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Dissertation Defense Question

Perhaps the most difficult phase in the dissertation process is the final, dissertation defense question phase. Once a student has completed his or her dissertation, he or she will be required to submit and orally defend it before a faculty committee. The committee, which acts as a panel of judges, will ask questions about the dissertation research itself and also about the field in general. These are known as dissertation defense questions.

Dissertation defense questions will fit into a range of categories. Many dissertation defense questions will be direct challenges to the student's research model. The student will be asked why his or her research was designed the way it was and whether it could have been effective if it had been designed a different way. The successful student will attempt to anticipate as many dissertation defense questions as possible and prepare ways of competently answering them. Hopefully, the student will have carefully weighed each choice made during the dissertation writing process and will be convinced that the research project as conducted was the best way to answer the research question at hand. If the student believes fully in his or her research, no dissertation defense question will catch him or her off balance.

Other dissertation defense questions may concern the student's breadth of knowledge in the field. Students hoping to earn PhD's must be masters of their fields, and the judges on the dissertation defense question panel will expect that the student can answer a question on any relevant topic. In most cases, though, each dissertation defense question will have some bearing on the dissertation research and discussion.

The student can attempt to prepare for this series of dissertation defense questions by practicing with another student who is knowledgeable about the field. Ideally, this will be another PhD candidate who knows the field intimately and can ask the kinds of challenging dissertation defense questions that the panel will likely ask. The student can learn from these mock dissertation defense questions which topics he or she is fully prepared to answer and which should be further prepared for. As with any oral defense, preparing as much as possible for the dissertation defense question session will give the student an edge that will likely lead to success.