Speaking the Language of Defence: Narratives of Doctoral Viva Examiners


This paper delves into the discourse of oral defence, unveiling the perspectives of doctoral examiners regarding their expectations of the candidates’ oral performance in the PhD viva. This investigation stems from the observation that candidates must adequately address questions posed by examiners to secure a favourable outcome in the oral examination. However, what constitutes a satisfactory viva performance is often undefined, let alone an excellent one. Through narrative inquiry, this study analysed the narratives of 12 experienced doctoral examiners across various disciplines at a Malaysian research university. The findings show that examiners expect candidates to speak the language of defence by manifesting confident, interactional behaviour, providing credible and convincing responses and displaying doctoralness. The discussion also includes the undesirable aspects of candidates’ oral performance, along with the reasons underlying these expectations. The paper argues for explicitly articulating and sharing the expectations of doctoral viva examiners with candidates and examiners, aiming to enhance the preparation, process, and eventual outcome of the examination.

Author Information
Wee Chun Tan, Universiti Putra Malaysia, Malaysia

Paper Information
Conference: ACE2023
Stream: Foreign Languages Education & Applied Linguistics (including ESL/TESL/TEFL)

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Posted by James Alexander Gordon