Practice Viva Questions

Every viva examination is different, so it is not possible to know in advance exactly what the examiners will ask you. However, there are some common questions which you may like to practice as part of your own preparations.

Generally, the questions that are asked in viva examinations can be grouped under four basic headings:

  • What is it about?
  • What did you do?
  • What did you find?
  • Why does that matter?

Practicing how you would answer these four basic questions will take you a long way in your preparations.

Below are some more specific questions that follow on from these basic questions; these are arranged following the order of a typical thesis. Again, practice how you would answer them and think about any other questions that might come up in the context of your own research.

General Questions

  • Why did you decide on this particular research question?
  • What have you found the most interesting aspect of your research?
  • How did your thinking about this topic develop as you went through this research process?
  • Now that you have completed the research, which part of the process would you say you enjoyed most and why?
  • Were there any surprises along the way?
  • How did doing this research change you as a researcher?

Research Context

  • You refer to ... as a key influence on your research - can you summarise the particular relevance of their work?
  • What developments have there been in this field since you began your doctorate? How have these changed the research context in which you are working?
  • You make only passing reference to the field of ... why do you think that field is less relevant than the others you have given more space to?
  • You do not say much about the ... theory in your thesis - can you explain why you have not focused more on that?

Research Methods

  • How well did the study design work in practice?
  • Did you have any problems with the data collection process?
  • You used an existing research method and developed it further - can you tell us why this further development was needed?
  • What were the main ethical issues of conducting this research?
  • How did you establish the limits around the scope of your data collection?

Analysis and Findings

  • Can you talk us through your methods of analysis?
  • Did you encounter any problems with applying this method of analysis?
  • Do you think the data you collected were the most appropriate to answer your research question or are there any other data you would have liked to have collected?
  • Can you describe your main findings in a few sentences?

Discussion

  • If you were starting your research again now, are there any changes in the way you would plan it?
  • You interpret these findings as ... but do you think there could be an argument for interpreting them as ... instead?
  • You said in your thesis that ... - can you expand on that point?
  • In what way do you consider your thesis to be original?

Conclusions/Implications

  • What are the empirical, practice, and theoretical implications of your findings?
  • How would you hope that this research could be followed up and taken further?

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