The Viva Interviewer
The Humanities Researcher Development Team has a number of copies of The Viva Interviewer software to give to PGRs in the final stages of their PhD. Copies of this software are handed out to those who attend the Viva Survivor workshop and can also be requested by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
What is The Viva Interviewer?
The Viva Interviewer software runs on any pc or laptop with a webcam. It allows you to practise and reflect upon your responses to the high-level questions which are often experienced as the most challenging in the real research viva.
Once you have installed the software and checked your webcam for video and sound recording, the software offers you a series of sessions which challenge you to respond to questions covering major aspects of your research and thesis (research design, methodology, significance of results etc.) and receive feedback onscreen which will help you to review and improve your performance.
The feedback notes offer comments on what you might have said in your answer (did you think of mentioning ….?) and comments from the examiner’s angle (as an examiner I am usually looking for X when I ask this question).
Feedback from students who used the software systematically before their real viva shows that this had significant positive impact on their performance.
How can Viva Interviewer be used most effectively?
Our discussions with users suggest that you can make best use of The Viva Interviewer in the following ways:
- Use it over a period of time to build up your ideas and confidence
Do not use it for the first time just before your viva! You need time to reflect on your answers and consider alternatives.
- Approach the sessions and questions in the way that best suits your style of working
You can go through all the questions in one of the sessions one after another or repeat particular questions as often as you like. There is no one best way of using it. Make sure you use it in the most comfortable way for you.
- Ask colleagues and friends for their feedback
Remember that you may not be the best judge of your own performance. You can ask colleagues or your supervisor to comment on your responses.
Remember that the Viva Interviewer is only one useful tool which you can use. The software does not know your work and so it cannot ask specific questions or probe issues – it cannot replace a mock viva with your supervisor or colleagues. But it will help you prepare effectively for both the mock and real viva if you use it sensibly over a period of time.