10 Crucial Tips On Thesis And Dissertation Defense

Last updated on : August 13 2023

Woman giving presentation in front of committee

Article Summary

Defending your doctoral degree before a group of professionals can be challenging and scary.

You have to answer questions on your field of study to gain your degree. And some of these questions your professors may not know the answers to themselves.

As a result, you can leave no stone unturned in your preparation and your performance on the day.

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What is the dissertation defense?

Ten steps to ensure your dissertation defense is a success


What is the dissertation defense? 

Although each university has slightly different processes for their Ph.D. candidates, the dissertation defense usually involves you presenting your research in an open lecture that anyone can attend.

During this time, you'll go through a discussion of your findings with the Ph.D. committee, who will question and challenge your research in detail. Afterward, the committee will meet to decide whether or not to grant you the degree. 

Getting through the presentation doesn't guarantee your degree. The committee could pass you, yes, but you could also be failed or asked to reexamine if you didn't do well enough. 

As a result, it's imperative that the presentation goes well, covers your research correctly, and that you have thought through all outcomes to get the pass you deserve.

Here are ten steps to maximize your chances of success. 

Ten steps to ensure your dissertation defense is a success.

For this article, we polled several business leaders in our community for insights into compelling presentations. We also interviewed a few Ph.D. graduates about their experiences.

From these discussions, we extracted ten crucial tips for you to prepare for the day.   

1. Give Yourself Enough Time To Prepare

To understand the key points you want to make and anticipate all possible questions and outcomes, you need to give yourself time. 

Preparation is mandatory in every aspect of life. However, when you have to face your professors and a team of professionals, then it becomes essential for you to get ready for anything.

You will need to understand each aspect of your thesis and a broader view of the field of study to pass their tests. 

This understanding means you need to give yourself adequate time to prepare. We suggest at least six weeks to a month before the day that you start compiling a list of the key points you want to make and the questions you might expect. 

Use these thought processes to draft an initial outline of the presentation. Over the coming weeks, refine the shape through practice and attention to the detail to arrive at your final presentation.  

If you are not satisfied with something and have very little time left, approach Writix for professional dissertation help for everyone. It's known for its all-round quality services  writing, editing, proofreading – taken care of by the professional writers there.

2. Anticipate And Prepare For Questions

During the preparation process, know that it is better to try answering all questions and not letting any slide. Attempting to answer every question to the best of your ability will give your professors a good impression that you can try to solve problems. 

This means you need to anticipate every question you might get and answer them through the structure of your presentation first. Yes, strive to answer questions before asking, as this will leave you prepared in the best possible way.

In anticipating what questions you might get, research the people in attendance to find out their specialization. Use this knowledge to try to think of the problems they might ask.

Also, you can request a friend in the same field of study to create questions and let you brainstorm on them. Additionally, research resources online to try and anticipate what questions you might get.

Lastly, when answering questions, take your time. Take a few deep breathes and draw on the knowledge you know you have. Question time is stressful, but with the right preparation and attitude, you will make it a breeze. 

3. Learn From Other Candidates

Study other people's presentations and use the knowledge gained to improve your production. Try to attend presentations from other candidates in your field of study and see how they were able to carry themselves through the dissertation process. 

Look out for open presentations and attend them to find out what to do. Use what you learn to make your presentation even better. Try picturing yourself being the person at the moment and how you'd approach the challenges presented. See yourself in similar surroundings and try to build confidence from these experiences.

Watch how they pose and the ways they use to calm themselves. It gives you an idea of what to do when you get nervous and how to respond to questions.

4. Have Back-up Plans

You have put all your focus in the immediate plan, but due to unavoidable circumstances, it lets you down. Having a plan B will help you pick up from where you left in the speech without confusing your audience. It is very disappointing not to know what to do next after your only plan fails, and it can make you very stressed.

For example, the accepted presentation format is through PowerPoint, but technology can fail you. Turn your high-quality slides to summarized key points on handouts. Prepare them a month before to ensure you have plenty of opportunities to get them perfect. 

Also, prepare a set of extra slides that covers some points in more detail. In the case you get asked about something that needs a more in-depth answer, you'll have some slides to support you.

And ensure that all your plans have similar structures and flow in the same chronological order. Let them be captivating and informative to the readers.

5. Practice Practice Practice

Ensure you rehearse the presentation over and over again until you reach a point where your mind is clear of all fear and worries. Do this by yourself, and in front of friends and colleagues if you get the opportunity.

Boost your pre-presentation jitters by practicing your speech in front of friends. Try to have a confident body language that, in turn, stimulates the mind to relax and follow suit. Strike a hero pose before you start each session. A hero pose will make you feel invincible, and likely will improve your performance.

Get your friends to prepare and ask you questions and try answering each of them. When you get too nervous, practice walking or standing and avoid sitting to help in harnessing stomach butterflies. Ensure every move you make is conscious and deliberate.

The more you practice, the easier it will be for you to hold your head high with that power stance. Try being flexible with your back straight and the shoulders relaxed.

6. Visualize

Visualize yourself in front of your audience in the run-up to the event to get familiar with the experience. Visualize often to improve your confidence. Cover the most challenging and complex parts of your presentation in this visualization.

Practice in your mind over and over again until you are calm and confident.  

Also, if you're concerned about the eloquence of your delivery, trust the examiners will focus mainly on the information you deliver, and being nervous is normal for them.

7. Consider What To Wear

A dissertation defense is like a job interview, and you should prepare for it as though you want to get hired.

The way you dress says a lot about you. Wear the wrong attire, and the committee may anticipate an outcome even before you begin your speech. So ensure you look classy and presentable while adding in some personal style to the mix.

Get the knowledge of what to wear from your professors or professionals in your field. If they wear official suits or business casual, then adjust your closet to that line. 

Also, get breathable clothes, ones that are not too tight, so you remain comfortable and calm. And consider if you will be seated or standing during the process to get an idea of shoes to wear. Your clothes both must look acceptable and are comfortable because you don't need this worry on your mind.  

Your level of nervousness also matters as you do not want to get your shirt wet each time tension in the room gets too high. Take this into consideration and get silk or any non-woolen clothe if you tend to be nervous and risk perspiring.

8. Get Enough Rest In The Days Before 

Your mind needs to relax, and resting will give it the best opportunity to clear and rejuvenate. Being properly rested will allow you to work with more ease before the team of examiners and in a calm state. 

Let your mind heal from the pressure you put on yourself days before the due day of presentation. Have enough sleep on the eve to your thesis presentation and ensure you eat well too. These simple preparations will ensure you are bright and productive the next day and without any anxiety.

Sleeping will restore your memory and energize your body to get ready to handle any obstacle in the way. It improves on how you think, and with enough rest, it is a clear assurance that you will answer those challenging questions. 

9. Mentally Prepare On The Day

It is very typical to get nervous in front of a panel of professionals when defending your thesis. You do not know what to expect, and your biggest fears might take the better part of you. 

Calm yourself down on the day (and before) by knowing that you are entirely prepared for the event, that you have left no stone unturned, and ready for all eventualities. Know that you are up to the task and can go through the process successfully.

Keep your breathing calm and relaxed during the presentation, and always try to slow down each time you start speaking fast. And take in a few deep breaths, and exhale slowly before getting on stage,

Remind yourself that everyone presents wants to hear what you have to say and are excited about your discoveries - so don't be shy to tell them as enthusiastically as you can. 

10. Lastly, Have Someone Assist You On The Day

An assistant can help you immensely and take a load of pressure off you by taking on some of the practical responsibilities needed on the day. He or she will relieve you of the stress of having to handle every single responsibility alone. 

Choose someone you trust and have had close interaction with and let them get to the presentation room beforehand. Ask your assistant to set up any equipment needed and prepare the place while you try to compose yourself for the day. Entrust them with distributing handouts to anyone attending the process.

Getting assistance like this allows you to focus on the presentation and save you time. Also, it portrays the right image of you as an organized person that can handle tasks in order.


Man holding idea lightbulb in his hand

The thesis presentation is the final step before attaining your doctorate, and it can be a tense experience. The tips above will help you tell the committee what you discovered and learned in a clear and presentable way without too much anxiety.

Please do not assume that it is an easy process and ensure you prepare for all outcomes. Clear your mind, get some rest, and trust in yourself that you can do this and be successful.

Author Bio:

Paul Calderon is a student counselor and academic advisor working to help students plan, work, and execute their goals effectively. He helps them with trainings, counseling sessions, and academic writing that includes the thesis, essays, term papers, and dissertations. In his free time, he loves DIY woodworking, modifying and riding his racing bikes, and watching drama movies.

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