Thursday, 30 October 2014

Post-viva questionnaire - responses from Alexander Schauer (part 2: the viva)

What is the title of your thesis?
Developing a holistic framework of key categories of influences that shape knowledge sharing from an individual perspective.

Can you provide an abstract (for inclusion in this blog)?
Despite a large volume of literature in regards to knowledge sharing, the field has not yet arrived at a consensus as to the key categories of influences, defined at a high level, that shape individuals’ knowledge sharing perceptions. Yet incrementally moving toward consensus is important in order to create a shared understanding (Smylie, 2011, p. 182) so a rigorous debate (Beesley & Cooper, 2008, p. 50) about the phenomenon can occur and guidance for knowledge sharing practices can be created (Wickramasinghe & Widyaratne, 2012, p. 216). In addition, studies to date have either omitted how context can influence key categories or focused on categories within a single context. However exploring contextual differences is important so synergies (West & King 1996) and divergences as well as different knowledge sharing situations can be mapped out (Chow, Deng & Ho, 2000). To explore this, a qualitative case study strategy was executed. Empirical data were gathered from a total of 24 interviewees that were based in four different country branches (i.e. China, the Netherlands, the UK and the US) of a single IT services organisation.

Using constant comparison, findings point towards a holistic framework that depicts four key categories of influences that shape knowledge sharing from an individual perspective. The first key influence revolves around institutions which act as a united entity .The second key influence fundamentally different in nature concentrates on relations between individuals. The third key influence focuses on the individuals themselves (called sharers) and how their attitudes and characteristics can shape their knowledge sharing perceptions. The fourth and final key influence centres on knowledge itself. In addition, findings suggest that the four key influences not only shape knowledge sharing independently but that all four key influences are intertwined and together form a holistic framework. Furthermore, and based on the findings, the institution, sharer and knowledge key categories are not influenced by varying contexts while the relations key category is susceptible to contextual differences.

How long did you spend preparing for your viva?
I’ve been keeping a daily diary since starting my PhD so I can say that I’ve prepared for exactly 76 hours. That may sound a lot but this was over a two months period.

How long did your viva take?
It felt really fast. In fact it was one hour and 45 minutes.

Is there anything you wish you had done differently?
To be honest no. I’ve listened to Angharad’s advice in a previous blog post and only focused on the most likely questions.

Did the examiners concentrate on any particular section of your thesis? If so, which?
They went through it methodically from page 1 to 199. We discussed the literature review in more detail and then spent most of the time on the methodology chapter. Surprisingly we had a good 30 minute discussion on philosophy (i.e. epistemology, ontology and rhetoric) and how I viewed it versus my supervisors versus my interviewees. The findings chapter was covered with a single question and the discussion and conclusion with another couple.

Can you describe any part of your viva where you were pleased with your performance?
The first question, where I was asked on why I was interested in this topic.

What was it you did that pleased you?
I was prepared for this question so I gave both a pragmatic and theoretical answer. For the latter I reiterated key statements of authors and their respective years they said that. This demonstrated that I could reiterate specific authors and their key messages and I think that set a good tone for the rest of the viva.

Can you describe any part of your viva where you were dissatisfied with your performance?
I couldn't recall my interview guide and the questions I asked within it. That made me look a bit silly.

Please give an example of a question that you found hard.
I managed to weave my way through most of the philosophical questions but for that one I had to have a good think: You write that you've taken on an interpretive epistemological world view yet your analysis points towards a post-positivist one. Would you say that you've given your interviewees an interpretive world view but yourself a more post-positivist one?

Why was it hard?
Because I had to convince my examiners that I had in fact taken on an interpretive worldview. In the end though they were satisfied with my answer.

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).
This is the list I’ve received:
- Literature sub headings: These need to be changed from author to the topic of their research
- Methodology: Please add more detail around how you selected the organisations (stock market, 1000 employees etc), selected the employees and the potential bias in this method. Please also specify that you always intended to select one company and the reasoning behind this. Please add the timelines between interviews and the process you went through in between.
- Section 4.5 - please add a few more pages to this section where you present the (holistic) framework (to include a graphic representation).
- Limitations: Please add further detail to show to the reader that you are referring to the literature review and not the documentation within the organisations.
- Please go through all the tables in the thesis and re-work them so they don't have vast areas with blank space e.g. by removing sharer this would remove the vast blank area. Then sharer could be put in the caption.
- Consider giving the reader an idea of the scale/effort involved in the analysis e.g. by mentioning the number of codes (concepts/categories) that led to the 4 key categories.

Do you have any tips for looking and feeling confident in front of the examiners?
When I met them I both gave them a solid handshake and smile. Once settled I kept an open body language. I memorised the most important authors and years they published that piece of work in question to illustrate I can not only discuss my own thesis but also that of other authors.

Can you think of any good advice that you would give to students who are preparing for their viva?
I did the following and it worked for me:
1.       I watched the videos relating to vivas on the Virtual Graduate School and wrote down any potential questions they covered
2.       I went to a seminar called ‘preparing for viva’ and wrote down any potential questions covered there
3.       Then I read through my thesis answering the questions obtained in Steps 1 and 2. At the same time I highlighted terms I’ve used and should be able to define and give examples of e.g. knowledge management, knowledge sharing, axiology, validity, reliability. Simultaneously, I highlighted important authors that have shaped my thesis and memorised their key statements, name of the authors and year the document was published
4.       Following this I researched the examiners, their background, study focus and articles related to my thesis
5.       The day before the viva I skim read my thesis again and revised the potential questions and my answers
My list of potential questions can be found here (no guarantee given that they will be asked of course by your examiners).

After the viva
Me being me I had a 15 minute lunch, then five minute discussion with my supervisors and then went to the Information Common (library) for 3.5 hours to video and audio record a PowerPoint presentation of my thesis (part 1 and part 2).

Then I went for a four day holiday to celebrate the outcome.

Post viva questionnaire - responses from Alex Schauer (pt 1 - Viva preparation and potential questions)

"Hi Andrew,

Having been a keen reader of the previous post viva questionnaires on your blog-post, I’ve decided to return something to the community by adding my own...."

Alex Schauer emailed me a couple of weeks ago after he successfully defended his thesis and kindly provided some inputs based on his experiences of defending his thesis.  The delay in posting them is entirely my fault!  Apologies Alex, and congratulations once again.

Viva preparation and potential questionsBackground

  • To test the candidate's knowledge of his/her research and subject area;
  • To allow examiners to clarify any queries that may have arisen when reading the dissertation
  • To judge whether the candidate has developed research skills appropriate to doctoral level
  • To give the candidate the opportunity to defend their dissertation in person
  • To establish whether candidates fully understands the implications of their work
  • To test if the thesis in whole/parts can be published

Key purposes of the Viva (usually set out in University regulations) include:

During the viva

This is mainly taken from a podcast by Tara Brabazon:
  • Breathe, speak slowly, concentrate, drink water.
  • Most importantly, listen to the opening remarks in the Viva because they can give you clear insights into what that examiners feel about your thesis.
  • Listen to the real question (don't turn it into a question you want to hear).
  • Consider writing down the question, so you don’t forget it and it gives you time to think.
  • Pause before answering the question (5-20 sec is OK).  Breathe, smile, look at the examiners, and consider your answer.
  • If done appropriately, admitting weaknesses can show that you’re able to critique your piece of work and thus be a good academic.
  • Re-phrase your answers with an emphasis on the word "focus" rather than "weakness"
  • Formatting your answer: intro, body, conclusion picking up on question
  • The written thesis should act as the foundation and source of your oral answers (Murray, 2003, page 89) so you should have it to hand and look for your answers ‘therein’.
  • Don't think of your thesis as earth shattering; rather you might lay claim to a ‘fresh approach’ or a 'new perspective'.
  • Think about your viva as a first experience in engaging with the academic community and locating your ideas amongst this community
  • Don’t say ‘Well I’ve written that’ as examiners can’t read everything.
  • Ask for a break if needed (5 min).
  • If anything weird happens, log it!  Occasionally examiners do strange or unfair things.  A record can help you to defend yourself if necessary.

Potential questions


What made you do this piece of research?
Why did you choose this topic?
Why did this topic interest you?
What drew you to this study?
Why this topic?
What led you to this particular study?
Why do think it is important?
What surprised you most in doing this study?
Tell us about your thesis, tell us about what you have done here.
Please could you summarise your thesis?
How would you explain to someone not involved in academia what your thesis is about?
Is there anything that you wish you could added or delete from your thesis?
Is there anything in it that you wish to comment on?
Have you enjoyed your PhD?
Has the thesis contributed to your professional life in any way?
What would you say has been an important learning experience for you in undertaking this work?
What did you learn from doing it?
Would you do anything differently next time?
Can you give one example of your thesis contribution to the development of knowledge and understanding in this area?
What original contribution to knowledge do you feel that you have made?
If  somebody from this field read your thesis, what would they learn that they don’t already know?
What does your study propose that is different from other studies in this area?
What is your own position (professional or personal) in relation to this field and these research questions?
What is your positionality in relation to the research project?
What prior conceptions and / or experiences did you bring to this study?
How did your own position/ background/ bias affect your data collection and your data analysis?
What are the main findings of your research?
Tell me what you think the most important findings are from your particular study?
Which elements of your work do you feel are worthy of publication and/or presentation at a conference?
What plans do you have for publication and dissemination?
Have you been thinking about publishing any of your PhD? if yes which parts?
Has any of the work been published or presented already?
Is there any reason why you haven’t published a paper yet?
What implications do you think your study has got for future research practice policy?
What is your hypothesis?
Why was your research worth three years of study?

Theories And Theoretical Frameworks

Please talk us through the main research questions that you were trying to address in your work. What was the origin of these questions?
What theories/ theoretical frameworks/ perspectives have you drawn upon in your research?
Which theories did your study illuminate, if any?