Monday, August 26, 2013

Preparing for Oral Defense

Completing your qualitative dissertation: A road map from beginning to end written by Linda Dale Bloomberg and Marie Volpe (2012) is an excellent resource for graduate students while writing a qualitative (or combination of qualitative quantitative) dissertation. This resource is also useful as a review or checklist following the completion of the first draft or preparing for the oral examination. The contents of the book are organized into three sections. The first section is about choosing your approach and writing your proposal. The second section is a chapter-by-chapter guide and the third section includes suggestions for preparing for completion. Many chapters include annotated bibliographies for additional sources and writing samples.
An entire chapter is devoted to defense preparation. Bloomberg and Volpe (2012) describe the purpose of the oral defense examination as an opportunity:
(a) To publicly discuss what you have researched and what you have discovered in the process; and
(b) To evaluate the acceptability of the study as a scholarly piece of research in your area of specialization, and to make a collective decision about recommendations for revisions. (p.233)

Some helpful suggestions in preparing for the oral defense:
  • be prepared to summarize your research problem and key findings (if permitted, put together a brief presentation with slides/visuals as part of your opening remarks)
  • be prepared to defend your choice of research tradition, data collection methods, sample selection procedures, data analysis
  • be prepared to explain any figures or tables

A few days before the oral defense:
  • reflect on the value and contributions of the study
  • recall relevant literature and authors
  • probe yourself about how your study contributes to the literature and practice
  • try to anticipate possible questions and try to identify strengths and weaknesses of the study (theoretical components of the conceptual framework, gaps in the literature, major theorists informing your work, conflicting issues in the field, unanticipated outcomes, insights, assumptions, limitations, suggestions for researchers, policy makers, practitioners, etc.)
  • try to get lots of sleep leading up to the defense as you might not sleep the night before

Day of oral defense:
  • arrive early so you can review your notes and opening remarks
  • have a copy of your dissertation with you so you can refer to sections when the examiners ask specific questions and provide page numbers
  • be prepared to make jot notes while the examiners ask questions to make sure you answer all parts of the questions
  • ask for questions to be rephrased if you are uncertain
  • avoid overlong or off-topic answers and keep answers focussed on your study and the literature (i.e. focus on your dot)

Bloomberg, L. D. & Volpe, M. (2012). Completing your qualitative dissertation: A road map from beginning to end. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.