Hints for PhD Defenses

At Columbia, PhD defenses are generally not public, although CS usually allows a student audience. Defenses consist of four parts: first, the candidate introduces themselves, then presents a summary of their work, interrupted and followed by questions from the committee. Finally, the committee meets in private to discuss the presentation and dissertation.

While most of the committee will have read most of your thesis, you cannot assume that everyone has read every chapter.

The committee needs to be able to assess impact and depth. Usually, the committee has some idea of this before the defense, but whatever the student can say to make this assessment easier, perhaps just through emphasis, is likely to make the defense go much more smoothly.

Generally, the whole defense will not take more than two hours, but should take considerably less time. Part of the challenge of a defense is to convince the committee that you can summarize the important points of your work in a very limited time.

Hints for Dissertations

Miscellaneous Hints

Checklist for Dissertation

Before you submit your draft to the committee, be sure to verify that you have done the following checks: (Contributions by Ed Coffman, Jonathan Rosenberg and Sal Stolfo.)

[Hints for PhD proposal defenses]   [Writing style]   [Writing bugs]  

"So long, and thanks for the Ph.D.!"

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Last updated by Henning Schulzrinne