15 min #AcWri (though not strictly as I already spent 15mins on another project this morning!)
So to recap – I defended my thesis early summer, it was a very positive experience and was done in such a way that I was able to approach my corrections without too much fear. On the downside I had to cancel most of my summer writing plans and also spent very little time with my family- which was further dampened by having no money to do anything when we were together because one of the lesser spoken consequences of resubmitting with anything more than minor corrections is a substantial resub fee!
I now realise that the secret to a happy corrections process (for me) is a) corrections that don’t require further research or oral exam b) excellent feedback and direction form examiners c) an urge to tinker with the things you found during viva revision and suddenly realised you hated d) affirmation everyday that the ultimate goal is to have a better quality thesis and know you did everything you could to make that happen.
The benefit of the oral viva in the English system is that it is a great chance to have two other perspectives on your writing. because lets face it, by the time you hit those 80,000+ words proof read, edited, formatted and submitted, the one thing you no longer have on your work is perspective! Your supervisor/s also by that point know your work so well they are not always able to spot the obvious gaps either – they too begin to read between your lines. Due to their own research interests and expertise my examiners picked up on things I had felt relatively minor and never asked me about what I thought was key to my whole argument. From this I was left with the realisation that when I think I am being clear about what I want to say, I am obviously not – also like most PhD students I was also trying to say too much.
In the final part of my viva when I was given the outcome and feedback I was so spent that I asked to record the comments on my phone. I had gone beyond being able to concentrate by this point and just wanted to go home and hug my children. This turned out to be a great on the spot record which also included the really positive comments given at the end – now whenever I feel down or receive a paper rejection I have a soothing audio therapy of two established anthropologists telling me my work is original, appealing and my arguments impressive – it works a treat!
The recording also enabled me to begin work on my corrections straight away, which for me was necessary – the planning part at least. It was a way of winding down from the viva prep stress and helped me deal with the confusion of feeling elated and concerned at the same time. When I received the written comments a week or so later I was able to take them in my stride because I knew what to expect and had already begun working.
It was difficult having to explain to nearest and dearest that yes it was over, but not quite. We had all seen the viva as the end point – the day that Mummy returns to casa and earth! So this was difficult to negotiate at first but good for me who was never quite ready to let go of the thesis upon submission.
I planned carefully, received feedback from my supervisor and took good advice from the various online sources, most importantly – STICK TO WHAT THEY ARE ASKING YOU TO DO, NOTHING ELSE… no matter how much the temptation to readdress all those things you are suddenly not happy with, don’t do it. If the examiners didn’t pick up on those things it’s not important – save it for a conference paper or journal paper where you can exercise your demons and reach a compromise with yourself. After all, more people will read a published article or hear a conference paper than will ever read your thesis.