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The Rituals of the Dissertation Defense

When a person is completing his/her Doctorate, Masters, or any other higher level degree, he/she has to write a dissertation. Once the dissertation has been accepted by the supervisor, he/she has to go in front of a thesis committee in order to defend the dissertation. Defending a dissertation involves providing evidence and reason for the consideration of your thesis. This evidence depends on the type of dissertation being selected. The process includes oral exam during which the student is asked questions related to his dissertation and if the committee is satisfied with his answers, then the student passes his defense and confirms the degree.

The Rituals:
Students sometimes avoid preparing for the dissertation defense by thinking that there is a lot of time and it is easy to handle it. However, it should be kept in mind that the dissertation defense can be an unseen terror for those who do not take it seriously. Therefore a preparation should be made in order to foster and enhance the confidence.

The following are some of the suggestions that will help students cope with this oral exam and control their stress:

  • In order to successfully defend a dissertation, a student should first get familiar with the whole process. For this purpose, he/she should attend the defenses of his colleagues. In this way he will be able to get some experience of how to deal with the situation.
  • A person should discuss the possibilities of all the pros and cons of the dissertation defense with his/her adviser.
  • The student should be aware of the time allocated for the oral defense, presentation and questioning. Usually the time allocation varies for different universities and institutes but overall, the approximate time is two hours.
  • The use of PowerPoint enhances the possibility of your positive impression. One salient feature of using the PowerPoint is that it only highlights the most important points of a topic that will help the committee of defense to understand it more easily.
  • The presence of authority and instruction in a student’s attitude is very important. This will enable him to enforce his point in front of his audience.
  • Trusting his/her works is a milestone in defending a dissertation. A student has come so far by crossing all the hurdles in the long way. Now this trust in his/her study will help to face any situation.
  • A student should have faith in his preparation. He/she should treat dissertation as a textbook. This will help to prepare it more easily.
  • The questions asked by the committee members are not because they want to confuse the defender, but it is because they want to clear things which they don’t understand. This approach will help the student to present with more ease.
  • In some universities it happens that a pre-defense of the dissertation is scheduled for students in which different questions are asked by the committee members. These questions are not the actual ones but they help students to gather experience through the questions that are related to their research.

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