Monday, November 20, 2006

How to survive your PhD Viva

I have my viva (thesis defence for those in the States) coming up far sooner than I would like. (Then again, wasn't it me who begged and pleaded with the examiners to squeeze in a pre-Xmas viva so it wasn't looming over the holidays...)

Anyway, so I have been hunting down advice on the internet for how to manage the damn thing...

This is the best I have come across

Things to Say and Do Guaranteed to
Spice up Your Thesis and Dissertation Defenses

Begin the defense by charging a cover and checking for ID.

Charge a two-drink minimum.

Begin with "Ladies and Gentlemen, please rise for the singing of our National Anthem."

Follow that with a joke that starts with "Which reminds me of a story - A Black guy, a Chinese guy, and a Jew walked into a bar..."

Bring coffee and charge 25 cents a cup.

"Charge the mound" when a professor beans you with a high fast question.

Describe parts of your dissertation using interpretive dance.

Lead your committee members in a Wave.

Break the tension at appropriate moments with a sing-a-long.

Answer tough queries with "You call THAT a question? How'd you ever get to be a professor?"

Have bodyguards outside the room to discourage attendance of certain professors.

Present your defense using puppets.

Before you begin your presentation, sell T-shirts to recoup the cost of copying, binding, etc.

In addition, pass a collection basket.

Answer complex issues in mime.

Use the ocassion to hold a Tupperware party.

Have bikini-clad models in charge of changing your overheads.

At approximately the mid-point of your defense bring out maracas and shout "Everybody rumba!!"

Explain nonsignificant findings with "It would have worked if it weren't for those f*%ing kids."

Refuse to answer tough questions "in protest of our government's systematic and brutal opression of minorities."

Offer door prizes and conduct a raffle.

Ask professors to "Please phrase your question in the form of an answer."

Interrupt every 15 minutes with the announcement "And now, a word from our sponsor."

Present critical parts of your defense in iambic pentameter.

In your announcement, inform your committee that it will be a black tie affair.

Hire the Goodyear Blimp to circle the building.

Announce to your committee that "There will be a short quiz after my presentation."

Bring your pet boa.

Bring snacks and start a food fight.

Slap your committee chair with a glove and challenge him to a duel.

Arrange for a halftime show.

Bring a big foam hand that says "I'm #1."

Pass out souvenier matchbooks.

Hang a pinata over the table and hire a strolling mariachi band.

Make each professor remove an item of clothing for each question asked.

Use a Greek Chorus to highlight important points.

When necessary, say "I'm sorry Professor Smith, I didn't say 'SIMON SAYS any questions?'. You're out."

Dress in top hat and tails.

Hold a pre-defense pep rally, complete with cheerleaders, pep band, and a bonfire.

If you sense that things are not going well, threaten to detonate a small nuclear device in the room.

Show slides of your last vacation.

Put your overheads on a film strip. Designate a professor to be in charge of turning the strip when the tape recording beeps.

If members of the committee begin to argue among themselves announce: "OK, everybody - heads down on the desk until you show me you can behave."

When in trouble, begin speaking in tongues.

Answer every question with a question.

Hand out 3-D glasses.

Announce credits at the end. Include a "key grip" and a "best boy."

Make a practice of replying, "Sure, I could answer that, but then I'd have to kill you."

Ask a friend and conspirator to attend and ask the first question. Draw a blank-loaded gun and "shoot" him. Have him make a great scene of dying. Be sure to include fake blood. Turn to your committee and ask "Other questions?"

Wear clown makeup, a clown wig, clown shoes, a clown nose, and nothing else.

Install "APPLAUSE" and "LAUGHTER" signs.

Use a TelePromTer

Alter the clocks in the room and begin your defense 15 minutes before anyone arrives.


Peterson Toscano said...

Viva la PhD!

Very funny. You are a rock star, a PhD rock star.

Anonymous said...

This is so funny -- I almost died laughing. Brings back memories...

Best wishes to you!

Contemplative Activist said...

So contemplative scholar, what do you think would be the best - speaking in tongues or interpretative dance.

Obviously as a Quaker and would-be activist I will be refusing to answer tough questions "in protest of our government's systematic and brutal opression of minorities."


Plain Foolish said...


And the worst part is...

A friend of mine once asked me to look over some writing on his thesis he'd done the night before...

and while it wasn't in iambic pentameter, it was in Celtic triads. I firmly encouraged a break.

Anonymous said...

My personal favorite is to use a Greek chorus to highlight important points! Does your Meeting ever get together to have Meeting for Singing? Maybe they'd be willing to come and show support in this way! :)

Catherine + said...

This piece had me in stitches! I am sure my Shih Tzu thought I was being insanely spasmotic as he felt the need to sit on my head to hold me down.

I wish I had had this list when I was even sitting for my Masters oral exam [sounds like I went to the dentist instead...].



Dana Jensen said...

Your story was hilarious! Well, I think it would all comes down to whether or not you are determine to finish the degree. Just think of abstract of thesis and all the other part of the paper that is hard to do, but if you were determine to finish all of it. It won’t matter whether to fail or succeed because you will survive it.

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