

I can also now reflect on this process and learn from it. It is an experience that will certainly stay with me and enrich my future work. I hope it will also enable me to improve my own examination and supervisory skills in future.

If you would like to follow the progress of my work going forward..

Follow me via @SallyPezaroThe Academic MidwifeThis blog

Until next time…Look after yourselves and each other 💚💙💜❤

 

 

Advertisements
0

Top tips for #FreshersWeek #freshers2017 #Uni #StudentLife from an academic midwife

Tis that time of year again when students from all over the world descend upon university campuses to embark upon a fun filled journey of learning, adventure and growth.

Having been in education now for a number of years, I think this must be close to my tenth freshers week! Every year I get the same buzzy feeling of excitement as the freshers week commences…

(Unless that is the same feeling of excitement you get when Santa is coming…oh come on…Autumn…I am already thinking about the festive season!)

The streets are full of vibrant things to do and get involved in…people are making friends and connections and everyone is ready to take on a new challenge in life!

The sad thing is…whether I wear my student ID badge, or my staff ID badge..I am seemingly passed by when the invites for the foam parties and other nights out are being dished out…(grump)!…hmm…I wonder why? 🤔🎓 Maybe it will be different this year…and if you do see me on campus…I would love to hear about your plans!

I will be involved in the #CovHLSFreshers Twitter takeover this year..Ooh..snazzy!

 

As well as other survival guides out there, I wanted to share some of my own hints and tips for freshers.

Tip One:

No matter how scared or excited you are during freshers week….I think there are a few quotes that you should memorize and repeat to yourself in times of need….

Image result for a little nonsense now and then quote

Image result for everything will be alright in the end

 

Image result for be who you are and say what you feel

Related image

Related image

Tip Two:

Remember that there is no need to justify your course choice to anyone but yourself. This is your journey, your life now….trust yourself to make your own life choices. You got this!

Tip Three:

Find your tribe….Not necessarily those who look and talk like you…but those who will hear your voice, sing with you and lift you up. This could be your relevant student society or Twitter community..it could even be those you meet through doing what you love….hold on tight to these people for the ride…and make sure to lift each other up!

Tip Four:

Document your journey and take time to reflect. This experience will be over all too quickly and it’s going to be amazing! reflecting will help you to be mindful about your own situation and recognize your own achievements as your hard work pays off. Be grateful for 1 thing every day…however big or small…and celebrate the achievements of yourself and others every chance you get.

Tip Five:

Look after yourself. Self care can make your university experience a million times better. Take breaks, help yourself before you help others…and as for romance……

Image result for put your own oxygen mask on first quote

See->

10 Tips for Success & Self-Care for Academics

Category Archives: Student Tips 🎓

❤Welcome all!❤

See you on campus!

If you would like to follow the progress of my work going forward..

Follow me via @SallyPezaroThe Academic MidwifeThis blog

Until next time…Look after yourselves and each other 💚💙💜❤

 

 

0

‘Making & Breaking the Maternity Experience’#Uclhmw2016 – A midwifery conference

Attending and presenting work on midwife wellbeing at , I was thrilled to see so much of one conference dedicated to supporting the midwife, as well as the mother. I was also keen to hear  Jacqui Dunkley-Bent update us all on the new plans for maternity services in 2017! – Bring it on!

-Improvement in Perinatal mental health in maternity services was highest on the agenda as we can see here – midwives were really responsive to making these a commitments a reality.

Yet we can see that NHS England is also looking to transform the workforce as part of this plan. There are so many ideas buzzing around my head at the moment that I am feeling dizzy… “so much to do and so little time” – As Willy Wonka would say.

We also saw how mothers are experiencing poor support in decision making…

Both  and  really must be heard by all midwives, everywhere, more often! Read more about these experiences here. …and here.

Women are roaring for change!

Christine Armstrong

There are so many great resources available from dignity in childbirth … We really need to challenge the way that women experience respect in maternity care.

And the #CaringForYou campaign?

Sadly, bullying still a real issue in midwifery, as  confirmed … punity, public shaming & undermining must stop.. We must be kinder to one another…remember why we became midwives in the first place and love each other for the critical safety of mothers and their babies.

…..more ❤️ is needed!

We must ‘Create a positive culture’ –   says at 

What can we do?

There is indeed much to be done. I wanted to personally thank , and @MaureenMcCabe15 (and their teams) for looking after me so well as a speaker at this conference myself. I have never been so well looked after at a conference 😘😍

And thank you to all of those who appreciated my presentation and engaged in this very important work. I love this particular image that people have been sending me (see below)…I believe it was created at the#BirthTrauma2016 conference & shares a powerful message 💜💙💚

No automatic alt text available.

There really is so much to do and so little time!

Image result for so much to do and so little time willy wonka

As a last thought introduced to us by Sheena Byrom ‘Midwives are humming birds never too small to make a difference’

Until next time – Take care of yourselves & each other ❤💚💙💛

0

The 5 stages of academic rejection grief

Image result for temper

An academic career has been described as a journey filled with brutal, unrelenting rejection. I frequently find myself having to pick myself up from rejection. It is hard.

In academia..your peers will be some of the most intelligent, creative and driven people in the world. – I have found this to be very true. I am in awe of them all.

Additionally, from the inside, all you ever see is tweets and Facebook posts about how everyone else is winning awards, being featured by the press, or getting cited a thousand times.….Yes. I am constantly celebrating the achievements of my peers…. this is wonderful!…but yes… this does make my own rejections even harder.

Whether it is a paper in a journal, a grant application, your viva or an idea that you have lovingly nurtured and come to love and cherish, there are 5 stages of rejection grief that are more or less inevitable (for me anyway).

Having your work rejected can feel like you have just spent a lifetime nurturing and rearing a beloved child, only to find out that it has grown into an evil and murderous human being in need of ‘Major revisions’!

Image result for chucky

1. Denial and isolation

This is wrong. It cannot be. I was so certain that my work was beautiful!…I don’t want to talk about it 😦

2. Anger

How dare the reviewer pull apart my work in this way…do they know nothing???!!

3. Bargaining

OK, I will take a look at the revisions. I will accept comment 4 and 5, but I’m not doing what reviewer 3 wants!

4. Depression

Gah!….these revisions are so laborious and depressing.

5. Acceptance

Oh…OK…phew… it is done. I am happy with it. I am at peace and ready to resubmit!

Image result for who said everything will be alright in the end and if

Feedback is golden…but it can be challenging to accept…it feels like rejection….but we are all actually moving forward ..all of the time. See here about the importance of feedback. I don’t believe that managers, reviewers or examiners are out to get us (not all of them anyway)….and so we must remember that none of this is personal. It is not a rejection of you as an entity, it is a very subjective point of view which may actually improve the work you do.

Try to portray humility and gratitude…Rather than any knee jerk feelings…

Image may contain: 1 person, meme and text

“I’m sorry… you’ve got major revisions to do”

Work that needs major revisions? How will people judge that? How will I be judged? is everything I thought I knew a lie?..what would another reviewer have said? (Most of the time the reviewers all want different things in any case)!

Self doubt, career doubt, black and white thinking and a feeling of doom sets in. ‘I am not good enough’…I begin to catastrophise. But then I reflect…what is really behind success?

Image result for iceberg of success

I think that my approach to revisions needs major revisions. I continue to work on these revisions daily….

Every piece of work that I have ever revised following feedback or rejection has improved. Yet every time…I have to put all of my toys back into my pram before I begin the process of making any changes. I go back and forward around the 5 stages of academic grief..round and around…but it always ends up fine in the end….mostly it ends up better.

I live in constant fear of rejection, failure and disappointing those who I respect most… But we must try to get over our fear of failure and rejection, or we loose the opportunities we have to learn and grow.

Remember…things always feel better in the morning…you will not always feel this way. The cure for academic rejection grief is not always instant success…it is compassion for both yourself and others.

Until next time, take care of yourselves and eachother ⭐🎓⭐

0

Mentorship in healthcare and research: Role modelling for excellence

Image result for bad mentor

Mentoring, coaching, role modelling, training…. leading….Whatever you want to call it, I would be nothing without it. That phrase was once hurled at me as an insult…

YOU WOULD BE NOTHING WITHOUT ‘X’ – Well yes..That is true.

Image result for mentor

Workplace cultures in healthcare and research are created and shaped by what we do rather than what we say. Simply put, the way we behave is how we end up living. Although we can all be influenced by what we see, hear and experience …YOU can choose how you will and won’t behave. You can equally decide what behaviour you will and will not accept from others. But who will show us the way we want to go?

Image result for behave how you want to live

As I remember training to be a midwife, many people said …”‘take the good bits and leave the bad bits’ out of your own practice, as you develop and grow alongside your mentor”. I did this, and yet it took me a long time to define who I wanted to be as a professional. Some mentors were good, and some mentors less so – personal preference perhaps?… Many tried to direct the way in which they wanted me to go, and it took great courage for me to challenge this directive behaviour. However, as my career progressed, I was able to study Leadership in health and social care at Masters degree level. This really helped me to understand the theories behind good and bad mentorship…

Image result for good mentorship

A good mentor:

  • Has confidence in you
  • Trusts you
  • Empowers you
  • Gives constructive feedback
  • Wants you to succeed
  • Supports your new ventures
  • Listens to your new ideas
  • Identifies your strengths and helps you develop them into constructive outputs
  • Identifies your weaknesses and helps you manage them effectively
  • Shares their wisdom
  • Gives you wings to fly
  • Behaves with integrity, professionalism and dignity
  • Inspires you
  • Is kind to you (and others)!
  • Feeds your passions and thirst for new opportunities
  • Invites you into their network of expertise
  • Grows with you as you as a professional

A bad mentor:

  • Is concerned only with their own success
  • Talks about doing things that never happen ‘All talk’
  • Is always negative about everything and everyone
  • Is never around
  • Cannot commit to your development
  • Bullies you
  • Dictates how you must behave
  • Doesn’t pay attention to the way you would like to develop professionally
  • Never admits when they are wrong
  • Refuses to believe that you may know more than them in certain areas
  • Compares you with others (negatively)
  • Never lets you progress
  • Kills your confidence
  • Makes you feel bad about yourself

Once you find your way, it is important to find the courage to decide which behaviours you are willing to accept, and to role model yourself for the benefit of others. These are important choices to make, as they will contribute to the cultures in which you and your colleagues will be working. Ask yourself the following:

Image result for question time

  • What do you need in order to be productive?
  • What do you need from others in order to thrive professionally?
  • How do you want to behave?
  • What are you willing to accept?

The answers to these questions must be acted upon. Have the courage to communicate these needs…Others will want you to succeed, they will appreciate this information…

…If not…..are you willing to accept that?

My final tip for ultimate success is to find your flock. Gravitate towards those who inspire you… hang around with those who allow you to fly…. learn from those who lift others up and share your thoughts with those who seek out change.

I would be nothing without my ‘Flock’…my wonderful mentors and my inspiring colleagues.

Each and every one of us ‘mentor’ a growing professional every day (whether we realise it or not)! Therefore each and every one of us needs to decide how we want to behave every day..We all create the workplace cultures, leaders and workforce of the future. Lets create something wonderful…

Image result for success

Thank you to all of you wonderful mentors out there….

Until next time, look after yourselves, and each other 💙💜💚

4

The ‘Magic’ #Resilience Pill

There are no consistent definitions for what resilience actually is, yet I am beginning to actively dislike the word. It is beginning to sound as though it might be the magic pill everyone within the #NHS might need to take in order to survive. I am not so sure.

We don’t know much about resilience, yet it has been suggested that healthcare professionals need to be supported, not trained in resilience. I am inclined to agree.

Resilience building has a hidden cost in that “By introducing this focus on developing ourselves into “happy”, “positive” leaders one could argue that we are merely buoying ourselves away from, and in effect delaying, what is inevitable – the call to deal with the reality of our current state of play.”

Having ‘resilience’ puts the ownership of survival upon the beholder….. Does this mean that “You have had your resilience training (or ‘pill’) therefore you should be resilient now”? …. Will there be no room to show anything other than a new found ability to ‘cope’?

The NHS is a challenging place to work, and healthcare professionals are doing their best to survive and deliver the compassionate care that they wish to give. So should we be making the NHS a less challenging place to work? or be toughening up those who work there to become ‘resilient’ to adversities?

This is going to be a relatively short post, but I wanted to write down a few analogies that may help us all in thinking about what ‘resilience’ may really mean for us.

If you were being punched repeatedly in the face, would you:

A) Try to become resilient to the pain?

or

B) Try to reduce/stop the punching?

Perhaps a bit of both, but you see my point. The girl in the street who gets attacked does not need to wear a longer skirt, fight back harder or scream louder. Her attacker needs to stop attacking her.

The danger comes when staff feel that they should become more resilient rather than seek support for any pain they may be suffering. NHS staff health is vital to safe and effective patient care, and we would all like to see staff engaging happily with their work.

Yet perhaps the ‘Magic’ #Resilience Pill may actually be the placebo that masks our incredibly valued sensitivity as healthcare professionals.

It has been suggested that:

“The notion of resilience in midwifery as the panacea to resolve current concerns may need rethinking. Resilience may be interpreted as expecting midwives ‘to toughen up’ in a workplace setting that is socially, economically and culturally challenging. Sustainability calls for examination of the reciprocity between environments of working and the individual midwife.”

Whatever the case, it is time to be kind to each other. Always.