Understanding The Dissertation Defense Process

Est. Reading: 3 minutes

If you’re approaching the final weeks of your dissertation writing journey, you may be wondering about the process for approaching and completing your defense.

Exactly what happens after you hit the “submit” button, and how soon will you be able to flaunt your new title?

You may unaware that there is still some work ahead before you can call your dissertation done and dusted. Here’s a quick guide to what to expect as you approach the dissertation finish line.

Before Your Dissertation Defense

Once your research is complete and your final chapter has been drafted, revised, and re-drafted, your dissertation supervisor will most likely want to do a full read through of all of your chapters together.

The purpose of this read through is to ensure that everything looks complete and coherent. The focus should be on high-level things, such as making sure you have fully explained your theoretical framework, documented your research gap, or explained your coding process. However, some supervisors will also pull you up on lower-level items as well during this read through – your untidy formatting, for example, or your APA citation errors.

It may be tempting to look for a dissertation editor at this point, to make sure everything looks shiny. However, bear in mind that you likely have several more rounds of revision on the final draft to do at this point – and an editor will charge you for each new round. For a full-length dissertation, that can get pricey. What’s more, supervisors are not usually looking for absolutely perfection at this point (although a complete mess will not be acceptable). With that in mind, it may be worth doing your best on your own for this first proofread and edit.

With the draft looking good, you will need to prepare for your defense presentation. This will usually need to be scheduled in advance, with enough time for all committee members to read your draft and prepare feedback and questions. The key is preparation and practice (and if you need some help with that, consider coaching!).

During Your Dissertation Defense

The purpose of your dissertation defense is to present your research to your committee and demonstrate to them your mastery of the field – from research methods to theory to working with and interpreting data.

Your committee members will have read your draft before the presentation, and they will have prepared questions to ask you. The more of these questions you can anticipate in advance and address in your presentation, the stronger your defense will be. After your presentation, your committee members will ask questions about areas they feel need clarification (and these questions give a good indication of the types of revisions you might be asked to make).

Finally, your committee members will most likely ask you to leave the room while they discuss your presentation and draft together. They will make a decision about whether you pass, pass with revisions, or need to revise extensively.

After Your Dissertation Defense

Most students pass their dissertation defense with revisions. This means that you will pass and earn your degree, so long as you satisfactorily make the changes to the draft requested by the committee members.

These changes usually involve clarifying aspects of the procedure or the findings.

Now is it time to hire an editor? Well, probably not yet. Once you have completed the revisions, your supervisor will need to check them. They may say they are sufficient, or they may ask you to work on them further. This may continue for several passes back and forth, until your supervisor is convinced you have met the provisions for passing.

Once your supervisor is finally satisfied with your revisions, it’s time to work with an editor. Your final draft will need to be prepared for publication by your institution, and this means making sure the grammar, expression, formatting, referencing, and citations are perfect. This should require only one or two passes by a professional editor, although it is always worth having an as many extra sets of eyes on your document as you can.

Only when your supervisor is 100% convinced that you have crossed every “t” and dotted every “i” will you get the green flag – you have officially completed your degree and earned your title!

What next? Well … I suggest a really big party. 🙂

Need help preparing for your dissertation defense? Find out how dissertation coaching can help you feel confident and prepared – book a free consultation.

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