Writing, Submitting and Defending your Thesis

Writing, Submitting and
Defending your Thesis
Writing your thesis
What does a thesis look like?
• Literature review (Chapter 1), empirical chapters
(normally 4-ish), conclusions
• A PhD makes “a novel contribution to
• There are huge differences between areas of
research (longitudinal, neuroimaging). No such thing
as a ‘model’ thesis!
– How to ‘package’ your experiments
How do I know if I have done enough?
• Your supervisor/TAP are the best guide
• Look at other theses in your area
• You can present all the steps that were
required – pilot testing, experiments that
didn’t work and led to a change in method
• Small is beautiful! Please note: there is a word
limit of 80,000 words excluding references for
a PhD thesis in this department.
• Collections of theses are available electronically
– White Rose depository:
– British Library: http://ethos.bl.uk/
– And there are older ones in the library
Planning your writing
• Work out what is needed (in detail)
• Have a plan with timings attached
• Discuss with your supervisor
– Your plan must be realistic; revise it as you go
– There will be a lot of rewriting and rethinking to
do – this can take a lot of time
• Writing a thesis can be stressful
• But tackling small chunks is enough to succeed
– Keep going, day after day
• Find your best time of day; keep it clear of
What coping mechanisms do you use?
• Identify sources of support – practical and
• Find a writing buddy
• If you get stressed, take time out
– But then come back to the task feeling refreshed;
don’t avoid difficult bits
• Set yourself realistic targets and stop work
when you reach them
• Bullet points  fluent writing  later editing
Know your examiners!
• You will choose an external examiner with
your supervisor
– Who would you like to know about your work?
– Who will you feel comfortable with?
– Do this in plenty of time: 6+ months before viva
• You’ll be asked about your preference for the
internal examiner too
Know your examiners!
• Ensure you have referred to all relevant work
by your examiners in your thesis
• Think about possible implications of your work
for them and vice versa
Submitting your thesis
• Know your deadline – within 4 years for f/t
– Suspension of registration
• Notification of intention to submit (2 months
• Check University regulations carefully
– https://www.york.ac.uk/students/studying/manag
– http://www.york.ac.uk/about/organisation/govern
• You can use a proof-reading service (Louise
has a list)
• You must get your supervisor’s approval
before you submit
• The internal examiner will organise the viva:
triggered by intention to submit form
• Viva might not be for several months after
Your viva
What is a viva like?
• Normally lasts 1½ - 2 hours
• Often in internal examiner’s office
• Examiners will have lots of notes and bookmarks
in your thesis – don’t be put off
• You can bring notes too but you probably won’t
use them
• Can be highly enjoyable
• Examiners should not tell you the outcome during
the viva – they will ask you to wait
What is a viva for?
• Opportunity to demonstrate that you know a
lot about the topic – Qs about literature
• Examiners need to be convinced that you have
ownership of the thesis – Qs about detailed
• Think on your feet about interpretation
– Don’t be defensive
What is the most important finding
you obtained during your PhD work?
If you could change one thing, what
would it be?
Outcome of viva
• Pass
• Pass with minor corrections (2 months)
• Thesis referred
– Revise and resubmit
• Downgrade to MPhil
• Fail
• Internal examiner will provide clear advice
about what is required to bring thesis up to
• Supervisor will meet you and help to interpret
• Resubmit 3-12 months post viva

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