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Finding Confidence For The Viva

13 June 2016
Dr Nathan Ryder

Dr Nathan Ryder

Over the last six years I’ve helped almost 2000 PhD candidates prepare for their viva. It feels great to be directly helping people with what feels like a big problem: how do you prepare for the viva well? Despite three years or more of research, candidates can often approach their viva wondering, “Is it going to be OK?” They worry that examiners might be awful, or that nerves might get the better of them.

So what can you do to approach the viva with confidence?

 

The Stats Are On Your Side: A few years ago I did some research into viva experiences, and the vast majority of people have positive experiences. Their viva isn’t incredibly long, most people get minor corrections (or none at all) and generally the viva is quite enjoyable. Knowing that most people have a good time can give you some confidence that you will too.

Practise Confidence: As a directive it sounds almost as useful as “don’t worry!” But research suggests that we can practise being confident. Check out this TED Talk by Amy Cuddy to see examples of power posing and learn about how it could help you be confident.

Practise Answering Questions: One of the best things that you can do to feel confident for the viva is practise answering questions. Think about having a mock viva, make opportunities to give seminars where you can take questions – even having coffee with friends who can ask you about your work – all are great ways to gain practice and confidence.

The Significant, Original Contribution: PGRs are told throughout their PhD that they have to produce a significant, original contribution to knowledge. Heading towards submission and the viva, candidates can worry about whether or not they’ve done it. But they wouldn’t have got to the end of their PhD if their supervisor and others didn’t think their work was significant! You can take confidence from reaching this final hurdle.

FYVwordle1It’s OK to feel nervous before the viva, but it’s right to feel confident about your work. You wouldn’t be at the viva if you weren’t meant to be. Anyone can feel nervous, but there is a lot that you can do to be confident.

Thanks for reading! If you need some more help or resources check out the Viva Survivors Podcast, my project where I interview PhD graduates about their research, viva and life afterwards. I’ve written two ebooks on viva preparation, and the first one is now available in print too. Finally, I’m running a Viva Survivor workshop on June 29th in Manchester to help PhD candidates prepare well for their viva. Places are limited, check here for more details.

Dr Nathan Ryder is a freelance skills trainer who specialises in helping PhD candidates prepare for the viva. Find out more about his work at his website and the Viva Survivors Podcast.

Viva support at Salford

The Salford Postgraduate & Staff Research Training (SPoRT) programme runs ‘Preparing for the viva’ workshops on a regular basis and you can access the Good Viva video at any time during your studies (login required).

There is also support for you from within the School in preparing for your viva. Contact Louise Brown for more information on how to access this support.

Launch of “Supporting Families and Carers: A Nursing Perspective”

19 April 2016

The book launchBefore I realised that I couldn’t afford to spend so much time there I used to be regular visitor to Waterstones on Deansgate in Manchester; my office was in the same block as Waterstones and it was a great place to go at lunch time to quickly refresh my brain and consequently I attended several of their book signing sessions and readings from authors.  In terms of excitement those sessions paled compared to my anticipation of the launch of Julie Wray and Mary Braine’s book in the Allerton building yesterday.  Had Julie not invited me I’d have gate-crashed it!

Farida Anderson and Julie Wray

Farida Anderson & Julie Wray

I’ve written before about my involvement with the Users and Carers conferences and its associated support group and how much I enjoy the conferences, the effect they have on student nurses and how invigorating they are to me.  It’s inspiring to consider that this book, which draws on experiences from Users and Carers, will play an important part in the education of future generations of nurses and healthcare professionals.  That’s an amazing legacy Mary and Julie!

The legacy of the Users and Carers group was emphasised by the members who attended yesterday’s event.  Former GP and founder member Joe McShane talked to us about how he was ill prepared to become a carer after retirement, initially for his wife and latterly for his daughter.  Former Salford Carers representative and Users and Carers stalwart Helen Hills spoke of her new role leading a group of charities. And then there were ‘newbies’ like Farida Anderson and me, both relatively new to Users and Carers but both committed to its future.

There were several highlights throughout the event, the first being entirely personal and wholly unexpected (as you can tell from the video below).  I played a very, very small part in this book and consequently was staggered to be presented with a dedicated copy of it by Mary and Julie.  I was further amazed after the event when Julie told me she was using my contribution to the book in her teaching and that her colleagues in Finland had asked to use it in their teaching too!

The second highlight was Julie’s home made chocolate and Guinness cake which was beautifully finished with an icing representation of the book’s front cover made by Anthony, one of the lecturers from the University.

Julie'bookAnd so to the third highlight, midway through the morning Julie disappeared to collect a letter from the House of Commons!  It was a very supportive message from local MP Barbara Keeley and its arrival made me appreciate the impact of the book would be felt beyond the academic world.  A point reinforced by Barbara Keeley’s tweeted message of support later in the day.

Barbara Keeley's tweet

Barbara Keeley’s tweet

Apart from Julie’s cake and rather too many almond Danish pastries, what else did I get from the day?  A realisation that no matter who we are, whether a professor, doctor, student nurse, patient or carer we can all inspire in our own way and that each day should be a new learning experience.

Rob Finnigan

WoMMeN hub to launch today on ‘International Women’s Day’

8 March 2016

Breast screening mammographers and academic staff from a number of disciplines across the University of Salford have been collaborating with service users to create the WoMMeN (Word of Mouth Mammogram e Network) breast screening information and support hub. We are so proud that our collaboration between disciplines across Health Sciences, Nursing, Midwifery, Social Work & Social Sciences and the Business School; led by Dr Leslie Robinson in radiography with Dr Marie Griffiths; Dr Adam Galpin; Dr Julie Wray and colleagues from Media Psychology and a dedicated team of highly motivated clinical mammography practitioners from within the NHS.

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Happy WoMMeN’s Day!

My Second Home

8 November 2015
RobF

Rob Finnigan

Given my age and lack of formal educational qualifications I’d have called you insane had you suggested two years ago that I’d be sharing the campus at the University of Salford with hundreds of bright young people.  However, that’s exactly what has happened and the University has become my second home claiming that honour from another venerable Salford institution, Salford Royal Hospital.  Apart from the occasional truly dreadful cup of coffee my experiences of the University have invariably been positive and inspiring.

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