Defending Your Phd Thesis
The matter of defending your PhD thesis is not an easy task, and requires careful consideration. Essentially, defending your thesis implies, having a conversation about it with a committee of experts in your field. The word defense in misleading in this context, since the committee members will not ‘attack’ you or try and adopt an offensive posturing.
They merely wish to see if you have done your homework, are thorough with you dissertation and its conceptual and theoretical underpinnings. In order to prep yourself for your own defense, it might be a good idea to sit through the defense of other people people’s dissertations. Your supervisor may allow you permission for this.
Do remember that committee members are aware that you have put in a great deal of time and effort in your thesis and are hence likely to be supportive and helpful. Defending your thesis is a platform for presenting the arguments of your research in the best possible manner. Make sure you are closely familiar with your dissertation. Since a thesis is written over a period of time, there are chances that you might forget significant aspects of it as time passes. Hence before the proposal, make sure you have read through your own thesis properly.
Study the chapter wise arguments of the dissertation. The division of material into chapters has been done by you according to a certain structure and logic. Remember this structure and logic which defending your thesis. Importantly, get a clarification about the time which will be available to you for presentation. Structure your defense as per the time limit. Guide the committee members through your study. They are not likely to remember your thesis down to its finest detail. They may have read your thesis recently, or even a long while back, so their memories need to be jogged.
A good idea is to prepare photocopies and visual documents which can be handed out to the committee. These handouts should contain only very basic and very important information. Further, give scope for the committee to pose you questions. They are present not just to listen to you, but also question you as well.
Though your committee will of course focus on the content of your thesis, try and look the part as well. Do not dress casually or in a careless manner. Make sure your clothes are clean and ironed and impart a sense of seriousness to your personality. See how other people dress when going for their PhD defense. Make a point to be comfortable in your clothing.
Do not be apprehensive of questions which are posed to you. They will be linked to your dissertation and you are the best person to answer these questions. Also direct the attention of the committee to certain key ideas and points in your dissertation, and thus pre-empt questions. Also be prepared to answer questions regarding the methodology of your research and why you chose it.
Finally, an important question that committee members can pose is related to the contribution of your research to you area of study.