Prepping for the Final Defense

It all felt so surreal the other day.  I was driving to campus to obtain signatures from my committee members so I could post my dissertation announcement around the department.  My final dissertation defense is scheduled for next week!  Wait a second…let me say that one more time slowly:  I…will…defend…my…dissertation…next…week!

The last three and a half years will come down to one last presentation.

I’ve experienced feelings of shock, excitement and pride all while reflecting back on everything I’ve accomplished.  It has definitely been a fun ride.  I can look back with no regrets as I’ve given it my all.  And while a part of me is sad that it is almost over, it’s really just the beginning.  It is time to start a new chapter in my professional life as an Assistant Professor of Counseling.  So the writing, the teaching, the mentoring, the networking, the presenting, the leadership, and the service to my great profession will continue.  And I couldn’t be more grateful that I’ve already landed a full-time position with a thriving counseling program and a wonderful faculty.  So this may be the final entry from this PhD student…I’m still mulling over if I need to modify the name of my blog going forward.  More on that to come later.

The great thing about blogging is that you can write about many tangents or streams of thought and it’s all permitted in the name of “blogging”.

So back to the real purpose of this entry: how I’m preparing for the final defense.

How do I reduce 91 pages of written text into a single presentation that shouldn’t last more than one and a half hours?  How do I prepare for potential difficult questions that are intended to gauge my ability to think on my feet?

One thing my adviser reminded me when I was preparing for prospectus defense:

#1 – Remember that I am the expert in the room with this topic.  

And yes, I can say that I am.  I’ve read probably 300…or maybe it’s 400 articles and books, attended workshops, wrote papers, and presented at conferences on this very topic.  On top of all of that, I’ve completed a written dissertation on this research that I’ve conducted.  With this topic, I’m becoming less and less a student while more and more the scholar.  It’s time to act like it.  Shed the student role and become the professional among professionals.  Prepare to speak with confidence.  Practice with enthusiasm, that’s what I am telling myself.

#2 – Highlight my results without giving every painstaking detail.

This is still something I’ve trying to figure out.  Mainly, I want to show my results in two categories: descriptive statistics (i.e. demographics) and the central themes from my qualitative study. I hope to provide the most important or significant findings without talking about every single quote by every participant.  I am hoping to give them the highlights.

#3 – Answer the “So What?” question.

In addition to discussing limitations of the study, a big part of Chapter 5 consists of recommendations for counseling research and counseling practice.   I want my committee and others in attendance to know that my research has implications for the profession and specifically the trauma literature.  I did this research.  So what does it all mean?  I want to communicate the applicability of my research – how can these findings make a difference in people’s lives, especially trauma therapists?

Remembering that I’m the expert in the room and preparing with confidence is a first step in my preparation.  Highlighting the significant and interesting results of my study without giving every detail is another focus.  And answering the “So What?”  sheds light on this study’s implications for counseling research and the counseling profession as a whole.

For those of you who have this step behind you, what are some other things that you did in preparing for the defense?  Feel free to comment below.

I will let you know how it goes. Four more days!

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4 thoughts on “Prepping for the Final Defense

  1. Love this Keith, been watching your.progress as you march on just a year or so ahead of me at Mercer. Excited for you…Congratulations!

    Is your defense at the atlanta campus? I’d love to try to get there.

    Liked by 1 person

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