As an undergraduate seeking for an advanced degree, you must complete your research work and then defend it orally before the committee (external supervisors). The dissertation defense comes after the long and laborious work of writing the dissertation and can be the source of anxiety for the student.
Even an expert on a subject can feel a little stressed entrenching the topic in front of peers, so feeling intimidated over the process of defending your research paper is perfectly natural. Managing your fears and being prepared will play equal roles in the outcome of your defense. Here are some tips to quell the anxiety and make the process run smoothly.
Know Your Research
Not knowing your research project topic inside-and-out will cause you to struggle and ultimately fail with your defense. You will need to know the subject from every angle, so you are fully prepared for any questions that may come your way. It often takes only one frazzled moment to throw off the rest of your oral presentation.
Be Ready for Questions
If you are prepared for questions that may be asked, then your answers will flow smoothly and effortlessly. This will prove your knowledge on the subject, and strengthening your argument. Have friends and family read your notes or listen to your presentation, and write down questions. Chances are good they will be similar to those that are asked.
Narrow the focus
Your written dissertation is long, maybe 200–300 pages. The members of your committee have already read it, so there is no need to go over every detail. Stick to the main points, discuss the most important results. If the committee members want to hear more details, they will ask.
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 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.
Summarizing your chapters will help keep your audience focused. It is easy for a mind to drift, so providing summaries will ensure your panel of professionals will follow along, even if they lose focus for a brief moment. Visual aids, such as graphs and PowerPoint presentations can be very helpful. If you are going to use these, make sure you practice your presentation with them. A few stumbles could reflect on the quality of your research paper, even though the two are separate elements.
Reinforce your findings to conclude your defense. The finale of your presentation should be focused on proving the work that has been done. You may need to also recap on what has changed and remained unchanged, if applicable.