“Piled Higher and Deeper” by Jorge Cham

In this week’s episode we revisit the topic that we examined in our first ever episode of Naturally Speaking—the dreaded PhD viva (also known as the defence in some countries). This is the final oral examination faced by PhD students before they can be awarded their degree.

This episode features a panel discussion with Prof Neil Metcalfe, Prof Barbara Mable (@barbaramable1), Jennifer Boyle, and Shaun Killen (@shaunkillen), reflecting on some of their experiences being involved in the viva process. Among many other things, we discuss:

  • how the viva process works
  • what examiners are looking for
  • how to prepare for your viva, and
  • what to do and what not to do during the viva itself.

This provides an extremely detailed account of the viva process, which is sure to be a valuable resource for any PhD student.

Special thanks to PhD student Julie Nati (@nati_julie) for moderating the discussion. Enjoy!

Episode 29 – How to Survive Your Viva, Revisited


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Intro and outro music sampled from:

“The Curtain Rises” and “Early Riser” Kevin MacLeod (
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0


Posted by Shaun


  1. Brilliant! Thanks for this!

    Liked by 1 person


  2. […] With no creature too great or too small, we’ve had exciting posts on organisms from wide-ranging wandering Albatross, highly social elephants, and parasitising nematodes! On a broader scale, we’ve explored the role of biological clocks in ecology, fire dynamics in savannah ecosystems, and the ecology of ageing and immunity. We’ve produced a special feature series on our master’s programmes in Quantitative Biology and Animal Welfare as well as a brand new blog, Behind the SCENE. We’ve also touched upon current topics in science such as the role of social media and how to survive a PhD viva. […]



  3. […] UPDATE: We revisited this topic in a later episode – Episode 29: How to survive your viva (revisited). […]



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