How to Wow the Panel While Defending Your Dissertation

Issues regarding your dissertation do not begin or end with the writing. Instead, you have to look to the future too. Can your dissertation stand the test of time? You can tell whether it will based on the kind of defense you put up for it in front of the panel. You have to be able to present, explain, and defend the ideas you put across in the dissertation. You have to lay out the reasoning behind the choices and decisions you made specifically in the areas of:

  • Theory selection
  • Research methods

The defense signals the closure of your glittering career as a graduate student.

It is the last of all you had to do in your doctoral studies.

How do you put up a stellar defense that impresses everybody listening to you?


You can do all that – and more – simply by preparing. The first step is preparation. Here, half-hearted measures will do nothing to aid your cause. Preparation involves attending your colleagues’ presentations. Apart from that, check with your school if there are any graduate rules and deadlines that you have to adhere to. Focus on rules and deadlines relating to the scheduling of the dissertation defense.

Start scheduling and coordinating the defense (date, time and venue) early.

Submit the manuscript for review to ensure it is consistent and properly formatted.

Maximize every opportunity you get in pre-defense meetings.

Preparation ends the moment you begin organizing your material for presentation.

Defense Meeting

The chair of the panel kicks off the meeting. Once you get a chance to speak, begin by thanking the members of the panel. Ensure the presentation material covers the research question briefly. As you defend the dissertation, members of the panel may ask you questions or discuss some of the points you raised among themselves. Some of them may show interest in identifying your study’s weaknesses.

They may also ask what plans you have for the area of study post-dissertation.

Your goal is to win the panel over.

You will know you have done that successfully when the chair says, “Congratulations, Doctor”.

That will only happen once the panel votes, after asking you to leave the room.


The post-dissertation plans have everything to do with follow up. First, however, you need to spare some time for celebrating this great achievement. Invite members of the panel as well as friends and family to the celebration. Afterward, address the revisions members of the panel may have asked you to make. Ideally, you should do this the following day or as soon as possible.

Provide the members of the panel, friends and family with bound copies of the dissertation.

Congratulations on your achievement. You deserve it!