Things I Learned From My Internal Evaluation

By Mar.13, 2014

Since my last post, I’ve submitted my thesis and started to prepare for my final viva, which is scheduled for later this month. My viva preparations have made me think back to my Internal Evaluation last year, the second progression point that I was required to pass to continue with my PhD.

For the Internal Evaluation (IE), we’re expected to submit a substantial piece of written work and have a mini-viva with members of staff outside our supervision team. As with the Interim Assessment, the requirements for the report vary between the different schools of the University. To get the most out of this assessment, I decided to submit a small version of my thesis, based on the data I’d collected and the material I’d written so far. I set it out in the chapters I was planning to end up with in my final thesis, and I wanted to get some feedback from my examiners on my proposed thesis structure and chapter titles.

One of the first things the examiners commented on was my writing, and it was pleasing to hear that they thought the report was very well written. At the time, I was still figuring out what to do with my methods chapter. Should I separate out the detailed procedures I followed to collect my data from the three research chapters, or leave these alongside the results? If so, what would I write in my methods chapter? Did I even need one? These are the sorts of questions that can only be answered by “having a go and seeing how it reads”, a strategy I used rather a lot when I was writing up! For my IE report, my methods chapter did contain the detailed procedures I’d followed to collect my data, and the research chapters contained results and discussion sections only. Following feedback from the examiners, I decided that the methods chapter in my final thesis would be a review and justification of the general methods I’d used, with the detailed procedures described in the relevant research chapter.

As well as feedback on my writing, this was another chance for me to practise defending my work. My supervisor had chosen two professors as my examiners, who proceeded to ask lots of viva-like questions. There are three main things that I need to remember in a few weeks’ time:

1)      When asked a question about a particular aspect of your research, don’t assume it means you’ve done something wrong.

This is a terrible habit that I’ve somehow got into, and I know that I need to have more confidence in my work.

2)      The fact that the examiners are established academics doesn’t mean they know your work better than you.

Another aspect of my mini-viva performance that annoys me. I need to remember that the examiners didn’t do this research, I did.

3)      Defend what you did and why by using examples from the literature.

I have a tendency to assume that things I’ve read over the last three-and-a-bit years are common knowledge, because I know the papers so well. I’ve cited the literature in my written work, I need to do this in my viva as well.

In general, the Interim Assessment and the Internal Evaluation were useful experiences. I received some good feedback from all four examiners which boosted my confidence, and also some things to think about to improve my defence of my work. Hopefully I can take the things I’ve learned into my viva in a few weeks.


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