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Questions in doctoral vivas: views from the inside

Vernon Trafford (Reader in Education, Director of the Ed.D. programme and Joint Director of the Professional Doctorate Programme at Anglia Polytechnic University, Danbury, UK.)

Quality Assurance in Education

ISSN: 0968-4883

Article publication date: 1 June 2003



Knowing what occurs at doctoral vivas is restricted to those who attend. Since 1998 the author has observed the transactions of doctoral vivas in the disciplines of applied sciences, education, environmental sciences and social science as either Chair, examiner or supervisor. With the agreement of participants the author’s participation in, and observation of, viva processes enabled him to collect data. Records were made of examiners’ questions, and the discussions that were held with participants. The evidence shows that patterns of generic questions transcend disciplines, and their respective types of questions reflect relationships between examiners. The evidence portrays how examiners approach, and explore, the nature of doctorateness. Questions asked in doctoral vivas follow discernible patterns, and specific clusters of questions are critical as examiners determine the outcome of doctoral viva examinations. Questioning by examiners follows different patterns in the natural and social sciences.



Trafford, V. (2003), "Questions in doctoral vivas: views from the inside", Quality Assurance in Education, Vol. 11 No. 2, pp. 114-122.




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