Providing Brief Presentation to Defend a Dissertation: Basic Format and Handy Tools

Picture this: your 305-page dissertation – the one you’ve spent the greater part of the past year researching and writing – is sitting front and center on your overrun desk. Since it is the largest work you’ve ever completed, it looks massive in comparison to all other papers lying around it. You have your dissertation defense in a week and you’re about to start drafting your presentation. Here are some basic tools to help you format your presentation:

  1. Plan for the personalities of the faculty.

    Your committee will be made up of a handful of professors working across a number of specialties. You will know who they are well before you need to prepare for your defense. So there is absolutely no excuse to meet with each one separately sometime in the year to discuss some of your work, even briefly. By the time you present your defense, introductions should no longer be necessary and you should know personality traits of each.

  2. Highlight the key points of your defense and address specific faculty members.

    It goes without saying that you should prepare all of your key points as well prepare for ways to answer specific questions. It would also be great to consider how you would respond to certain types of questions you might expect from specific faculty members. For instance, one faculty may want you to expound further on the relationship between your ideas, while others will prefer you emphasize on your logic. It’s a good idea to know the different ways to answer this depending on who asked you the question.

    Even if you aren’t asked questions be everyone on the dissertation committee, you should prepare to say at least one or two things that cater to each member’s unique academic approach and specialty. Be sure you look at each member in the eye as you answer so the person knows you are addressing them directly.

  3. Be comfortable and bring water.

    You will likely be sitting in uncomfortable chairs for anywhere between an hour and half to two hours. The last thing you want to do is worry about how you will look shifting, adjusting yourself while pulling and tugging on your clothes. This will make you look nervous and can negatively affect the faculty’s response to your presentation. Prepare by selecting loose fitting but professional clothing.

    Also, make sure you bring lots of water. Faculty will most likely have some water and plastic cups available, but you don’t want to have to keep getting up to refill your glass. Have some water in a non-squirt water bottle with you. You might even want to have another stashed away in your bag. You will be talking a lot and you don’t want your voice to waver as your mouth begins to dry up.

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