The tips below will help you in the final few weeks before the exam, but the real preparation begins as soon as you start your PhD. Talking to people and discussing your work regularly over a long period of time is the best preparation. Don't let your thesis defence be the first time you get feedback on your work!
The format of a thesis defence varies from country to country. Having studied in the UK, my viva-voce defence was essentially an interview with one internal and one external examiner. In other countries, it's common to have public examinations with a whole panel of examiners and an audience of colleagues, family and friends.
The first and most obvious tip, then, is to make sure you know what the format of your exam will be; whether you will have to prepare a presentation and so on. If you have to give a presentation, check any time restrictions so you can prepare accordingly. You don't want to show up with slides for a minute presentation, nor do you want to show up with 10 slides for a 1-hour presentation.
The most important thing to do for any presentation is to practice so that;. You can practice on your own or with an audience, and you should do both if possible. Practising on your own and speaking out loud to an empty room may feel silly, but overcoming that discomfort is good preparation for the discomfort of facing an actual audience. Practising with an audience of peers is then a good way of getting feedback and finding out what questions people ask. Whether you have to give a presentation or not, one of the scariest aspects of the defence is the possibility of being asked a question you can't answer.
It's tempting to try to read a ton of literature to prepare for this, but since it's very difficult to predict what the examiners will ask and it's impossible to read everything, this approach isn't always effective or reassuring it might just make you realise how much you don't know. There will always be gaps in your knowledge, but, actually, it doesn't matter if you don't know the answer to an awkward question; you can still respond in a way that will make the examiners happy.
You aren't expected to know everything. Sometimes, an examiner will ask a question they don't know the answer to, either out of interest since you are the expert in your research or because they want to see how you think. While it is OK, sometimes, to just say "I don't know", you could also say something like,. Of course, there is some core content which you will be expected to know well, but this is set by you, not the examiner.
To a large extent, the content of the examination is determined by the content in your thesis.
When you choose what to cover in your thesis you are choosing your battleground for the thesis defence, so the best strategy is to stick to the material you know best in your writing! Make sure you have read through your complete thesis at least once before your defence, so you know what you have written about. You will be nervous before your examination. You will almost certainly get an adrenaline rush, which can set your heart racing, give you sweaty palms, make your stomach churn and make you want to go to the toilet 10 times in 20 minutes.
This is normal! The worst part is the waiting before you start because there isn't much you can do to use up all that nervous energy.
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But once the defence starts, you can do some things to keep it under control. One symptom of nerves is to talk really fast and to try to show how much you know and speak in this kind of long stream of consciousness that diverges away from the question until you forget what the actual question was but then you don't know how to get back to the point and so you just keep talking and that makes you more nervous and how are you going to get off this train of thought Try to slow down and give yourself time to breathe.
However, going into your defense without any preparation at all is not something I recommend.https://blogasbouconkau.ml
How to Defend your Thesis Proposal like a Professional
If you were organized during your PhD, and starting writing your first chapters early on in your journey, you may need to revise some elements again, and reread some key publications. Moreover, your defense will depend on your committee, so preparing for your defense by keeping your committee in mind is essential. Finally, preparing for your defense will help you prepare mentally for the challenges of the day itself, and will give you some piece of mind.
As I blogged my way through my PhD, I wrote extensively about my journey to my defense, from the point where I was pottering around in the laboratory to the actual day of defense and graduation. Besides the experiences of myself and fellow PhD students, I've learned a great deal about defenses by hosting the "Defenses around the world" series on PhD Talk - a massive thank you to all guest authors who so openly have shared their experiences.
I spent a lot of time preparing for my defense - and in hindsight perhaps not all of these activities were equally necessary. At that time, they were important for me, because spending a lot of time on preparing, and thinking about everything that could happen, helped me feel a bit more secure for the defense. If you feel like you need to prepare deeply to calm your nerves, by all accounts, do so. But if you feel confident about going into the defense, there are just a limited number of things you need to do to prepare for your defense.
Advice for the Defense
You can find my top picks for preparing for the defense in the following list:. If you've presented your work a few times for an international audience, and answered questions, you are better prepared than when you've never had the chance to travel and present your work. Every time you present your work, you will a bit more confident about your work. Every time your present your work, you will have practiced and sharpened your presentation and presentation skills a bit more.
For these reasons, use your PhD time to present at as many conferences, workshops, and industry events as possible. All this practice in the years prior to your defense will make you better prepared for the big day.
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The questions you can expect during your defense will depend on your committee. As you prepare for your defense, don't make the mistake of navel-gazing at your own dissertation. Instead, try to take a step back and evaluate your work through the eyes of your committee member. Don't assume that you read everything while preparing your dissertation - check out the latest and in press publications.
If you've had a chance to meet with your committee members during your PhD and while preparing for the defense, revise your meeting notes, and identify their main points of criticism on your work. While some committee members will tell you their exam questions in advance, other members won't give you an idea, and will leave you guessing. Try to come up with at least five possible questions per committee member, and prepare additional material to answer these questions as needed.
Brush up on your knowledge of the literature. Besides checking the most recent work of your committee members, make sure that you do a brief search on recent publications in your field, so that your literature review and your knowledge of the literature are fully up-to-date.
Don't stop following the literature on the day when you finish your literature review chapter! Besides working on your general knowledge of the literature, identify the papers that were most important for your work. Prior to your defense, make sure you read these papers again to refresh your memory, and to address possible questions about the foundations of your work. When preparing for your defense, don't expect any open doors. Instead, you should prepare for questions that are either at the periphery of your work, and much closer to the work of your committee members, or for questions that test the assumptions and basics of your work.
Make sure you have a solid foundation to answer such questions. Besides these questions that sit right outside of what was the main focus of your work, there are also the questions that focus on the broader scope of your work, other fields of application, and future work. Make sure you practice preparing answers to these questions, and bring additional material for the defense where needed.
Get your logistics for the day of your defense all sorted out long in advance. You don't want to be running around campus, borrowing a laptop last-minute, or arranging coffee for your committee members. Ask for advice from a post-doc who recently defended to see if you thought everything through. Make sure you understand all the procedures, and when in doubt, ask and double-check with the office responsible for the defense.
Know where you will present, and which tools are available in the room. Will you be using a microphone? Will you be able to project visual material and use audio in the room? Are there other tools available? In Delft, the rooms standard have a digital overhead projector, which you can use to show parts of your dissertation, sketches, and other material.