One of the most challenging moments in a Doctoral student's life is when they stand before their professors presenting their dissertation defense.
A dissertation is a piece of writing based on your original research. The quality of your presentation and the committee's final verdict often determines whether you pass or fail your Ph.D.
If you are a doctoral student about to defend your dissertation, this article will take you through the dissertation defense preparation to help you finish successfully with less hassle.
What is a dissertation defense
A dissertation defense is an oral presentation that allows doctoral candidates to defend their dissertation or research study before academic professionals.
It's an official requirement for every candidate to pass the dissertation defense stage before they finally receive the Doctoral accolade. The dissertation committee is responsible for evaluating your research study and guiding you through writing and revising it until it's up to the standard for publishing.
What should a dissertation defense include?
A dissertation defense should include the research topic, background information, purpose of study, and research questions. It should also include the hypothesis, the theoretical framework, and the methodological approach of your research study.
How hard is it to defend a dissertation?
Defending a dissertation can be tricky if you don't have all your facts right. However, it's relatively easier to crack with proper preparation and a well-organized PowerPoint presentation.
How to write a dissertation defense
Are you feeling clueless about how to put it down? Here is a step-by-step guide you can follow to write down your dissertation defense and all the essential elements you'll need to present for it to be successful.
1. Do thorough research
Since a dissertation is based on your original research, it's critical to conduct thorough research and have all your facts in place before you start writing.
Start by collecting all the relevant information you need from credible sources. Also, do thorough fact-checking to ensure every piece of information you include in your dissertation is verified and accurate.
Nothing will make the academic committee disapprove your dissertation defense as fast as false or inaccurate information.
2. State your topic and justify
After conducting your research and having all the necessary information, it's time to start writing. The first thing to state in your dissertation is your topic of choice.
Let the committee know what topic you will be researching and the scope of your research. Your dissertation topic should be as specific as possible and briefly identify the problem, the target audience, and the solution.
After stating the topic, write one to two sentences explaining why you chose the topic for your dissertation.
3. State the purpose of the study
Once you've identified your research topic and the reason for the choice, let the committee know the purpose of your study. What do you want to achieve with your study? Or what problem are you trying to solve?
The problem statement will help the committee assess the importance of the study and whether it can provide a viable solution to a problem facing a particular field or industry.
4. Identify the target audience
The next step is identifying the target population or the group directly impacted by your research study.
When identifying your target audience, its advisable to be as specific as possible with demographics such as:
- Geographical location;
- The condition is based on your field of study.
5. State the significance of the topic to the target audience
Once you’ve identified your target audience, explain how your research topic will impact them or improve their lives. What are they likely to gain from the findings of your research?
Like the purpose of the study, this section is also an opportunity to justify the importance of your study and why the target population would continue suffering without this study.
6. Outline the research you did
Remember, we said you should conduct thorough research before writing your dissertation. Now it's time to highlight your research relevant to your chosen topic.
What information did you find that supports your research angle? What research has been done previously about the topic, and what gaps did you identify?
Writing this information down will ensure that your research study is not an exact duplicate of an existing one.
7. Explain your theoretical and conceptual foundation
Next is to identify the theoretical framework of your research study. An ideal research study should be supported by established theories and concepts on which your discussion will be based.
Outline and briefly explain the theories and concepts that support your study or the purpose of your research study and how they relate to your study topic.
8. List down your research questions
Once you've identified your theoretical and conceptual frameworks, write down the research questions you will answer in your dissertation project.
Your research questions should be focused on the research problem and be specific enough to solve the problem thoroughly. The questions should also be researchable and feasible to answer within the research time frame.
List 3-4 questions which are connected and focused on your primary research problem.
9. Identify and justify your research methodology
After listing your research questions, explain the methodology you'll use for your research. This includes the procedures or techniques you'll use to identify, select, process, and analyze data about your topic of study. Your research methodology could be:
Explain why you chose that particular method and why it's the best for your type of study.
10. State your key findings
You'll also need to state the major findings you got from your research study. These are the results or the raw data you collected based on your research methodology.
When writing your findings, outline them logically without explaining or interpreting them. Identify any correlation you may have noticed between any two variables but don't explain why that correlation exists since you'll do so in the next section.
11. Briefly explain the findings
Now that you've stated your findings, it's time to analyze and explain them. This is also referred to as the discussion section of your dissertation.
In this section, you provide a hypothesis of what may be happening with the results – why the findings are as they are and how they relate to your problem statement.
This is also the part where you explain any correlations and speculate why the variables correlate as identified in the results section. In the end, provide a brief conclusion that ties all the findings together.
12. State the implications of your findings
Next is to state the implications of your research study. In this section, you explain how the findings of your study can affect policy change or impact practice.
You can also explain how your findings can inspire further research or strengthen existing concepts and theories. Your research findings and deductions should give researchers or other students directions for further research.
13. Identify limitations, recommendations, and conclusions
After the implications, state the limitations of your study— what your study did not cover and why. Also, list your recommendations from your research findings, and remember to include a conclusion that briefly sums up everything you did in your study.
The conclusion is also you identify whether you accomplished the purpose of your study and whether it successfully solves the problem identified among the target audience.
14. List your references
Finally, you'll need to create a references section listing all the reference materials you used in your research.
List the references in alphabetical order and follow a standard format (MLA, APA, Harvard, or Chicago) for all the references.
What questions are asked at a dissertation defense?
Some questions you'll be asked at a dissertation defense include: How you selected your topic of study, your data collection methods, your study's theoretical framework, how your study solves an existing problem, and the assumptions you made in your study.
Can you fail the dissertation defense?
Yes. You can fail a dissertation defense if the academic committee is unsatisfied with your presentation after the second attempt. In that case, the committee can unanimously agree that your defense is unacceptable and you fail.
Even though it's a major defining moment in your doctoral studies, a dissertation defense doesn't need to be terrifying. All you need to do is to prepare sufficiently and put everything in order before D-day.
Once you apply the tips discussed in this article to write down your defense, you only need to spare some time to practice the presentation in advance.
Remember to anticipate and be ready to answer tough questions from the committee since they'll want to ensure you understand all the nitty-gritty of your research study.
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Last edit at Jul 27 2023