It looks like everyone has it’s own theories on what’s the function of a defense. People say that it has to be a contribution to knowledge, other people say that it has to reflect 3 years of work, other say that it has to be a work of publishable quality.
Given that “contribution to knowledge” is kinda a difficult ground to judge for some humanities, how are examiners approaching a PhD defense in the humanities?

the question title above is deliberately provocative.
I am in the UK. A few days ago I have explained my situation – many problems with a Department that was not able to support me adequately: "Revise and resubmit" after having the submission never reviewed by supervisor

However, as after 3 weeks I am still not ok, I have asked my co-supervisor (who actually answers in a matter of 2-3 hours) to provide me a feedback on the results of my viva, and tell me what he thinks. After 3 days he has not replied. I will ask him again.

Generally, both my supervisor, co-supervisor (the co-supervisor has just become a lecturer, so he is probably just inexperienced) and head of department (who was the arbitrator during my viva, after I raised all my problems) have constantly avoided to discuss the response with me just recommending (almost demanding) that I do follow those. They have constantly denied that I can appeal to a “revise and resubmit”. However I have recently contacted the student service of the University, and there I was told that not only I can appeal for further opportunity to submit, but that I can also submit a complaint to dispute tuition fees liability.

Now, I can understand the latter option was avoided – nobody is happy with money, but why was the former option (appeal) completely denied rather than discussed? Do academics get some reputation issues if students submit an appeal against a “revise and resubmit”?

I am having a problem and I need some input to reflect.

Long story almost short:
I am in the UK. I have started an interdisciplinary PhD research. At the end of the first year, during the progress panel review, I wrote some potential problems about inter-communication, difficulties in running my work, etc. The times passes, and after 3 years I am ready to submit the work planned, as agreed with my supervisor. 3 months before submitting my thesis, happened an important episode, that made me write an official complaint on both inter-communication and work problems deriving from this episode, that could (and actually would have) create problems in my viva.

After this, I had a great co-supervisor, that arrived to my university just 8 months before submitting. My supervisor instead has almost never done anything – you know that type of people that keep behaving as a friend, speaking about their funny experiences, and in the end (instead of saying: “wow, you are unable to run your work. I’ll make sure you find a way/you could try that strategy.”) just say: “Oooh, that is a problem: to be fair, it’s normal to ask 5-6 times the same thing for that”. In the end, career-obsessed, my supervisor has not submitted a ticket for me to work with the super-server of my University – after saying “yes, no problem” (at a certain point I have created another strategy) -, and has stopped replying to my emails about my thesis 6 weeks before my submission, has never provided any review even though I started sending to him chunks of my submission 5 months before submitting. I have mentioned this to the Head of PGR Studies.

All this because I was confident in my work. But my work is interdisciplinary (which is notoriously difficult for examination), and a little naivety about selecting my examiners has brought me to fail (revise and resubmit). As my work is interdisciplinary, instead of giving specific reasons on why to dismiss half of my submission, I was just given instructions on how to make it disciplinary.

The problem is that now I have just 1 chance to pass or fail. And my supervisor just tell me to do what they want, and that if I don’t, I will go against the recommendations of the whole department and the blame will be mine. He has not asked me why my project is important to me, nor has agreed to see my proposal on reworking the material and submit to another board – not that I would do that, but from “recommendations” we have passed to strict “guidelines” with a supervisor that has refused to listen to me.

Question 1) Just to know, I guess I can’t change university right? I am stuck with him, correct?

Moral: I submitted a PhD that has never been reviewed (and I understand now some unclear things – yes, the response of the examiners was a general “it’s unclear”) and now I have just 1 chance. For this chance, I am “very recommended” to throw away the thing I would like to work on in the future and do just as they recommend. For me this is a complete defeat – even if I pass.

Question 2) What should/could I do?

Best

For reasons I had very little influence on, most of the projects I participated in over the course of my PhD did not produce reasonable results. I managed to get involved in small side projects and publish at least something, but those are not very novel in itself and not “on the edge of knowledge”.
The edge of knowledge I pushed is what could go wrong when you are a lone representative of a “service science” in a collaboration, who is asked for input in the beginning, but later overthrown. And in the end, we look at the data together and establish we can’t do what we wanted with it. And part of the problem is in fact that my input was not that valued by decision makers.
This take-home message is more of a meta-topic and for sure not the main result of my thesis though.

In my thesis, I will (with a heavy heart) go through those projects and discuss them. Discuss what happened, what we did and what we should have done and could have done. This writing process is a very hard piece of work to do and is taking a toll on me right now. But I am doing it and trying to detach myself from the thoughts of how these failures could end up killing my dreams of an academic career.

In my defense, I am supposed to paint a picture-perfect representation of at least one major project. I don’t have any options for this. I got caught in doing small “services” to help my collaborators and starting new projects (“we will do better this time”) which always ran into a roadblock (mostly before I even got significantly involved).

I do not want to whine about science in my defense. I do not want to explain what went wrong, to the people who did it sitting in the room with a plan to cheer me through my presentation. But what can I do?
People usually find one “example” of what they did that worked out well and then “blow this up” to be the main point of their defense, while it might only be a small part of the work they did over the years. But I cannot find a single interesting topic with nice results. They are either trivial or failed.

Has anybody done a “fully failed” PhD defense … and passed? How would one do this?

For reasons I had very little influence on, most of the projects I participated in over the course of my PhD did not produce reasonable results. I managed to get involved in small side projects and publish at least something, but those are not very novel in itself and not “on the edge of knowledge”.
The edge of knowledge I pushed is what could go wrong when you are a lone representative of a “service science” in a collaboration, who is asked for input in the beginning, but later overthrown. And in the end, we look at the data together and establish we can’t do what we wanted with it. And part of the problem is in fact that my input was not that valued by decision makers.
This take-home message is more of a meta-topic and for sure not the main result of my thesis though.

In my thesis, I will (with a heavy heart) go through those projects and discuss them. Discuss what happened, what we did and what we should have done and could have done. This writing process is a very hard piece of work to do and is taking a toll on me right now. But I am doing it and trying to detach myself from the thoughts of how these failures could end up killing my dreams of an academic career.

In my defense, I am supposed to paint a picture-perfect representation of at least one major project. I don’t have any options for this. I got caught in doing small “services” to help my collaborators and starting new projects (“we will do better this time”) which always ran into a roadblock (mostly before I even got significantly involved).

I do not want to whine about science in my defense. I do not want to explain what went wrong, to the people who did it sitting in the room with a plan to cheer me through my presentation. But what can I do?
People usually find one “example” of what they did that worked out well and then “blow this up” to be the main point of their defense, while it might only be a small part of the work they did over the years. But I cannot find a single interesting topic with nice results. They are either trivial or failed.

Has anybody done a “fully failed” PhD defense … and passed? How would one do this?

I have been invited to be an external jury member for a PhD defense at a Belgian university. Apart from reimbursement of my travel expenses, am I going to be paid for this work? In UK (where I am based), there will be payment for external examiners. It would be embarrassing for me to ask them directly:)

Thanks for any info!

I am doing my PhD in Germany and I’m under a DFG grant of three years, which ends in September, and with it my visa. Although I can get an 18-month visa to find a job after my PhD, this won’t be granted until after my defense (when I get my certificate).

My supervisor had no idea that my residence in Germany depends on my employment contract/grant with the university.
I asked him if I could submit my dissertation at the end of July and be guaranteed a defense date in September. He told me cannot guarantee this and that I’ll just have to submit my defense earlier.

I don’t want to rush my writing (I’m technically submitting my PhD early already) so finishing earlier than July is out of the question. But if I don’t get defense date in September, I have to leave Germany and come back to defend it. I come from a country that requires a Schengen visa, so coming back won’t be as easy as hopping on a plane.

Right now I am seriously considering submitting my thesis in July and then fly back at the end of September with or without defense date. If I don’t get a defense date then I effectively quit my PhD.

What should I do? Any advice would be appreciated.

I submitted my PhD thesis to my department last August for examination. However, I found out from my supervisor that my department only sent my thesis to examiners last November for examination. So it took them about 3 months to get my thesis to examiners. Before submitting my thesis, my supervisor already has elected examiners to examine my thesis and they all agreed to do so. Thus, there would be no problem in getting examiners to examine my thesis. And crazy thing is, when I confronted the staff who is supposed to handle my thesis examination, she nonchalantly said that she was so busy handling something else and she apologized for purposefully delaying my viva because her plate was full. I was beyond furious to learn how unprofessional she is when handling my thesis. Now I am thinking to lodge a report to the Dean of my school regarding how unprofessional my department was in handling my viva voce. But then, I’m scared that my department will have their vendetta against me when they found out that I made a report. Another option is to lodge a report to the Dean once I graduate from the PhD program but that seems like a cowardly move.

What should I do?

I submitted my PhD thesis to my department last August for examination. However, I found out from my supervisor that my department only sent my thesis to examiners last November for examination. So it took them about 3 months to get my thesis to examiners. Before submitting my thesis, my supervisor already has elected examiners to examine my thesis and they all agreed to do so. Thus, there would be no problem in getting examiners to examine my thesis. And crazy thing is, when I confronted the staff who is supposed to handle my thesis examination, she nonchalantly said that she was so busy handling something else and she apologized for purposefully delaying my viva because her plate was full. I was beyond furious to learn how unprofessional she is when handling my thesis. Now I am thinking to lodge a report to the Dean of my school regarding how unprofessional my department was in handling my viva voce. But then at the other side of spectrum, I’m scared that my department will have their vendetta against me when they found out that I made a report. Another option is to lodge a report to Dean once I graduated from PhD program but that seems like a cowardly move.

What should I do?