viva questions

24 Potential Viva Questions Every PhD Student Must Know

What are the most common viva questions asked during a PhD viva presentation?

You’ve submitted your thesis or dissertation and now you are preparing for your PhD viva presentation.

But how do you prepare for your viva presentation?

Related post: How to pass your PhD viva presentation.

There are many ways to prepare for PhD or Masters defence.

viva questions

You could always attend a viva presentation conducted at your university.

If your university does not conduct open viva presentation sessions, then the next thing I’d suggest for you to do is to YouTube it.

By watching many viva presentations, you can get:

  • The idea of how it will be conducted
  • Common viva questions that might be asked, and
  • The expectations of your viva presentation

As you prepare your slides for your defence, it is very important to figure out the most common viva questions and how you would answer those questions.

Below are the most common viva questions:

Most Common Viva Questions about Research Context

1. Can you start by summarising your thesis?

This question may seem general. Depending on your examiner, he or she might ask you to summarise your thesis in 1 sentence, 1 minute, or even 3 minutes.

(Watch a video of a three-minute thesis presentation by Siti Aimi Sarah Zainal Abidin International representing UPM at the Trans Tasman 3 Minute Thesis Competition)

My word of advice is, summarise what your research is about in both short and long explanations.

2. What are the main issues and debates in this subject area?

These questions will showcase how well you know your subject area. You should be able to list out and explain what the main issues are.

The debate about your work indicates how well you’ve researched opposing views. This is also very important as it will indicate that you’ve considered all sides of the argument.

3. Which of these does your research address?

4. Why is your topic worth researching?

Don’t panic. This research may seem intimidating but what the question is asking is really about the significance of the research. In other words, it’s the “so what?” question about your research.

If you have highlighted the problem in your research, why is it so important? Why is it significant?

5. Which scholar has had the strongest influence on the development of your subject area, and why?

Depending on the nature of your study, if you employ a certain theoretical framework – it would mean that you would strongly depend on one main (or several, depending) scholars and his/her work. Determine why that scholar has influenced your research.

6. What are the most recent major developments in your area?

Based on this question, you would also need to be up-to-date about your research area. It also indicates that you can link what you’ve learned with “real life” or global events.

7. How did your research questions emerge? Why did you choose this particular topic?

Based on some theses I’ve read, many researchers have explained their decision to study a topic based on their experience– personal or professional reasons.

This is a good question for you to ponder as it shows your motivations for studying that topic.

Most Common Viva Questions about Research Methods

viva questions
(Picture from Pixabay)

8. Why did you use this research methodology? What did you gain from it?

If you have chosen a particular methodology, you must understand why it is the most suitable one. As there are methodologies, you have to justify why the methodology you chose fits your research. So really master your research methods well.

9. Did you encounter any problems with applying this method of analysis?

Be honest when answering this question. It’s normal to encounter problems when conducting research/fieldwork. However, you will need to explain how you overcame those problems.

Other common viva questions asked on research methodology are listed below:

10. 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?

11. How did you deal with the ethical implications of your work?

12. How have you evaluated your own work?

13. How do you know that your findings are correct?

viva questions
(Picture from Pixabay)

Most Common Viva Questions about Your Analysis

14. What are the strongest/weakest parts of your work?

In other words, the examiner can ask you “What are the strengths and weaknesses of your research?”

Every study must have some strengths and weaknesses. No study is perfect. So, please don’t say “My research does not have any weakness” because you might get in trouble.

A weakness of your research could be the limitations of your research.

Other common viva questions about your analysis are listed below:

15. What would have improved your work?

Your examiner could also ask “What would you have done differently?”

16. To what extent do your contributions generalise?

viva questions
(Picture from Pixabay)

Most Common Viva Questions on Conclusions and Implications

The most common viva questions in this section will indicate how well you can summarise the research you’ve conducted throughout your PhD programme and how much you’ve immersed yourself in the area of your work.

17. What is the relevance of your work to other researchers? How is it different?

This question highlights whether or not your work is significant to other researchers in or outside the field

18. What is the relevance of your work to practitioners?

For this question, it would be good if you could see other studies that are similar to yours and see whether practitioners have tried referring to their work.

Other common viva questions on conclusions and implications are listed below:

19. What are the empirical, practice, and theoretical implications of your findings?

20. What are the contributions to the knowledge of your thesis?

22. Do you propose any future research related to your thesis?

23. In what way do you consider your thesis to be original?

24. Summarise your key findings.

Aside from preparing and practising these common viva questions, it’s important to remember that on the PhD viva presentation itself, you might be surprised with some of the questions that they ask.

Whatever it is…

Always stay calm, cool, and collected.

If there is a question that you may not know the answer to, it’s okay to admit that you don’t know. However, you should still try to answer intelligently and give your best.

What an examiner wants to see is how you think and how can answer these questions.

Don’t take the examiners critique personally.

Understandably, you take pride in your work as you have invested so much time and effort for the past several years, that your research has somewhat become part of you. However, take their feedback as constructive criticism and try to improve on your work/thesis after they have given their feedback.

I wish you all the best for your PhD viva presentation. You are almost there! You’re about to make your mark in this world!

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