I submitted my PhD thesis a few months back, and it's still not clear when I will have my final defense.

Since then, I have moved on to industry, and I'm very much worried that the state of my knowledge will not be at its peak when my defense finally comes. I feel that at the time of my thesis submission I knew "everything" about my thesis and could answer any question about it, but now, even if I will read it a few times, it will not be the same.

I do have papers published, so one can say I have some "proof" of the thesis merits, but I probably won't be able to defend them to the fullest, so to speak.

I'm wondering, is that something the committee realizes, or do they expect of me to be in "top shape" when coming to my defense, in that every little question I cannot answer will reflect badly on my part?


  • What kind of defense is this (in which country and discipline), and in front of what kind of committee? A defense of only your thesis in front of a committee that doesn't include your supervisor (like in Italy), the same but led by your supervisors (like in Germany) or a full viva with questions related to all areas of your discipline, most of them outside the area of your research (like in France and like a German "rigorosum" in law)?
    – henning
    Jan 16 '18 at 11:26
  • @henning By his question I assumed that the defense only covers the thesis subject.
    – The Doctor
    Jan 16 '18 at 11:36
  • 1
    @henning Similar to Germany - a committee of a small number of professors, incl. my supervisor. I already presented my thesis to a wide audience (a "public defense", maybe?)
    – yoki
    Jan 16 '18 at 12:25

In my culture the thesis defense is just a formality. Basically when the supervisor allows the thesis submission he is sure that you had produced more than enough to receive the title (publishing papers, attending to conferences, etc).

Thus, even if you are not at the best shape for the oral proof, probably it will be enough to be approved. However, slipping the answers of one or two questions could be the difference between the top qualification or the second best.

In my university we have three qualifications for approved theses: "Cum laude", "Magna cum laude" and "Summa cum laude". And it is attributed the status of "Approved by unanimity" or "Approved by the majority".

  • In fact I wasn't aware there are qualifications for PhDs. As far as I know, in my school there aren't (only for Bachelor and Master's, not exactly sure why that is).
    – yoki
    Jan 16 '18 at 13:30
  • 1
    On the other hand, if you’re in industry, the distinction between summa cum laude and Mahna cum laude is not that relevant.
    – aeismail
    Jan 16 '18 at 20:07
  • @aeismail I had the same thought.
    – The Doctor
    Jan 16 '18 at 22:41

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