Tips For Students: What Does A Dissertation Defense Look Like?

Writing a dissertation is an arduous and time-consuming experience that you will undergo to receive your doctorate degree. The dissertation defense is a final step on a long road towards your degree where you will present your work, defend your ideas, and explain the rationale behind your theories and research methods. It is not a mere formality but an important stage in your academic career that you should successfully pass. Even though each defense is unique and unpredictable, it is possible to prepare for all of its challenges beforehand to minimize possible surprises. Use the following tips to understand what you are expected to do during your defense and how you can prepare for it.

  • Decide what you will talk about.
  • A dissertation defense starts with a presentation where the candidate should briefly state a research question, review relevant literature, explain their choice of methods, share their findings, and outline recommendations for future research. To decide what information should be covered in your particular field, talk to your advisor and to recent graduates in your program. Listen to other thesis defense talks in your field of study.

  • Decide how you will present your information.
  • You may be required to prepare a slideshow, give a talk, or both. Whichever method you use, make sure that you practice your presentation multiple times. Use a timer to check how long your talk and/or presentation takes. Practice your presentation until you are satisfied with its quality. Record your talk and watch the video to see how it looks.

  • Be ready for the questions.
  • Upon completing your presentation, be prepared to answer any questions about your project. Reread your entire dissertation to go over all minor details and ideas afresh. Create your own list of questions that the committee members could possibly ask and come up with the answers to these questions. There is no guarantee that the questions will be raised, but this strategy will considerably boost your confidence. Learn what questions are commonly asked during similar defenses. Defining the controversial or weak points in your study and future research plans are common questions to anticipate.

  • Take care of yourself.
  • Get enough sleep and eat well before your defense. By taking care of yourself, you improve your chances of having a strong talk. The better you feel, the easier it will be to concentrate on your answers and demonstrate your competence in the subject. It will also be easier to stay calm and confident during your defense.