What Is A Dissertation Defense: Basic Instructions For Students

Writing a dissertation is a different experience for everyone primarily due to three reasons:

  1. Everyone has a different thought process
  2. Everyone has a different approach towards things
  3. Everyone has a different writing style.

Writing a dissertation is not that tough of a job as long as everyone approves with your ideas. It is the defense that gets you in trouble because you have to “protect” your life’s work (exaggerating the importance of your dissertation).

What is a dissertation defense?

A dissertation defense is a formal sitting with a defense committee where you have to defend your thesis, your ideas and your methodologies. You’ll be thrown brutal questions, often catching your off guard and you have to use your intuition, judgment and knowledge to defend your work.

Every university has a different defense policy but mostly it involves two phases:

  1. Proposal defense
  2. Dissertation defense

The former phase is where you have to convince the committee that your research will be worth their and your time. The latter phase is where you have to defend your entire dissertation once the proposal has been approved and you’ve spent months and hours to refine your research.

How to prepare for your defense?

There is no one way to prepare for dissertation defense. Like I said before, defense is different experience for everyone. However the entire process can be generalized to some extent as:

  1. Do not try to outsmart your panel members because they know more than you do.
  2. Be honest and truthful about your efforts, results and the problems etc. exaggerations and window dressing will be lethal in this scenario.
  3. Know when to surrender. If a panel member asks you a question that you don’t know how to answer, it’s okay to say “I don’t know” rather than making up things.
  4. Go through your dissertation at least twice to look for loophole or possible areas with a question mark. You should know the strengths and weaknesses of your thesis inside out. Only then you can defend it successfully.
  5. You also have and choice in who sits on your defense panel. So it is usually advised to go for professors who are known to be fair.
  6. There might be some people on your panel who may ask you a lot of questions. Your job is to be patient and answer them respectfully. You need to realize that you need their approval.