The submission & Viva Process
(Catherine Stewart and Alice MacLean)
Catherine Stewart - joined the unit in 2005 for a 1+3 studentship, received an MPH in 2006 and then completed a PhD on multilevel event history modelling of large datasets in 2010. After working as an investigator scientist in the unit for a year, she is now undertaking a Career Development Fellowship (CDF).
Alice MacLean - joined the unit in 2002 for a PhD studentship on gender differences in symptom reporting during childhood and adolescence. She now works as an investigator scientist within the unit, having previously completed a postdoctoral post at the Centre for Research on Families and Relationships, University of Edinburgh.
After 3-4 years you will finally have finished writing your thesis, but there are a few more steps to go before you will be awarded your PhD.
Once you and your supervisors are happy that you have met the requirements for submission you will make a first submission of your thesis. Usually this requires you to submit three soft-bound copies of your thesis to your School office to be forwarded onto an internal and external examiner.
At this point a date will be arranged for your viva. The viva is an oral exam at which you will defend your work to a panel consisting of an internal and external examiner and a convener. The internal examiner may be someone from either here at the MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow or the University of Glasgow and the external will be someone from elsewhere who is experienced in your field of research. The convener, who will usually be from the Unit, is simply there to chair the exam. You may also be able to have one of your supervisors present at the viva.
All PhD students are naturally nervous about the viva, but you should remember that it is not an interrogation and the examiners are not there to catch you out. Both examiners will have read your thesis and will use the viva to help clarify certain aspects of your work and most importantly to confirm that the work is all your own. The viva can also be a useful experience where the examiners may suggest areas of work from the thesis that they think may be worthwhile writing up for publication in journals. Some students even claim to enjoy the viva experience – they have a captive audience listening to them talking about their work for a few hours!
There is no one best way to prepare for the viva, but many students find it very useful to have a practice viva. These are organised by supervisors and/or the Unit’s student convenors. Members of your team within the Unit are usually more than happy to help you prepare or you may want to invite others from outside your team who you think may be interested in your work.
After the viva you will leave the room while the examiners discuss the outcome. The outcomes run from: (a) the degree is awarded unconditionally; (b) the degree is awarded subject to minor corrections of detail or presentation; (c) the degree is awarded subject to certain changes of substance on a specific element or elements of the thesis; (d) the candidate is invited to substantially revise and resubmit the thesis for a PhD; the candidate is invited to revise and submit the thesis for a masters degree; and (f) no degree to be awarded. Nearly all students will be awarded a, b or c. This means that you will be awarded your PhD conditional on making some changes to the thesis. The examiners will give you a list of changes you must make to be awarded the degree as well as a deadline for when the changes should be made. This deadline could be anything from one month up to one year from the date of your viva depending on how many changes have to be made and your circumstances at this point in time (for example, you may now be working full-time in another job and so will not have as much time to dedicate to the thesis). After your viva everyone in the Unit will help you celebrate with some bubbly and a few nibbles!
You are nearly at the end of the process now! After you have made your changes these will be signed off by either the internal or external examiner. Once the changes have been approved you should have some hard-bound copies of your thesis printed for final submission. You may want to print a few copies to show off to your family and friends, but only one hard copy needs to be submitted to your School office. In the days of modern technology, you are now also required to submit an electronic version of your thesis to the Glasgow University Library. This is the end of the process and you will receive an award letter from the University which you need to enrol for graduation.
Finally you can attend your summer or winter graduation. You are now a Doctor! Congratulations!