Questions to Anticipate at the Defense

Origins and the scope of the research

  • What led you to choose this topic for your dissertation?
  • Did the scope of the topic change as you conducted your research?
  • What difficulties did you encounter in your research and did they influence how the topic was framed?
  • How did you come to define the final topic in the way you did?
  • Describe issues in the field you decided not to include in your research.


  • What is the research method used in your study?
  • Why did you choose this approach?
  • Now that you have completed the research, are there other methods or other data you would have liked to use to answer your research questions?


  • Is your evidence strong enough in terms of quantity and quality to sustain your conclusions?
  • Do the data appropriately measure or relate to the theoretical concepts on which you based your dissertation?
  • Be prepared to discuss your empirical work – is it verifiable?
  • Have you delimited your scope?
  • What are the assumptions you made before you started and how did they influence your outcomes?
  • Are these assumptions acceptable within your field? Can you give an example of who else has worked with or mentioned them?
  • What scales operationalize your variables? How do you know they are valid?
  • What are your findings in terms of effect size?
  • Take us through your test(s) of power.

What is the significance of your study?

  • How do your findings fit with or contradict the rest of the literature in this field?
  • How do you explain the differences of findings or interpretation between your work and that of other researchers?
  • What conclusions did you draw from your research?
  • How innovative or valuable are they to the field and/or practice?
  • What does your work tell us that we did not know before?
  • How does your work add to the knowledge base in your field?
  • What next? What are the main implications or lessons of your research for the future development of work in this specific sub-field?

Adapted from

Dunleavey, P. (2014). Top ten questions for the PhD oral exam. Retrieved from and-help-in-authoring-a-phd-or-non-fiction/c3687cc75962

James, E. A., & Slater, T. H. (2013). Writing your doctoral dissertation or thesis faster: A proven map to success. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.