Friday, 28 February 2014

Post-viva questionnaire - responses from Angharad Roberts

What is the title of your thesis?
Conceptualising the library collection for the digital world: a case study of social enterprise

Can you provide an abstract (for inclusion in this blog)?
This collaborative research project, supported by the British Library, used a case study of the library collection for social enterprise to develop a conceptual approach to the library collection in the digital world, exploring stakeholder perceptions of collections, terminology and collection development and management processes. A mixed-methods multiphase case study design was used to address the research questions. Three strands of data collection are described: a case study of the British Library’s collections and content for social enterprise, searches for relevant material on 88 publicly accessible UK library catalogues, and an exploratory sequential study involving stakeholder interviews (19 interviews with 18 people) followed by two surveys of a larger stakeholder population (149 completed responses in total). Findings from each strand are described and three core concepts of collection are identified: “collection-as-thing”, “collection-as-process” and “collection-as-access”. Conventional views of library collections may tend to focus more on the idea of “collection-as-thing”; this research emphasises the importance of taking a more dynamic view of collection. Three models of collection are described: a revised collection development hierarchy which suggests links to different levels of strategic management; a model of interrelationships between the three concepts of collection; and a model which examines how collection adds value to content by providing context. This research demonstrates that the concept of collection remains highly relevant in the digital world, although the onus is on libraries to embrace all dimensions of these three concepts of collection if they wish to add maximum value to the content they identify, select, hold, make accessible and to which they connect.

How long did you spend preparing for your viva?
I re-read my thesis over the course of a week or so before, and dipped into some chapters again (methodology, discussion and conclusion) on my way to the viva. I also met with my supervisor a couple of days before the viva to talk about it, which was very helpful.

How long did your viva take?
2 hours, followed by fifteen minutes waiting for the examiners to call me back in to give their decision.

Is there anything you wish you had done differently?
I spent quite a bit of time in the days and weeks preceding the viva scaring myself by imagining really tough questions! It's useful to think through possible answers to broad general questions which are highly likely to be asked (such as "why this topic?" or "why this methodology?"). However, you can never prepare for every question, and spending time dwelling on very specific and unlikely possible questions can take time away from more useful forms of preparation (such as re-reading the thesis).

Did the examiners concentrate on any particular section of your thesis? If so, which?
We mainly discussed the literature review, methodology and discussion chapters, with some discussion of practical recommendations and recommendations for future research from the conclusion.

Can you describe any part of your viva where you were pleased with your performance?
Early on I was asked about whether any of the strands in my methodology were weaker than others. I was candid about the limitations of one of my strands and that was received well by the examiners.

What was it you did that pleased you?
That strongly reinforced the idea that the viva is about being honest, reflective and critical about your own work, rather than being about “dressing things up” or trying to show everything in a positive light.

Can you describe any part of your viva where you were dissatisfied with your performance?
I was asked about whether I agreed with a specific quotation which I had included in my literature review. I floundered a bit when trying to answer, and I think my perspective changed quite a bit following the exchange with the examiners.

Please give an example of a question that you found hard.
I was asked about the order of concepts in a revised collection development hierarchy which I had developed.

Why was it hard?
I needed to think about my model in quite an abstract way.

What was the outcome of your viva?
Passed subject to minor corrections.

Please give some examples of the sort of corrections you need to make (if any).
Clarification of my use of the word “for” in the phrase “library collection for social enterprise” from my research aims and objectives.

Minor adjustments to one of my conceptual diagrams.

Corrections to typos, formatting (eg avoiding splitting tables over multiple pages).

Do you have any tips for looking and feeling confident in front of the examiners?
Wear smart comfortable clothes. Try to get a good night’s sleep the day before.

Can you think of any good advice that you would give to students who are preparing for their viva?
  • Try to meet your supervisor in the run up to your viva to talk over any issues and for reassurance.
  • You can ask your supervisor to sit in as an observer. I did and found it helpful to have someone else’s perspective on how things had gone.
  • If you submitted an electronic copy of the thesis on CD, you can go and collect it from Research and Innovation Services straight after the viva.
  • Have something nice to look forward to. I didn’t get a holiday last summer so a long weekend away after the viva was just what I needed.
After the viva
Bear in mind that the viva is only a part of a longer process (although obviously it’s an absolutely vital part of that process!) First you submit the thesis for examination, then you have the viva, then you are likely to need to make corrections and your internal examiner needs to confirm whether the corrections made are acceptable. Finally you submit the library copy of the approved amended thesis and, if you started your course after 2008, upload the final version to White Rose eTheses. Completion of each of these stages inspires varying degrees of euphoria!

The following point doesn’t quite relate to the question above (about preparing for the viva), but prior to submission it is worth thinking about the practicalities of how you will get your thesis printed and bound. It does cost quite a lot to get this all done by Print and Design Solutions. For the initial submission I printed two copies (for the examiners) and only went to Print and Design Solutions to get them bound. For my final submission, I got Print and Design Solutions to print and bind three copies – one for the University Library, one for an organisation which supported my research and one for myself.

It's also useful to be aware that you may not receive any formal communication following the viva - my internal examiner emailed me the list of minor corrections. Once the University Library copy of the final thesis had been submitted, I was sent copies of the more detailed examiners' reports, which were really interesting and helpful to read.