Preparing For Your Economics Dissertation Defense: Basic Tips

Finally presenting your dissertation that you have been working on for so long can be terrifying. You start imagining worst case scenarios where you don’t know how to answer the committee’s questions, and you stutter and make a fool out of yourself. What you don’t realize is that you’ve been doing nothing but working on this project for the past couple of years, so the defense will mostly come naturally. Here are tips on how to prepare beforehand:

  • - Introduction: An introduction is extremely important when presenting your project. This is where you get the committee interested and where you make sure they don’t zone out as you talk. The introduction should include why you choose to do your research on this topic in particular. Don’t be afraid to relate to it and talk about why it interests you and why it’s important. For example if it’s about poverty, you could add how you’ve come across someone in particular that made you curious enough to choose this topic as your thesis.
  • - Personality: The best thing about a dissertation defense is that you can actually be yourself on stage. You don’t have to be extremely formal and academic. You can add a dash of humor here and there, and this will actually keep your committee intrigued.
  • - Dealing with questions: Never get intimidated by any question the committee members pose to you. If you’re unsure about the question, DO NOT pretend to know the answer and start rambling. It’ best to indirectly show you don’t know by saying something similar to “I’m not entirely sure, but it could be...” This isn’t the place to improvise.
  • - The committee wants you to succeed: You should know that there is actually very little chance you will not succeed, even if your presentation wasn’t flawless. The committee members want you to make it. If you keep this in mind, it will help tremendously with any stage fright.
  • - There’s no time for details: A dissertation defense is a summary of all your research. You don’t have to add all of your favorite details in there. Keep it brief and simple.
  • - Practice: You should practice your presentation at least a couple of times in front of family or friends before you put yourself out there. Try to jot down the sequence of the points you will be discussing and by memorizing these, everything else will just come naturally.

You’re so close to making it! You have no reason to get nervous. All you need is a good night’s sleep and ages of doing comprehensive research (which you’ve already taken care of). Good luck!