Expert advice on how to defend a dissertation
Defending your dissertation in front of a crowd of people is a daunting prospect. You are literally justifying your proposal, paper, lots of time and work invested into your education, in front of a group of people who aren't sure if you're worthy to graduate. But with the right attitude and preparation, you can walk away from it a winner with your Ph. D. Here are some tips that everyone should know that can help them defend your dissertation. Keep in mind that one size does NOT fit all, and that you should pick and choose appropriate tips for your defense.
- Committees Want You To Succeed. Keep in mind that your committee would not allow you to defend your thesis in front of the public if you weren't good enough for it. (Dissertation defenses are usually open to the public, like a court trial.)
- You Know What They Know. Remember this: by the time you stand up in front of a dissertation committee, you will have been living and analyzing your dissertation for months, even years. You will have worried about, dreamed about, and analyzed each and every aspect of your dissertation down to the smallest detail.
- Silence Is Golden. Do not volunteer information they do not already know. Stick to your presentation and focus entirely on that. Do not interrupt the committee either.
- The Committee Is A Theater. You and the committee are putting on a show for each other and the general public. Act like a professional and keep your words and actions relevant to your dissertation.
- Simplicity Is Golden. Tell your committee what you did as simply and honestly as possible. This is my question, here is my answer. Say nothing long and complicated.
- Be Honest. You are dealing with a committee who have already defended their dissertations and know you very, very well. Don't divert them or use mind games. Answer everything honestly.
- If you don't know, you don't know. Nobody knows everything in the universe. There are some questions you may or will not answer. Say that their question warrants further study at a later date, but for now, it remains unanswered. Use common sense when answering this way.
- Sleep well. This isn't like a big test or a final essay; it's too late to change answers (and your destiny.) Be restful and greet the committee the next day with politeness and good humor.
- Wear appropriate clothing. Usually this is formal wear for a business meeting or dinner at a fancy resturant. This will help put you in the right frame of mind.
- Relax and enjoy yourself. Perhaps the hardest advice to take, you need to realize change much from this point forward. You may as well enjoy the show, because it's almost guaranteed you'll win.
If you follow some or all of these tips, you'll be sure to come out of your defense with a sense of relief and calm, because the only thing left is to pick up your degree at the graduation ceremony!