You know what the deal is in your discipline, so adapt as necessary.) 1.Put it in Context We hear about this mysterious, terrifying thing called the dissertation defence all the way through our Ph Ds, but without real context. And what do people mean by defend–is that just a euphemism for poking holes and grilling me until I cry?If an examiner is getting off on the power, then that’s their problem not yours.
The scientific validity of power poses is hotly contested, but they work for me, so I did a bunch. Between my determination to have a good time and my preparation, I got my brain to interpret all questions as helpful and supportive, even when they were hard and prickly, and answering them was deal. You too can have a good time at your defence, if you’re prepared and you come at it as a discussion that’s intended to make you and your research better, not as a moment that’s intended to trip you up, or make you look stupid, or poke holes in your work.
A Thesis defense, sometimes referred to as “Viva” can be incredibly intimidating and has been known to send the shivers down the spines of countless students around the globe.
Why did you choose the parameters you did for this study?
What made you want to pursue this research in the first place?
How is this work different from the work other people in your field are doing, and why?
What’s the most important contribution to knowledge this research makes? Know the Boundaries The defence is, first and foremost, about the work your committee has on the table in front of them.Those might come up, mostly in the context of how this research fits into and contributes to your field more broadly, but 90% of your discussion is going to be about the work you did and how and why you did it the way you did. The opening presentation is your opportunity to set the terms of discussion in your defence, to frame the conversation in a way that works for you.Focus your preparation on your dissertation–on knowing it well, on being able to explain and justify your choices, on being able to identify its limits–and not on trying to know everything about your field that an examiner could possibly ask you. Set the Terms In many fields, an opening presentation at the defence is mandatory. Your examiners, especially your external, will have questions prepared but the presentation is a golden opportunity to set the terms of engagement.(I drove my husband a bit crazy with this, as I spent the weeks before my defence constantly monologuing about my research. ) You should also ask your supervisor and other committee members to share with you, to the extent that they can, the areas of your work on which you should focus your preparation. There were almost no questions that I hadn’t anticipated in advance, and I pulled answers to some of the trickier ones almost verbatim from my mental bank of prepared responses.Those were the answers that most impressed my committee. You’ve anticipated the questions your committee will ask and you’ve practiced your answers. It’s time to give your brain a rest and be confident in not only your preparation but in the years of work you did to get to this point. Choose your Gear You can, however, choose your clothes and the other things you’re going to bring.However, while yes, you will face a grilling by a select panel you should try and draw some comfort from the fact that chances are you will be far more knowledgeable on the subject than they will be.It is important that you try and get a good night’s sleep before your defense and that you don’t fall into the trap of turning to alcohol for comfort as that will only lead to self-sabotage.I knew that my supervisor was a superstar who can theorize me under the table any day.But I decided to frame the defence in my mind as a rare and valuable opportunity to spend a few hours discussing my research with six brilliant people who were going to help me make it better.It’s not the same as a qualifying exam, or even as a proposal defence. As a humanities Ph D, the best advice I got was to think of the defence as a meeting with a book publisher who you might want to publish your academic monograph, and who wants to know more about the project. your committee) is going to ask you to explain and expand on your choices (that is, defend them) so that they can understand this project and its contribution to knowledge in your field.Why did you make the methodological and theoretical choices you did?