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March 03, 2010


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oh dear... tough times, but who said it was going to be easy? (I know, awful question to ask right now). Who knows? She didn't want to be part of your committee, but maybe she's genuinely intrigued and wants to hear it "from the horse's mouth." She probably won't give you any grief, that's my gut feeling about this. Of course I could be wrong.

Now, if your defense is anything like mine, non-committee members only have a chance to ask any questions at the very end after things have been pretty much wrapped up and then there's not much time for that either. I hope that's what happens.

In any case, go prepare those slides, my friend!!! Then when they're ready you can fret about the theory.

I had to have the scariest (to me) professor in the department on my committee. And none of my friends would have any sympathy for me because the professor who scared everybody else was my advisor.

Another tactic of course is to schedule your defense for right before lunch, and provide lots of coffee and no food.

If your advisor and Professor No are friendly, ask your advisor for some inside scoop on No's POV. Hopefully you'll get something helpful so you can target your peripheral reading.

Good luck!

our school is like lillians, it is adviser, moderator then committee members that are allowed to question and then only at the end can outsiders ask questions- and i have never seen anyone ask a question at that point that would sink the ship.

i would confirm with your adviser that the school would not schedule a defense w/o the understanding that outcome is your diss being approved. at least that's how it is here- no reading committee is showing up at this stage of the game to say no- if there is a serious question of your methodology or results/analysis that should be discussed btwn reader and adviser before a defense is scheduled. i mean, really- only the readers of those 300 pages have any grounds to question the accuracy of your work and won't be swayed by some outsider who wasn't a part of the process. and again, if they have a real issue w/ anything that would prevent your diss being approved it would not come up in a defense, it would come up before that. hasn't your committee been reading/commenting on your chapters up to this point? it's not like they are going to throw you a curveball at this stage of your work.

the school, the faculty, the readers, etc aren't going in gunning for your failure, they want to know that you truly are familiar with your findings (which you are) and say congratulations dr gladly! welcome to the club!!

My defense would not have been scheduled if there were any real doubt about the outcome. My committee hasn't been reading the document as I've been writing it -- that's not the way it works in my corner of the sciences -- but they were on board with what I was researching and how I was planning to tackle the question.

I'm not really worried that she'll launch a campaign to fail me. I think she will probably ask some questions that put me on the spot.

This might not seem reassuring at first glance, but I think it is in reality, so bear with me. I had a really tough defense, with 3 members of the committee shouting at each other (but through me to preserve appearances), and the other two (including my advisor) pretending this was not happening. Really tough, unpleasant couple of hours. But - you what? I've had far worse hours, and (since I did pass) now - with the distance of two years - I couldn't care less. That was much much more about the professors' disagreements than anything I had written; I now see very clearly that they were just using my diss to air their issues with each other. So, if the worst comes to the worst, maybe you can just smile sweetly, grit your teeth and keep going?

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