How To Survive Your Undergraduate Dissertation Defense – 10 Helpful Hints

The dissertation defense is the last step towards earning your undergraduate degree in some disciplines. And while each project is different, there are some commonly used strategies towards surviving your defense. Here are 10 helpful hints to achieve just that:

  1. Get to know the review members
  2. You should already know your advisor pretty well. But you’re also going to have a chance to research the other committee members after you receive a confirmation list of who will be attending. Don’t waste the chance to find out what their interests are.

  3. Attend other undergraduate defenses
  4. Find out about the defense process ahead of time by attending other students’ presentations. These are often closed to the public, but students and faculty are allowed to attend. Find a couple held within your area of study.

  5. Prepare for questions ahead of time
  6. You should anticipate several questions for each of the key area of your dissertation. It’s good to consider everything you’ve learned about the committee members and to write out a list of questions you are likely to get.

  7. Practice your presentation beforehand
  8. One of the most effective ways to prepare is to simply present your defense in front of a friend or to practice in front of a mirror. A lot of the defense is pure memory, so the more you repeat it the easier it will be to recall before the committee.

  9. Give a little about your background
  10. It’s important to start off your presentation with a short introduction where you provide background information about your area of study and your interest in it. Keep this short but lively. This is an opportunity to make a positive impression right from the start.

  11. Address the three key questions
  12. Be sure to address the three key questions that come up in every dissertation defense: 1) What is the problem you are studying? 2) Why is that problem important to study? and 3) what are the results that you have achieved?

  13. Keep your presentation slides short
  14. You should aim to keep your presentation slides to no more than thirty. No one wants to read a large amount of text when looking at slides, so keep the information on those slides clear and concise.

  15. Don’t expect to know everything
  16. Despite this project being an in-depth study of a particular topic, you should never expect to know everything. The committee knows this and so should you. If you can’t speak academically to a particular area or answer a question, say so and move on.

  17. Answer each question honestly
  18. One of the biggest mistakes students make in their defenses is answering direct questions vaguely or in an uninterested manner. Take a moment to analyze exactly what is being asked of you, and respond to the question honestly. Don’t skirt around the main subject.

  19. Get rest and have a balanced meal
  20. Finally, in the days leading up to your defense you should try your best to get on a regular sleeping schedule so that it will be easy for you to get plenty of rest the night before. Also make sure to have a balanced, healthy meal in for breakfast. You’re going to have to be fully energized before you start presenting.