PowerPoint Presentation and Defense

There are typically two oral defenses for your dissertation: the proposal defense and the final defense. Defenses usually take the form of PowerPoint presentations to your dissertation committee.

For the proposal defense, you should focus on the what, why, and how of your study, which largely corresponds to the components of your introduction and methodology chapters. In other words, the proposal defense focuses on your topic (what), the need for your study (why), and your study approach and design (how).

First and foremost, follow any templates or guidelines from your school for the presentation. If your school does not have a template or guidelines, ask your Chair for an example. Largely, the components of the proposal presentation correspond to the fundamental sections of your proposal. Proposal presentations typically include slides on the introduction to your topic, the research problem and purpose, the research questions, theoretical or conceptual framework, and a summation of the major research on your topic. You will also include slides on the specifics of data collection and analysis, including information about participants, setting, and variables.

For the final defense, the focus shifts to your results and the conclusions and recommendations that stem from them. This information corresponds to material from the results and discussion chapters of your dissertation. Therefore, in your final defense presentation, you do not need to go into depth about the proposal; your committee only needs to be briefly reminded about the proposal information. Instead, focus on your findings and then on the discussion of your findings in relation to previous research, your conclusions, and your recommendations for practice and further research.

Some schools have requirements for the length of oral defenses; others do not. A good general rule of thumb, however, is about 20 to 30 minutes for the presentation and anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes for questions. Both the proposal and final defense presentations are followed by question-and-answer sessions. There is no sure way to anticipate the questions your committee will ask. The best thing to do is just be prepared. Go over the fundamentals of what, why, and how, if you are giving a proposal defense. If you are giving a final defense, make sure you understand your results and how you arrived at them. It is also helpful to practice delivering the presentation and time yourself.

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Lastly, do not let the word defense throw you. Yes, you are making a case or argument for your study and what you found, but the presentations are not adversarial. In fact, in the question-and-answer sessions, many come to resemble discussions among colleagues. So, do your homework. Practice. Take a deep breath. Practice again. Be confident, and remember, no one knows your study like you do.

Helpful Links:

Preparing to Defend Your Research

Defense Preparation for Quantitative Methods