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Survive your dissertation defense: 5 vital suggestions


The dissertation defense is an opportunity for you to really prove what you know about your dissertation.

You committee is not the enemy here. They want you to succeed. They are not going to set up a public defense without knowing that you are going to make it. They have likely read multiple drafts of your work and provided multiple comments, so they know your work and they know that you are prepared to present it. They will be hard on you, asking difficult questions, but they are not setting out to trap you.

Know when not to open your mouth. This is just as important as knowing when to answer. If you do not know an answer, do not try and lie your way through it or you will just end up rambling and floundering. Instead keep your answers simple. If you are asked to summarize the work that you did, keep the information simple. When you are asked a question, answer it honestly. The members of your committee are each experts in their selective fields and they have had to stand in the same place as yourself before. They will know if you are trying to answer a question that you have prepared, or one you wished they had asked rather than the actual question asked of you.

Never be afraid to tell your committee that you do not know an answer. If you seriously do not know, state that. Do not lie or flounder. Instead just tell them that you do not know, or do not know exactly how to answer something. Remember that while you are an expert in your dissertation, you cannot possibly know everything there is to know, which is why you should not be afraid or embarrassed if at some point you are asked a question about something with which you are unfamiliar.

In addition to these, remember that when planning for your defense, you should use your time accordingly by taking breaks. Many people have an attention span that is roughly 45 minutes to 1 hour. This means that after that designated period of time, you will become less productive because blood flow will slow down, heart rate will slow, and the amount of blood feeding your brain will drop. You need to avoid sitting for too long without stretching and make sure that you take a short break every hour.his does not have to be precise, on the nose; if you recently hit a creative burst of energy and thought do not interrupt that flow just to walk around when you could easily finish typing the thought and then take your break.

You know this project inside and out.

When you are preparing for your defense, you have to remember that you know this project inside and out. You have lived with it for years, thought about it for years, discussed it with everyone you know, and worried about it for years.

Once you finish any work for the day,

look over it if you have time. Making minor edits at the end of your work session can save you a lot of time when the end of your project nears and you need to proofread and edit.

Remember that the committee is performing the same way you are, but they are playing the role opposite yours. Use this knowledge to your advantage but recognizing that they are performing for one another the same way you have to perform for them. If you remember this the entire time, you will find them to be much less intimidating.