The OU offers magnificent electronic access to all and sundry. It makes available much of its teaching material, but also its research at its repository of Open Research Online, so you would think the OU research office would ask that, as part of the completion procedure, a PhD candidate uploads the finished thesis. As part of that procedure you have to have hard copies of your thesis physically present in the OU library before the degree is conferred. BUT not on-line. Odd that.
So, one of the last things I’ve done for my PhD is to upload a copy of my thesis to the OU’s Open Research Online repository here.
I’ll blog elsewhere now. To follow this post doc, continue here.
The final stage has been reached – I attended a degree ceremony. The Open University has students all over the UK, and in Europe, so it arranges degree ceremonies in Harrogate, Glasgow, Birmingham, Belfast, Manchester, Dublin – all over the country, and in Europe. When my degree was conferred in absentia in August, I discovered that only two ceremonies had any spare places left this year, so it was either wait till next year, or go this September to Manchester or Versailles. Since I’m not going to take any more degrees, I treated the family to a weekend in Versailles.
Here‘s a Youtube link to what happened last year, with the same band, the same procession, the same Palais des Congres. They interview a number of MBA graduates – I think there’s a cohort based in Brussels.
Around 200 graduands were there to be presented to the pro-vice chancellor. The honorary graduate and the PVC gave suitably short motivating speeches, and everyone clapped and clapped and clapped. Indeed, those who’d achieved their first degree probably deserved the most applause because of the hurdles they’d overcome to achieve it part-time, at a distance, as adults with all the hassles that come with work, family, health and perhaps other disabilities. The blind student got long and loud applause. Others, perhaps less obviously disabled also earned their applause. It was great to hear family and friends cheer as particular graduands went up.
These OU ceremonies are occasions with wonderful positive affirmative atmospheres. Whether you are staff or student, if you get the opportunity, go to one.
I’ve reached the penultimate final stage. The final stages of a PhD are several:
- submission - the biggest and most exciting hurdle
- viva - the scariest hurdle
- sending your corrections to the examiner(s)
- receiving the examiner’s feedback – have you met the academic requirements?
- taking the bound copies to the Research School
- having the degree conferred – not a hurdle – just something that happens
- attending the degree ceremony – the nicest and most fun with champagne to drink with friends, relatives and supporters
Stage 4 happened at the end of July with some nice feedback from the examiner.
Stage 5 completed on Monday when I delivered the copies to the Research School, who promptly took one to the OU library rep who signed for its receipt.
Stage 6 should have been yesterday when the congregation took place and the degree should have been conferred in absentia. I haven’t yet had it confirmed but the Research School assured me on Monday that this would happen.
So all I’m waiting for is that confirmation, and then I can book the degree ceremony.
The examiner has accepted my amendments, and it’s time to move on. The final thesis is even now at the printers, ready for printing and binding. By next Monday, it should be at the Research School in time for the next meeting when the award board confers degrees.
The viva went well, the examiners seeming to like my work and asking questions that I could answer, despite being tongue tied with nerves.
The result is PhD subject to minor corrections.
The viva lasted around two hours, then a break for their discussions before they called me in for the verdict.
Amendments seem to be a couple of sentences in the introduction explaining why I didn’t research it another way, some cross references, and an example in the methodology of how I used the coding template. Nothing complicated.
This cartoon depicts the dilemma I have had, and now what shall I do with myself?
Some say you can’t prepare for your viva because the questions can never be anticipated, so generic questions like these ‘Nasty PhD viva questions’ are not worth worrying about. I disagree because even though I don’t know exactly what questions the examiner might ask, the process of answering generic and imagined questions makes me revise what I’ve written. More importantly, I need to be able to speak about the work, and for the last year I’ve been writing, not speaking, so my supervisors arranged a mock viva with someone from the business school acting as examiner.
Although the mock is scary, at least it’s not the real thing, and I even if I ‘fail’ to defend my thesis, I’ve weeks yet to prepare oral defences on the back of that experience. I’d advise getting a mock set up if you can – mine was worthwhile.
I submitted on Monday. It involved printing hundreds of pages for the three copies that the research school wants. Fellow PG and I took them to the research school before coffee time in the morning, and checked if they’d arranged the exam board yet. No, so I have no idea when the viva will be.
Fellow post graduates students helped me celebrate the submission over coffee and cakes. It does cheer everyone up when someone makes progress.
Just as this PhD student sees the light at the end of the thesis, a passing academic asks me:
Do you know what a bureaucrat does when he sees light at the end of the tunnel?
Orders more tunnel!
See the Piled Higher and Deeper cartoon here.
Little to do today but wait until supervisor #2 gives me his final feedback on my last two chapters. I thought I’d submit in February, but now I wait for that final feedback.
Then, I act on it. Edit, cut, paste, write, insert references, remove a duplicated quote, mistype new text, correct it, read it, spell check it. Find the figure captions have all gone wrong and fix them. Again. Print it to check by eyeball and I’ll see the chapter headings have gone left justified when I want them right justified. Fix them. Update the contents sheet, and realise it has a load of wrong text. Sort it.
I’ve seen previous students get quite stressed in these last few days.
As well as doing all this, I have the rest of my life to live, and planned other things to do this week because I was going to submit in February, in February, not in March. So I shall juggle the rest of life this week and submit 7th March.
I have wonderful Facebook friends. For four years, since a fellow post-grad encouraged me to join Facebook, I’ve been idling away my time on Facebook, a transitional activity between useful academic and productive research work. Now it pays off.
A few months ago I broke my hand, and typing one handed on Facebook, I bemoaned the delay to my thesis whereupon several friends offered help. Last week I took up the offer from three of them, also post-graduate students – though in other places – to read my cross-case analysis, a chapter that I started writing last April, and have struggled with. Even my knitting was never as entangled and useless as this chapter has been – supervisors have read versions of it again and again until they can’t read it any more. My three Facebook friends agreed to read it against the brief:
does it flow?
has it said something sensible about each of the four research questions (with a comment on supervisors’ different perspectives)
any typos, grammar problems or missing words
Two friends have already responded very helpfully and encouragingly with comments mainly about where they got confused, but also where I’ve said something interesting that I could pull out more and how to do that. This has really encouraged me, not only that I’m writing so someone else understands, and that my research has interest but also that I now have a justification for using Facebook and social networking isn’t idling away time but an important activity!