5 Tips for Defending an Ed.D. Thesis

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Updated August 4, 2020

Tips for Defending an Ed.D. Thesis

  • Familiarize Yourself With Departmental Guidelines
  • Attend Other Dissertation Defenses
  • Prepare a Tight Summary
  • Dress Professionally
  • Prepare a Professional Dissertation

Defending your thesis for a Doctorate in Education is an essential part of performing original research and producing a thesis that could well become the go-to authority on the subject that you choose. The ability to choose a relevant subject, do original research and communicate the results is essential if you're to be validated as an expert in education. According to teach.com, only candidates for an Ed.D. in Education with proven leadership, communication and writing skills qualify for this highest academic distinction that promises the title-holders can solve educational problems in various settings. These include university-level teaching at the highest level, K-12 schools, top administrative educational jobs and work with private firms, nonprofit organizations and government agencies.

Resource: Top 10 Online Ed.D Programs in Educational Leadership

Tips for Dealing with Academic Strictness

Defending a dissertation isn't meant to be easy but gauges how you communicate and respond to pressure, so expect criticism of even the smallest errors. The following tips will put you ahead of the curve:

1. Familiarize Yourself with Departmental Guidelines

Each school's doctoral program has its own guidelines, so it's important to familiarize yourself with the details. In some schools, you might be seated; in others, you might stand in front of a large audience. Talk to your advisor to find out how long the sessions usually run. Most defenses last about two hours, and each detail is open to criticism — from your choice of supporting graphs and charts to your research methods or conclusions. Your defense session might be scheduled in a conference room or held in an assembly hall. If you must defend your work in cavernous setting, rehearse your presentation somewhere with similar acoustics.

2. Attend Other Dissertation Defenses

Nothing can prepare you better to defend your research than attending other dissertation defenses. Graduate students usually have opportunities to serve as audience members for these events, so attend as many thesis defenses as you can before finishing your thesis. The Doctor of Education degree indicates that its holders have vested interests in research, new educational practices and comprehensive knowledge of trends in education. Attending other thesis defenses will broaden your knowledge and provide practical tips on championing your own work. You should attend these events throughout your program instead of waiting until the last few weeks before your own defense.

3. Prepare a Tight Summary

Although you've probably worked with your advisor and other committee members who want you to succeed, the oral defense should summarize your research and work from the origin of your ideas through the conclusions and implications. Depending on the time allocated, you should prepare slides or other visual aids. Explain to the audience how you developed an interest in your subject, what the specific problem or purpose of your study is and how you developed research techniques and cultivated participants or subjects for the study. Build your case through the findings, results and recommendations. Try to be concise but thorough.

4. Dress Professionally

Dissertation defense is a formal event of the highest level that attracts top university officials, graduate students, professors emeritus and other influential members of academia. Most modern universities don't have strict dress codes, but this is a professional event, so you should dress as if you were going to a job interview at a top corporation or giving a speech at an educational conference. You should also be prepared mentally and physically by getting plenty of rest before the event and knowing exactly what you did, what you wrote and why you made those choices.

5. Prepare a Professional Dissertation

Your dissertation isn't complete until you revise the thesis based on the committee's suggestions and prepare the final monograph according to university regulations. However, it's important to remember that the dissertation committee members are the most crucial critics to impress, so your work should be professionally edited and formatted. If you can do this work yourself, you'll save money, but it's prudent to enlist the services of a copy editor or a professional formatting company. Using PowerPoint technology to illustrate your salient findings helps to guide the audience in a logical progression that builds to your conclusions.

Defending your dissertation is the last obstacle after all your years of study, writing, research and coursework. It's natural to be nervous, but dressing well, knowing your subject thoroughly, staying professional and defending your research without becoming overly defensive or antagonistic will convey the proper tone of respect and inspire confidence in your qualifications to lead.

Related Resource: Top 10 Best Online Master's in Education Degree Programs

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