Students’ Perceptions of Doctoral Defense Formats
2. Literature Review
2.1. Students’ Perceptions of the Defense
2.2. A Review of Defense Formats
2.3. Research Gap
3. Materials and Methods
3.1. Survey Design
3.2. Analysis Methods
4. Results and Analysis
4.2. Results of Questionnaire and Analysis
4.2.1. Defense Format
“It was semi committee driven. It was expected to not last much longer than an hour but no fixed end time.”
“Presentation was fixed, then discussion with the committee was time free.”
“40–50 min showing my results followed by approximately 4 h of questioning.”
4.2.2. Student Perception
“For me, a defense is the culmination of years of research and work. The committee treated me like some kind of an amateur or imposter, rather than an expert in my field.”
“Well, the purpose of what my defense was supposed to be and what it ended up being are two different things. I had attended someone else’s defense before mine and based on that experience, and the information from my advisor, I was under the assumption that the defense was a way to explain my research and to provide clarity on anything that my committee had questions about. Additionally, to explain any limitations. Unfortunately, 2 of my committee members did not really provide me with the opportunity to do either of these things. The first committee member lectured me for his 20 minute time limit about how he did not like how I interpreted one of the films I mentioned (not the ones I actually analyzed -- the film in question was just foundational). The other committee member, also male, lectured me about feminism (my dissertation’s sub-title partially includes 20th/21st century Post-modern Feminism) and went over his time soooo much that my advisor was only able to ask 1 question, since she went last. Additionally, both the male committee members wanted extensive edits that had not be mentioned previously and were not possible given the time until I had to submit my final draft, so my advisor told me to do what I could and what I felt was most useful.”
“I would have jettisoned at least one member of the defense committee who had little to no understanding of the topic and clearly did not read my work. Their presence was a hindrance to the entire proceeding and they were also late, which put the defense in jeopardy of being cancelled.”
“I don’t think I would have prepared differently, but I think that if my committee members had actually done in the defense what was supposed to happen (asking me to clarify, etc.), I think it would have been a very valuable experience. I had prepared to clarify my arguments. I was not prepared to explain a very knick-picky element of an introduction to a chapter. I was also not prepared to listen to someone who is not an expert in feminism explain how I should have approached it. These were not things that a) should have happened, and b) that anyone could have been prepared to defend against or explain.”
“My committee members almost uniformly asked me questions that were not central to my dissertation, for example, about footnotes or asides, and on the whole, I did not feel like I was asked to defend my dissertation because I did not feel their questions were actually very serious. It was very disappointing. Now, I always tell people to prepare by reviewing their footnotes.”
“No, in the UK is very much driven by the examiners so the experience can vary quite a lot depending on whom you get as examiner, whether is from the supervisor’s academic circle, etc so it is difficult to anticipate.”
“I believe that practicing my presentation and reading “how to” guides for preparing for my defense helped me to prepare. Additionally, knowing myself and how I react under performance pressure (public speaking) helped me to know how to prepare for my defense. I don’t think I would have done it differently.”
“No. I was well-advised, knew what was expected and it went exactly as planned. I was not surprised by anything, was confident in my work, and felt it went well.”
4.3. Associations among Defense Format and Student Perception
4.3.1. Matrix of Analyses
4.3.2. Major Elements of the Defense Format
4.3.3. Minor Elements of the Defense Format
- Publication of the thesis before the defense.
- Receiving committee feedback before the defense.
- Knowing the recommendations of one or more member of the committee before the defense.
- Having the supervisor present in the defense as a committee member or in the audience.
- Using a formal dress code and/or academic togas during the defense.
- Including a laudatio at the end of the defense.
Institutional Review Board Statement
Informed Consent Statement
Data Availability Statement
Conflicts of Interest
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|Total||Life Sciences||Humanities and Arts||Social |
|n = 204||n = 46||n = 29||n = 60||n = 57||n = 9|
|Time since defense|
|Black or African American||4%||4%||0%||2%||4%||22%|
|Industry & Business||14%||13%||11%||7%||25%||11%|
|Total||Life Sciences||Humanities and Arts||Social |
|n = 444||n = 107||n = 54||n = 128||n = 130||n = 18|
|Internal to my university||33%||33%||26%||32%||24%||33%|
|Internal to my department||29%||26%||43%||37%||30%||33%|
|External to my university, from other university||33%||36%||30%||30%||37%||28%|
|External to my university, from industry||4%||4%||2%||1%||8%||6%|
|External to my university, from government||1%||2%||0%||0%||2%||0%|
|Total||Life Sciences||Humanities and Arts||Social Sciences||STEM||Multidisciplinary|
|Did you consider your committee fair?|
|n = 200||n = 45||n = 28||n = 60||n = 56||n = 9|
|To some extent||15%||11%||32%||12%||11%||33%|
|Did you consider your committee suitable for making a well-balanced assessment of your work?|
|n = 202||n = 46||n = 28||n = 60||n = 57||n = 9|
|To some extent||19%||15%||32%||13%||16%||56%|
|Total||Life Sciences||Humanities and Arts||Social |
|n = 536||n = 122||n = 80||n = 150||n = 152||n = 25|
|Rite of passage||20%||16%||23%||26%||14%||20%|
|Characteristics of Defense Format||Student’s Perception of Defense|
|1||Thesis publication before or after defense||Nervousness|
|2||One- or two-step defense||Enjoyment|
|3||Public or private defense||Perceived fairness of committee|
|4||Duration of defense||Perceived committee balance|
|5||Committee feedback before defense or not||Perceived importance|
|6||Prior idea of recommendation||Difficulty of defense|
|7||Defense with or without presentation||Formality of defense|
|8||Number of committee members||Seriousness of defense proceedings|
|9||Presence of supervisor||Purpose of defense|
|10||Committee composition||Perceived academic competence after defense|
|11||In-person or remote defense||Desire to continue in field after defense|
|12||Language nativeness||Desire to remain in academia after defense|
|13||Defense dress code||Perceived publishability of research after defense|
|14||Source of questions||Overall perception of defense as valuable experience|
|15||Defense about research only or including other elements|
|16||Laudatio or not|
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Lantsoght, E.O.L. Students’ Perceptions of Doctoral Defense Formats. Educ. Sci. 2021, 11, 519. https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci11090519
Lantsoght EOL. Students’ Perceptions of Doctoral Defense Formats. Education Sciences. 2021; 11(9):519. https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci11090519Chicago/Turabian Style
Lantsoght, Eva O. L. 2021. "Students’ Perceptions of Doctoral Defense Formats" Education Sciences 11, no. 9: 519. https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci11090519