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How To Survive Your Dissertation Defence: Expert Advice


Even when your dissertation is fully ready and has been approved by all of your supervisors and advisors, it’s too early for you to relax. There is still a very important step ahead of you – defending the work of the several years of your life in front of a whole lot of people, who will carefully listen, make remarks and ask questions. There cannot be general instructions on how to get through this process, but we can provide you with a few tips that can be valuable for anyone, no matter what the topic of your dissertation is, or who is in your committee, so listen closely.

Trust in your committee.

These people are not there to make your life harder, they want to see you make it happen no less than you do. Moreover, they are absolutely sure you can do it. They’ve been guiding you through the whole process, have seen your work and would have not let you stand there if they were not absolutely sure your work is good enough. Their questions may be hard, but if they think you can answer them, you really can.

Don’t say too much.

Basically, learn when you need to stop talking. Saying too little is not good, you need to let everybody understand you are good in this subject, but don’t start the nervous talking you cannot stop. Pull yourself together and think a few seconds before you let the words come out of your mouth. Stay on topic and don’t start discussing any other issues other than what was asked. If they have any further questions, you will hear them later.

Keep your speech simple.

Don’t get too far inside your topic – especially if you defend it in front of people, who have not worked so deeply in this subject. Simply state what your objection was, what you have done for it and what conclusions you came to. If somebody is interested in a deep prospective, they will ask.

Don’t try to avoid the question you don’t like.

Political techniques of answering a different question won’t work here. Your committee will consist of professionals in their field and this will not make a good impression. If this question is a little bit outside of your scope, try to answer it at the top of your knowledge. If it’s outside of your area of study, don’t be afraid to admit it – you cannot possibly know everything.