Viva Prep Questions

This is a comprehensive list of 40 questions from a blog post by two academics from the Open University I found with a bit of help from my close personal friend Google. I’ve adapted and organised it to suit social scientists, along with some notes and tips I found helpful. Use as you see fit.

*** Key questions about your research

Practice the answers (to a mirror, to your friends, and supervisors) to these questions over, and over again. Make sure you know this like your life depended on it!

  • Can you start by summarising your thesis?  — Prepare a 5 min and 1 min version of this.

  • Can you summarise your thesis in one sentence/to a lay person?

  • What motivated and inspired you to carry out this research?

  • What were the crucial research decisions you made?

  • Why did you use this research methodology? What did you gain from it?

  • What are the strongest/weakest parts of your work? - Prepare 3 of each. One theoretical, one methodological and one finding.

  • Summarise your key findings.

  • What are the contributions to knowledge of your thesis?

  • What are the main achievements of your research?

  • What have you learned from the process of doing your PhD?

Other questions

What is the idea that binds your thesis together?
What are the main issues and debates in this subject area?
Which of these does your research address?
Why is the problem you have tackled worth tackling?
Who has had the strongest influence in the development of your subject area in theory and practice?
Which are the three most important papers that relate to your thesis?
What published work is closest to yours? How is your work different?
What do you know about the history of [insert something relevant]?
How does your work relate to [insert something relevant]?
What are the most recent major developments in your area?
How did your research questions emerge?
What were the alternatives to this methodology?
What would you have gained by using another approach?
How did you deal with the ethical implications of your work?
How has your view of your research topic changed?
How have you evaluated your work?
How do you know that your findings are correct?
What would have improved your work?
To what extent do your contributions generalise?
Who will be most interested in your work?
What is the relevance of your work to other researchers?
What is the relevance of your work to practitioners?
Which aspects of your work do you intend to publish – and where?
Which of these findings are the most interesting to you? Why?
How do your findings relate to literature in your field?
What advice would you give to a research student entering this area?
You propose future research. How would you start this?
What would be the difficulties?
And, finally… What have you done that merits a PhD?

Nikki SooComment