By the time you have finished your dissertation, it may feel like you have overcome the biggest hurdle standing between you and your PhD. You have done your research, you have analyzed the results, and you have assembled all the data you needed to make a remarkable dissertation. You even took the added step of using an online dissertation writing service to make sure that your final document meets all the requirements of your institution. But there is one more hurdle left to jump over before you reach the finish line: the dissertation defense. The defense can seem scary, and many students have been known to crack under the pressure of the defense. Fortunately, with our quick guide to the seven essential steps to dissertation defense success, you’ll be prepared with a great defense!
- Give yourself plenty of time to practice your talk. If you want to give a good oral presentation, you need to practice many times. A single run-through won’t be enough. Try to recruit people to help you. Practice on your own and also practice in front of a group of people. If you are uncomfortable with public speaking you will need more practice time than if you are comfortable speaking in public, but everyone will need many run-throughs to become familiar with the information and the presentation to deliver it smoothly and comfortably.
- Listen to others give their dissertation defense talks. One of the best ways to develop your oral presentation skills is to see how others handle their defenses. Some of these are available on DVD or streaming on sites like YouTube. Watch defenses and learn how students handle presenting their research, taking notes about what works well and what does not. You can also attend live defenses that are open to the public in order to get a full 360-degree experience and prepare yourself for what it will feel like when you are the one on stage.
- Have classmates, friends, and colleagues question you. You will be more confident and more prepared if you have friends, colleagues, and classmates ask you questions about your research. Ask them to pepper you with some of the most challenging questions they can think of. While they will not likely have the exact same questions as your dissertation committee, you can develop your extemporaneous speaking skills and gain confidence as you become even more intimately familiar with your research through this process.
- Re-read your dissertation and develop a question list. While you have certainly read your dissertation many times over, before your defense read it again and try to write out a series of questions that someone who was not intimately familiar with the topic might have. The process of writing out questions will help you to identify potential weaknesses in your argument and areas where you need to have an explanation ready should the committee ask you about them.
- Avoid distractions. Waiting for your defense can be nerve-racking, and you will be tempted to start the process of moving on to your post-PhD by going on job interviews, applying for positions, or even making plans to move away from school to a new city. You may even be planning your graduation party. But all of this can distract you from preparing for your defense. As hard as it may be, you need to take those last weeks before the defense to prepare for the defense, so you need to avoid anything that will take time away from this essential process.
- Take care of your physical needs. You may be tempted to pull all-nighters and live on pizza and ramen while you drill down into your defense. Or you may be too nervous to sleep or to eat anything but ice cream and cookies. But it’s very important that you take care of your body’s physical needs during this important time. Getting plenty of sleep, staying hydrated, and eating healthy food will help you to stay sharper and to be well-rested and in top mental shape on defense day.
- Stay calm and just relax! Cut yourself a bit of break. At this point, you are the expert on your subject and know it better than anyone else. But that doesn’t mean you need to be perfect. Sometimes the answer to a question is as simple as “that requires more research.” Just know that by doing your best, you should have no trouble passing.