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All You Need to Know About the Dissertation Defense Format

Writing a dissertation is only half the battle. Academia requires that you defend it. The research you have conducted, the conclusions that you have reached, and the way you got to the finishing point are all things that can be part of that defense. Everyone has to go through this to get the terminal degree. It is not that difficult as long as you are prepared for what is going to happen.

  • No, This Is Not the Last Opportunity to Embarrass You. Students can be pretty cynical and believe that this is the last chance their advisors and professors have to give them some grief. The real purpose of the defense is to demonstrate your knowledge of the topic you worked on. Academia has a vested interest in seeing the only knowledgeable people obtain the advanced degrees. An oral defense generates that assurance.
  • Practice, Practice, Practice. This defense has to be taken seriously and you should prepare for it. This is more than just going over the content and your research. You should ask a few friends to question you about your work. One particular means of preparation is “hit me with your best shot”. In other words, ask your practice examiners to think of the most difficult question and pose it to you. This can also help you deal with any awkward situation where you may not have a strong answer.
  • Stick Your Content. You’re required to only defend what you have written. There is no reason for you to volunteer information outside of your thesis. That can only generate questions for which you may not have reliable answers.
  • Everyone Gets Nervous. You are not the first one to get the jitters when it comes to a dissertation defense. Stay calm and understand that your examiners appreciate your being a little bit apprehensive. No one is out to deliberately give you a hard time.

Remember that academia has a desire to see to it that the basic knowledge is advanced, and that competent people are representing the field of study. Your oral defense shows that the research is not a hobby but a very serious effort. You can think of the defense as your first step in the journey of an academic career. You may be teaching from a class or you may be doing investigation into mountains of data and material. Wherever the road leads the terminal degree opens the gate to the path. The dissertation defense is a means by which you show your peers that you are ready for the future.