How to examine a UK research degree

I'm assuming anyone reading this particular post already knows about UK vivas in general, if you don't I'm sure wikipedia will fill you in. This is just a couple facebook posts I did that people asked me to put somewhere more accessible.  By the way, the things below about the lists I got from observing Tony Prescott viva my MPhil.

UK PhD Vivas are a big deal to the PI, external, and of course the candidate
(left to right, respectively)  Anything can happen!
If you're the external I agree you have to read it twice (there's little else I read twice.) I mark it up the first time through, then go through again on the week of the viva and make two lists: one of corrections, the other of questions. I rank the questions by importance, then put a relatively easy & general one first so the candidate gets used to talking, then the most difficult and critical-to-the-entire-thesis question second. I do that to really worry / scare them. That's because if they don't feel panic at some point, they don't really feel like they've achieved anything with getting through the viva -- I've seen that really hurt promising academics' careers. It has to be a ritual of passage so they feel confident afterwards. After the super big question, we may or may not hit the other questions, or we may just switch to going through the dissertation in order with the corrections. Be hypercritical in constructing the list of corrections, add every possible thing, then every time the candidate successfully defends against one, conspicuously cross it off the list so they can see they've achieved something in their defense! At the end, just hand them both lists (or maybe just the corrections if there are questions you skipped) so they know it is truly over as far as you are concerned, they are now a doctor, and the corrections are a minor detail for the internal to handle.

If you're the internal, bring your laptop and write down all the corrections agreed in real time. The worst thing is when the candidate successfully convinces the external of something and then the external gets home to write up the corrections, forgets what the candidate said, remembers what they originally thought, and puts that in as a correction. Document the whole thing & get it signed off before the external leaves the room! (Unless you're lucky and the external is like me and hands the list over themselves, in which case just be sure you get a copy.)

updated 11 June 2017 with a picture :-)
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