Professional Advice on How to Pass a Doctoral Dissertation Defense Successfully

The time has finally arrived to present your doctoral dissertation defense and you probably have tons of questions about the process and most importantly about how to pass it successfully. The following 7 pieces of advice come from professionals with years’ of experience on this topic alone. Here’s everything you need to know:

  • Don’t underestimate preparation time
  • When students hand in their dissertation ahead of time they often go into a relaxed mode and take a few days off before starting their defense preparations. Don’t be fooled by the amount of time you think you have. Gathering slides, notes, writing scripts, and rehearsing can take a few weeks to complete, so get started immediately to leave you the necessary time.

  • Attend others’ dissertation defenses
  • Some students are ill-prepared for a defense’s presentation format and fail miserably when they have to do it live. Get a grasp of the process by attending others’ dissertation defenses. They are open to the public and can be a great way of preparing for the unexpected.

  • Have your classmates ask questions
  • A great preparation strategy is to have your classmates ask you a series of questions directly culled from your dissertation document. It’ll prepare you to navigate and respond quickly to even the most offbeat questions.

  • Develop your own line of questions
  • You should have a pretty good idea of what kinds of questions interested your classmates, but you can take it even further by developing your line of questions that explore the most interested areas more. This way you’ll be ready to address any question that might arise.

  • Make sure you have a good structure
  • Your presentation should have good structure, and the easiest way to do this is to mirror the structure of your dissertation. This will make it easier to follow along and find your place should you get off track because of any comments or questions from the committee.

  • Get plenty of rest and eat healthily
  • As the days to your presentation approach, start developing a routine where you get plenty of rest and eat healthily. You want to do things at the same time so that you can easily shift into a critical and focused mentality when you finally do have to defend the dissertation.

  • Visualize the dissertation presentation
  • Practicing the presentation aloud is great preparation, but so too is simply visualizing yourself given it in front of others. The repetitive visualization of your defense will help easy your nerves and improve your abilities of delivering a flawless defense.