Preparing your defense

Gepubliceerd op 5 april 2024 om 12:00

After all these years of working on your research, your dissertation is finally ready. The review board has approved it. Now you just have to defend your dissertation in front of a corona of opponents before you are officially awarded your doctorate. In this blog, we describe some things you can do to prepare yourself well for the defense of your dissertation.

Tip 1: Have a trial defense

If you are doing something for the first time, it is generally a good idea to practice it beforehand. This applies to a PhD defense as well. We therefore recommend you to hold a trial defense. In a trial defense you ask a number of people to read (part of) your dissertation and ask you questions about it, so that you can get used to defending your dissertation. The best way to organize such a trial defense will be described in an upcoming blog.

Tip 2: Get to know your opponents

Your opponents are the professors (and possibly doctors) who will ask you questions about your dissertation during the defense. Of course, you cannot know in advance what questions they will ask, but chances are they will be related to their own expertise. The research they do and the articles they have recently published can give you a good idea of what you could potentially expect from the various opponents. Moreover, how great is it if you can refer to someone's own published research in response to a question?

Tip 3: Spread the word

After all those years of hard work, you obviously want all the important people to know about your dissertation. So make sure that your dissertation is printed on time and sent to all stakeholders along with an invitation to attend your defense. You should send them at least to your promotion team, all coauthors, the immediate colleagues and people involved in your research, and your own friends and family. The university/organization where you are doing your PhD will presumably have a standard list of other people who should have your dissertation as well. In addition, to generate some media attention for your dissertation, you could consider sending out a press release in collaboration with the communications department.

Tip 4: Update your knowledge

The completion of your dissertation and the moment of defense can sometimes be months apart. In the meantime the academic world does not stand still. It is generally a good idea to check in the week prior to your dissertation whether any new relevant scientific articles have been published on your topic. You may be asked a question about this or perhaps you will be able to incorporate these latest insights into one of your answers. This is a nice way to demonstrate that you are truly the expert on your subject.

Tip 5: What do you want people to remember?

Think about what you want people to know about your research after they have attended your defense. What are your most important findings? Do you have a particular point you would like to make? And what is the impact of your research on society? Or for policy makers and politicians? By thinking about this in advance and having it clear on your mind, you can often include this information somewhere in the answers you give to your opponents' questions.


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