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My understanding of major corrections in PhD dissertation is that there can be entire chapters to add to the presented dissertation. However for me it's very hard to understand how much these changes might actually impact the thesis.

Specifically to my situation, I negotiated with my supervisor to limit certain contents that I'm not interested in adding to my dissertation. Apparently he agreed.(1)

However, I'm afraid that these contents can pop up again after the viva, in the form of "major corrections" to the dissertation. In that case, I guess, I will have no chance to negotiate again and I can just accept them or quit the PhD, probably in the worst moment possible. (2) So, can I anticipate this to happen? How can I make sure that "major corrections" will not be used to turn my research to the personal will of the supervisor?

Moreover, since I saw that "minor corrections" could just be revised by the internal committee, I'm afraid that this can happen as well as in the case of "major corrections". But, maybe in this case the corrections cannot be that radical to change the direction of my research. Is this actually possible?

notes

(1) these contents have been forced to me by manipulative moves and have nothing to do with the thesis itself. I added some of them as a compromise to make my supervisor happy enough. I'm rejecting these contents because of the manipulation and because of my personal ethic.

(2) I would not rely too much in the other components of the committee , since they are all under the influence of my supervisor

  • 2
    It is unclear from this where your supervisor stands. Who is doing the manipulating? – Buffy Apr 21 at 15:33
  • @Buffy it would be a very long and uninteresting story, with manipulation I mean agreeing into something and ending up doing something else. As long as someone has clear tasks one can agree or not and take its decision, when these are not clear and they comes during the way by design, I believe them to be manipulations. – pat Apr 21 at 15:49
  • To begin to answer this, though, I'd need to know whether your advisor is currently on your side and supportive or not. Without that support everything becomes difficult to impossible. – Buffy Apr 21 at 15:57
  • @Buffy sorry, now I understand... presumably the supervisor in not on my side. (things might be different and more complicated, but for the moment would be hard to consider them) – pat Apr 21 at 16:02
  • I don't see how you can get helpful advice about what revisions you might be given from somebody who has not read your thesis and discussed it with the examiners. – Anonymous Physicist Apr 22 at 6:09
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I have to say I agree with Buffy. Easier just to accept in the end that you have to please the people with the power. Particularly if your supervisor, and your whole thesis committee/examers agree. More than that - adding stuff you think is unneccesary to appease some outside assessor is the daily bread and butter of academia, where reviewers are always asking for things the author thinks is unreasonable.

I'm still not sure what system you are working in, but the way you talk about viva's and thesis corrections makes me think you are in the UK or a similar system. Note that while in the US, I don't think corrections following the defense are common, in the UK almost all candidates are asked to make correction before being awarded the degree.

Corrections at my university come in three flavours. You can read the details here: https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/polopoly_fs/1.435461!/file/Guidance_Notes_for_Examiners.pdf

Your univeresity should have something similar.

The extracts for minor/major/rewrite are below. Note in all cases the phrase "to the satisfaction of the examiner(s)". The examiner decides how relevant the corrections are. The examienrs decide if you have done enough. There is no negotiation. Usually one of them is nominated to make the decision. Usually the internal for minor or simple major corrections, both the internal and external examiners for more substantial corrections. Once you are at this point, you more or less have to do what the examienrs say if you want your degree. You might have a case if the corrections required of you are outside the bounds of the grade (i.e. if they asked for new reserach, but called it major, rather than rewrite), and there is an appeals process. But I have never heard of a university over turning the judgement of an examiner.

That the degree be awarded once specified minor corrections have been completed to the satisfaction of the examiner(s)

This option may be chosen where the examiners are satisfied that the thesis meets the requirements for the award of the degree, but where there are minor weaknesses or editorial errors that must be rectified before they can recommend the award of the degree. The nature and extent of the required corrections must be genuinely minor in nature such that they can reasonably be completed within a period of three calendar months from the date the candidate receives notification of the required corrections from the examiners.

The candidate will be expected to make the corrections without undertaking any further original research. The examiners are responsible for providing the candidate with the details of the required corrections and must stipulate which of the examiners will be responsible for approving the corrections prior to formal recommendation of the degree.

That the degree be awarded once specified major corrections have been completed to the satisfaction of the examiner(s)

This option may be chosen where the examiners are satisfied that the thesis has the potential to merit the award of the degree for which it has been submitted, but does not yet satisfy the requirements for award and contains deficiencies that are in excess of editorial or presentational corrections. This may involve re-writing sections, correcting calculations or clarifying arguments, but should not require the candidate to undertake any further original research. The candidate will be granted 6 months to complete the required corrections from the date the candidate receives notification of the required corrections from the examiners.

The examiners are responsible for providing the candidate with the details of the required corrections and must stipulate which of the examiners will be responsible for approving the corrections prior to formal recommendation of the degree.

That the degree be not now awarded, but that the candidate be allowed to submit a revised thesis after such modification of form or content as the examiners may prescribe, WITH/WITHOUT oral re-examination

This option may be chosen where the examiners do not feel able to make a recommendation for the award of the degree at this time. The thesis requires substantial corrections in order to meet the requirements for the degree, but the examiners feel that the candidate is capable of revising the thesis, to their satisfaction, within one year.

The candidate is required to formally submit a revised thesis within one year and the examiners must indicate whether the candidate must undergo a further oral examination. Examiners are asked to consider whether an oral re-examination would help the candidate to justify the additions or alterations that are to be made to the thesis. Where the examiners’ original recommendation specifies that a further oral examination is required, this should take place, regardless of the outcome of the examiners’ preliminary assessment of the resubmitted thesis. The examiners should provide the candidate with full written details of the required revisions to the thesis, normally within two weeks of the oral examination. The same examiners will normally re-examine the candidate.

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  • I'm going to accept this answer because it clarifies the formal process and the agency of examiners. My university does not have these guidelines, or they do not share them. Indeed, it seems like many regulations are made ad personam. Anyway, yes, the system should be similar to UK. – pat Apr 22 at 11:52
  • "in the US, I don't think corrections following the defense are common" I'd say that in the US pretty much anything could happen with respect to corrections. academia.meta.stackexchange.com/a/4478/13240 – Anonymous Physicist Apr 23 at 8:24
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From this and your other questions, I think you want a fight you can never win. If I remember correctly, you have actually already moved to a different institution and it is just a question of finishing your degree so that you can move on with your career.

When a king has life and death power over you and makes a demand, the only response is "Yes, your majesty". And you say it with a smile. Even that may not be sufficient, but any other response has a guaranteed outcome.

I suggest that you write the thesis in such a way that the advisor will accept it. Even, dare I suggest, accept it gladly. Fair it is not. But, you will get to live for another day.

I don't know exactly how your viva will work or whether you get a chance to respond to any objections made. I hope so. And make the required changes to please the "court". But if not, and the deck is stacked, don't present them with an excuse to condemn you.

If the situation were otherwise with your advisor being on your side and major revisions suggestions made at the viva (in the public session, not written comments later), I would respond to the reviewers that we (my advisor and myself) considered those and rejected them already for the reasons...

But that doesn't seem like the situation here. Bowing before a tyrant isn't pleasant. But, perhaps the "madness of the king" will be obvious to others.

I suspect that, having seen the worst of academic advising, you have some incentive to do a better job of it yourself, provided that you get the chance. Get past this hurdle, however you must. Good luck with it.

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  • It makes sense... but the thing that for me is more frustrating is that: it is not enough to just write and pretend that you are believing to the same things that someone imposed to you, but you also need to defend them! It's something like: stab yourself and pretend you like it. I could be fine in writing something, sending it and forgetting about it, but the fact that I'll also have to defend it, is a violence that I hear it could just happen in dictatorships. Anyway thanks for this reality check. – pat Apr 22 at 11:35

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