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Significance Of The Study Dissertation Defense

This expert advice comes from Sonja Foss and William Waters - authors of Destination Dissertation: A Traveler's Guide to a Done Dissertation

Sonja Foss would say that the defense begins as soon as you start working on your dissertation (Foss & Waters, 2007). Defense in the context of the dissertating process refers to the presenting, explaining and defending of your ideas. It also includes laying out the rationale behind your choices and decisions, for example, regarding theory selection and research methods. Efforts to recruit your chair and other committee members will entail some of this communication behavior. Seeking approval for your dissertation proposal, the foundation of all your research activities, will also entail a bit of defense.

Throughout the course of the project many exchanges with your chair and other committees will involve explaining and defending your ideas and decision. However, the most important defense is the dissertation defense which comes at the end of a long and arduous process and which may have unfolded over a number of years. The dissertation defense is a significant milestone signaling closure on your graduate student career.

The dissertation defense can be divided into three distinct components (Foss and Waters): the preparation, the defense, and follow-up. A few brief comments about all three follow and a very helpful resource provided a thorough discussion of all three components.


  • Attend the defenses of some of your departmental colleagues or attend defenses in other departments.
  • It is very important to adhere to graduate school rules and deadlines covering the scheduling of a defense.
  • Begin very early to schedule and coordinate the date, time and place for the defense. Committee members and chairs have very busy schedules.
  • Have your manuscript reviewed before the defense to be sure it is consistent with formatting requirements. You want to present a polished document for the faculty to work with in preparation for the defense.
  • Maximize your opportunity in the pre-defense meeting to raise any issues or concerns. Or ask your chairs what questions and issues might be raised during the defense. Prepare to address them.
  • Organize you material for presentation. Create flawless presentation of the material you will be covering on the defense. Finally, practice presenting the material and answering questions.


  • Meetings may begin with brief comments by the chair followed by your comments thanking advisors and committee members for their time and efforts on your behalf.
  • Your presentation material should briefly cover the research question, literature review as it relates to your theory, methods and analysis, major findings and recommendations for future research.
  • During the defense, the faculty may take turns asking you questions and discussing among themselves points of interest or disagreement.
  • Two questions to anticipate include identifying the weaknesses of your study and post-dissertation research plans.
  • When all questions have been asked and answered, you will be asked to leave the room while the committee deliberates. At this time faculty will be deciding by vote whether to pass you on your defense and dissertation.
  • The desired outcome of this meeting is the chair's greeting you with the statement "Congratulations, Dr. _." (Foss and Waters, 2007). The defense was successful and the committed has passed your dissertation.


  • You may plan a small reception for the committee, friends and family. Check to see what the norms are in your department on post-defense celebrations.
  • Next day attend to the revisions the committee asked you make to the work.
  • You may want to provide bound copies of your work to your chair, committee members, family and friends. You may also be required to provide copies to your department and library. Create a budget for handling the incidental related to publishing and ordering additional copies of your manuscript.


About the Authors: Co-authors of Destination Dissertation: A Traveler’s Guide to a Done Dissertation, Dr. Foss is a professor of Communications at University of Colorado, Denver, and Dr. Waters is an assistant professor of English at University of Houston-Downtown, They are co-directors of Scholar’s Retreat, a program to support progress towards completion of your dissertation, thesis or writing project. 

Significance of the Investigation

This section, often referred to as the "rationale" is crucial, because it is one place in which the researcher tries to convince an audience that the research is worth doing. It should establish why the audience should want to read on.  It could also persuade someone of why he or she would want to support, or fund, a research project. One way to do this is by describing how the results may be used.

Overall, this section answers several questions.  Why is this work important? What are the implications of doing it? How does it link to other knowledge? How does it stand to inform policy making?  Why is it important to our understanding of the world? What new perspective will you bring to the topic? What use might your final research paper have for others in this field or in the general public?  Who might you decide to share your findings with once the project is complete?

Think about how your research:

* may resolve theoretical questions in your area
* may develop better theoretical models in your area
* may influence public policy
* may change the way people do their jobs in a particular field, or may change the way people live.

Are there other contributions your research will make? If so, describe them in detail. Look at the following example:

In the economic example of micro-enterprises in rural communities, the researcher might argue that the research will:
* provide an understanding of the economic impact of micro-enterprises.
* support the government's plans for start-up loans to micro-enterprises.
* demonstrate the usefulness of micro-enterprises as part of rural development, thereby contributing to the work of government and non-government rural development organizations.

Detail regarding each of these three points should be added to produce a convincing argument as to the usefulness of the research.

Read the following examples to see the variety of ways in which the significance of a study can be expressed.  As you read, you may also notice how the researcher has incorporated other elements of a research proposal introduction with an explanation of significance in order to synthesize his or her ideas into one cohesive paragraph.

Example AThe research study could provide information on the issues of Voice-over-Internet Protocol technology particularly on the integrity, vulnerability and security of VoIP calls.  Further, this study would also be a review on the VoIP Technology present and service providers based in the United States, particularly in local area.This study would be beneficial to the Commission on Telecommunication in the city as this study enhance the knowledge of the telephony providers and users about the possible issues on VoIP Technology. Furthermore, this study would be beneficial to the telephony providers and the users as this study would provide the necessary information on the different threats and attacks in VoIP technology. This would expectedly heighten the awareness of the providers and the users to equip a counterattack to possible threats. To the future researchers, this study can provide baseline information on the recent status of VoIP technology.
Example B 

I'm choosing to study this because I am seeing that students have a whole society around technology about which we know very little. For example, students routinely use chat and email to communicate with each other. Others journal. One of my students showed me her journal on Livejournal  and I noticed that many other of our students also had journals there. (Reading her journal was enlightening, but I wonder if she and the others have thought through the ramifications of their journals being public?)  Students are developing a whole community through school that is outside of “school”. Can some of that community be harnessed for “school”. Maybe it's because I'm relatively new to teaching, but I am fascinated by what the kids are doing—and learning. I had an inkling of this last year when I watched them chat using instant messaging.

It's obvious that most have a sense of community, but the question then becomes how to help them transfer some of that sense of community to what we consider to be "learning". Pardon the quotes around those, but I'm becoming more convinced our curriculum does not have as large of effect on what the students are learning as we think. Our school goal for the year is “Focus on Learning” and seeing if our curriculum is aligned with our Student Learning Outcomes. This project should fit in well.

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