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Dissertation Defense:
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Dissertation Defense

The dissertation defense, or oral defense, is the last stage in the dissertation process. During a dissertation defense, the student will present his or her dissertation in front of his or her advisory committee. The committee members will have an opportunity to question the student's thesis statement and interpretations of the research. For the dissertation defense to be successful, the student must answer the committee members' questions to their satisfaction.

If members of the committee are not satisfied with the student's dissertation defense, they may call for revisions to the dissertation. Once revisions are complete, the student will be required to go through another dissertation defense. For this reason, many students feel anxiety regarding their dissertation defense.

Prior to the dissertation defense, the student will complete the dissertation and distribute copies to each committee member. Though all of the members will probably read the dissertation, the student must not assume that they have. He or she must come to the dissertation defense prepared to give a presentation on the substance of the dissertation. In most cases, though, all of the committee members will have read the dissertation, and the student will advance immediately to the actual dissertation defense process.

It is important for the student to have a relationship with each member of the committee prior to the dissertation defense. The student should be aware of any potential philosophical differences a committee member is likely to have, so that he or she will be prepared to deal with challenges from this committee member at the dissertation defense. The student can also remain well aware of the theories each of his or her committee members have by reading their research papers when they are published.

While the student's advisory committee may seem antagonistic at the dissertation defense, it if important to remember that the committee does want the student to succeed, but must also be assured that only students who truly deserve doctorates or Master's degrees in their fields are awarded them. Their questions are likely to be difficult, but fair. If the student knows his or her research and thesis very thoroughly, it is likely that he or she will have a successful dissertation defense.