How to Survive Your Dissertation Defense

A dissertation defense is always a thrilling process for any student. Some students are just afraid to speak in public; others are not sure that they can answer additional questions and forget everything they know. Here are some recommendations that will help you defend your dissertation confidently:

  1. Be sure that you know everything about your project.

    Remember that you have worked on your dissertation for years; you have researched all the aspects of your topic, so you’re an expert. You probably know more about your topic than the examiners do. Since you have learned your project inside and out, you have no reasons to worry about it.

  2. Have a good rest before the day of the defense.

    You shouldn’t worry all night – get a good sleep. It will give you full amounts of energy and make your mind clear.

  3. Don’t be late.

    Arrive to your dissertation defense earlier and get ready to speak. If you are late, you will look like an irresponsible person and it will harm your reputation.

  4. Keep smiling.

    In order to make a good impression, try to relax and smile.

  5. Think before answering the question.

    Don’t be afraid to take a moment before giving a response. It will help you compose a clear and direct answer.

  6. Correct your mistakes before anyone notices.

    It’s okay to say “sorry, I was mistaken.” Your audience and committee are people too. They will understand and give you a chance to correct your mistake.

  7. Give thanks for the questions.

    One more way to make a good impression is to say “that’s a good question” or “thank you for the question.” It will also give you some time to think about the answer.

  8. Don’t be afraid not to know something.

    Don’t panic if you don’t know the answer to some questions. It’s okay. You are not expected to know everything. Of course, it’s better not to answer a question from the committee directly with “I don’t know.” Say something like “in my dissertation, I haven’t researched this question, but I will do it in my future projects” or “I’m not sure if I can answer, but…” If any question is beyond your topic, admit that you have no answer.

  9. Know when to stop talking.

    Answer briefly and directly. If you are not sure that your response satisfied your examiners, don’t keep rambling to try and add some words. It looks like you are not confident and not prepared.

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