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Figuratively speaking: six accounts of the PhD viva

Sue Wallace (senior lecturer and researcher in the Department of Secondary and Tertiary Education at the Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK.)

Quality Assurance in Education

ISSN: 0968-4883

Article publication date: 1 June 2003



This paper is based on research into the conduct of PhD vivas, whose aim was to investigate how this examination is experienced by successful candidates, and specifically to address a question raised by previous researchers: Why does a successful viva outcome nevertheless leave some candidates feeling negative about their experience? The focus in this paper is on the language – particularly the figurative language – which successful candidates use to describe their oral examination. It explores the fact that those who reported feeling a sense of achievement were found to employ metaphors and similes of sporting competitions or debate, while candidates who report feeling negative, despite their success, employ imagery relating to imprisonment and interrogation. It goes on to argue that neither of these conceptual models is appropriate for the examination of higher degrees, and that such discrepancy may arise from the way some examiners interpret their role.



Wallace, S. (2003), "Figuratively speaking: six accounts of the PhD viva", Quality Assurance in Education, Vol. 11 No. 2, pp. 100-108.




Copyright © 2003, MCB UP Limited

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