by Craig Evans
Last Friday, as part of my internship, I had the great privilege of attending this year’s PhD Summer School at UWE: a day-long event for PhD linguistics students and their supervisors to give presentations and share in question and answer sessions. As you might imagine for an undergraduate student, a number of subjects went right over my head, but I was, at least, able to understand enough for the experience to be both fascinating and enjoyable.
The day was mostly structured around the theses of the attending students, who delivered half-hour presentations on their work.
This included studies by: Abdelfattah Dimassi, into teaching metacognitive strategies for developing listening skills beyond the classroom; Giao Chi Le Thi, who is investigating nominalisations as grammatical metaphor in English-Vietnamese translation; Harry Parkin, who is looking at name change frequencies in the Cotswolds; Slim Khemakhem, whose work centres around the IELTS Test and its value in the UAE as a predictor of teaching performance; and Wu Ligao, who is analysing ‘social presence’ in voice-based and text-based chat rooms online.
I also found out a lot about the viva (‘viva voce’ – live voice), for which this event seemed to provide some excellent tips and preparation.
The viva is an oral examination which constitutes the student’s defence of their thesis. This involves a panel of 2 to 3 examiners asking the student questions for about 3 hours (although the period can vary) to test the strength of their thesis. Afterwards, the examiners may award the degree, reject the thesis, or most typically recommend revisions, for which there are different levels.
At the Summer School event, experienced academics were on hand to offer constructive feedback, as well as some advice about what students can expect from the viva: a potentially long, tough grilling with, in at least one reported case in France, champagne and oysters at the end of it! (A custom to be encouraged in the UK, perhaps?)