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Dissertation Defense

Begin Your Preparations

Your dissertation defense is an important event: the culmination of years of hard work and research. Most of the work that students do on their dissertations is written, so many students feel a bit anxious and unprepared as they work toward the speaking component of their dissertation defense presentation. Here are a few simple things to keep in mind as you begin to prepare:

  • This is your moment and is all about the work you have done, which you should be very proud to present.
  • You are the expert on your specific study. While your committee members are experts in their fields, you are the expert on the unique research that you have completed.
  • You want to be prepared and feel good about the experience, both during and after the defense.
  • You will have chances to present at conferences in the future, so this process is excellent practice.

The dissertation defense is a type of live performance, almost like a musician would give. With that analogy in mind, consider the following tips. 

Best of luck to you as you prepare for your dissertation defense!

Plan Ahead To Set Yourself Up for Success

  • What will you need during the defense?
  • Where will you be during the defense?  For example, is there a place away from noises and other distractions that would work best for you?
  • Plan for any “what if…?” situations. For example, what will you have as a back-up plan if there is a sudden technical glitch?

Rehearse Your Presentation

  • Use screen-recording software, such as Kaltura Capture available in NCUOne, to record yourself while you practice narrating your PowerPoint presentation. You may want to do this multiple times so that you can improve and become more confident each time you rehearse.
  • Do a self-critique of your recorded presentation rehearsal(s). For example, many students find that they speak more quickly than they think they do, while others notice speaking quirks when listening to themselves on a recording. Finding these little things now will make you more confident on the day of your defense.
  • Ask for others, such as trusted friends, family members, or fellow students to critique your recorded presentation. They may see things that you don’t notice, and may also give you positive feedback and encouragement.
  • You may also want to rehearse live in front of others (in person or online using Skype, etc.) before your defense.
  • Don’t over-rehearse (just like a musician).

Prepare For The Day

  • Talk with your Chair about the process.  The general format is as follows:
    • Intro from Chair.
    • PowerPoint presentation (usually around 30 minutes) from the candidate.
    • Questions from SME/Chair, and perhaps others.
    • Deliberation process (private, between SME/Chair).
  • Have everything ready to go the day of your defense, including:
    • Powerpoint.
    • Notes (Tip – Since you will be sharing your screen, you will not be able to have your presentation notes visible on the screen, so either print them out or have them on an additional monitor).
    • Technology needs (Test your microphone volume, battery/power on your computer, PowerPoint capabilities/software, location of presentation files on your computer, etc.).
    • Anything you need to feel comfortable (a glass of water and a comfortable chair, for example).
  • Arrive early
    • On the day of your defense, be sure to arrive early so that you can test your set-up and have everything ready to go.
    • Let your Chair take the lead and set the stage for your performance.  You have worked hard to get to this significant day. 

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