An Oral Defense can be required to defend the proposal and/or the complete dissertation. Congratulations on getting to either stage of the dissertation process.

Here are some guidelines you may want to consider as you prepare for your Oral Defense:

Create a PowerPoint slide for each of the following topics, unless your chair or the university provides a list of topics:

  • Dissertation title and your name;
  • How you developed an interest in your research topic;
  • The Problem;
  • The Purpose of the Study;
  • The Participants or Subjects (inclusion criteria for the proposal or actual summary for the complete dissertation);
  • The Research Questions and/or Hypotheses;
  • The Design and Procedures;
  • The Findings/Results (only for the complete dissertation); and
  • Conclusions and Implications (only for the complete dissertation).

Compliment the committee for their assistance up to this point, regardless of whether they gave you much help or not.

Prepare a professional presentation and expect to be interrupted with probing questions.

If a question is asked that gives you discomfort or confuses you, ask for more information about the question. Ask for a clarification of one or more aspects of the question. This approach could give you an additional 10 to 30 seconds of precious time to think of an appropriate response.

Be clear on the time allotted for an oral defense. Your Chair usually decides.

Limit your planned presentation to about one-third of the total time of the defense.

Regardless of the nature of committee members’ comments, never show anger or other negative emotions. There is an attitude among some faculty to try to make an oral defense as difficult as possible for the student and make you sweat. You want to be prepared for the one with a confrontational approach. Always stay calm.

Always accept blame and responsibility for omissions, typographical errors, and erroneous writing.

After your presentation is completed and you have answered all their questions, since you will be doing a telephone oral defense, expect that the Chair will ask you to hang up and call back in a few minutes.

It is almost always the Chair’s responsibility to maintain a list of required or suggested additions or changes.

If you are defending your proposal, expect the committee to require major adjustments. At this stage the standards of quality are always higher than previously accepted. If you are defending your complete dissertation, expect extremely high standards.

At an Oral Defense, your verbal communications skills are just as important as the written quality of your manuscript. This why I have always offered a “mock oral defense” for my clients. The experience of trying out their presentation on me gives them added confidence and helps to polish it. We collaborate and discuss all the slides to be used in the PowerPoint presentation.

Regardless of whether an Oral Defense is for the proposal or the complete dissertation, it is an examination. It is also a chance for the committee to assess the doctoral student’s competency to continue or worthiness to graduate.

And believe me, I know how scary this can be – especially by yourself without any preparation. So if you’d like help with this, click here to apply for a free consultation.

If this is an emergency and you need immediately assistance, please email me at wgwargo@academicinfocenter.com or call me at (951) 301-5557.

 

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