Sunday, April 12, 2009

I like you, I really, really like you!

So much, in fact, that I am giving you all an open thread to talk about non-APA discrimination petition related things (though, I must say, strong work on those threads). For those of you already at home, enjoy the rest of this lazy and/or productive Sunday. For those of you making your ways back from our friendly neighbors to the north, remember, 'Home is where [you] want to be'.




zombie said...

I'm defending my diss next week. I have no clue what to expect. Tell me about your defense.

Mr. Zero said...

Hi Zombie,

I said some stuff in a couple of threads around here somewhere. I believe they had 'dissertation' in the titles.

I don't think there's any one way these things go--no standard operating procedure. The main thing to do is ask your advisor what to expect. Ask other people who've been advised by your advisor what to expect. Ask people who've had your committee members on their committees what to expect. Then you'll have some idea what to expect.

Anonymous said...

"I'm defending my diss next week. I have no clue what to expect. Tell me about your defense."

Well, there are a couple of important questions you'll need to answer:

1) Do you bring cookies, etc., or are they provided?

2) Is your diss in a form acceptable to that Nazi in every grad school who measures the margins and checks every page against the style guide?

3) Did you complete the 8000 pages of exit surveys the grad school requires, and did you pay them the ridiculous "publishing" fee to put your little pdf file on the library server?

4) Is your defense at an unappealing enough time, or during a class, so that your fellow grad students (all of whom secretly or openly hate you right now) won't crash the party and take a piss?

I know none of these questions address your concern. But really, assuming that your advisor gave his/her blessing to your defending (and you didn't retardly twist arms to insist on a day of reckoning), you could probably recite Monty Python for an hour and still get the "congratulations doctor" handshake.

Oh, I'm sure we've all heard from a friend of a friend a story of some dude who failed a philosophy defense. But he was foolish, and spent all his prep time cow-tipping.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Zero's post sounds like the kind of vacuous advice you would get from someone named "Mr. Zero"...nothing of much significance. Better advice: Outline your dissertation, identify weak points and anticipate the kinds of objections you might receive from committee members. --Mr. One.

Soon-to-be Jaded Dissertator said...

Anon. 4:35. I think we can play a little nicer. But, I must say, your handle: 'Mr. One' made me chuckle and I like your advice.

Anonymous said...

Hi Zombie,

The thing that helped me was sitting down with my supervisor and discussing the procedure itself, and then discussing the performative aspects of the defense--because it is a type of performance. How one *acts* during the defense is at stake. Since you've gotten to the point at which your dissertation has passed muster with your supervisor and committee and the defense date is set, it is highly unlikely that the outcome will be abject failure. A responsible supervisor and committee typically do not allow that sort of circumstance. Certainly, this doesn't rule out giving the candidate a very difficult time, nor rule out the possibility that serious revisions might be demanded. I guess what I'm trying to express is that I hope you feel confident in your work, and, perhaps, can approach the defense as a rite of passage, one in which you are given the opportunity to demonstrate your confidence and professionalism.

The best advice I received from my supervisor was to take charge and control of the questions asked--to remain very calm and listen very attentively to the questions each committee member asked--not interrupt and also not jump into an answer immediately. I was told to ask committee members to repeat an unclear question, and if the question is fairly clear, track it carefully and then repose the question itself showing how I understood it. The idea was to find the heart of each question, even possibly reveal to committee members that I recognized any important assumptions behind and driving a question. If such an assumption went beyond the scope of my dissertation, that was great--that was a chance to show where my project might lead in future research and how the current literature is leaning on a matter. My supervisor advised that in the case of drawing a blank, ask for a restatement of the question. I was told not to conceal my enthusiasm for my subject area, but not to go on too long in my answers (avoid any wandering). Just answer the question clearly. I was also told to allow committee members to disagree among themselves, and not to be surprised if that happened. When this actually happened during my defense, I did as advised, followed the dispute, and then explained the nature of the disagreement very tactfully. This went over quite well, in my case.

One last trick: When the Q & A begins place your hands on the table and just feel them being there. Trust me on this.

Very, very best of luck!!!!

Mr. Zero said...

I'm sorry that Mr. One didn't find my advice helpful. FWIW, I think his advice is pretty good. (I think it's so good, in fact, that I already gave it here .) Nice work, Mr. One.

Soon-to-be Jaded Dissertator said...

Mr. Zero: FTW!

Anonymous said...

I was so incredibly nervous the night before that I did something very out of character for me, and got really drunk. I woke up the next day feeling far too ill to be nervous. I managed to recover well enough to get over to the department for my afternoon defense, though I was still feeling a bit rough. Later, I heard from a third party that a member of my committee (someone about to retire) had said mine was the best defense he had ever seen.

So, getting too drunk to be nervous the night before, and then being too sick to be nervous the day of, worked for me.

missamerica said...

Are you proud of your dissertation? If so, I'd look at this as a great opportunity to have the work you care about tested by a committee of professional philosophers. Minimally, you'll get some critical feedback, and the discussion may even yield some new insights about your work.

I would not recommend pursuing 'the drinking strategy' suggested above. If you didn't recover in time for your defense, it would be disastrous. What would you do? Cancel? Show up wearing sun glasses? If that happens, there are no good options.

Oh, and one last trick: When the Q & A begins place your hands on the table, lean forward so as to lift your body into the air, do three full planche push-ups, sit back down, and say, "Bring it, motherfuckers." Trust me on this.

Anonymous said...

Missamerica: I don't actually endorse that strategy either, for obvious reasons. I mentioned it only to inject some levity. I do, however, endorse Anon 1:54's advice to put your hands on the table during the questioning. I did that, and I also do it during job interviews. I tend to lace my fingers together and then rest my hands in front of me, imagining them to be heavy. This helps with my nervous fidgeting and also seems to give me a greater sense of calm and composure.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Mr. Zero; the best source of advice about what to expect is going to come from people in your department. My dissertation defense was one of the most enjoyable philosophical experiences of my life. I had a blast. I had to give a short spiel describing my project. My committee asked hard questions about the spots they thought were weak, but the atmosphere was constructive, relaxed, and fun. Preparation was minimal (I wrote the thing, and knew where the problems were, after all.) Our defenses are open, and many grad students showed up to listen.

But I am not at all confident that my experience generalizes. Talk to people in your department to know what's the done thing. Good luck! And.. congratulations.

Anonymous said...

I too have a get drunk beforehand story. For me, it was the night before my prospectus defense. I got talking to some guy at the bar who kept buying me drinks (I was nervous, of course, and so kept drinking). Well, I have never been so drunk in my life. My defense was at 1pm, I spent 6am-10am in the bathroom doing you know what, finally grabbed a shower (which made no difference I still reeked of alcohol), and hobbled to my defense. When I got there, I told my advisor I had gotten some bug or other and that maybe my performance might not be up to snuff (I am sure he knew what had happened). Well, I passed the defense with flying colors, I was told (even though it lasted almost 2 hours). The moral: don't give up so quickly on the get drunk the night before option ;)

zombie said...

Been working nonstop since Friday on prepping for the defense. My computer glasses broke, I taped them, and then they broke some more, so now I'm doing without.
My diss is 269 pages long. I DO know it, having spent many, many, many hours reading it again yesterday. But I remain daunted by the quibbling little part of my brain that is convinced I am a fraud and I don't know what the hell I'm talking about. Flurking non-identity problem. What was I thinking???
Now I'm outlining everything so I can keep the big picture, and some of the details, in front of me. My defense is going to be in my advisor's office -- the conference room was booked. I will probably not have a table. :-(
I only JUST got the last of the notes from my committee this week.
I think I'm going to be OK. I think. Therefore I am, right?