James Tucker defending his dissertation.
Complete and defend dissertation
On May 30, 2012 I successfully defended my dissertation entitled “Messianic Banquet Imagery in the Synoptic Gospels: An Intertextual Study.” The whole experience was challenging but enjoyable. At the end of the session I was confident that the committee helped to make my dissertation better by questioning me on key arguments and forcing me to sharpen my thoughts. I now am engaged in the processing their recommendations and corrections and hope to submit a final, corrected copy by the end of the month. This has been a long process and I have learned a great deal about the process of writing and defending a dissertation.
What do I do when I’m about to defend my dissertation and graduate
First of all, if you have written a good dissertation, there is no one who knows as much about your topic as you do. You have done more work in your area of interest than anyone else and you have tried to strike out into new territory in order to extend the body of knowledge in your discipline. That ought to give you some confidence, but also some caution and humility. Maybe there is a reason no one has developed the topic quite the way you have. Someone who hopes to defend a dissertation ought to be confident, but humble as well.
Second, it is nearly impossible to anticipate the questions that will be asked during a defense. I had anticipated about ten areas in my dissertation which I would have questioned, yet not a single one of these came up in my defense. I prepared by re-reading my document several times, jotting notes and trying to anticipate the worst. Perhaps simply re-reading the whole document would have been enough, since my examiners were not as critical of my details as they were of the overall thesis of the dissertation. I suppose everyone who has defended a dissertation has some story of an odd line of questioning, I certainly do.Rehearse
Defending the dissertation may seem old hat. Perhaps you have already given the essence of the defense in group or department seminars. Go through the vu graphs a few times anyway, speaking the words you will be saying. This will give you a sort of unconscious “muscle memory” of the tongue that will stay with you during the presentation. Even if you know what you want to say, the words might not come easily unless you rehearse.