What should you expect when you defend a paper as part of your graduate program?
First, be sure to get your final version of your paper to your committee members no later than 2 weeks before your defense. Each committee member should get an electronic copy plus a reminder of the date, time, and location of the defense meeting. It’s polite to ask if anyone wants a paper copy from you as well.
Second, remember that you, not your advisor, are responsible for all deadlines, paperwork requirements, etc. Stay in continual touch with Judy Weiland so that you’re on top of this.
Third, note that you likely will be asked to make some changes in your paper based on suggestions and comments in your defense meeting. After the defense, you and I will chat about what needs to be done, if anything. Send your revisions to me as soon as you can afterward, with changes highlighted so that I can find them easily.
Fourth, on the actual day of the defense, plan on spending 15 to 30 minutes with me afterward to talk about necessary changes, next steps, etc.
Fifth, try not to get nervous. A defense is simply an opportunity for you to share what you’ve learned and get some feedback from some really smart people. You may get some tough questions. That’s okay – it’s just your committee making sense of what you’ve told them, helping you extend your learning a little, etc. Remember that you know your topic better than anyone at the table.
Stay in touch between now and your defense. I’d rather hear from you than you make yourself a nervous wreck. No need to worry – you’ll do great!
Food and drink
Finally, although we permit students to bring a small food item (e.g., cookies) and a beverage (e.g., sodas, water, coffee, juice) for committee members during defenses, I strongly encourage students not to bring anything at all. I’m hypersensitive to conflicts of interest – it’s the attorney in me. Save the money and spend it on a nice celebration dinner for you and a friend, spouse, partner, or significant other.
If you wish, you may have up to 10 minutes at the beginning to give a short presentation. I don’t think that you need a PowerPoint; you are the expert in the room on your topic and know enough to talk off the cuff for a few minutes. If having a PowerPoint is comforting to you, here are your guidelines:
- 7 slides (maximum)
- 1 title slide
- 1 purpose of study slide
- 1 methods slide
- 2 to 3 slides on what you learned
- 1 slide on implications for school leaders
Your presentation should be no more than 10 minutes. Warning: I will cut you off at 10 minutes if need be. Remember that everyone in the room has read your paper. There is no need to spend a ton of time telling us what we just read.
It’s typically polite for the successful doctoral candidate to give each member of his or her committee a library-quality bound copy of the final product. This means that you’d get extra copies when you order ones for yourself and the ISU library. In addition, I’d also like a PDF copy of the final product along with your permission to include it on my Dissertation Examples page for future doctoral students.