Doctoral Dissertation Proposal Defense

5 Simple Tips That Will Help You with Your Dissertation Proposal Defense


Dissertations begin with a proposal, and from there expect many questions to make sure that your idea holds water. The first major step of writing a dissertation is the dissertation proposal defense, and preparing for this endeavor can seem overwhelming. However, here are five tips that are going to help you through this time.

Determine expectations

Your board of reviews is likely going to have some specific expectations on what you present and how you present yourself. Realize that there are likely to be particulars in what your board is looking for, so you should ask them what they expect of you. Make sure that you can fulfill these and be successful.

Prepare for their questions and determine answers

Realize that you are going to be asked questions, and a big part of this process is getting the answers right when asked. Some questions will be for clarification, and some of them will be trying to find holes in your proposal, so you will need to anticipate what you are going to be asked and make sure that you have adequate answers.

Know relevant literature

To be able to defend your paper, you are going to need to know the relevant literature that has been published in your field. What studies have been done that is similar to yours, and how might they affect your results? Are you too close to someone else's work? What can you do to apply what you have learned from those to your current proposal? This should all be considered carefully.

Look at those you are presenting too

You should have foresight and look into the motivations and opinions of those reviewing your work. So look up their research, and see if you can find anyone else who has been reviewed by them. This will let you know if there is anything that you should know, and also by this method, you will be able to be introduce your material.

Recognize that it is a statement of intent

All you are doing right now is expressing a statement of intent. This means that you are not expected to present research results in the proposal, just the statement of what you want to do. You want to outline what exactly your research is going to accomplish, how you are going to go about it, and a timetable as to how you are going to complete this research. The committee will likely add or remove proposed objectives.


The purpose of the dissertation proposal defense is to assure that your plan of researching your proposed research question is complete and holds academic merit. Students work closely with their supervisory committees in determining the composition of the dissertation proposal and in writing the proposal.


At least six weeks prior to the dissertation proposal defense, the candidate contacts Student Services to confirm the members of their supervisory committee. This would include the addition of a non-University of Washington external faculty member if previously agreed upon.

The candidate schedules a date, a time, and a room for the dissertation proposal defense. The candidate also submits details regarding the dissertation proposal defense to the iSchool web calendar, the PhD program chair, and Student Services.

At least two weeks before the scheduled proposal defense date, the final written proposal must be submitted to all members of the supervisory committee. The voting members of the committee, in consultation with the student, determine the length and outline the structure of the defense.

The proposal defense is a public event. However, the deliberations of the supervisory committee are private. The supervisory committee records an official decision using the dissertation proposal defense form.

Once the proposal has been defended and accepted, the candidate is cleared to finish writing the dissertation. The candidate submits one paper copy and one PDF version of the dissertation proposal to Student Services.

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