Are you a university student? If yes, you will probably pass through the dissertation defense. Yes, this academic paper must be written well and defended properly. There’s much work to do and many mistakes to commit. If your paper is flawless, wrong answers given to the defense committee members can spoil everything. Find some time to perform deep research of your oral skills and opportunities to take this final step. This article is your ‘to do’ list.
A dissertation defense always leads to various questions. What should an author expect? Should he/she prepare a presentation? What if he/she fails? It is difficult to say that everything is easy. Here are some recommendations to read that will help you to get prepared. Begin thinking over a defense strategy when you start writing your paper or ordering it online from a professional academic writing website. Remember, you have to start training yourself long before the deadline.
Preparation: Know Your Format and Material
Do you know how many students fail the defense because of poor formatting? More than you can imagine. So, before the final action, be confident that you have followed all style regulations applied in your university. Here is an approximate list of what you have to consider. If you have any questions, contact your dissertation advisor. Even an excessive half of inch in margins can break through your defenses. Yes, it may sound odd, but many tutors like spotting even the smallest sign of format violating so you should be very attentive to all important details such as methodology.
Even if you're sure that you know everything about your topic after months of research and writing, we suggest reviewing everything thoroughly. It will give you two good benefits. First of all, it will help to refresh your mind. You will be more confident and calm when you remember all the important things on your project without digging in papers. This is a great way to be prepared for any questions during the defense. And the second benefit is you will feel well ready for making a proper dissertation presentation.
Prepare a Presentation
A presentation can become a life ring of your defense. If you are not sure about your speechcraft skills, some slides can help you. You need about three weeks to prepare them. Correlate them with your defense talk and paper topic. The slides must represent your paper fully. They have to be interesting, e.g. the content should be supplied with graphs, pictures, comments, and videos. If you are not sure you can work with Powerpoint, you can always order the best presentation on the Internet.
Focus On Results
Needless to say, the whole dissertation has around 200-300 pages. Remember you don't have to repeat every detail because the dissertation committee has already reviewed your paper. Try to figure out the main points and discuss the important results of your research. If the committee will want you to explain the results in detail, they will ask you about it.
Visual Aids Can Be Helpful
Spend some time to prepare visual aids for your dissertation defense and it will help to save your time during the oral defense. When you're preparing for a defense, you need to use a usual pattern as the introduction, body part, and conclusion. It means that at the start you have to describe the problem of your paper and explain why it's so important. Then you present your research and results. And in the end, you need to finish your defense with a short but very logical conclusion.
Follow the Structure of a Dissertation Talk
Like any academic paper, your defense speech must have a primal structure. Your audience (note that you present a dissertation not only for the committee members but for the general audience) will not understand you at all if you hop from one concept to another.
Practice shows that a defense talk is similar to an abstract, so follow the same structure. Do not forget about the introduction and the conclusion of the speech. One more advice: remember that some people cannot understand your subject. Try to write content for your speech to be fully understandable for everyone.
Know More About Your Dissertation Committee. Spend some time to know more details about the committee members. It will help you to understand what to expect. Try to ask other students for feedback about members. Maybe you can even find some students online from your faculty who already defended their papers and contact them on Facebook or Twitter? Maybe some members like to ask tricky questions, and you can prepare answers beforehand! Remember that you have to gather maximum information to understand what to expect.
Practice, Then Practice More
Even experts of rhetoric defense talks need to practice. Never underestimate the power of practice:
- It will give you confidence.
- Confidence attracts people. With it, you can influence committee members and students.
- You can predict and prevent all possible questions and fails.
There are several ways to practice your speech. Stand in front of a mirror and talk to yourself. Try to watch your gestures, face, position, etc. If you do not like what you see, correct yourself. This easy trick is always used to improve public performance skills and get the best results.
Do not forget about additional time. A proper defense talk takes from five to ten minutes. Find a tape recorder, or use a computer or phone to record your full speech. If it possible, record a video with yourself giving a speech. If your slides are ready, practice with them.
Be Prepared For Unexpected Things
As we already said, every university has its own rules for handling the defense process. Be ready that you may get questions you never expected to hear. Of course, you cannot predict everything that may happen on the defense, so concentrate on your work and be ready for unexpected things. To prepare beforehand, you may ask your friends, family, and colleagues to ask some questions on your paper. Just don't worry, and you will find all the needed answers on the defense without nerves.
Make Surrounding People Help You
You may not find all mistakes in your defense. People around you will. To defend your dissertation properly, ask your groupmates, friends and even parents to help you. If it is possible, find an already graduate student on the Internet (chat with them on Facebook or Twitter) and ask him/her to share the experience with you.
On the Internet, you can find some good dissertation talks performed by other people and read how they did their annotated bibliography. Check how they keep the energy through the whole speech program, how big their enthusiasm is and what questions they are asked. You can borrow many ideas for defending your dissertation, but do not fall into plagiarism. It will surely spoil everything.
Rehearse Your Defense
It's useful to rehearse your defense by speaking the words you're going to say. Just go through your manuscript and tell your speech several times. This will help you to remember your words by your tongue. Even if you are sure that you will be able to say everything right, we suggest rehearsing to reduce your stress at the defense.
Prepare Your Own Questions
No matter what you defend, a thesis or dissertation, you will be asked tricky questions. In some universities they have a special person called an opponent. His/her task is to address questions and search for logical mistakes in your paper and defense process. To prevent troubles with this examination, study the content of your dissertation several times and imagine what parts and chapters can cause problems. Make a list of the imaginary questions and give confident answers.
Make a Proper Priority
Here is an idea for you: probably, if you are writing a dissertation, there is nothing else more important in your life than its defense for the moment. That is why you need to spend all free time preparing. Sometimes it implies forgetting about friends, hobbies, school, relationship, favorite places, events etc. Provide yourself with a plan, a schedule of your last weeks and exclude everything unimportant from it. Yes, your present life is full of important things, but they will not affect your future as badly as the failed defense.
Your Health Matters
Every speech expert will tell you that mental and physical health matter for a good performance. Here are some actions you have to perform before your dissertation talk:
- Start sleeping well. Yes, it sounds ridiculous, but you have to control your regime. Spare at least 8 hours a day to have a rest. Did you know that even one sleepless night reduces your mental activity by half?
- Control your diet. Even if you eat healthy meals, it can be useful to concentrate on some mental boosters. Start consuming dark chocolate, fish, nuts and other products that improve mental activity. If you need stimulants, ensure they are natural. Cut off drinking coffee for a while. Yes, it gives you caffeine for some time, but the aftereffects are not the best for this time.
- Relax and keep cool. The dissertation defense is a severe test for mental health, so never go beyond your psychological limits. The committee members will push on you, and you will never know what will happen. Try to keep ‘poker face’ in terrible situations during the discussion and leave some room for smiling and enthusiasm. You can even add some humor to reduce stress. Remember that if your work has some serious problems, you will be informed about it before the defense to fix everything. Never allow your opponents to form an impression that you are unconfident. If you are not sure about your skills at all, try to attend a psychologist’s cabinet. Prepare your defense properly, and you will enjoy it!
Here are the pieces of advice you have to consider. Remember, keep your work chair warm, devote much time to get prepared, use the advisor help, and you will leave your educational facility as a successful dissertation defender with the desired degree.