How to Prepare for Your Doctoral Dissertation Defense – 2024 Guide

If you are close to the end of your Ph.D. Studies, you must have heard of the ‘almighty’ defense. Many people spend a lot of time fretting and worrying about the defense. Still, they eventually mess it up.2

You might have heard several horror stories of freezing up, forgetting important information, or horrible committee members. Yet, according to, some people believe that you don’t need to spend a lot of time preparing for defense since you wrote your dissertation yourself.

However, the lack of any preparation can make many things go wrong. Your defense is a crucial aspect of your Ph.D. You must pass to get your degree. We have prepared some tips that will help you prepare adequately for your doctoral dissertation defense.

8 Tips on Preparing for a Doctoral Dissertation Defense

Each university has its policies and procedures when it comes to a dissertation defense. Ensure that you know the requirements of your institution and adhere strictly to them. However, certain elements are common to all schools.

These fundamental elements are the presentation of the dissertation in an open lecture, questioning of the dissertation by the committee, and the committee’s meeting to decide whether to award you the degree.

You need to prepare for the first two critical aspects of the defense. The tips below will help you prepare for your doctoral dissertation defense.

1. Go to Presentations and Conferences


You are not the first or only person getting a Ph.D. degree in your field. You should go to the presentations of other candidates and take note of what they do right or wrong. The knowledge will help you avoid repeating the same mistakes in yours.

It prepares your mind mentally for your defense. You should also present your work in academic conferences before your defense. The more you work and watch others present their dissertation, your presentation skills will get better.

2. Prepare your Slides Properly

Visual aid is an essential part of your presentation. You need to ensure that you structure your slides properly.
Make sure that the slides can hold your audience’s attention. It should not have too much content packed into every space, but it should be formal and sleek with graphs and charts.
An adequately prepared slide shows the committee that you know your subject.

3. Know the Committee


The committee asks the questions during your defense. You can prepare ahead for these questions by trying to look at your work from their perspective. Imagine the kind of questions that they might ask.

Read on their latest publications. A committee member might have written on something close to your research. You want to know that before you start your defense. If you meet a committee member before the defense, you can revise your dissertation and take note of the criticisms made.

Though not all members will give you a hint to the questions, try to form at least five possible questions that each committee member could ask.

4. Revise your Papers

It is easy to fall into the temptation of thinking that since you wrote the paper, you don’t need to revise. Make sure you read up on the literature of your research again. Search for recent publications on the subject and read through them.

Ensure you are up to date on the day of the defense. Reading up on the literature you used will also help remember the essential details and guess at questions that could be asked.

5. Practice your Presentation


Most people that you see speak well on stage are not natural speakers. Public speaking is a skill that can be learned by practice. So, take the time to practice all that you will say in front of your mirror first. You don’t have to cram your questions, though.

Make sure that you practice deep breaths. Watch TED Talks and see how the speakers talk. Watch your body language as you practice in front of the mirror. Keep your back straight, and your shoulders relaxed. Ensure your hand gestures are minimal but don’t stand stiffly.

You should also practice in front of your friends. Invite your lab mates over. Bring out the popcorn and drinks, and practice in front of them. Get them to ask you possible questions that the committee might ask during the defense. You need friends who have an idea of your dissertation for this, that is why your colleagues are the best bet.

6. Get your Tools Ready

Put all the logistics in place before that day. The time for your defense is not the time to be running around, getting coffee, or looking for a laptop to borrow. Ask someone who has done it before so that you know all you need.

You can also check with the office in charge of the defense to double-check the requirements. Go and check the room you will use out. Does it have all the tools you need? If it doesn’t, find a solution before the day of your defense.

If all the tools are ready, ensure you bring the materials necessary to use these tools with you.

7. Have the Right Attitude


Preparing for your defense can be stressful. However, do not take that attitude into the room with you. Try to stay calm; that is why practice and deep breaths are essential.

Remember that the committee members are not out to get you with their questions. Stay confident. You wrote your dissertation, so defending it shouldn’t be hard. Don’t rush the presentation. If you make a mistake, correct yourself and move on.

8. Sleep, Eat, Plan a Party

It is easy to get immersed in preparing for your defense that you forget to sleep and eat. This behavior will not help you, though. Ensure you rest and eat well before your defense. It will help you be at your best.

You should also plan a party after. You have just completed a significant milestone in your studies. Gather your friends and family together to celebrate it.

Preparing for your doctoral dissertation defense is essential. With the tips that we have provided, you should find it easy to get a pass at the end of your defense.

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