Malcolm Quinn: What (Not) to Do in the Viva

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February 24, 2010

  • The first PhD Quinn supervised was, in many ways, the best (Georgia Touliatou on Diegesis) :
  • There's often a disconnect between written and practical aspects
  • Practice-based PhD - think bonsai - should have all the virtues of the 100000-word thesis
  • Georgia Touliatou's thesis drew attention to bits of her research that required consideration (Quinn uses the metaphor of a lecture on a horse - "Here's the horse's mane; here's the horse's hoof...") to describe how it operated
  • Candidate must demonstrate a correct address to the problem - question, context and method
  • Defend what it is you're doing by observing what you're not - be explicit, say "I could have used other methods..." - lay out alternatives...and say why these don't work...
  • British Model - putting self into a field of expertise - The external examiner is queen or king, and what you're doing is saying to them, "Here's the field of expertise. Here's the gap in knowledge that's not yet addressed. Here's my work...". British culture is all about clubs and classes; there's no public space - you just move from your club to another club - Are you researcher enough?
  • Quinn uses the metaphor of "building your castle" - It is, after all, a defense
  • In the viva, you'll need to demonstrate research agency: (1) that you could go out and supervise someone else's PhD; (2) you're someone working in the field and your work should be noticed; (3) you're (already) on your way...
  • Focus on Why rather than How - What were my moves...and how did those moves correspond to the state of art in the field...You're defending a case...your client is yourself...there's always a WHY!
  • Have you defined a good enough vehicle to do the work you wanted to do? Has it done that work? Is it a Toyota or a Cadillac?
  • Contextual review - context of your question...your problem...Levi Strauss - intro to structure of anthropology - takes standard question...relates to organization...and looks at various ways of addressing this problem in anthro...His argument involves bringing in something outside (Freud) and this allows him to address the question...
  • Two ways to approach the PhD - (1) pre-exising question - but non one has been able to pull the sword out of the're addressing this problem; (2) new problem - framing of the problem
  • The best students find a way to create bonsais...Show me the precise relationship between the writing and artefact (British a bit more diffident; not about "Here's my contribution to knowledge"...learn to use euphemisms...
  • PhD students often want to finish to quickly - consequences = major corrections for months
  • No mistakes in the text - Your supervisors aren't proof readers - (Helen Turner has a list of proof readers) - Go in with the attitude you're not going to get into correction but you're going to be humbled
  • Use your examiners...get them to explain their questions...Respond thoughtfully to these explanations - explain, if possible, why you haven't read what they think you should have read...Stock response: "That's interesting...but..." "This might, at first glance, look like ethnography, but it's not because..."; Be polite but firm. It's always okay to ask qualifying questions; yhe examiner has to explain why they've asked questions they've asked; you can only be examined on what's been put on the table; they cannot reflect on your character; they cannot reflect on the institution
  • What are the debates within which my practice fits? - where are the questions - Every question you ask has a fate attached to it...and that fate puts you in a place; where's this place...
  • Take the text with you - prepare by highlighting all the bits you might wish to refer to - use yellow tags.
  • Avoid appealing to your experience ("That's just the way things are") and your intuition
  • You don't get points for hard work
  • You need to be in command of your field...Be research-aware enough to know what is/is not relevant...- Think in terms of islands (what/who is on your island)...where you live...who is not on your island
  • If you're reading theorists in other languages, there may be questions around translation...Consider why you're using the translations you're using.
  • Don't include theorists who don't matter..that's the worst possible thing you can do...padding - anxiety - when you work with big have to identify the debates around their issues...Discursive footnotes are very useful in this regard - you can do a lot of work in the footnotes
  • Harvard is a bit strange - about acknowledging your friends - "Hi there, Brian"
  • Question for Quinn: Have you ever encountered a written (aspect of the) thesis that's operating like an artwork? Response: No, they tend to be poetic, with students emphasizing their own subjectivities (where as, Quinn feels my own work is more about problemaizing subjectivity) - this never works - avoid making it all about "me" - the thesis needs to be communicative.
  • Elizabeth Price and "second practice" - about disrupting your practice, your life world, your gestalt and finding out stuff you didn't know, didn't understand
  • The whole thesis needs to work together - the argument should work together - practice can't speak for itself - it cannot supply it's own manual - it needs an explanation, something beyond itself
  • Quinn's own PhD - RCA - references Alan Soka's "Transgressing the Boundaries" Social text as a time bomb - Looks at Freud and Dilthy - pre-conscious - theories of practice instead of Freud's unconscious - Practice has it's own theoretical baggage - Quinn's performative lecture looked like archeology but very bad archeology...It was extremely important to him that he was recognized as doing archeology - using one discipline to engage another
  • Playing with various symptoms...I am your symptom; this is your symptom. Now my move is to make you think about the consequences of my work as symptomatic - so, in my case, I need to be explicit about why I'm not using academic language in one instance and not in another (varied across the barcamp presentations) = you need to work very hard to control interpretations (do everything you can to promote a specific reading of your work) as there will always be an interpretation - it will always go in other directions...
  • Theses to review - Paul Ryan's - enjoyed minor corrections - it's about applying a particular theory to his sketchbooks; working through them bit by bit
  • QAA level descriptors for PhDs = what our regs are based on

Writing Surgery - Elkin's book on PhDs - reading specific chapter

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