Happy Doc Student Podcast

The Oral Defense: What is it? & How to Prepare for it with Dr. Scott Burrus

July 06, 2022 Heather Frederick, PhD Episode 78
Happy Doc Student Podcast
The Oral Defense: What is it? & How to Prepare for it with Dr. Scott Burrus
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Show Notes

In this episode, Dr. Scott Burrus, Provost at United States University chats about the oral defense.


  •  Keep your presentation clear and concise; use bullet points and not complete sentences.
  • Do a dress rehearsal with your chair. Ask them to quiz you on potential questions and record the meeting so you can refer back to it as you prepare.
  • Once your chair has approved your presentation, practice it both in front of a live audience and alone until you are so comfortable that you are not relying on notes. This might take 10 trials or 50; you will know when you own your presentation.
  • Do not memorize a script. Tell your story using the bullet points on your slides as cues.
  • Practice answers to basic questions like:
    • What was the most surprising finding?
    • What was your biggest challenge, and how did you overcome it?
    • If you had to do this over, what would you do differently?
    • If you had an unlimited budget and time was no issue, what would a qualitative, quantitative, or mixed-methods study look like that could logically follow from your results?
    • What do you believe is the most important practical implication of your research?
    • Summarize your dissertation/doctoral project in 1–3 sentences.
  • Before your defense, practice a grounding exercise to calm your mind and body—humming, Apa Japa, or prayer are great choices.
  • Don’t be discouraged if you are asked to make some edits to your manuscript post-defense.
  • If you do not pass your oral, refer back to Step 3 in the Happy Doc Studnet Handbook (https://www.amazon.com/dp/0578333732) and when you can respond rather than react, ask your chair for a meeting so you can strategize your plan for passing the next go-round.  

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