The doctoral defense is considered to have three dimensions: the scholarly dimension, the emotional (affective) dimension, and the cultural dimension. In this work, I explore the link between sociodemographic factors and students’ perception of the doctoral defense to better understand the affective dimension. In particular, I focus on gender, ethnicity, and age at the time of defense, as well as current position and field of study. To address the influence of these aspects on the affective dimension of the doctoral defense, I first reviewed the literature on these sociodemographic aspects as well as the affective dimension of the defense. I then carried out an international survey on doctoral defenses, defense formats, and students’ perceptions and analyzed the 204 completed surveys for this study using quantitative and qualitative methods. The analysis included cross-correlations between students’ perceptions and the studied sociodemographic aspects. The main results of these analyses are that gender affects various aspects of the students’ perception of the doctoral defense and long-term perception, and that female candidates experience more issues with their committee. Ethnicity is important as well, although the participation of non-white respondents in this survey was limited. The influence of age at the defense is limited, and only for the youngest and oldest age groups did I observe some differences in perception. There is no relation between current position and perception of the candidates during the defense. Finally, field of study is correlated for various aspects of student perception, committee issues, and long-term perception. The conclusion of this work is that sociodemographic aspects, and in particular gender, ethnicity, and field of study, influence how doctoral candidates experience their defense.
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