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How I Prepare For A Doctoral Defense

How I prepare for a doctoral defense

As I recently served as a committee member for a doctoral defense, I thought it would be valuable to share here the various steps I went through in examining the thesis and the candidate:

  • Read the thesis: I guess this is straight-forward. I read a print copy of the thesis over various days in between meetings and at nights. I made handwritten notes on the copy.
  • Meet with student to go over my comments: I gave the candidate my version of the thesis with my comments. Since my cursive handwriting is old-fashioned, sometimes it is more difficult to decipher. We went through my comments together and had some discussions.
  • Review protocol: I reviewed the defense format and made figured out some of the logistics for the trip and regalia.
  • Meet with student to see how they implemented my changes: The candidate walked me through their changes, and we had some further discussions.
  • Revisit my comments: I have a scanned copy of the thesis with my comments that I revisited. I also took some notes of my comments to find the overarching themes.
  • Revisit list of typical defense questions: For extra inspiration, I revisited the list of typical defense questions from my coauthored book on the doctoral defense.
  • Write down 3-5 questions: In the format of this defense, I am allowed one question. But to be on the safe side, I came prepared with a handful of questions that I could select from. I actually ended up typing out 7 questions in total.

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