Defense Advice 2

When I sat down with my advisor, who has sat through countless defenses, I was expecting him to launch into a long list of dos and don’ts. But he had relatively little advice to give, which in retrospect, was comforting.

He advised creating a 5-7 minute opening statement that “summarizes your original contributions to scholarship.” I don’t know about the rest of you, but I was imagining something both more complex and more tangential that that. I mean, didn’t everyone just read the dissertation? Surely they know what it was about . . . ? But as I thought about it, it started to make sense–it’s a simple, direct approach to beginning the conversation. Also, summarizing your contribution isn’t exactly like summarizing the dissertation. I realized that I could discuss my methodology, or the significance of the authors I chose. (And not just say, “well, chapter one . . . “)

His only other advice about the opening statement was to say it rather than read it. I agree that reading something could be awkward. But on the other hand, different people have different difficulties at times like this. If your greatest fear is rambling, maybe reading something isn’t the end of the world. But I would suggest more or less detailed outlines, depending on what you are most comfortable with. It seems like memorizing something might be setting yourself up for disaster unless you’re already comfortable with giving memorized talks.

He also said that I should have a plan for what happens to the project next–how I might develop it into a book, or chop it up into articles. He even suggested I think of presses or journals that might be a good fit. At first, I felt really frustrated with this advice–because more than anything, I want to hear what the committee has to say about publication possibilities. I want to take the shortest path to publication. However, my advisor got me thinking that for any question I might want to ask the committee, I should have a partial answer to the question myself. In the defense, you have to perform expertise, so you can’t just bring the committee some problem and say, “I hope you would solve this for me.”

Advertisements

5 responses to “Defense Advice 2

  1. “…for any question I might want to ask the committee, I should have a partial answer to the question myself. In the defense, you have to perform expertise, so you can’t just bring the committee some problem and say, ‘I hope you would solve this for me.'”

    NOW you are talking like a Dr. Jones. And it’s not so much performing the expertise (though that’s part of it)…mostly it’s having the confidence that you are indeed the expert in the room, which you are, you know.

    What’s the defense date?

  2. becomingdoctorjones

    Susan–it’s Wednesday AM. Yikes! Some friends are coming into town today and that will take the edge off . . . meanwhile, I’m off to practice my opening statement.

    Josh just gave me a bunch of feedback, and you’re right–while some of his questions surprised me, nothing he said confused me or was un-answerable. I really *do* know this stuff!

  3. Break a leg, kiddo! Just remember: it’s a conversation. Talk about what’s interesting to you, and be honest that there might be a few things you might still be figuring out (but have some good leads).

    I fully expect a full post-mortem post with all the details! Extra points if you describe the fashions!

  4. Hi Liz! I hope I’m not too late with this comment… Basically, as I have already told the future Dr. Anderson, my biggest regret– the one that literally keeps me awake at night!– is my opening statement. I went with an outline, and rehearsed several times in my head. But when I got to the defense, all that came out was ungrammatical blather complete with huge pauses while I searched for the words and phrases that were so clear just hours before. Seriously awkward, and it took me the first half of the defense to recover. No, in my case, reading from a prepared statement would not have been the end of the world. It could instead have started me off from a point of confidence, knowing I covered what I wanted to, and how I wanted to. Best of luck!!! Can’t wait to celebrate with you next Sunday.

  5. Um, also, I didn’t say it because for me it went without saying… you are going to kill!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s