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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

My 1st year PhD evaluation

Those scribbles are the questions the panels asked during the viva.

Here in Newcastle University, some call it first year viva and some call it Panel Progression Interview. This is the definition of viva from

(in British and European universities) an oral examination; viva voce.
Origin: 1890–95; shortened form

After a year of studying and working on our research, all of us PhD students have to go through an interview session which is set up to mimic the real viva. I submitted my report on the week before the Christmas and New Year break. I was expecting for my viva to take place somewhere in January but somehow it got pushed to late February. So other tasks plus stuff to do kind of take up my priority. Of course I do not forget about the viva, it just got pushed to the back of my mind.

Then mid of second week of February, I received an e-mail informing me about the viva and its details. The possible outcomes of the viva are:
1-Candidate is passed for progression with no further work
2-Candidate is passed subject to completion of a further task
3-Candidate is asked to rewrite and resubmit the report for a further viva
4-Candidate is recommended to write up report for MPhil qualification rather than PhD
5-Candidate is not allowed to progress

Alright, NOT ALLOWED TO PROGRESS? That's really set my worry alarm on. To date, there have never been anyone from my school to fail. So I don't want to make history. Two days prior to my viva, I went to see my supervisor to discuss my current work and also to discuss about the viva. I let her know that I'm actually quite nervous and her advice is, "Nor, this is where you build your confidence. You know your work."

So armed with the confidence that I. KNOW.MY.WORK., I face that day with all the bravery I can mustered. I tried not to be nervous but my heart was pumping faster than usual. The viva started with self introduction by both of the panels. Then I introduced myself and talked about my research for about five minutes. Yes, you read right, 'talk'. No need for Power Point presentation whatsoever.

The worst was during the viva; I was so nervous (this is what one of the panels told me a day after the viva) to the point where I cannot recall a lot of information in order to answer the panels questions. Both of the panels are lecturers within the school and they are nice. I mean nice as in they do not look fierce or arrogant and they tried to make me feel comfortable. As they said at the start of the viva, "We will try to make this as FRIENDLY as possible." Some of their questions were answered with "I'm sorry, I cannot recall." The whole time I was wishing they asked me something I can explain. Obviously they just want to make me aware that I have to remember EVERYTHING that I wrote as they stressed this at the end of the viva. Hemm... a lesson well learnt there.

That are sort the sort of questions (which I have not prepared for because IMHO I thought they are trivial) but that are what the panels were asking.

Also, another lesson well learnt is EVERYTHING I put down in the report/thesis is subjected to questions. Meaning, not just my core work/research will be questioned. Honestly, I wasn't 100%prepared for the kind of questions they asked. I was expecting them to ask about my work but as we go page by page of my report, they asked me about equations and sentences of which I thought are just basics and not as important as my core work.

Oh! I need to mention this. My style of answering some of the questions which I was not sure about is by saying "To my knowledge..." You know, to be on the safe side. The panels adviced me not to use that phrase because that report is my work so I have to speak with authority. So that is lesson number 3. Actually it is hard to speak with authority when you are not sure because your answer may lead to another question which probably will put you in a greater danger of 'I-don't-know-the answer'.

This is one of my returned report. See all those flipped pages? OK, there's where the questions come from. I think just few pages were left unflipped.

The duration of my viva took more than 2 hours. I cannot be grateful enough when one of the panels said that we have to cut it short because he had a meeting to attend to. Truthfully, the viva should last no longer than 1 hour and 30 minutes. At the end of the viva session, the panels asked me if I have anything to say. I just said that I wish I have prepared better and I also wish they had asked me about my core work which I believe I can explain better. One of them asked me if I would like another chance so I said "Yes, if that is possible." They said "We'll see about it." So after 5 dreadful minutes of waiting (5 minutes after the viva session ended), the panels delivered the verdict of my viva. Alhamdulillah I passed but undoubtedly in preparing for my final viva later on, there are areas and things I need to improve and do.

As I walked home that evening, I start wondering and and questioning myself, "What am I doing here? Do I really know what I'm doing?" and all sort of self-doubting questions. By the time I got home I was so depressed, then I cried. Surely I am relief that I passed but I was just so tense and depressed that I need to get it out. Thanks to my husband for lending me his chest and sorry for the tear-streaked shirt.

Anyway, throughout the whole viva process, despite my nervousness and 'forgetfulness', I really think it is a good learning experience. What I like about it is the panels did not ask me questions to degrade or belittle my work. Rather they give constructive critics which will definitely help me in my final/real viva later down the road.

So now, I am already in Year 2 ( macam Darjah 2 gitu). I feel like time is running out and there are massive works to do and stacks of books and journals to read. Ya Allah, please give me the strength to follow through. Aaamin.


Wan's Family @ Southampton said...

gembira bc dilla berjaya viva!!!..tell me more! lagi best kalau dgr dilla cerita ni.
take care!


tasha said...

wah..kak more than 2 hrs??!!..i thought viva will be just like FYP presentation..paling lama pun 25-30 mins..huhu..

but, bagus jgk akak tulis a few tips kat cni..boleh digunapakai oleh org lain jgk..huhu..

mula dh ku dh takut nk ber"viva" nnt..
papepun, gambatte kundasai kak dilla!!i know u can do it..

Dilla said...

ani, syukur sangat tapi dlm masa yang sama rasa sesak nafas sebab masa semakin suntuk.

tasha, 2 hours tu kira standard, hehehe... tasha jangan takut, orang pesan kat saya & saya sampaikan kat tasha, banyakkan solat hajat & solat dhuah, insya-Allah oknya. All the best k :)

Term Papers said...

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NenekPenne said...

alamak...mcm susahnya....

Dilla said...

@term papers: thank you for stopping by. Really appreciate your comments :)

@NenekPenne: Setiap orang melalu pengalaman berbeza. Ada juga kawan-kawan saya yg kata mudah. Apapun, selamat maju jaya k :)

Anonymous said...

thanx 4 yr nice story.. i'm just started my DBA program in UUM, hope that i'll manage to complete my DBA study in 4 yrs time, insya-Allah