While everyone glorifies how difficult it is to prepare a dissertation, most of them forget to mention a prominent aspect of the process - that is defending the dissertation. If you think that only writing the dissertation is the most stressful part, you surely haven’t faced a panel of examiners to defend your thesis or dissertation. Now here’s another piece of information for you, defending your academic dissertation is as unavoidable as writing it. So if you were planning on procrastinating and starting with the paper a week or two later, you’d be committing a huge mistake since your university doesn’t allow you that chance. Because let’s face it, no amount of preparation can set you up for the kind of questions you will be asked by the panel of reviewers. This makes for the most dreaded part for the students preparing for their dissertation. The best way to deal with that uncertainty is to try learning every possible aspect of your chosen topic.
It is also vital for you to consider that regardless of the subject or the level you’re in, you should ensure that you make a lasting impression in front of the panel of judges. The ideal thing to do in this case is to go through your paper as many times as possible because it is unlikely for you to understand where the questions will come from, so the best you can do is make assumptions and prepare yourself accordingly. A nice way to be prompt with your answers is to have a good grip on the topic and the subject that you are dealing with. Reading the final draft the dissertation multiple times will help you decipher the different angles and arguments better, and you can also note them down so that it becomes easier for you to defend your dissertation.
It is always useful to prepare a summary of the information to have a basic idea about the main text and answer the question about it. The ideal way to do this is to narrow down the elaborate aspects of the paper into a line or a small paragraph and note it down so that you can use that compressed version to justify the topic to the panelists.
The simplest way for you to gear up for dissertation defense is to try and come up with a list of probable questions that the professors and the panelists might ask. This process will allow you to stay on top of your paper. Listed below is a comprehensive guide for you as it offers some ideas and anecdotes on how you can prepare for defending the dissertation and achieve the best possible results.
- Don’t undermine the amount of time it takes to get ready for the presentation and make sure you practice it well
So, you have prepared the dissertation and have already submitted it to your university department. Now if you are heaving a sigh of relief thinking that the toughest part is already over then you couldn’t be more wrong. The important thing to remember here is if you are ready with the final draft of your dissertation, then read and review your paper multiple times to be sure that there are no discrepancy or loopholes in the statements or the research.
If you aim to offer a good presentation of your chosen topic, you need to rehearse presenting it as many as times possible. This means that you shouldn’t leave it until the last couple of days before the date of your presentation. Practicing one or two times before the presentation is never going to work in your favour. You need to present your paper in front of your peer groups quite a few times. Also, you need to practice on your own as well.
Always remember that you are not required to memorize what you’ll speak about, but it should be seamless. There are no hard and fast rules on how many mock-presentation you have to stage, but try as many times until you feel you’re ready to present your paper. If you are certain about the quality of your speech, record yourself to notice how you can improve it.
Another thing you can do is time yourself as you speak. Either ways, do not procrastinate to prepare for your presentation well ahead of the date of submission. Again if you're done with your dissertation two weeks before the submission date, you can utilize the two weeks to perfect your speech, polish your tone (and be very picky about your words), and go through the information you are uncertain about.
- Listen to other dissertation defense speeches
You can carry out the mental preparation for your dissertation defense by listening to other people presenting their papers. Look for the DVDs to previous dissertation defense speeches at the departmental library of your university. Even though it’d be ideal if you can find any specific dissertation defense that’s close to your topic but otherwise you have to settle with any resources you can lay your hands on. When you watch, those DVDs notice the nuances and tone of the speakers. Were the speakers sincere and focused? Did they deviate from the topic at any point? Was there any section where the speaker seemed a bit shaky? When you are a bundle of nerves, things may not exactly go the way you had planned. However, you can curb this anxiety by being prepared (even if it’s for the worst). If you can pull that off, the defense speech remains just a formality.
Just in case you cannot access any video on the defense speeches, see if you can sit at a dissertation defense presentation in person. Attending at least one such presentation will enable you to have a good idea on how to bind the essential elements together and paint the bigger picture for the listeners. Prepare your defense speech in such a way that appeals to the general audience. This means that you need to avoid the technical jargons as that will only make the audience more disinterested. Make sure it is concise and legible. Keep the speech as simple as you can and mention the larger implications of your research. Use attractive illustrations to provide a wholesome idea to your listeners.
- Let your friends, classmates or peers come up with questions for you
What’s the right way to prepare for any unexpected questions that may arise when you’re defending your dissertation or thesis in front of the seasoned panelists? Get your peers or classmates who are aware of your presentation to grill you with questions on your selected topic. Even though it’s highly unlikely that these questions may be relevant to the ones you'll be asked by the panelists, it teaches you to be spontaneous and also boosts your confidence level.
- Scour through the entire dissertation or thesis paper and create a list of questionnaires of your own
Most students don’t prefer going over the entire paper once they’re done writing it, and therein lies the fundamental flaw. While it’s natural for you to feel tired of reading the same thing multiple times, it is a mandatory process to ensure you retain the crucial points of your paper when you’re speaking in front of the examiners. So it’ll do you good to read through the paper over and over again and form a set of questions to prepare for the D-day (read: defense day). Additionally, you can prepare questions on the sections of your paper where you think you couldn’t provide much clarity. If you don’t seem to develop questions quite easily, then you probably have to put in more effort to it.
If you execute the process of creating your list of questions, then searching for the particular answers to those questions will help you gain valuable insights on various aspects of your paper and that would be a blessing in disguise for you.
- Stay focused and don’t let distracted creep in
Putting together your dissertation is a huge milestone in your academic career. That’s why the last couple of weeks until the day of the presentation seems extremely stressful to students. Whether you have a part-time job to take care of or you have applied for a summer internship program or you are just plain excited to move up to the next level in your academic career, giving in to temptations is ill-advised. This factor is also essential to preparing for your dissertation defense. You need to go in with a positive attitude and leave an indelible impression on your panelists.
While you may feel it's unwise to put off your part-time job or your summer internship because you were engaged in writing your paper for months in solitude and you couldn’t spare the time to focus on any other tasks. But what is the point of preparing an elaborate paper, if you falter at the time of your presentation, right? This is why you should have a considerable amount of time to get ready for preparing you’re the defense of your paper. Make the presentation you priority and concentrate on nothing else until the time it’s over.
- Get loads of sleep, maintain a proper diet and stay healthy
This may seem insignificant, but you have to look after yourself until the day of your presentation gets over. While coping with the pressure of your assignments, it is natural for students to completely ignore the health factor. Resorting to late nights, skipped meals, overdosing on caffeine to focus better becomes a norm during these stressful days. In this case, you should always follow that popular adage; old habits die hard. Everyone has a different way of coping with the pressure and sail through it, just ensure you don’t succumb to any habit which will have an adverse impact on your health.
Once you submit your paper to your university department, and until the day of your presentation you need to catch up on your sleep and maintain your nutrition. On the day of your presentation, do ensure you are well-fed and rested. Remember not to sell yourself short and look presentable as well. By maintaining your health, you can have a good chance of defending your paper without getting intimidated in a much better way, and that would reflect your confidence in front of the panelists.
- Calm your nerves and relax
When the day of your dissertation defense finally arrives, you have to keep reminding yourself that you have put in a considerable amount of effort even to get there and you are acquainted with your topic better than anybody. This would act as your motivation and would also keep the stress at bay.
When the panel of examiners nudges you for answers, they will try to push you to the edge. Chances are that you won’t know the perfect answer to a question or two. Also, they may pose their questions on the scope of your research for the future which you may not have fully explored. Understand that they are trying to weigh your knowledge on the chosen topic. It’s not necessary that you have to know the answer every question. So just take it easy while answering and calm your nerves. Try answering the question to the best of your ability, and you are likely to pass with flying colours.
- Keep your after-exam plans on hold until you’re done with the presentation
Once your exams are over, you probably would want to spend the final two weeks planning a vacation or a celebration, right? While that may be usual, but that’s not the right thing to do. As mentioned earlier, set your priorities straight and think only about the dissertation defense. You can plan your celebrations or vacations while you’re taking a break from rehearsing for your presentation but make sure that’s not priority numero uno. Once you have sailed through the presentation you can plan anything without having any regrets later.
- Prepare an appropriate structure
A good dissertation defense always possesses a good introduction before shifting to the next idea or concept. It should be seamless and should have a logical flow. That’s why you should take ample time to prepare for your presentation because many students are often guilty of not being relevant to their verbal presentation.
That’s why you need sufficient amount of practice, and if you spare enough time for this, you’re sure to impress the panelists. While practising, you can go back and change certain aspects of the presentation so that the fluidity is maintained properly.
Be formal in your approach and how you describe things. To offer a good introduction to the key points of your dissertation, it is always suggested that you pose a question in between to the audience. This question will pave the way for your next idea to come into the picture, which allows an audience to connect the dots and understand your point. What’s the necessity of performing a research? If you just provide a bunch of information without having a proper introduction (and perhaps a title that explains a specific interpretation), you will lose your audience.
Many people tend to neglect the fact that what seems simple and intelligible to them may not hold true for other people as well.
Before you move on to explain the next supporting statement for your paper or introduce the idea. Then elucidate on the reason you conducted this particular research (which should ideally be in the form of a question). Once the audience deciphers you context, move on to the next argument or statement and offer your insights then. In simple terms, don’t be in a rush to explain your interpretation. This will maintain the attention of your audience successfully and also ensure that your dissertation coach defense presentation invites a lot of positive reviews and conveys a great impression on your panelists.
- Visualize yourself presenting your dissertation defense every day and think about how good you will feel once it’s all over
This is quite self-explanatory by itself. You must remember that when it is all done and dusted, it will feel as though a huge weight has been lifted off your shoulders. At this point you will feel a sense of relief and as you will finally notice that all that effort late nights that you pulled for months is all worth it in the end. If you’re a student awaiting you presentation day make sure to keep a little positivity in your heart and everything will fall into place! Constantly remind yourself of what it will be like to stand in front of the esteemed panel of examiners and impart your insights on your selected topic. You’ll get this one time opportunity to show everyone that you are no less than an expert in this specific area of study, see that you make the most of it. The more you follow this attitude, the better your presentation will be. So seize the moment!
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