Expectations of the PowerPoint Dissertation Proposal Defense

Posted August 19, 2020

This is a general discussion about what to expect at the dissertation proposal defense. It is not a technical how-to guide on setting up your slides. For guidance on the specific content for your slides, see examples from your school and follow your school’s template, if it has one.

Basically, at your proposal defense, your professors are looking for you to cover the major components of your study: the what, why, so what, and how. These concerns should correspond to the chapters of your dissertation. As these are fundamental components of your study, you should already know these elements well and be able to talk about them with confidence.

First: What are you studying? This includes introducing your topic and the social or organizational issue driving the need for the study. Introducing your topic should correspond to the introduction and background sections of your dissertation, which likely involve statistics or literature framing the social or organizational issue.

Second: Why are you studying it? This includes the reason or rationale for the study or the research problem. What is the issue or gap in the research your study is designed to address? What knowledge do we have about your topic? What knowledge is still needed? The why corresponds to the research problem and the background literature framing the need for your study.

Third: So what? This involves answering the question of why it is important to address the issue or gap in the research. Just because a study will provide new knowledge doesn’t make it important. You need to explain the significance and implications of your study. What and how might your findings add to the research? How might your findings advance understanding of the topic? How might your findings inform practice or the actions of individuals at practical or organizational levels?

Fourth: How are you studying it? The how includes your methodology, your design, research questions, and details about your sample, participants, recruitment, setting, and data collection. Exactly how will you conduct your study, and what are the important details about conducting it? The how corresponds to the methods chapter of your dissertation.

Finally: It’s okay to be nervous about the defense; that’s a normal response. But remember, at this point, you should know your study better than anyone else. Just make sure you understand and can explain the fundamental components of your study: the what, why, so what, and how.

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