Category Archives: Defense

The Hard Questions

I recently gave my introduction to my supervisor, hoping he’d allow me to graduate in May. He seemed positive in the e-mail he wrote to set up our meeting, so I was feeling good when I showed up to his office.

He proceeded to ask me some very hard questions–questions that magnified some of my biggest insecurities about my dissertation. I answered the questions hesitatingly, if at all.

So imagine my surprise when he wrapped up the meeting by telling me that the introduction was basically done–he didn’t want me to make any major revisions.

Another committee member told me today that hard questions are a sign that a dissertation defense is going well. She said that when there’s a sense that the dissertation is weak, people are very tentative, and don’t want to press the student too much. But when people are engaged by the work, they dive straight into hard questions that get right to core of the issues at stake.

Today, if you’re stumped, take it as a sign that you’ve got complex, interesting ideas–and don’t be scared.