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PhD Defence Process: A Comprehensive Guide

PhD Defence

Embarking on the journey toward a PhD is an intellectual odyssey marked by tireless research, countless hours of contemplation, and a fervent commitment to contributing to the body of knowledge in one’s field. As the culmination of this formidable journey, the PhD defence stands as the final frontier, the proverbial bridge between student and scholar.

In this comprehensive guide, we unravel the intricacies of the PhD defence—a momentous occasion that is both a celebration of scholarly achievement and a rigorous evaluation of academic prowess. Join us as we explore the nuances of the defence process, addressing questions about its duration, contemplating the possibility of failure, and delving into the subtle distinctions of language that surround it.

Beyond the formalities, we aim to shed light on the significance of this rite of passage, dispelling misconceptions about its nature. Moreover, we’ll consider the impact of one’s attire on this critical day and share personal experiences and practical tips from those who have successfully navigated the defence journey.

Whether you are on the precipice of your own defence or are simply curious about the process, this guide seeks to demystify the PhD defence, providing a roadmap for success and a nuanced understanding of the pivotal event that marks the transition from student to scholar.


A. definition and purpose:, b. overview of the oral examination:, a. general duration of a typical defense, b. factors influencing the duration:, c. preparation and flexibility:, a. preparation and thorough understanding of the research:, b. handling questions effectively:, c. confidence and composure during the presentation:, d. posture of continuous improvement:, a. exploring the possibility of failure:, b. common reasons for failure:, c. steps to mitigate the risk of failure:, d. post-failure resilience:, a. addressing the language variation:, b. conforming to regional preferences:, c. consistency in usage:, d. flexibility and adaptability:, e. navigating language in a globalized academic landscape:, a. debunking myths around the formality of the defense:, b. significance in validating research contributions:, c. post-defense impact:, a. appropriate attire for different settings:, b. professionalism and the impact of appearance:, c. practical tips for dressing success:, b. practical tips for a successful defense:, c. post-defense reflections:.

Embarking on the doctoral journey is a formidable undertaking, where aspiring scholars immerse themselves in the pursuit of knowledge, contributing new insights to their respective fields. At the pinnacle of this academic odyssey lies the PhD defence—a culmination that transcends the boundaries of a mere formality, symbolizing the transformation from a student of a discipline to a recognized contributor to the academic tapestry.

The PhD defence, also known as the viva voce or oral examination, is a pivotal moment in the life of a doctoral candidate.

PhD defence is not merely a ritualistic ceremony; rather, it serves as a platform for scholars to present, defend, and elucidate the findings and implications of their research. The defence is the crucible where ideas are tested, hypotheses scrutinized, and the depth of scholarly understanding is laid bare.

The importance of the PhD defence reverberates throughout the academic landscape. It is not just a capstone event; it is the juncture where academic rigour meets real-world application. The defence is the litmus test of a researcher’s ability to articulate, defend, and contextualize their work—an evaluation that extends beyond the pages of a dissertation.

Beyond its evaluative nature, the defence serves as a rite of passage, validating the years of dedication, perseverance, and intellectual rigour invested in the research endeavour. Success in the defence is a testament to the candidate’s mastery of their subject matter and the originality and impact of their contributions to the academic community.

Furthermore, a successful defence paves the way for future contributions, positioning the scholar as a recognized authority in their field. The defence is not just an endpoint; it is a launchpad, propelling researchers into the next phase of their academic journey as they continue to shape and redefine the boundaries of knowledge.

In essence, the PhD defence is more than a ceremonial checkpoint—it is a transformative experience that validates the intellectual journey, underscores the significance of scholarly contributions, and sets the stage for a continued legacy of academic excellence. As we navigate the intricacies of this process, we invite you to explore the multifaceted dimensions that make the PhD defence an indispensable chapter in the narrative of academic achievement.

What is a PhD Defence?

At its core, a PhD defence is a rigorous and comprehensive examination that marks the culmination of a doctoral candidate’s research journey. It is an essential component of the doctoral process in which the candidate is required to defend their dissertation before a committee of experts in the field. The defence serves multiple purposes, acting as both a showcase of the candidate’s work and an evaluative measure of their understanding, critical thinking, and contributions to the academic domain.

The primary goals of a PhD defence include:

  • Presentation of Research: The candidate presents the key findings, methodology, and significance of their research.
  • Demonstration of Mastery: The defence assesses the candidate’s depth of understanding, mastery of the subject matter, and ability to engage in scholarly discourse.
  • Critical Examination: Committee members rigorously question the candidate, challenging assumptions, testing methodologies, and probing the boundaries of the research.
  • Validation of Originality: The defence validates the originality and contribution of the candidate’s work to the existing body of knowledge.

The PhD defence often takes the form of an oral examination, commonly referred to as the viva voce. This oral component adds a dynamic and interactive dimension to the evaluation process. Key elements of the oral examination include:

  • Presentation: The candidate typically begins with a formal presentation, summarizing the dissertation’s main components, methodology, and findings. This presentation is an opportunity to showcase the significance and novelty of the research.
  • Questioning and Discussion: Following the presentation, the candidate engages in a thorough questioning session with the examination committee. Committee members explore various aspects of the research, challenging the candidates to articulate their rationale, defend their conclusions, and respond to critiques.
  • Defence of Methodology: The candidate is often required to defend the chosen research methodology, demonstrating its appropriateness, rigour, and contribution to the field.
  • Evaluation of Contributions: Committee members assess the originality and impact of the candidate’s contributions to the academic discipline, seeking to understand how the research advances existing knowledge.

The oral examination is not a mere formality; it is a dynamic exchange that tests the candidate’s intellectual acumen, research skills, and capacity to contribute meaningfully to the scholarly community.

In essence, the PhD defence is a comprehensive and interactive evaluation that encapsulates the essence of a candidate’s research journey, demanding a synthesis of knowledge, clarity of expression, and the ability to navigate the complexities of academic inquiry. As we delve into the specifics of the defence process, we will unravel the layers of preparation and skill required to navigate this transformative academic milestone.

How Long is a PhD Defence?

The duration of a PhD defence can vary widely, but it typically ranges from two to three hours. This time frame encompasses the candidate’s presentation of their research, questioning and discussions with the examination committee, and any additional deliberations or decisions by the committee. However, it’s essential to note that this is a general guideline, and actual defence durations may vary based on numerous factors.

  • Sciences and Engineering: Defenses in these fields might lean towards the shorter end of the spectrum, often around two hours. The focus is often on the methodology, results, and technical aspects.
  • Humanities and Social Sciences: Given the theoretical and interpretive nature of research in these fields, defences might extend closer to three hours or more. Discussions may delve into philosophical underpinnings and nuanced interpretations.
  • Simple vs. Complex Studies: The complexity of the research itself plays a role. Elaborate experiments, extensive datasets, or intricate theoretical frameworks may necessitate a more extended defence.
  • Number of Committee Members: A larger committee or one with diverse expertise may lead to more extensive discussions and varied perspectives, potentially elongating the defence.
  • Committee Engagement: The level of engagement and probing by committee members can influence the overall duration. In-depth discussions or debates may extend the defence time.
  • Cultural Norms: In some countries, the oral defence might be more ceremonial, with less emphasis on intense questioning. In others, a rigorous and extended defence might be the norm.
  • Evaluation Practices: Different academic systems have varying evaluation criteria, which can impact the duration of the defence.
  • Institutional Guidelines: Some institutions may have specific guidelines on defence durations, influencing the overall time allotted for the process.

Candidates should be well-prepared for a defence of any duration. Adequate preparation not only involves a concise presentation of the research but also anticipates potential questions and engages in thoughtful discussions. Additionally, candidates should be flexible and responsive to the dynamics of the defense, adapting to the pace set by the committee.

Success Factors in a PhD Defence

  • Successful defence begins with a deep and comprehensive understanding of the research. Candidates should be well-versed in every aspect of their study, from the theoretical framework to the methodology and findings.
  • Thorough preparation involves anticipating potential questions from the examination committee. Candidates should consider the strengths and limitations of their research and be ready to address queries related to methodology, data analysis, and theoretical underpinnings.
  • Conducting mock defences with peers or mentors can be invaluable. It helps refine the presentation, exposes potential areas of weakness, and provides an opportunity to practice responding to challenging questions.
  • Actively listen to questions without interruption. Understanding the nuances of each question is crucial for providing precise and relevant responses.
  • Responses should be clear, concise, and directly address the question. Avoid unnecessary jargon, and strive to convey complex concepts in a manner that is accessible to the entire committee.
  • It’s acceptable not to have all the answers. If faced with a question that stumps you, acknowledge it honestly. Expressing a willingness to explore the topic further demonstrates intellectual humility.
  • Use questions as opportunities to reinforce key messages from the research. Skillfully link responses back to the core contributions of the study, emphasizing its significance.
  • Rehearse the presentation multiple times to build familiarity with the material. This enhances confidence, reduces nervousness, and ensures a smooth and engaging delivery.
  • Maintain confident and open body language. Stand tall, make eye contact, and use gestures judiciously. A composed demeanour contributes to a positive impression.
  • Acknowledge and manage nervousness. It’s natural to feel some anxiety, but channelling that energy into enthusiasm for presenting your research can turn nervousness into a positive force.
  • Engage with the committee through a dynamic and interactive presentation. Invite questions during the presentation to create a more conversational atmosphere.
  • Utilize visual aids effectively. Slides or other visual elements should complement the spoken presentation, reinforcing key points without overwhelming the audience.
  • View the defence not only as an evaluation but also as an opportunity for continuous improvement. Feedback received during the defence can inform future research endeavours and scholarly pursuits.

In essence, success in a PhD defence hinges on meticulous preparation, adept handling of questions, and projecting confidence and composure during the presentation. A well-prepared and resilient candidate is better positioned to navigate the challenges of the defence, transforming it from a moment of evaluation into an affirmation of scholarly achievement.

Failure in PhD Defence

  • While the prospect of failing a PhD defence is relatively rare, it’s essential for candidates to acknowledge that the possibility exists. Understanding this reality can motivate diligent preparation and a proactive approach to mitigate potential risks.
  • Failure, if it occurs, should be seen as a learning opportunity rather than a definitive endpoint. It may highlight areas for improvement and offer insights into refining the research and presentation.
  • Lack of thorough preparation, including a weak grasp of the research content, inadequate rehearsal, and failure to anticipate potential questions, can contribute to failure.
  • Inability to effectively defend the chosen research methodology, including justifying its appropriateness and demonstrating its rigour, can be a critical factor.
  • Failing to clearly articulate the original contributions of the research and its significance to the field may lead to a negative assessment.
  • Responding defensively to questions, exhibiting a lack of openness to critique, or being unwilling to acknowledge limitations can impact the overall impression.
  • Inability to address committee concerns or incorporate constructive feedback received during the defense may contribute to a negative outcome.
  • Comprehensive preparation is the cornerstone of success. Candidates should dedicate ample time to understanding every facet of their research, conducting mock defences, and seeking feedback.
  • Identify potential weaknesses in the research and address them proactively. Being aware of limitations and articulating plans for addressing them in future work demonstrates foresight.
  • Engage with mentors, peers, or advisors before the defence. Solicit constructive feedback on both the content and delivery of the presentation to refine and strengthen the defence.
  • Develop strategies to manage stress and nervousness. Techniques such as mindfulness, deep breathing, or visualization can be effective in maintaining composure during the defence.
  • Conduct a pre-defense review of all materials, ensuring that the presentation aligns with the dissertation and that visual aids are clear and supportive.
  • Approach the defence with an open and reflective attitude. Embrace critique as an opportunity for improvement rather than as a personal affront.
  • Clarify expectations with the examination committee beforehand. Understanding the committee’s focus areas and preferences can guide preparation efforts.
  • In the event of failure, candidates should approach the situation with resilience. Seek feedback from the committee, understand the reasons for the outcome, and use the experience as a springboard for improvement.

In summary, while the prospect of failing a PhD defence is uncommon, acknowledging its possibility and taking proactive steps to mitigate risks are crucial elements of a well-rounded defence strategy. By addressing common failure factors through thorough preparation, openness to critique, and a resilient attitude, candidates can increase their chances of a successful defence outcome.

PhD Defense or Defence?

  • The choice between “defense” and “defence” is primarily a matter of British English versus American English spelling conventions. “Defense” is the preferred spelling in American English, while “defence” is the British English spelling.
  • In the global academic community, both spellings are generally understood and accepted. However, the choice of spelling may be influenced by the academic institution’s language conventions or the preferences of individual scholars.
  • Academic institutions may have specific guidelines regarding language conventions, and candidates are often expected to adhere to the institution’s preferred spelling.
  • Candidates may also consider the preferences of their advisors or committee members. If there is a consistent spelling convention used within the academic department, it is advisable to align with those preferences.
  • Consideration should be given to the spelling conventions of scholarly journals in the candidate’s field. If intending to publish research stemming from the dissertation, aligning with the conventions of target journals is prudent.
  • If the defense presentation or dissertation will be shared with an international audience, using a more universally recognized spelling (such as “defense”) may be preferred to ensure clarity and accessibility.
  • Regardless of the chosen spelling, it’s crucial to maintain consistency throughout the document. Mixing spellings can distract from the content and may be perceived as an oversight.
  • In oral presentations and written correspondence related to the defence, including emails, it’s advisable to maintain consistency with the chosen spelling to present a professional and polished image.
  • Recognizing that language conventions can vary, candidates should approach the choice of spelling with flexibility. Being adaptable to the preferences of the academic context and demonstrating an awareness of regional variations reflects a nuanced understanding of language usage.
  • With the increasing globalization of academia, an awareness of language variations becomes essential. Scholars often collaborate across borders, and an inclusive approach to language conventions contributes to effective communication and collaboration.

In summary, the choice between “PhD defense” and “PhD defence” boils down to regional language conventions and institutional preferences. Maintaining consistency, being mindful of the target audience, and adapting to the expectations of the academic community contribute to a polished and professional presentation, whether in written documents or oral defences.

Is PhD Defense a Formality?

  • While the PhD defence is a structured and ritualistic event, it is far from being a mere formality. It is a critical and substantive part of the doctoral journey, designed to rigorously evaluate the candidate’s research contributions, understanding of the field, and ability to engage in scholarly discourse.
  • The defence is not a checkbox to be marked but rather a dynamic process where the candidate’s research is evaluated for its scholarly merit. The committee scrutinizes the originality, significance, and methodology of the research, aiming to ensure it meets the standards of advanced academic work.
  • Far from a passive or purely ceremonial event, the defence involves active engagement between the candidate and the examination committee. Questions, discussions, and debates are integral components that enrich the scholarly exchange during the defence.
  • The defence serves as a platform for the candidate to demonstrate the originality of their research. Committee members assess the novelty of the contributions, ensuring that the work adds value to the existing body of knowledge.
  • Beyond the content, the defence evaluates the methodological rigour of the research. Committee members assess whether the chosen methodology is appropriate, well-executed, and contributes to the validity of the findings.
  • Successful completion of the defence affirms the candidate’s ability to contribute meaningfully to the academic discourse in their field. It is an endorsement of the candidate’s position as a knowledgeable and respected scholar.
  • The defence process acts as a quality assurance mechanism in academia. It ensures that individuals awarded a doctoral degree have undergone a thorough and rigorous evaluation, upholding the standards of excellence in research and scholarly inquiry.
  • Institutions have specific criteria and standards for awarding a PhD. The defence process aligns with these institutional and academic standards, providing a consistent and transparent mechanism for evaluating candidates.
  • Successful completion of the defence is a pivotal moment that marks the transition from a doctoral candidate to a recognized scholar. It opens doors to further contributions, collaborations, and opportunities within the academic community.
  • Research presented during the defence often forms the basis for future publications. The validation received in the defence enhances the credibility of the research, facilitating its dissemination and impact within the academic community.
  • Beyond the academic realm, a successfully defended PhD is a key credential for professional advancement. It enhances one’s standing in the broader professional landscape, opening doors to research positions, teaching opportunities, and leadership roles.

In essence, the PhD defence is a rigorous and meaningful process that goes beyond formalities, playing a crucial role in affirming the academic merit of a candidate’s research and marking the culmination of their journey toward scholarly recognition.

Dressing for Success: PhD Defense Outfit

  • For Men: A well-fitted suit in neutral colours (black, navy, grey), a collared dress shirt, a tie, and formal dress shoes.
  • For Women: A tailored suit, a blouse or button-down shirt, and closed-toe dress shoes.
  • Dress codes can vary based on cultural expectations. It’s advisable to be aware of any cultural nuances within the academic institution and to adapt attire accordingly.
  • With the rise of virtual defenses, considerations for attire remain relevant. Even in online settings, dressing professionally contributes to a polished and serious demeanor. Virtual attire can mirror what one would wear in-person, focusing on the upper body visible on camera.
  • The attire chosen for a PhD defense contributes to the first impression that a candidate makes on the examination committee. A professional and polished appearance sets a positive tone for the defense.
  • Dressing appropriately reflects respect for the gravity of the occasion. It acknowledges the significance of the defense as a formal evaluation of one’s scholarly contributions.
  • Wearing professional attire can contribute to a boost in confidence. When individuals feel well-dressed and put-together, it can positively impact their mindset and overall presentation.
  • The PhD defense is a serious academic event, and dressing professionally fosters an atmosphere of seriousness and commitment to the scholarly process. It aligns with the respect one accords to academic traditions.
  • Institutional norms may influence dress expectations. Some academic institutions may have specific guidelines regarding attire for formal events, and candidates should be aware of and adhere to these norms.
  • While adhering to the formality expected in academic settings, individuals can also express their personal style within the bounds of professionalism. It’s about finding a balance between institutional expectations and personal comfort.
  • Select and prepare the outfit well in advance to avoid last-minute stress. Ensure that the attire is clean, well-ironed, and in good condition.
  • Accessories such as ties, scarves, or jewelry should complement the outfit. However, it’s advisable to keep accessories subtle to maintain a professional appearance.
  • While dressing professionally, prioritize comfort. PhD defenses can be mentally demanding, and comfortable attire can contribute to a more confident and composed demeanor.
  • Pay attention to grooming, including personal hygiene and haircare. A well-groomed appearance contributes to an overall polished look.
  • Start preparation well in advance of the defense date. Know your research inside out, anticipate potential questions, and be ready to discuss the nuances of your methodology, findings, and contributions.
  • Conduct mock defenses with peers, mentors, or colleagues. Mock defenses provide an opportunity to receive constructive feedback, practice responses to potential questions, and refine your presentation.
  • Strike a balance between confidence and humility. Confidence in presenting your research is essential, but being open to acknowledging limitations and areas for improvement demonstrates intellectual honesty.
  • Actively engage with the examination committee during the defense. Listen carefully to questions, respond thoughtfully, and view the defense as a scholarly exchange rather than a mere formality.
  • Understand the expertise and backgrounds of the committee members. Tailor your presentation and responses to align with the interests and expectations of your specific audience.
  • Practice time management during your presentation. Ensure that you allocate sufficient time to cover key aspects of your research, leaving ample time for questions and discussions.
  • It’s normal to feel nervous, but practicing mindfulness and staying calm under pressure is crucial. Take deep breaths, maintain eye contact, and focus on delivering a clear and composed presentation.
  • Have a plan for post-defense activities. Whether it’s revisions to the dissertation, publications, or future research endeavors, having a roadmap for what comes next demonstrates foresight and commitment to ongoing scholarly contributions.
  • After successfully defending, individuals often emphasize the importance of taking time to reflect on the entire doctoral journey. Acknowledge personal and academic growth, celebrate achievements, and use the experience to inform future scholarly pursuits.

In summary, learning from the experiences of others who have successfully defended offers a wealth of practical wisdom. These insights, combined with thoughtful preparation and a proactive approach, contribute to a successful and fulfilling defense experience.

Unlock Exclusive Access to the PhD Navigator Tool – for a Streamlined Research Experience for FREE!

Dear fellow researchers,

If you are a PhD research scholar or planning to pursue PhD, I understand the value of time in your PhD journey. That’s why I have organized my blog posts related to PhD meticulously, categorizing more than 100 articles into various stages of PhD (from planning of PhD to careers after PhD).

You can get this tool ABSOLUTELY FREE , by sending an email to [email protected] with the subject line “Subscribe: PhD Navigator Tool-1.0” By subscribing not only will you gain free access to this invaluable tool, but you’ll also receive regular updates on this tool and our blog’s latest insights, tips, and resources tailored for researchers.

You can also visit my all articles related to PhD in my PhD Section . Of course, theses articles are in random order as I have written them whenever I got new ideas.

Happy researching!

Best regards,

Dr Vijay Rajpurohit

The journey from a curious researcher to a recognized scholar culminates in the PhD defence—an intellectual odyssey marked by dedication, resilience, and a relentless pursuit of knowledge. As we navigate the intricacies of this pivotal event, it becomes evident that the PhD defence is far more than a ceremonial rite; it is a substantive evaluation that validates the contributions of a researcher to the academic landscape.

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10 easy ways to fail a Ph.D.

The attrition rate in Ph.D. school is high.

Anywhere from a third to half will fail.

In fact, there's a disturbing consistency to grad school failure.

I'm supervising a lot of new grad students this semester, so for their sake, I'm cataloging the common reasons for failure.

Read on for the top ten reasons students fail out of Ph.D. school.

Focus on grades or coursework

No one cares about grades in grad school.

There's a simple formula for the optimal GPA in grad school:

Anything higher implies time that could have been spent on research was wasted on classes. Advisors might even raise an eyebrow at a 4.0

During the first two years, students need to find an advisor, pick a research area, read a lot of papers and try small, exploratory research projects. Spending too much time on coursework distracts from these objectives.

Learn too much

Some students go to Ph.D. school because they want to learn.

Let there be no mistake: Ph.D. school involves a lot of learning.

But, it requires focused learning directed toward an eventual thesis.

Taking (or sitting in on) non-required classes outside one's focus is almost always a waste of time, and it's always unnecessary.

By the end of the third year, a typical Ph.D. student needs to have read about 50 to 150 papers to defend the novelty of a proposed thesis.

Of course, some students go too far with the related work search, reading so much about their intended area of research that they never start that research.

Advisors will lose patience with "eternal" students that aren't focused on the goal--making a small but significant contribution to human knowledge.

In the interest of personal disclosure, I suffered from the "want to learn everything" bug when I got to Ph.D. school.

I took classes all over campus for my first two years: Arabic, linguistics, economics, physics, math and even philosophy. In computer science, I took lots of classes in areas that had nothing to do with my research.

The price of all this "enlightenment" was an extra year on my Ph.D.

I only got away with this detour because while I was doing all that, I was a TA, which meant I wasn't wasting my advisor's grant funding.

Expect perfection

Perfectionism is a tragic affliction in academia, since it tends to hit the brightest the hardest.

Perfection cannot be attained. It is approached in the limit.

Students that polish a research paper well past the point of diminishing returns, expecting to hit perfection, will never stop polishing.

Students that can't begin to write until they have the perfect structure of the paper mapped out will never get started.

For students with problems starting on a paper or dissertation, my advice is that writing a paper should be an iterative process: start with an outline and some rough notes; take a pass over the paper and improve it a little; rinse; repeat. When the paper changes little with each pass, it's at diminishing returns. One or two more passes over the paper are all it needs at that point.

"Good enough" is better than "perfect."


Chronic perfectionists also tend to be procrastinators.

So do eternal students with a drive to learn instead of research.

Ph.D. school seems to be a magnet for every kind of procrastinator.

Unfortunately, it is also a sieve that weeds out the unproductive.

Procrastinators should check out my tips for boosting productivity .

Go rogue too soon/too late

The advisor-advisee dynamic needs to shift over the course of a degree.

Early on, the advisor should be hands on, doling out specific topics and helping to craft early papers.

Toward the end, the student should know more than the advisor about her topic. Once the inversion happens, she needs to "go rogue" and start choosing the topics to investigate and initiating the paper write-ups. She needs to do so even if her advisor is insisting she do something else.

The trick is getting the timing right.

Going rogue before the student knows how to choose good topics and write well will end in wasted paper submissions and a grumpy advisor.

On the other hand, continuing to act only when ordered to act past a certain point will strain an advisor that expects to start seeing a "return" on an investment of time and hard-won grant money.

Advisors expect near-terminal Ph.D. students to be proto-professors with intimate knowledge of the challenges in their field. They should be capable of selecting and attacking research problems of appropriate size and scope.

Treat Ph.D. school like school or work

Ph.D. school is neither school nor work.

Ph.D. school is a monastic experience. And, a jealous hobby.

Solving problems and writing up papers well enough to pass peer review demands contemplative labor on days, nights and weekends.

Reading through all of the related work takes biblical levels of devotion.

Ph.D. school even comes with built-in vows of poverty and obedience.

The end brings an ecclesiastical robe and a clerical hood.

Students that treat Ph.D. school like a 9-5 endeavor are the ones that take 7+ years to finish, or end up ABD.

Ignore the committee

Some Ph.D. students forget that a committee has to sign off on their Ph.D.

It's important for students to maintain contact with committee members in the latter years of a Ph.D. They need to know what a student is doing.

It's also easy to forget advice from a committee member since they're not an everyday presence like an advisor.

Committee members, however, rarely forget the advice they give.

It doesn't usually happen, but I've seen a shouting match between a committee member and a defender where they disagreed over the metrics used for evaluation of an experiment. This committee member warned the student at his proposal about his choice of metrics.

He ignored that warning.

He was lucky: it added only one more semester to his Ph.D.

Another student I knew in grad school was told not to defend, based on the draft of his dissertation. He overruled his committee's advice, and failed his defense. He was told to scrap his entire dissertaton and start over. It took him over ten years to finish his Ph.D.

Aim too low

Some students look at the weakest student to get a Ph.D. in their department and aim for that.

This attitude guarantees that no professorship will be waiting for them.

And, it all but promises failure.

The weakest Ph.D. to escape was probably repeatedly unlucky with research topics, and had to settle for a contingency plan.

Aiming low leaves no room for uncertainty.

And, research is always uncertain.

Aim too high

A Ph.D. seems like a major undertaking from the perspective of the student.

But, it is not the final undertaking. It's the start of a scientific career.

A Ph.D. does not have to cure cancer or enable cold fusion.

At best a handful of chemists remember what Einstein's Ph.D. was in.

Einstein's Ph.D. dissertation was a principled calculation meant to estimate Avogadro's number. He got it wrong. By a factor of 3.

He still got a Ph.D.

A Ph.D. is a small but significant contribution to human knowledge.

Impact is something students should aim for over a lifetime of research.

Making a big impact with a Ph.D. is about as likely as hitting a bullseye the very first time you've fired a gun.

Once you know how to shoot, you can keep shooting until you hit it.

Plus, with a Ph.D., you get a lifetime supply of ammo.

Some advisors can give you a list of potential research topics. If they can, pick the topic that's easiest to do but which still retains your interest.

It does not matter at all what you get your Ph.D. in.

All that matters is that you get one.

It's the training that counts--not the topic.

Miss the real milestones

Most schools require coursework, qualifiers, thesis proposal, thesis defense and dissertation. These are the requirements on paper.

In practice, the real milestones are three good publications connected by a (perhaps loosely) unified theme.

Coursework and qualifiers are meant to undo admissions mistakes. A student that has published by the time she takes her qualifiers is not a mistake.

Once a student has two good publications, if she convinces her committee that she can extrapolate a third, she has a thesis proposal.

Once a student has three publications, she has defended, with reasonable confidence, that she can repeatedly conduct research of sufficient quality to meet the standards of peer review. If she draws a unifying theme, she has a thesis, and if she staples her publications together, she has a dissertation.

I fantasize about buying an industrial-grade stapler capable of punching through three journal papers and calling it The Dissertator .

Of course, three publications is nowhere near enough to get a professorship--even at a crappy school. But, it's about enough to get a Ph.D.

Related posts

  • Recommended reading for grad students .
  • The illustrated guide to a Ph.D.
  • How to get into grad school .
  • Advice for thesis proposals .
  • Productivity tips for academics .
  • Academic job hunt advice .
  • Successful Ph.D. students: Perseverance, tenacity and cogency .
  • The CRAPL: An open source license for academics .

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Preparing for a PhD Defense

Table of contents, preparing to start, nominate a faculty member to serve as chair for your defense, selecting a defense date, international students and work visas, registration categories for defense, dissertation writing and guidelines, preparing your dissertation for defense, registering your dissertation for the final oral exam, know the rituals.

  • Use PowerPoint

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Dress Professionally

Items to Bring to the Defense

The Closed Examination

Address Questions with Confidence

Student Status

Final corrected copies of the dissertation, publishing your final dissertation, binding your final dissertation, before defense.

Before you can start your thesis you must:

  • Complete all courses, exams, and research requirements
  • Meet with your advisory committee to ensure that everyone agrees that the work is ready to defend
  • Decide on a date for the defense
  • Inform your graduate administrator that you have started the process to prepare for your defense

A chair is appointed for each PhD oral defense to monitor and promote fairness and rigor in the conduct of the defense. To help eliminate pre-established judgments on the candidate’s work, the chair should be from a different program/department than the student. For more information about chair responsibilities, read the instructions for the chair .

You must identify a faculty member to serve as chair for your defense. The chair must be:

  • A current full-time faculty member at assistant professor rank or higher
  • Outside the department offering the degree program, or outside your advisor's department (interdisciplinary degree programs only)
  • Someone who has not had prior involvement in your research

The selection of the chair is subject to the approval of the department/program, th Arts, Sciences and Engineering dean of graduate education and postdoctoral affairs, and the University dean of graduate studies.

The chair must be physically present during the entire defense, including the public oral presentation (if applicable) and the questioning session. The chair is welcome to read and comment on the dissertation and/or the defense presentation, but this is not required. The chair does not need to be an expert in your research area.

It is your responsibility to get a copy of the final dissertation to the chair at least one week prior to the defense.

You should begin scheduling the actual defense date three months in advance to ensure that your advisor, committee members, and chair are able to be present and that rooms are available on the date and time selected.  

Defenses can be held on any day the University’s Graduate Studies Office is open (not weekends, evenings, holidays, or the days between Christmas and New Year’s). Check the  academic calendar  for important dates and deadlines.

Use the  PhD calendar  to determine the deadline dates for getting your paperwork to the Office of Graduate Education and Postdoctoral Affairs and department committee.

When all committee members and your chair agree to a specific date and time for the defense, inform your graduate administrator as soon as you possibly can, but no later than six weeks prior to your defense date . Your graduate administrator will advise you of any program-specific requirements for the defense as well as work with you to prepare for your thesis defense. They will also help you determine who will schedule the room for your thesis defense.

You should provide your committee members at least two weeks to read and comment on your dissertation before the date you need to register your dissertation.

Participating Via Video Conferencing

While you, your advisor, and the chair must all be physically present in the room for the defense, other committee members are allowed to participate in the defense remotely via Skype or other video conferencing technology so long as all committee members agree to the arrangement. This must also be approved by the AS&E dean of graduate education and postdoctoral affairs and the University dean of graduate studies before the dissertation is registered for defense.

Someone other than you and your committee must handle the IT setup and be on standby for any problems. If anyone involved finds that remote participation is interfering with the defense, he or she can request that the defense be rescheduled.

We strongly recommend that international students meet with an  International Services Office (ISO)  representative as soon as permission to start writing is granted. The ISO will provide information on visa options, documentation, and timelines for applying for a visa for employment in the United States.

You will register for one of the following categories while preparing your defense:

  • 999: Dissertation —Indicates the PhD student has completed all of the requirements for the degree except the dissertation and is in residence as a full-time student
  • 995 : Continuation of Enrollment —Indicates the PhD student has completed all of the requirements for the degree except the dissertation and is not in residence as a full-time student

See the registration page for more information about these categories.

The Preparing Your Doctoral Dissertation manual is a great resource to help you bring your dissertation up to the required standard of organization, appearance, and format for the University of Rochester. Before preparing the defense copy of your dissertation, check the contents of the manual carefully to help avoid mistakes that can be time-consuming and costly to correct.

Before beginning your dissertation, you should consult with your advisor for your department or program’s preferred style guide (APA, MLA, Chicago).

Including material produced by other authors in your dissertation can serve a legitimate research purpose, but you want to avoid copyright infringement in the process. For detailed instructions on avoiding copyright infringement, please see ProQuest’s  Copyright Guide .

The University requires that you provide copies of the dissertation to your committee members and exam chair. You should check with your committee members to see if they prefer printed or electronic copies (or both). Printed copies do not need to be printed on heavyweight, expensive paper unless there is the need to do so for figures and images. 

Printing and binding a dissertation can be expensive. You can use the Copy Center or FedEx Office to print and bind your dissertation.

In order to register your dissertation, you or your graduate administrator will need to create a record on the Graduate Studies PhD Completion website . This record will include:

  • Degree information
  • Past degrees
  • Contact information
  • The defense version of your dissertation as a PDF
  • Other relevant documents

The version of your dissertation attached to your online record is considered the registration copy.

When your PhD completion record is finalized, committee members will receive emails with links to access your record and approve your dissertation to progress to defense. You’ll need to provide copies of the dissertation identical to the registration copy to all members of your committee, including the chair, at least two weeks before the record is finalized. Everyone but the chair is required to comment or sign off on the dissertation before it is submitted.

There may be deadlines for registering your dissertation specific to your program. Consult with your graduate administrator to ascertain those deadlines and follow them carefully.

After all committee members have provided their approval, your thesis will be reviewed by your faculty director/department chair, the AS&E dean of graduate education and postdoctoral affairs, and the office of the University dean of graduate studies. When all of these officials have approved your committee and dissertation for defense, your dissertation is considered registered. You will be able to track these approvals in your online record and will receive a confirmation email when approvals are complete.

The GEPA Office and the AS&E dean of graduate education and postdoctoral affairs, as well as the University Graduate Studies Office, may make corrections to the PDF of your dissertation. This annotated copy of your dissertation, along with the original version, will be stored in the PhD completion website. You are not allow to distribute updated versions of your dissertation prior to the defense, but be sure to incorporate any corrections before uploading your final dissertation to ProQuest®. 

After the defense, if the committee has required major revisions to be approved by one or more of its members, it is your responsibility to provide them with the corrected final version for their approval.  They will be asked to submit written confirmation of that approval to the University Graduate Studies Office. Failure to do so could delay conferral of your degree.

After the defense, you will receive additional instructions by email for completion of all PhD degree requirements.

It is important to walk into the defense knowing that your committee wants you to pass. Even if criticism is harsh, it is meant to be constructive. The defense is not solely an opportunity for the committee to compliment and congratulate you for the work you have done. It is also meant to challenge you and force you to consider tough questions.

The Defense

The best way to prepare for your defense is to regularly attend the defenses of your colleagues throughout your graduate program, not just several weeks prior to your own defense.

You can also talk to people in your department who already defended to find out what their defenses were like. You should also speak with your advisor to get a sense of his/her specific expectations of a defense.

Guidelines for Presentations

Use PowerPoint or Other Software to Create Slides

You should prepare a presentation of the research that comprises the thesis. Your slides should encapsulate the work and focus on its most salient contributions. In preparing, ask yourself these questions: “What do I want people to know about my thesis? What is the most important information that I can present and talk about?”

Here are some basic tips:

  • Use text large enough to be read by the audience (especially text from figures)
  • Ensure graphics and tables are clear
  • Don’t clutter your slides—if necessary, have things come up on mouse clicks
  • Use spell check and proofread your slides
  • Practice your presentation with your peers
  • Work on pronunciation, if required
  • Time your presentation to ensure it will fit the allotted time while allowing time for questions

If your defense includes a public lecture, we recommended that you do a trial run a day or two before in the room that has been booked for your lecture. This will allow you to familiarize yourself with the space and the equipment and to address any problems that arise during the trial run. 

Plan your public lecture to allow enough time for questions. Present enough information so that the audience understands what you did, why you did it, what the implications are, and what your suggestions are for future research.

Friends and family are welcome to attend your public lecture. Faculty and students in the audience are given the opportunity to ask questions.

Plan to dress professionally for the defense in the same way you would if presenting a paper at a conference or for a job interview. You will be standing for a long time on the day of your defense. You might want to keep this in mind when selecting the shoes you will wear for your defense.

Essentials for your public lecture include:

  • Your presentation
  • A laser pointer
  • A copy of your dissertation
  • A pen or pencil
  • A bottle of water 

You will be asked to leave the room while your committee reviews your program of study, and decides whether:

  • The thesis is acceptable/not acceptable
  • Whether members will ask sequential questions or whether each member will be allotted a specific time period for questioning

The person to start the questioning is designated. You will be called back into the examining room and questioning will begin. After all questions have been addressed, you will be asked to leave the room while your committee decides the outcome of the exam. You will be asked to return to the room to be informed of the outcome by the chair of your exam committee.

  • Listen  to the entire question no matter how long it takes the faculty member or student to ask it (take notes if necessary).
  • Pause and think  about the question before answering.
  • Rephrase  the question.
  • Answer  the question to the best of your ability; if you do not know the answer, remain calm and say so in a professional way.
  • Remember  that no one will know the ins and outs of the thesis and your research materials as well as you.  You  are the foremost expert in the thesis topic and  YOU know the research involved. Be positive!

Possible outcomes include:

  • Acceptable with minor or no revisions (no further approval required)
  • Acceptable with major revisions in content or format (in this case, one or more committee members must be responsible for overseeing and approving the major revisions before the final copies are submitted)
  • Not acceptable

After the Defense

You can submit the final corrected copies of your dissertation as soon as you address any remaining comments that were brought up during the defense or noted in the registration copy of your dissertation, which will be returned to you usually within a few days before or after the defense. You can take up to one semester following the defense to address any comments, during which you can remain a full-time student. Your degree conferral date will depend on when you submit the final corrected copies of your dissertation.

The day after your defense, you will receive an email from the University dean of graduate studies that provides instructions on how to:

  • Submit the final corrected copies of your dissertation through ProQuest
  • Provide authorization for the release of your dissertation through UR Research
  • Complete a mandatory online exit survey
  • Verify to the University dean of graduate studies’ office that the dissertation has been submitted

The University of Rochester requires all doctoral candidates to deposit their dissertations for publication with ProQuest Dissertation Publishing and with the University libraries. Hard copies are not required. The library receives an electronic copy of the dissertation from ProQuest, but students must give the University permission to obtain it.

For questions regarding publishing through ProQuest, contact Author Relations at [email protected] or (800) 521-0600 ext. 77020.

Check with your graduate administrator to see if your department wants a bound copy of your dissertation, and, if so, how the cost of binding is covered.

If you want a bound copy for yourself or your family, you can purchase one through ProQuest .

Dissertation Genius

The Six Laws of PhD Failure

September 9, 2019 by Dissertation Genius

To give you a dose of reality, the attrition rate at any PhD school is very high. Anywhere from a third to half of those that enroll at a PhD university will not end up graduating and finishing their dissertation. In fact, the figure of 40%-50% of failing PhD students has been fairly stable over the past three decades. In 1990, Baird reported that PhD completion rates in most disciplines hover around 50% and are even lower in the arts and humanities. In 2003, Elgar conducted a detailed study of North American PhD students and found that “only about half of all students who enter PhD programs…actually complete” (p. iii). The Higher Education Funding Council (HEFCE) for England also reported similar numbers in 2007.

Based on my two decades experience in PhD dissertation consulting, this 50% failure rate is a real number; and the attrition rate for PhD and dissertation students has always been extremely high especially when compared to undergrad and master’s programs. The reason has to do with many factors but, in this article, I’d like to focus on the negative factors that will prevent you from PhD graduation. Towards this end, I’ve inserted what I think are the six most relevant factors correlated to failing PhD students.

1st Law of PhD Failure – Choosing the wrong dissertation adviser

Choosing your dissertation adviser is one of the most important decisions of your academic career and one recipe for disaster is to choose a dissertation adviser because you ‘like’ him or her or because you find this person ‘cool’ meaning charismatic, well-published, and has similar research interests as yourself. While these characteristics are admirable, in the end, they won’t help you in completing a quality dissertation and acquiring your PhD.

Lunenberg and Irby (2008) completed a masterly work about successful dissertation writing and, in chapter two of this work, they mention the key factors in choosing a dissertation adviser. The most important two factors they mention are:

  • Accessibility
  • Feedback turnaround times

Too many doctoral students fail to take these factors into account when choosing their dissertation adviser even though these two things are the most common source of complaints regarding dissertation advisers.

You must make sure your potential dissertation adviser satisfies these two criteria and that you are clear about whether your potential candidate will satisfy your expectations in these areas. You should also ask colleagues about the dependability of the candidate in the aforementioned areas to make sure you are choosing a suitable candidate that will give a realistic amount of his or her time to hear you out and attend to your dissertation needs (to the extent appropriate for a doctoral student). 

2nd Law of PhD Failure – Expecting Dissertation Hand-holding from your Peers

Too many new doctoral students hold mistaken expectations of what they will find in postgraduate school and among these mistaken assumptions is expecting lots of help and hand-holding. As a doctoral student, you should clearly understand that you must take charge of your own doctoral program.

Although you should get help from your dissertation supervisor, chair, and committee members at certain times, you are the person that will make it happen. For example, there will be no one to remind you of certain courses you should enroll in, or particular forms you need to complete by a certain deadline. Only you are responsible for engraving your intellectual path. And under no circumstances should you ever expect your dissertation supervisor, or anyone else for that matter, in holding your hand and telling you which literature to read, which journals to subscribe to, which peer groups and seminars to attend, or which grants and funding to apply for.

While you should seek help and guidance, you should not expect this help to come, and you must develop an independent and persevering mindset in doctoral school, or else you risk a huge disappointment.

3rd Law of PhD Failure – Choosing too Broad a Dissertation Topic

Doctoral students should understand that when it comes to doctoral school and acquiring that PhD, the dissertation is everything. Because most doctoral students understand this, they unfortunately bring with them the mistaken impression that their dissertation should include everything, cover everything, and attack the topic from every conceivable angle using a variety of different research methodologies.

This mindset and mistaken assumption is absolutely wrong. You must narrow down your research topic and zone in on a particular area. Too many doctoral students end up having a broad research topic and realize too late that they have bit off way more than they could chew and taken on much more than they have anticipated.

Here, make sure you work closely with your dissertation adviser and chairperson and keep working on narrowing down your topic appropriately. You may have always dreamt of your dissertation being all-inclusive and having an immediate impact on your field but you must realize that this is near impossible with the normal resources a typical doctoral student has at his or her disposal. Therefore, make your mark by working with the resources you have and beware of defining a research topic that is too broad.

4th Law of PhD Failure – Procrastination

I am not talking about lazy students since this law doesn’t apply to them (laziness is not usually a personality trait for those enrolling in doctoral school). In fact, this particular law applies to the typical doctoral student who is usually a perfectionist that sets very high standards.

“Understand: obsessive perfectionists, aka doctoral students, tend to be procrastinators!”

In general, PhD and doctoral students got to where they are by being obsessive perfectionists (to a certain extent), setting the standard extremely high and working to get near-perfect grades and submissions. This is fine in high doses up to the point of getting into doctoral school, where your dissertation (not your gpa) defines your success. And a doctoral dissertation reflects more the realities of life where you will stumble several times and find yourself doubting your abilities at many points, no matter how smart you think you are . Therefore, many doctoral students are not used to facing massive obstacles and perplexing problems in their academic life. And when finally facing them, most doctoral students tend to turn inward and face away, rather than confronting, these problems. They simply tend to procrastinate as a method of coping with something they are not used to.

To eliminate this idea, understand that life, real life, is not like school. It is filled with perplexing problems, challenges, and many obstacles. To succeed in anything you do, you must face down these problems and simply start by not running away or putting things off because you subconsciously find it easier on your ego to do so.

5th Law of PhD Failure – Ignoring your Dissertation Committee

Yes, you did not read this wrong. Many PhD students nowadays seem to forget that their committee must sign off and approve of their dissertation in order to graduate. Many doctoral students tend to forget the importance of the dissertation committee and forget to maintain contact with committee members, especially in the latter stages of a dissertation. It’s also very easy for doctoral students to forget particular pieces of advice that a committee member has given since the presence of a committee member is not as dominating as that of a dissertation adviser. On the flip side of this, committee members rarely forget the dissertation advice they give to students.

Hopefully it doesn’t happen to you, but many dissertation committee members give advice during the proposal stage of a student’s dissertation only to have this advice ignored or forgotten by the students. Once it comes time for the thesis defense, the committee members will bring up the unfollowed advice and, many times, it becomes a problem for doctoral students who have to postpone their PhD graduation by a semester (if one is lucky) or more. Don’t let this happen to you and make sure you are in periodic contact with your dissertation committee members and also make sure you record, and follow , any advice given by them.

6th Law of PhD Failure – Getting Romantically Involved with Faculty Members

Although this issue is rarely discussed in online dissertation consulting and writing forums, doctoral students and academic faculty members may become romantically involved. Keep in mind I am not talking about sexual harassment or assault, but rather about completely consensual relationships. Although one may be tempted to think a relationship between two fully-grown adults is not anyone’s business, the reality is that the power dynamics involved in such a relationship are not usually conducive in the long run since the faculty member usually has much more formal and informal power over the doctoral student. Thus, even in seemingly consensual relationships, moral questions of how much the student’s free will was actually involved do arise (e.g. how free was the student to actually decline the relationship). The problem is even more serious if it involves a dissertation adviser or committee member sleeping with a student. Although there are cases of successful long-term faculty-member and student relationships, in my experience these are few and far between. Moreover, what may look like a serious caring relationship could actually be a pattern on the part of the faculty member in ‘cycling’ through impressionable or vulnerable students.

Regardless of the situation, you should simply keep in mind to be careful and keep your guard up. Finally, understand that if things go wrong in the relationship, it could become a serious impediment to success. Moreover, even with successful relationships, your academic success may be hindered by reports of gossip and peers linking any progress of your work to the relationship itself rather than to your own hard work. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Baird, L.L. (1990). Disciplines and doctorates: The relationship between program characteristics and the duration of doctoral study. Research in Higher Education, 31, 369-385.

Elgar, F. J. (2003). Phd completion in Canadian universities: Final report . Retrieved from Graduate Student’s Association of Canada website:

HEFCE. (2007). Phd research degrees: Update . Retrieved from Higher Education Funding Council for England website:

Lunenburg, F. C., & Irby, B. J. (2008). Writing a successful thesis or

dissertation: Tips and strategies for students in the social and behavioral sciences. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.

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13 Tips to Prepare for Your PhD Dissertation Defense

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How well do you know your project? Years of experiments, analysis of results, and tons of literature study, leads you to how well you know your research study. And, PhD dissertation defense is a finale to your PhD years. Often, researchers question how to excel at their thesis defense and spend countless hours on it. Days, weeks, months, and probably years of practice to complete your doctorate, needs to surpass the dissertation defense hurdle.

In this article, we will discuss details of how to excel at PhD dissertation defense and list down some interesting tips to prepare for your thesis defense.

Table of Contents

What Is Dissertation Defense?

Dissertation defense or Thesis defense is an opportunity to defend your research study amidst the academic professionals who will evaluate of your academic work. While a thesis defense can sometimes be like a cross-examination session, but in reality you need not fear the thesis defense process and be well prepared.


What are the expectations of committee members.

Choosing the dissertation committee is one of the most important decision for a research student. However, putting your dissertation committee becomes easier once you understand the expectations of committee members.

The basic function of your dissertation committee is to guide you through the process of proposing, writing, and revising your dissertation. Moreover, the committee members serve as mentors, giving constructive feedback on your writing and research, also guiding your revision efforts.

The dissertation committee is usually formed once the academic coursework is completed. Furthermore, by the time you begin your dissertation research, you get acquainted to the faculty members who will serve on your dissertation committee. Ultimately, who serves on your dissertation committee depends upon you.

Some universities allow an outside expert (a former professor or academic mentor) to serve on your committee. It is advisable to choose a faculty member who knows you and your research work.

How to Choose a Dissertation Committee Member?

  • Avoid popular and eminent faculty member
  • Choose the one you know very well and can approach whenever you need them
  • A faculty member whom you can learn from is apt.
  • Members of the committee can be your future mentors, co-authors, and research collaborators. Choose them keeping your future in mind.

How to Prepare for Dissertation Defense?

dissertation defense

1. Start Your Preparations Early

Thesis defense is not a 3 or 6 months’ exercise. Don’t wait until you have completed all your research objectives. Start your preparation well in advance, and make sure you know all the intricacies of your thesis and reasons to all the research experiments you conducted.

2. Attend Presentations by Other Candidates

Look out for open dissertation presentations at your university. In fact, you can attend open dissertation presentations at other universities too. Firstly, this will help you realize how thesis defense is not a scary process. Secondly, you will get the tricks and hacks on how other researchers are defending their thesis. Finally, you will understand why dissertation defense is necessary for the university, as well as the scientific community.

3. Take Enough Time to Prepare the Slides

Dissertation defense process harder than submitting your thesis well before the deadline. Ideally, you could start preparing the slides after finalizing your thesis. Spend more time in preparing the slides. Make sure you got the right data on the slides and rephrase your inferences, to create a logical flow to your presentation.

4. Structure the Presentation

Do not be haphazard in designing your presentation. Take time to create a good structured presentation. Furthermore, create high-quality slides which impresses the committee members. Make slides that hold your audience’s attention. Keep the presentation thorough and accurate, and use smart art to create better slides.

5. Practice Breathing Techniques

Watch a few TED talk videos and you will notice that speakers and orators are very fluent at their speech. In fact, you will not notice them taking a breath or falling short of breath. The only reason behind such effortless oratory skill is practice — practice in breathing technique.

Moreover, every speaker knows how to control their breath. Long and steady breaths are crucial. Pay attention to your breathing and slow it down. All you need I some practice prior to this moment.

6. Create an Impactful Introduction

The audience expects a lot from you. So your opening statement should enthrall the audience. Furthermore, your thesis should create an impact on the members; they should be thrilled by your thesis and the way you expose it.

The introduction answers most important questions, and most important of all “Is this presentation worth the time?” Therefore, it is important to make a good first impression , because the first few minutes sets the tone for your entire presentation.

7. Maintain Your Own List of Questions

While preparing for the presentation, make a note of all the questions that you ask yourself. Try to approach all the questions from a reader’s point of view. You could pretend like you do not know the topic and think of questions that could help you know the topic much better.

The list of questions will prepare you for the questions the members may pose while trying to understand your research. Attending other candidates’ open discussion will also help you assume the dissertation defense questions.

8. Practice Speech and Body Language

After successfully preparing your slides and practicing, you could start focusing on how you look while presenting your thesis. This exercise is not for your appearance but to know your body language and relax if need be.

Pay attention to your body language. Stand with your back straight, but relax your shoulders. The correct posture will give you the feel of self-confidence. So, observe yourself in the mirror and pay attention to movements you make.

9. Give Mock Presentation

Giving a trial defense in advance is a good practice. The most important factor for the mock defense is its similarity to your real defense, so that you get the experience that prepares for the actual defense.

10. Learn How to Handle Mistakes

Everyone makes mistakes. However, it is important to carry on. Do not let the mistakes affect your thesis defense. Take a deep breath and move on to the next point.

11. Do Not Run Through the Presentation

If you are nervous, you would want to end the presentation as soon as possible. However, this situation will give rise to anxiety and you will speak too fast, skipping the essential details. Eventually, creating a fiasco of your dissertation defense .

12. Get Plenty of Rest

Out of the dissertation defense preparation points, this one is extremely important. Obviously, sleeping a day before your big event is hard, but you have to focus and go to bed early, with the clear intentions of getting the rest you deserve.

13. Visualize Yourself Defending Your Thesis

This simple exercise creates an immense impact on your self-confidence. All you have to do is visualize yourself giving a successful presentation each evening before going to sleep. Everyday till the day of your thesis defense, see yourself standing in front of the audience and going from one point to another.

This exercise takes a lot of commitment and persistence, but the results in the end are worth it. Visualization makes you see yourself doing the scary thing of defending your thesis.

If you have taken all these points into consideration, you are ready for your big day. You have worked relentlessly for your PhD degree , and you will definitely give your best in this final step.

Have you completed your thesis defense? How did you prepare for it and how was your experience throughout your dissertation defense ? Do write to us or comment below.

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The tips are very useful.I will recomend it to our students.

Excellent. As a therapist trying to help a parent of a candidate, I am very impressed and thankful your concise, clear, action-oriented article. Thank you.

Thanks for your sharing. It is so good. I can learn a lot from your ideas. Hope that in my dissertation defense next time I can pass

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  • PhD Failure Rate – A Study of 26,076 PhD Candidates
  • Doing a PhD

The PhD failure rate in the UK is 19.5%, with 16.2% of students leaving their PhD programme early, and 3.3% of students failing their viva. 80.5% of all students who enrol onto a PhD programme successfully complete it and are awarded a doctorate.


One of the biggest concerns for doctoral students is the ongoing fear of failing their PhD.

After all those years of research, the long days in the lab and the endless nights in the library, it’s no surprise to find many agonising over the possibility of it all being for nothing. While this fear will always exist, it would help you to know how likely failure is, and what you can do to increase your chances of success.

Read on to learn how PhDs can be failed, what the true failure rates are based on an analysis of 26,067 PhD candidates from 14 UK universities, and what your options are if you’re unsuccessful in obtaining your PhD.

Ways You Can Fail A PhD

There are essentially two ways in which you can fail a PhD; non-completion or failing your viva (also known as your thesis defence ).


Non-completion is when a student leaves their PhD programme before having sat their viva examination. Since vivas take place at the end of the PhD journey, typically between the 3rd and 4th year for most full-time programmes, most failed PhDs fall within the ‘non-completion’ category because of the long duration it covers.

There are many reasons why a student may decide to leave a programme early, though these can usually be grouped into two categories:

  • Motives – The individual may no longer believe undertaking a PhD is for them. This might be because it isn’t what they had imagined, or they’ve decided on an alternative path.
  • Extenuating circumstances – The student may face unforeseen problems beyond their control, such as poor health, bereavement or family difficulties, preventing them from completing their research.

In both cases, a good supervisor will always try their best to help the student continue with their studies. In the former case, this may mean considering alternative research questions or, in the latter case, encouraging you to seek academic support from the university through one of their student care policies.

Besides the student deciding to end their programme early, the university can also make this decision. On these occasions, the student’s supervisor may not believe they’ve made enough progress for the time they’ve been on the project. If the problem can’t be corrected, the supervisor may ask the university to remove the student from the programme.

Failing The Viva

Assuming you make it to the end of your programme, there are still two ways you can be unsuccessful.

The first is an unsatisfactory thesis. For whatever reason, your thesis may be deemed not good enough, lacking originality, reliable data, conclusive findings, or be of poor overall quality. In such cases, your examiners may request an extensive rework of your thesis before agreeing to perform your viva examination. Although this will rarely be the case, it is possible that you may exceed the permissible length of programme registration and if you don’t have valid grounds for an extension, you may not have enough time to be able to sit your viva.

The more common scenario, while still being uncommon itself, is that you sit and fail your viva examination. The examiners may decide that your research project is severely flawed, to the point where it can’t possibly be remedied even with major revisions. This could happen for reasons such as basing your study on an incorrect fundamental assumption; this should not happen however if there is a proper supervisory support system in place.

PhD Failure Rate – UK & EU Statistics

According to 2010-11 data published by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (now replaced by UK Research and Innovation ), 72.9% of students enrolled in a PhD programme in the UK or EU complete their degree within seven years. Following this, 80.5% of PhD students complete their degree within 25 years.

This means that four out of every five students who register onto a PhD programme successfully complete their doctorate.

While a failure rate of one in five students may seem a little high, most of these are those who exit their programme early as opposed to those who fail at the viva stage.

Failing Doesn’t Happen Often

Although a PhD is an independent project, you will be appointed a supervisor to support you. Each university will have its own system for how your supervisor is to support you , but regardless of this, they will all require regular communication between the two of you. This could be in the form of annual reviews, quarterly interim reviews or regular meetings. The majority of students also have a secondary academic supervisor (and in some cases a thesis committee of supervisors); the role of these can vary from having a hands-on role in regular supervision, to being another useful person to bounce ideas off of.

These frequent check-ins are designed to help you stay on track with your project. For example, if any issues are identified, you and your supervisor can discuss how to rectify them in order to refocus your research. This reduces the likelihood of a problem going undetected for several years, only for it to be unearthed after it’s too late to address.

In addition, the thesis you submit to your examiners will likely be your third or fourth iteration, with your supervisor having critiqued each earlier version. As a result, your thesis will typically only be submitted to the examiners after your supervisor approves it; many UK universities require a formal, signed document to be submitted by the primary academic supervisor at the same time as the student submits the thesis, confirming that he or she has approved the submission.

Failed Viva – Outcomes of 26,076 Students

Despite what you may have heard, the failing PhD rate amongst students who sit their viva is low.

This, combined with ongoing guidance from your supervisor, is because vivas don’t have a strict pass/fail outcome. You can find a detailed breakdown of all viva outcomes in our viva guide, but to summarise – the most common outcome will be for you to revise your thesis in accordance with the comments from your examiners and resubmit it.

This means that as long as the review of your thesis and your viva examination uncovers no significant issues, you’re almost certain to be awarded a provisional pass on the basis you make the necessary corrections to your thesis.

To give you an indication of the viva failure rate, we’ve analysed the outcomes of 26,076 PhD candidates from 14 UK universities who sat a viva between 2006 and 2017.

The analysis shows that of the 26,076 students who sat their viva, 25,063 succeeded; this is just over 96% of the total students as shown in the chart below.

phd defense failure

Students Who Passed

Failed PhD_Breakdown of the extent of thesis amendments required for students who passed their viva

The analysis shows that of the 96% of students who passed, approximately 5% required no amendments, 79% required minor amendments and the remaining 16% required major revisions. This supports our earlier discussion on how the most common outcome of a viva is a ‘pass with minor amendments’.

Students Who Failed

Failed PhD_Percentage of students who failed their viva and were awarded an MPhil vs not awarded a degree

Of the 4% of unsuccessful students, approximately 97% were awarded an MPhil (Master of Philosophy), and 3% weren’t awarded a degree.

Note : It should be noted that while the data provides the student’s overall outcome, i.e. whether they passed or failed, they didn’t all provide the students specific outcome, i.e. whether they had to make amendments, or with a failure, whether they were awarded an MPhil. Therefore, while the breakdowns represent the current known data, the exact breakdown may differ.

Summary of Findings

By using our data in combination with the earlier statistic provided by HEFCE, we can gain an overall picture of the PhD journey as summarised in the image below.

DiscoverPhDs_Breakdown of all possible outcomes for PhD candidates based on analysis of 26,076 candidates at 14 universities between 2006 and 2017

To summarise, based on the analysis of 26,076 PhD candidates at 14 universities between 2006 and 2017, the PhD pass rate in the UK is 80.5%. Of the 19.5% of students who fail, 3.3% is attributed to students failing their viva and the remaining 16.2% is attributed to students leaving their programme early.

The above statistics indicate that while 1 in every 5 students fail their PhD, the failure rate for the viva process itself is low. Specifically, only 4% of all students who sit their viva fail; in other words, 96% of the students pass it.

What Are Your Options After an Unsuccessful PhD?

Appeal your outcome.

If you believe you had a valid case, you can try to appeal against your outcome . The appeal process will be different for each university, so ensure you consult the guidelines published by your university before taking any action.

While making an appeal may be an option, it should only be considered if you genuinely believe you have a legitimate case. Most examiners have a lot of experience in assessing PhD candidates and follow strict guidelines when making their decisions. Therefore, your claim for appeal will need to be strong if it is to stand up in front of committee members in the adjudication process.

Downgrade to MPhil

If you are unsuccessful in being awarded a PhD, an MPhil may be awarded instead. For this to happen, your work would need to be considered worthy of an MPhil, as although it is a Master’s degree, it is still an advanced postgraduate research degree.

Unfortunately, there’s a lot of stigma around MPhil degrees, with many worrying that it will be seen as a sign of a failed PhD. While not as advanced as a PhD, an MPhil is still an advanced research degree, and being awarded one shows that you’ve successfully carried out an independent research project which is an undertaking to be admired.

Finding a PhD has never been this easy – search for a PhD by keyword, location or academic area of interest.

Additional Resources

Hopefully now knowing the overall picture your mind will feel slightly more at ease. Regardless, there are several good practices you can adopt to ensure you’re always in the best possible position. The key of these includes developing a good working relationship with your supervisor, working to a project schedule, having your thesis checked by several other academics aside from your supervisor, and thoroughly preparing for your viva examination.

We’ve developed a number of resources which should help you in the above:

  • What to Expect from Your Supervisor – Find out what to look for in a Supervisor, how they will typically support you, and how often you should meet with them.
  • How to Write a Research Proposal – Find an outline of how you can go about putting a project plan together.
  • What is a PhD Viva? – Learn exactly what a viva is, their purpose and what you can expect on the day. We’ve also provided a full breakdown of all the possible outcomes of a viva and tips to help you prepare for your own.

Data for Statistics

  • Cardiff University – 2006/07 to 2016/17
  • Imperial College London – 2006/07 to 2016/17
  • London School of Economics (LSE) – 2006/07 to 2015/16
  • Queen Mary University of London – 2009/10 to 2015/16
  • University College London (UCL) – 2006/07 to 2016/17
  • University of Aberdeen – 2006/07 to 2016/17
  • University of Birmingham – 2006/07 to 2015/16
  • University of Bristol – 2006/07 to 2016/17
  • University of Edinburgh – 2006/07 to 2016/17
  • University of Nottingham – 2006/07 to 2015/16
  • University of Oxford – 2007/08 to 2016/17
  • University of York – 2009/10 to 2016/17
  • University of Manchester – 2008/09 to 2017/18
  • University of Sheffield – 2006/07 to 2016/17

Note : The data used for this analysis was obtained from the above universities under the Freedom of Information Act. As per the Act, the information was provided in such a way that no specific individual can be identified from the data.

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PhD Oral Defense Tips (You Need These)

When you first start your PhD, the required oral defense seems so far away. But then you blink and the time to defend is now !

This is the last step and the only thing standing between you and the title of “doctor.” Ya, baby!

So, what exactly is an oral defense?

After you hand in your dissertation (you know, that large paper you spent the last year pouring your blood, sweat and tears into), your committee will take time to review your work and then assign a date when you will go and “defend” your research.

A PhD oral defense is usually a day-long event where you give a public presentation and/ or a private presentation to some examiners. These examiners will be people from your University or from other universities.

You will spend your time presenting your findings, answering questions about your work and proving to your committee that you have a solid understanding of your field of study and focus area.

If you are in a PhD program, defending your dissertation is most likely the final requirement.

Keep reading for some valuable tips for your PhD oral defense (or sometimes called the Viva).

This post was written by a recent doctoral graduate  (it is anonymous to keep the discussion frank) on behalf of Dave Maslach. This is part of the R3ciprocity project (Check out the  YouTube Channel  or the  writing feedback software ). R3ciprocity helps students, faculty, and research folk by providing a real and authentic look into doing research. It provides solutions and hope to researchers around the world. For more on this topic and to see what Dave has to say, watch this video:

* This video  provides some oral defense tips that will be important during your PhD or doctorate. It’s especially relevant for people that are doing a PhD in Business Administration.

Know What They Are Looking For

Generally, by the time you get to your defense you have made any required, last minute edits to your paper. You have received feedback from your committee members and are prepared to present your final product and answer questions.

The exact format of your defense will depend on your university and the requirements of your grad school. So, make sure you check your grad school’s website and speak with your advisor to get as many details about necessities in order to prepare.

Find out if you need to put together a presentation to go along with your speech. If so, you can prepare presentation slides by using information from your first chapter to design an outline.

Substantive information from your dissertation should be included on your slides and correspond with the important aspects highlighted in your paper.

If you are still unsure of exactly what to expect, ask around- ask colleagues that have already successfully defended their dissertation, ask other committee members or see if you can sit in on someone else’s defense.

Gaining insight into the defense process and knowing what to expect can provide you with confidence and reassurance.

Be Honest with Yourself.

You’ve recently spent day in and day out working on your dissertation and you can probably cite all the literature used during your research, in your sleep. You are an expert on your topic and you’re passionate about your research.

However, you likely don’t know it all. And that’s ok!

One of the most nerve-wracking things about preparing for a defense is thinking about being asked a question that you can’t answer. While we can attend defenses, talk to colleagues, and practice over and over, there is no way to predict every question that the committee will ask.

Luckily for you, once upon a time, your committee was in your same shoes. They know there will be gaps in your knowledge. Your defense is not about being perfect. You aren’t expected to know everything. If you get asked a question and you don’t know the answer, it is ok to just say, “I don’t know.”

You can try to have them rephrase the question or ask for clarification if you aren’t quite sure, but chances are they have asked the question out of curiosity and may not even know the answer themselves.

It is completely acceptable to let them know you haven’t thought of that before but that you’d be happy to do a little more research to find the answer to their question.

Try to create discussions among the examiners. If the examiner asks you a question that you simply can’t answer, you can ask them for their input in what they would do in this circumstance. Show them that you have the ability to think as a scholar.

Be Prepared to Answer Questions

Since your paper has already been evaluated, the questions your committee asks are typically not designed to trick or stump you. Some committees may provide you with the questions before your defense in order to prepare, while others will wait until after you have finished your presentation to decide what to ask.

Questions are usually open-ended and revolve around the core content of your dissertation. They will require you to describe the reasons you chose your topic, summarize your findings and explain how your work will contribute to the current knowledge surrounding your topic. These questions are designed to allow you to show what you know, as well as to have you think critically about your work.

One question that I feel very certain you will be asked in one way or another is, “So what?” Now that you have completed this research and conducted your studies, what have you accomplished? What is your field of study gaining with the completion of your work?

Another question may be, “What’s next?”  They may want to see if your study has influenced your future plans or if this process has brought forward any areas of interest for future research.

You may be able to anticipate some of the other questions you’ll be asked by reviewing the work of your committee members. Then, take another look at your own dissertation through the lens of your committee, keeping in consideration their areas of expertise. You can also try to prepare for possible questions by sitting in other defenses with these committee members to get a better feel for what they will ask.

When you answer questions, don’t rush your responses. It is completely ok to take a few seconds to think before answering. They are looking for solid responses, not quick ones. Also, make your answers concise and to the point; state enough to show you have understanding without going all over the map.

Keep the Discussion Moving

PhDs (professors) have a tendency to be full of hot air and probably could ask a lot of questions. if you feel like they’re focusing too much on one particular area you can guide the conversation on to another topic by continuing forward with the discussion.

Designing an outline of your dissertation and starting your defense with a clear thesis statement can get the discussion off on the right foot.

Try to be crystal clear with your construct definitions and what you did in your study. Many of the questions will be focused on what you did or didn’t do in the limitations of what you chose to do. Understand that every study has limitations and that is okay.

Visual aids, such as PowerPoint presentations with bulleted lists and clearly labeled graphs, can accompany your talk and enhance the flow of your presentation. This will save you if you find yourself rambling or getting off topic; just look back to your current slide, refocus and move to the next.   

Just make sure that your presentation isn’t overloaded with too much text or too many graphics. Your slides should highlight the main points of your research, and include visual representations of data, or other important findings from your study. You may need to sacrifice details from your slides, and just work them into your conversation, if you feel they are vital in telling the story of your research.  

Also know that just reading off of your slides isn’t going to impress anyone. Even the most impressive visuals aren’t going to save you if you haven’t practiced what you are going to say.

The goal with the PhD oral defense is just to make sure that you are comfortable with doing research. It’s a lot like getting the blessing from your examiners, and other people that are going to be your peers, that you are capable of doing research.

It’s All About the Mindset

The biggest hurdle with the PhD oral defense is remembering to view it as a way to improve your thoughts. Your examiners are there to work with you not against you.

Don’t fear your committee. It may seem like they are out to get you once their questions and need for clarification begin, but don’t let that intimidate you. Your advisor or committee chair would not have let you submit your dissertation, or get this far, without thinking that you were ready for the defense.

Believe in yourself!

It’s best to enter your oral defense with a proactive and positive mindset.

If you begin to feel stressed or panicked, take a moment to think before formulating a response. Take a deep breath and remind yourself that you are there because you are an expert on your topic.

It’s impossible to completely anticipate how your committee will respond to your thoughts but taking the time to reread your dissertation and re-familiarize yourself with your work will make you better prepared and more at ease.

( Read here for more advice on how to stay calm and productive during the dissertation process.)

Also, getting in lots of practice and plenty of rest will help reduce stress levels, allow you to think more clearly, and be able to reply to questions in a satisfactory way.

Practice Makes Perfect (Better)

Once you submit your dissertation to your committee, most of the hard work is done. Now all that is left is to practice, practice, practice.

Don’t just write down your presentation plan or potential questions and responses; you need to practice saying it aloud. By speaking your thoughts, you will get more comfortable with the flow of your ideas and it will make it easier to identify areas that may need a little more focus.

It may feel silly presenting to an empty room, or to people that are unfamiliar with the process, but this practice will help rid some of the discomfort that comes with talking in front of an audience. You may also be able to get some feedback that will make your defense day even more successful. (Read this interesting blog post on how to get feedback on your writing).

Make sure to check if there are any time restrictions with your presentation so that you can prepare accordingly. You wouldn’t want to waste your time preparing for a two-hour defense when you only have thirty minutes, nor do you want to show up with only enough material for a short presentation when you need to fill a longer time-slot.

If there are time restrictions, this makes it even more imperative that you are practicing aloud and that you are timing yourself while you do it.  Run through your presentation several times so that you can get a solid feel for transitions and pacing.

Most likely, you will be nervous before your presentation and with nervousness, comes the inadvertent fast talking. Nerves can also cause logical thoughts to come out as long streams of babbling. So, try to also practice taking pauses and giving yourself time to process and breath.

Practice on your own and practice with an audience if possible. Practice your presentation on your best friend, your mirror, your dog, or whatever you have available.

As your defense date gets closer, you should be getting to the point where you can go through most of your presentation without your notes. The goal is to become so familiar with what you are going to say that everything comes out smooth and natural without making it appear that you have just memorized a speech.

Don’t Procrastinate

If there was ever a time to NOT procrastinate, that time is now.

You don’t want to wait until the last minute to start practicing. You need time to formally practice all aspects of your presentation, get feedback, and integrate any changes into your slides and your talk.

You need time to check out the room where you will be presenting and try out any of the equipment you may use on defense day. Decide if you’ll need a microphone, projector or any other technology. Take note of any tools that are available in that room and make your request to ensure they will be present for your big day. Depending on what is available already in the room, you may need to line up other resources to bring with you. You don’t want the added stress of trying to figure out logistics just minutes before you begin your presentation.

While you’re in this space, take the time to practice your presentation just as you would do it on the day of your defense. This will help you work out any kinks and gain more confidence for the real event.

You will also need a well-developed backup plan.

You won’t have time to run around on the morning of your defense trying to find another laptop or an extension cord. We know that even in the 21 st century, technology can be unpredictable. There is no guarantee that your presentation plan will actually unfold the way you have envisioned it.

It’s Defense Day- Now What?

You know your material inside and out; you have practiced in front of anyone that will listen, and your visual presentation is golden.

The day has finally arrived, and it is now time for you to present the work that has been such a huge part of your life for the past few years.

Dress the part and don’t forget your notes.   Both of these things will give you confidence and feel prepared.

On the day of your defense, make sure to arrive at least fifteen minutes before your defense is scheduled to begin. This will give you time to set up your presentation, do one last, quick run through and then try to calm your nerves.

Lastly, make sure to have printed handouts in case your technology fails, water for when your mouth goes dry from all the talking, and definitely have tissues for the tears of joy that come after you rock your presentation !

If you liked this blog post and we hope you did, be sure to read these other helpful posts:

  • How to (stay calm) when writing your dissertation. Yikes! That is difficult.
  • These tips on editing your dissertation will greatly help your research!
  • Productivity tips that all PhDs and Professors need to know.


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phd defense failure

A rising wave of tech disruptors: The future of defense innovation?

In response to a new era of geopolitical uncertainty and a rapidly shifting national security environment, countries across the world are transforming their military capabilities. And, as new mission needs in this transformation take shape across multidomain operations, different tools are in demand—increasingly supplied by a range of new entrants to the defense industry.

National security customers are showing demand for technologies sourced by firms outside the traditional defense industrial base. This dynamic is not new but has materialized in three distinct waves of defense tech start-ups over the past 20 years (exhibit).

For example, in the United States, SpaceX and Palantir were notable companies in the first wave in the early 2000s; both designed technology for government channels other than the Department of Defense. 1 For further information, see company websites:; A second wave began in the mid-to-late 2010s, represented by new entrants like Anduril and ShieldAI—both now unicorns—that leveraged commercially derived technology tailored to defense applications (such as sensor fusion at the edge and AI pilots). 2 For further information, see company websites:; A third wave of disruption is now on the rise—a much larger ecosystem of start-ups and nontraditional companies that are driving innovation, attracting significant venture capital (VC) funding, and looking for the means to scale.

In many cases in Europe and the United States, these start-ups (along with their commercial hyperscaler counterparts) are well positioned to fulfill critical national security needs, complementing the traditional industrial base that might not have enough capabilities to respond to evolving demands on its own. 3 McKinsey analysis. Before large-scale solutions can be reliably supplied for national security users, however, challenges need to be overcome. Effective strategies tailored to fit defense customers could ease the journey, and leveraging dual-use technology (suitable for both military and nonmilitary applications) could be critical to accelerated growth for successful organizations in this environment.

Would you like to learn more about our Aerospace & Defense Practice ?

New defense priorities spur new technology needs.

For several decades, national security agendas focused primarily on asymmetric and transnational threats such as terrorism and cybercrime. However, sometimes the uncertain global geopolitical environment can cause peer and near-peer competition, as evidenced in the national security strategies published since 2022 in Germany, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States. 4 Integrated security for Germany: National security strategy , German Federal Government, June 2023; Japan security policy , Minister of Foreign Affairs of Japan, April 2023; “Integrated review refresh 2023: Responding to a more contested and volatile world,” Gov.UK, May 16, 2023; National security strategy , The White House, October 2022. These strategies can lead to demand for new technologies to increase resilience and efficacy—in particular, technologies that will support new disaggregated and “joint all-domain” concepts. We have noticed that there is a call for three overlapping sets of capabilities:

  • Disaggregating capabilities: By disaggregating capabilities into networks of smaller nodes, force planners can reduce points of failure and increase the likelihood of successful missions connecting air, land, sea, and space assets. This could improve operational coverage while boosting resilience. Instead of one high-value satellite, for example, the preference might be for an array of smaller, linked satellites; instead of one manned submarine, a coordinated fleet of unmanned underwater vehicles.
  • Effective communication networks: For such disaggregated assets to function collectively, real-time intelligence sharing—enabled by resilient and effective communication networks—is important. Resilient networks can ensure instant communication between assets (meshing sensors to effectors) and allow for smooth, responsive operations. Resilient network-enabling technologies such as 5G, phased-array antennas, artificial intelligence (AI), and high-density computing can enable the movement of responsive decision making to the tactical edge where they can have the greatest mission impact.
  • New technologies: Engineering high bandwidth, resilient networks would likely involve retrofitting existing platforms—or developing entirely new architectures (such as AI-powered command-and-control systems that connect users across services and collation partners in air, land, sea, and space). The density of technology-enabled mission systems is likely to continue to increase for the foreseeable future. Either way, new technologies—including decentralized cloud computing, data management, edge analytics, autonomy-enabling systems, and a plethora of hardware solutions and novel materials—are frequently cited capability needs.
Start-ups (along with their commercial hyperscaler counterparts) are well positioned to fulfill critical national security needs, complementing the traditional industrial base.

In addressing these needs, the traditional defense industrial base can bring various strengths to national security customers: for example, an understanding of specific missions; deep technical expertise in designing for those missions; long-established security protocols and infrastructure to host classified data; business development, customer relationships, and acquisition; program management excellence; and integration opportunities within existing, installed platforms. 5 National Defense Industrial Strategy 2023 , US Department of Defense, January 2024.

These capabilities alone, however, may no longer be enough. In response to evolving needs, a new generation of security tech companies has materialized. This new cohort features both start-ups and commercial technology hyperscalers and can offer different but complementary benefits:

  • greater spend on high-risk R&D, relative to size, than the average defense contractor
  • top-tier software and a new generation of STEM talent with fluency in digital technologies such as AI, quantum computing, and advanced microelectronics
  • product-oriented business models that tend to be faster, cheaper, and more innovative
  • a focus on commercially priced, scalable products and services

The European Union and the United States have signaled interest in these novel capabilities. The US Department of Defense has taken steps to access commercial technology through new acquisition and budgeting authorities—for example, increasing the prominence of the Defense Innovation Unit and establishing the Replicator initiative in 2023 to rapidly field autonomous, attritable systems. 6 “Memorandum for senior Pentagon leadership, commanders of the combatant commands, defense agency and DOD field activity directors,” Secretary of Defense, US Department of Defense, April 4, 2023; Joseph Clark, “Defense officials report progress on replicator initiative,” DOD News, US Department of Defense, December 1, 2023. NATO has formed an innovation accelerator (DIANA) to foster collaboration with start-ups and other tech companies, and has announced the €1 billion NATO Innovation Fund focused on dual-use technologies. 7 “NATO Innovation Fund closes on €1 billion flagship fund,” North Atlantic Treaty Organization, August 1, 2023.

Private capital has also indicated an intent to pursue defense tech opportunities, and we have observed that VC investment in such technologies outpaced the overall growth in venture spending between 2019 and 2023. Meanwhile, traditional defense firms have increased their corporate venture funds to be able to access the emerging tech.

New defense tech companies face obstacles

Despite this momentum, many next-generation defense tech firms have struggled to do business at scale with national security organizations. 8 Heather Somerville, “Investors are betting on defense startups. The Pentagon isn’t,” Wall Street Journal , January 25, 2023. This is likely due to three main challenges:

Reconciling program-centric versus product-centric operating models. National security customers often seek bespoke solutions to very specific problems versus an “out of the box” commercial offering. With limited access to classified information and other sources of insight, tech firms can struggle to understand the precise nature of these problems. The effort to tailor an existing solution to the “last mile” in defense may also not be compatible with the commercial scale business models favored by tech companies.

Building a go-to-market muscle for defense markets. New defense tech companies can be constrained by unfamiliarity with the government sales and contracting landscape. Scaling a solution in defense markets requires a robust government affairs operation and an understanding of unique government procurement processes. Start-ups, in particular, often lack a track record of performing on programs of record at defense agencies, which can be an important requirement for winning new contracts.

Aligning revenue timelines with investor expectations. Government contracting often offers an atypical return profile to private capital (such as VCs and growth equity) that has become the primary backer of defense tech start-ups. Private investors tend to look at three- to five-year horizons for returns—which can be out of sync with the slower (traditionally seven- to ten-year) pace of defense programs of record. A start-up may run short on funding before consistent revenue from government contracts begins to materialize. This mismatch is likely to deter private investment.

Public markets are unlikely to fill this gap entirely, given their emphasis on short-term results and an aerospace and defense investor base that often emphasizes stable cash flows versus at-risk investments in novel technologies. Meanwhile, governmental entities in Europe and the United States generally invest less in innovation than their private sector counterparts: for example, the US national security community has recently been spending less than 5 percent of its total budget on developing innovative technologies, whereas a typical commercial technology firm spends three to four times that share of revenue annually. 9 Eric Chewning, Will Gangware, Jess Harrington, and Dale Swartz, “ How will US funding for defense technology innovation evolve? ,” McKinsey, November 4, 2022.

Successful defense tech disruptors use five strategies

How to tackle these challenges? Lessons learned from successful defense tech companies include five strategies that they effectively employ.

Lay the infrastructure for scaling from the outset. Most defense tech companies ultimately become hardware companies, and many are now facing the same scaling challenges as their more at-scale peers and competitors—such as maintaining manufacturing speed and quality, resilient supply chains, and machining or technical talent. Building scaling infrastructure into the initial plan, from prototyping resources onwards, can make the difference on time to market.

Lower barriers by leveraging more established partners. Once a product’s validity has been demonstrated, partnership with an established industrial defense company could facilitate its entry to market. Established suppliers can bring installed bases, mission expertise, and customer familiarity that complements tech companies’ capabilities. Established suppliers often shape access to the aircraft, land systems, and ships that new mission systems will be integrated into by providing the “socket” into which a disruptor’s “lightbulbs” can plug. The list of recent partnership announcements between defense tech disruptors and traditional defense organizations span hardware and software across a range of technology focus areas, including 5G, hypersonic aircraft, autonomy for next-generation tactical aircraft, AI, and edge networks. 10 “Northrop Grumman, AT&T, and Fujitsu demonstrate new 5-G powered open capabilities to support joint force,” Northrop Grumman, January 18, 2023; “Strategic relationship 5G.MIL solutions,” Lockheed Martin, February 22, 2023; Jaspreet Gill, “ShieldAI, Boeing ink agreement to push AI, autonomous development,” Breaking Defense, March 8, 2023; “GM Defence and Anduril announce teaming agreement,” Anduril Industries, October 10, 2023.

Take, for example, defense disruptor, Helsing, which was able to get to a program of record in fewer than three years by partnering with an existing defense prime (Saab). Helsing’s AI and signal processing expertise complemented Saab’s hardware-based sensors and self-protection systems. As a result of the two companies growing closer, Saab in September 2023 made a sizeable investment of €75 million in Helsing’s most recent venture round, at an overall valuation of €1.5 billion. 11 “Saab signs strategic cooperation agreement and makes investment in Helsing,” Saab, September 14, 2023.

Go dual use. Purely can struggle to achieve scale defense-focused start-ups before investors become frustrated with delays. But, companies that find nonmilitary applications for their technologies can build scale in commercial markets, while buying the time needed to secure a long-term defense contract. However, pursuing dual-use innovations may also mean designing a two-speed business model to accommodate disparate timelines and unique international security requirements.

Strong demand and healthy capital inflows have allowed certain dual-use tech organizations to thrive. Private investors, who have a higher tolerance for risk than public markets or government R&D appropriators, in many cases are looking to back dual-use technology, given its large potential returns and broad applicability. 12 McKinsey analysis.

Vertically integrate to provide software and hardware in one solution. Defense customers generally are comfortable with purchasing integrated hardware and software products, rather than stand-alone software capabilities that can be applied to a range of hardware. For tech disruptors, opting to sell a piece of differentiated software packaged within hardware can be beneficial (for example, a fleet of ready-to-deploy drones rather than a drone operating system).

Tailor sales capabilities to the customer. Selling to defense customers can be a challenge if a company hasn’t set up a government affairs unit with proper clearances and extensive experience. Tech companies can look beyond a defense organization’s broad requests for proposals and focus on communicating with potential customers about granular needs.

Defense oriented technology is a vital and enduring component of national security. Start-ups, scaled commercial organizations, traditional defense contractors, and investors all have roles to play in integrating innovative new technologies into the defense ecosystem.

Jesse Klempner is a partner in McKinsey’s Washington, DC, office and a leader in McKinsey’s Aerospace & Defense Practice; Christian Rodriguez is an associate partner in the Washington, DC, office; Dale Swartz is a partner in the Bay Area–Silicon Valley office and a leader in the Aerospace & Defense and Tech Practices.

The authors wish to thank Bo Julie Crowley, Alyssa Goessler, Karl Hujsak, and Chester Pennock for their contributions to this article.

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  • 18 October 2018

Teach undergraduates that doing a PhD will require them to embrace failure

  • Irini Topalidou 0

Irini Topalidou is a molecular biologist and geneticist who works as a research scientist in the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Washington in Seattle. Twitter: @irinakitop

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My own graduate experience and 20 years in academic research have taught me that someone can be a good student without necessarily having what it takes to get a PhD or a career in academia. Often, students I see think that a solid undergraduate degree should guarantee later academic success, but the reality is quite different.

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A Trident missile test-fired by a UK submarine failed. That's a lot of money down the drain.

  • A test of Britain's nuclear deterrent system ended in failure for the second time. 
  • The incident involved a $70 million Trident missile that both the US and UK have in their arsenal. 
  • Their high price is part of the reason these missiles are rarely tested by the British Navy.

Insider Today

The British navy suffered an embarrassing flop after a failed test launch of a Trident nuclear missile was revealed.

The Sun newspaper , which first reported the failure, quoted an unnamed source as saying the 58-ton missile "left the submarine but it just went plop, right next to them." It said the incident occurred on January 30 during an incident off Florida.

The issue was reportedly caused by the booster rockets malfunctioning but no further details were revealed on national security grounds.

Defense Secretary Grant Shapps said in a statement: "On this occasion, an anomaly did occur, but it was event specific and there are no implications for the reliability of the wider Trident missile systems and stockpiles."

It's the second time in a row that a test launch of a Trident missile by the Royal Navy has had an unhappy ending. In the last test in 2016, the missile misfired and veered toward the US coast, before self-destructing. It was supposed to head for an area of the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Africa.

These failures have a high price tag, given that each missile costs tens of millions of dollars. It's hard to be certain exactly how much, given figures range from about $21 million through to about $70 million a pop.

Lockheed Martin, the defense company that makes Trident, directed a query from Business Insider about their cost to the US Navy, which did not immediately respond.

'Most advanced' missile

Trident missiles are a core part of the UK's nuclear deterrent system, which also includes four Vanguard-class submarines carrying nuclear warheads.

Some 16 Trident II D5 missiles can be carried by each submarine, and each can carry up to 12 independently-targeted warheads with a maximum range of 7,400 miles. The actual number of warheads is typically closer to 40, however.

The US also deploys Trident missiles on its Ohio-class submarines.

Lockheed Martin's website states that the Trident II D5 has achieved 188 successful test launches since its design was completed in 1989. The company describes it as the world's "most advanced ballistic missile."

The ongoing servicing costs for the entire Trident system amount to 6% of Britain's defense budget , or about $3.8 billion for 2023/24.

That involves manufacturing costs, missile extension programs, replacement warheads, in-service costs, and personnel salaries.

At least one Vanguard submarine is deployed at any time as part of the UK's Continuous at Sea Deterrent.

Building the Trident system in the 1980s cost about £21 billion ($26.5 billion) in today's money, according to the Ministry of Defense.

The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament estimates that the total cost of building and maintaining Trident has been $258 billion (£205 billion) since then.

That's still less than the total cost of the US's nuclear deterrent. The Department of Defense is expected to spend $756 billion over the 2023 to 2032 period, according to the Congressional Budget Office .

The importance of maritime strength is rising amid conflicts against the Houthis in the Red Sea, Russia and Ukraine in the Black Sea, and Chinese expansion over the Taiwan Strait.

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Find the best tips and advice to improve your writing. Or, have a top expert write your paper.

PhD Failure Rate – Tips To Avoid It

PhD Failure Rate

The PhD failure rate among students has been an issue of concern for a while now. The rise of the internet with various PhD writing services has made the problem worse. We are seeing few students taking up PhD courses at the university level, and the completion rate is also worrying.

How often do you hear the mention of PhDs in the local dailies or news bulletins? Well, safe for the two or three experts who will be called in a TV interview, the rest will be full of Mrs and Mrs That tells you something about the number of PhD holders in the country and the world at large. Research shows that most college students go as far as the Degree level and leave it there.

But why is this the case? Why does society have a low PhD completion rate? This post seeks to explore that at length. So let’s journey together, my friend.

What Is A PhD?

PhD holders are referred to as Doctor. The necessary research experience and techniques needed for a PhD takes years. Most students tend to get discouraged on the way as they pursue such a degree. That is why there are few holders of such titles in society today.

On top of that, the PhD failure rate has also been high among students in the recent past. Most universities have registered a dwindling number of postgraduate students in PhD. This worrying trend has left many countries in questions as to what the future holds. Imagine a nation without professors and senior lecturers to teach at the university!

What Percentage Of PhD Students Finish University?

According to the APA website, 33% of the students complete their Doctoral Degrees in some fields. The humanities fields have continued to register quite a good number of students completing compared to the sciences.

The website notes that almost up to 50% of the Doctoral students don’t complete. With a study covering 30 institutions, 54 disciplines, 330 programs, and 49,000 students, the site identified that the PhD dropout rate goes up to 56.6%.

That should tell you the sad state of affairs about the dissertation defense failure rate. Some students start pretty well only to give up on the way. Others complete their dissertation papers but cannot defend them and thus end up on the list of failures. Note that not failed PhD cases are a result of laziness. We will talk about this aspect in great detail in the subsequent sections.

Why Does A PhD Take So Long?

To understand this clearly, we will look at the structure of a PhD thesis and what it takes to develop the final paper for presentation. While many institutions may have different formats for a PhD paper, here is a general rule of thumb for all of them:

  • Introduction
  • Literature review
  • Research methodology

The outline above in itself should tell you that a PhD paper does not take 30 minutes to complete. It is one of the key reasons why most students do not survive PhD papers. Each of the sections above results from extensive research, which equates to about 13-20 months.

When writing a PhD paper, students have to go through the following stages:

The prospectus part: It is where one has to lay the groundwork for the whole paper. It will take approximate 3-6 months. Most time in this stage is spent refining the topic and the researcher’s approach to the problem in question. The proposal: It comprises chapter 1-3 of the paper. Here, students will have to expound their prospectus, dig deep into the literature, and explain the methodology in detail. This section also takes approximate four months to complete. Approval of the proposal: The committee reviews your proposal at this stage before giving you the go-ahead to proceed. It may take up to two months for your proposal to be approved. Data collection: It forms the backbone of your results and discussion and thus a crucial step in writing a PhD paper. Though this varies significantly depending on various factors, it may take approximately two months. Writing your results and discussion: The students now present the data collection results and explain what they mean. Even though it is one of the most accessible parts of a thesis paper, it can take about one month to write. Defense and completion: Before one is allowed on the graduation list, they will have to defend their paper and fulfil some university requirements. It may take up to one or two months to complete this process.

From the stages above, you can see that a PhD paper takes approximately one year to complete. Below are some other factors that make fining PhD a long process:

  • Insufficient resources during the research process
  • Natural pandemics such as the COVID-19
  • Sluggishness on the part of the supervisor
  • The process of getting clearances and approvals may also take some time.

Some students may take up to two years to finish a PhD. That includes other common PhD problems that are beyond the students reach.

What Is A Thesis Defense Like?

One of the primary reasons why students get failed Master’s thesis is how they present themselves during the defense. It is a crucial part of the award of a PhD which has seen many being locked out. But how does it look like?

Now, a defense provides evidence for a particular thesis. This evidence will depend on the kind of thesis at stake. It is the stage where you make the committee feel confident that you understand your field and focus area. It involves the following:

A presentation of the thesis by the student Open-ended questions that require you to think critically about your work Making a summary of specific findings in the thesis

So, you may ask, is getting a PhD hard? Certainly yes! As simple as these three things may look, they can cost you a whole year of hard work and sleepless nights. To arrive at an excellent thesis defense, you have to emphasize each of the steps above. Research has shown that most students who give out their papers get caught at this stage. That is why you must do your work and present something that you can defend with ease.

Factors That Contribute To PhD Defense Fail

We have seen that the process of defending a thesis requires the student to put the right foot forward. All the nitty-gritty involved in the process has a part to play in the final submission. Here are some of the reasons why students fail in defending their PhD thesis:

  • Lack of proper guidance from the supervisor: A supervisor who has not been involved in the research process may contribute significantly to the student’s failure. He/she is supposed to provide mentorship and support to the student in every step of the PhD writing process.
  • Laziness on the part of the students: Some students are generally lazy and do not want to put any extra effort into their work. Others will go as far as copy-pasting PhD papers available online and submitting them. The committee can point out all these mishaps and penalize the student.
  • Improper dressing: Most students overlook this, but it contributes a great deal when defending a PhD paper. The dress code will tell a lot about your seriousness on the project as a whole.
  • Not following standard procedures during the presentation: During the presentation, some students do not pay attention to procedures such as etiquette, illustrations, format, and style. The result of this is a deduction of marks which may lead to the overall failure of the student.
  • Inadequate time of presentation: Some fail to utilize the given time in convincing the committee during the defense. They end up exhausting their time without convincing the panel.

PhD defense has contributed a lot to the failure rate among the students. The five reasons discussed above are just but a glimpse of the more excellent picture.

PhD Supervisor Problems

The role of a PhD supervisor is to guide the student throughout the PhD writing process. A supervisor is crucial in helping the student make informed decisions on various aspects of the project. Nonetheless, countless problems arise with some PhD supervisors:

  • Some may be abusive: Such supervisors may be fond of responding rudely to the student’s concerns, humiliating them, or blaming them for their own mistakes. Such supervisors may make the student get kicked out of the PhD program.
  • Others are too controlling: They do not allow students to make their own decisions. In other words, these are the dictator type who will dictate the topic, methodological, or theoretical perspective of a thesis paper. With such a supervisor, you may not have a say in your paper and thus lack the motivation to continue.
  • The passive supervisors: These do not offer any leadership trait and avoid any intervention in the student’s work. They may only come in when a severe problem arises on the part of the student. Such a problem is a lazy grad student with a poor paper submitted in the end.
  • The apathetic supervisors: Such have no passion for the supervision process. They may not follow up on any latest development or show commitment. Students of such supervisors are prone to getting apathetic and coming up with a low-quality PhD paper during the submission time.

One can note from the above PhD supervisor problems that failure is inevitable. If the supervisors neglect their advising and guiding the students, then the failure rate will continue to soar higher. Therefore, the student and supervisor need to have a one-on-one relationship that will foster good relations throughout the entire process.

If the expectations of the PhD student-supervisor relationship are not correct, the end will be a shambolic work that will not see the light of the day. PhD supervisors should help improve the papers by providing students with continuous constructive feedback.

An imbalance between the two (student and supervisor) will also lead to low grades. Problems will arise if the supervisor is either involved too much or too little in the PhD project. It will affect the production of a well-written PhD paper that contributes novel findings to a particular subject area.

My PhD Advisor Ignoring Me – Should I Worry?

Yes! Remember that this is the person to guide you throughout the process – in other words, the anchor of your PhD paper. If he/she is ignoring you, then that should ring a bell in your mind ASAP! Some of the consequences of such an action may include:

  • You may not be able to stay on schedule.
  • You may not be able to get the relevant expertise in your subject area
  • Some of the decisions you make may not be effective
  • You may be at the risk of errors and missing out on critical elements of a thesis paper
  • You may feel demoralized due to the absence of a mentor

What percentage of PhD students drop out? We said that almost half of the number of them join. Looking at the critical role of a supervisor, it is clear that they also contribute to the dropout of PhD students. It is challenging for a student to produce a high-quality thesis paper without the assistance of a supervisor.

My Dissertation Is Bad – I Need Thesis Help

You can get affordable help with research paper to avoid failing. We have the best-rated PhD writers who have produced award-winning papers in the recent past. Try out our professional assistance today and see how writing a PhD paper becomes interesting!

You will not regret this offer at all!

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Watch CBS News

U.K. defense chief declares confidence in Trident nuclear missiles after reports of failed test off Florida

By Duarte Dias

February 21, 2024 / 12:36 PM EST / CBS News

London —  Britain's Defense Secretary Grant Shapps sought to reassure U.K. lawmakers Wednesday that the country's nuclear deterrent weapons program was functional and ready to be called upon if needed after a second consecutive missile test reportedly failed. A nuclear-capable Trident II missile test launched in the Atlantic off the coast of Florida on Jan. 30 reportedly splashed back down shortly after launching, according to Britain's The Sun newspaper. 

The missile was launched from one of the Royal Navy's HMS Vanguard-class submarines — with Shapps on board to observe — but its first stage booster engine failed to ignite, causing it to fall back down and then sink, according to CBS News partner network BBC News . 

While Britain's Trident missiles are designed to carry nuclear warheads, they are not armed for test launches.


In a statement to parliament, Shapps confirmed an "anomaly" during the missile test, but insisted that it had "reaffirmed the effectiveness of the U.K.'s nuclear deterrent."

The BBC said it was the second consecutive test of a Trident missile to fail after one of the rockets veered off course in 2016, also off Florida's Atlantic coast. The test launches don't happen often, with each missile costing U.K. taxpayers more than $20 million. 

The cause of the 2016 failure has never been disclosed, but at the time, The Sunday Times newspaper reported the missile had suffered an in-flight "malfunction."

"The U.K.'s nuclear weapons program is not functioning and needs an urgent rethink," David Cullen, a former activist who's now the director of the British monitoring group Nuclear Information Service, told CBS News on Wednesday. "This failure has happened with a backdrop of the navy struggling to maintain [Trident submarine] patrols and ballooning costs." 

Shapps, however, called the Trident system "effective, dependable, and formidable."  

  • North Korea's Kim hurls nuclear threats as U.S. enters an election year

"The test reaffirmed the effectiveness of the U.K.'s nuclear deterrent, in which the government has absolute confidence," Shapps said in a written statement delivered to lawmakers in the British Parliament on Wednesday. "On this occasion, an anomaly did occur, but it was event specific and there are no implications for the reliability of the wider Trident missile systems and stockpiles. Nor are there any implications for our ability to fire our nuclear weapons, should the circumstances arise in which we need to do so." 

The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, a U.K.-based group that has long called for an end to Britain's nuclear weapons program, derided the test as a "colossal waste of money."

"We have to ask if this is a good use of the Defense Secretary's time — going to Florida chasing photo opportunities for what ultimately was an expensive failure," the campaign's General Secretary Kate Hudson said in a statement .

The U.K.'s nuclear deterrent program consists of four Vanguard-class submarines, each of which can carry up to 16 Trident II D5 ballistic missiles. At least one submarine is always deployed, with its location among Britain's most closely guarded military secrets. A second sub waits on standby while a third carries out training exercises and the fourth is brought in for maintenance.

The Ministry of Defense says that since the system was deployed in April 1969, there has constantly been at least one British nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarine quietly patrolling the seas. The "deterrent" principle of the Trident system relies on the U.K.'s global adversaries never knowing the exact location of the deployed submarine.

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The Air Force knows what failed on an Osprey in a crash in Japan, but still doesn’t know why

FILE -In this image provided by the U.S. Navy, Aviation Boatswain's Mate 2nd Class Nicholas Hawkins, signals an MV-22 Osprey to land on the flight deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln in the Arabian Sea on May 17, 2019. Air Force Special Operations Command said Tuesday it knows what failed on its CV-22B Osprey leading to a November crash in Japan that killed eight service members. But it still does not know why the failure happened. Because of the crash almost the entire Osprey fleet, hundreds of aircraft across the Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy, has been grounded since Dec. 6. (Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Amber Smalley/U.S. Navy via AP, File)

FILE -In this image provided by the U.S. Navy, Aviation Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class Nicholas Hawkins, signals an MV-22 Osprey to land on the flight deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln in the Arabian Sea on May 17, 2019. Air Force Special Operations Command said Tuesday it knows what failed on its CV-22B Osprey leading to a November crash in Japan that killed eight service members. But it still does not know why the failure happened. Because of the crash almost the entire Osprey fleet, hundreds of aircraft across the Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy, has been grounded since Dec. 6. (Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Amber Smalley/U.S. Navy via AP, File)

FILE - U.S. MV-22B Osprey transport aircraft are parked at the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Ginowan, south of Okinawa, southern Japan, Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2023. Air Force Special Operations Command said Tuesday it knows what failed on its CV-22B Osprey leading to a November crash in Japan that killed eight service members. But it still does not know why the failure happened. Because of the crash almost the entire Osprey fleet, hundreds of aircraft across the Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy, has been grounded since Dec. 6. (AP Photo/Hiro Komae, File)

FILE - A U.S. military CV-22 Osprey takes off from Iwakuni base, Yamaguchi prefecture, western Japan, on July 4, 2018. Air Force Special Operations Command said Tuesday it knows what failed on its CV-22B Osprey leading to a November crash in Japan that killed eight service members. But it still does not know why the failure happened. Because of the crash almost the entire Osprey fleet, hundreds of aircraft across the Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy, has been grounded since Dec. 6. (Kyodo News via AP, File)

  • Copy Link copied

WASHINGTON (AP) — Air Force Special Operations Command said Tuesday it knows what failed on its CV-22B Osprey leading to a November crash in Japan that killed eight service members. But it still does not know why the failure happened.

Because of the crash, hundreds of Osprey aircraft across the Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy have been grounded since Dec. 6. There are two investigations that are looking into the Japan crash — a safety investigation board, which is a privileged internal review conducted in private to help inform pilots and crews, as well as an accident investigation board, which is the official administrative review. Both are still ongoing.

On Tuesday, Pentagon spokeswoman Sabrina Singh said her understanding is that “the Ospreys are not going back in the air at this time.” She said it will be up to the military services to determine when they will be safe to fly again, and she said she can’t say if that will be while the investigations continue or must wait until they are completed.

Separately, Air Force Special Operations Command is doing its own comprehensive review of its CV-22 Osprey program, and while the command has said it knows what failed, it has not made those details public.

FILE - This image provided by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)/Takara Tomy/Sony Group Corporation/Doshisha University shows an image taken by a Lunar Excursion Vehicle 2 (LEV-2) of a robotic moon rover called Smart Lander for Investigating Moon, or SLIM, on the moon. A Japanese moon explorer, after making a historic “pinpoint” lunar landing last month, has also captured data from 10 lunar rocks, a far greater than expected work that could help find the clue to the origin of the moon, its project manager said Wednesday, Feb. 14 , 2024. (JAXA/Takara Tomy/Sony Group Corporation/Doshisha University via AP, File)

“At this time, the material failure that occurred is known but the cause of the failure has not been determined. Engineering testing and analysis is ongoing to understand the cause of the material failure, a critical part of the investigation. Any disclosure of findings prior to investigations being finalized is premature and presumptive,” Air Force Special Operations Command said in a statement released Tuesday.

The Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps have been coordinating their efforts on when Osprey crews will be able to safely return to the skies. Each service will make its own determination, and the Air Force said to return its fleet of about 50 Ospreys to flight, “the priority is to inform our deliberate return to fly and ensure CV-22 aircrew and maintainers have the information they need to prevent future mishaps.”

The Osprey is a tiltrotor aircraft that can fly like both a helicopter and airplane.

Late Monday, NBC News reported that the crash was linked to chipping from the Osprey’s proprotor gearbox. When small pieces of metal chip off gears in the aircraft due to wear, it can generate dangerous metal debris that can damage engines. The gearbox has been under scrutiny in various Osprey accidents and some of its components have been wearing out quicker than expected. In January 2023 the Department of Defense awarded Bell-Boeing $12.7 million to improve the gearbox design across all of the Air Force, U.S. Marine Corps and Navy Osprey variants.

Air Force Special Operations Command was not available to comment on whether a gearbox chip caused the accident. However, it would not be the first time a chip issue was linked to an Air Force Special Operations Command Osprey mishap.

In July 2013, an Osprey experienced a proprotor gearbox chip inflight, the size of the debris required the entire gearbox to be replaced. In January 2014, an Osprey made a precautionary landing after another mid-flight gearbox chip, according to data obtained by The Associated Press.

Chipping can be caused by a variety of factors, including a lack of lubrication for the gears, or the gear teeth being subject to force overloads, said Rex Rivolo, a retired Air Force pilot who analyzed the Osprey for the Pentagon’s test and evaluation office from 1992 to 2007 as an analyst at the Institute for Defense Analyses.

The Osprey has a chip detector that triggers a warning to crews if metal fragments are detected, alerting them that there are pieces of metal breaking off the gears. “The procedure is to land immediately,” Rivolo said. “Most chip warning lights are due to very small pieces of metal and are harmless, and the aircraft lands safely.”

phd defense failure

AT&T restores service after hours of outage

The company logo for AT&T is displayed on a screen on the floor at the NYSE in New York

Reporting by Aditya Soni and Harshita Mary Varghese in Bengaluru, David Shepardson, Raphael Satter and Kanishka Singh in Washington; Additional reporting by Nilutpal Timsina, Kanjyik Ghosh, Arsheeya Bajwa and Priyanka G; Editing by Alexander Smith and Stephen Coates

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles. , opens new tab

A handout image of the Smart Lander for Investigating Moon (SLIM) taken by LEV-2 on the moon

Nvidia briefly hits $2 trillion valuation as AI frenzy grips Wall Street

Nvidia briefly hit $2 trillion in market value for the first time on Friday, riding on insatiable demand for its chips that made the Silicon Valley firm the pioneer of the generative artificial intelligence boom.

Illustration shows representations of cryptocurrencies


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  1. My supervisor is suggesting I will fail my PhD, is this possible?

    Jan 13, 2023 at 16:47 Add a comment 8 Answers Sorted by: 51 There are definitely fails in PhD defenses. It may depend on the specific system and I don't know about Canada, but I know of a number of them in the UK, where the candidate was asked to rework and come back in a year or so.

  2. PhD Defence Process: A Comprehensive Guide for 2024

    Failure in PhD Defence A. Exploring the Possibility of Failure: B. Common Reasons for Failure: C. Steps to Mitigate the Risk of Failure: D. Post-Failure Resilience: PhD Defense or Defence? A. Addressing the Language Variation: B. Conforming to Regional Preferences: C. Consistency in Usage: D. Flexibility and Adaptability:

  3. Is it really impossible to fail a PhD because you failed your defense

    A PhD failing their defense reflects poorly on the advisor and on the committee as they are required to review and approve the work and the thesis before the defense occurs. From everyone in my field I have heard that students quiting or being forced to quit reflects on the student, failing at the defense reflects poorly on the advisor and ...

  4. I failed my dissertation defense. But I am not a failure.

    6 mins Note: This narrative originally appeared as a series of posts on Lorie's blog and has been republished here with her permission. No one prepared me for the worst possible outcome of a dissertation defense: Failure. Yet, after waiting outside in the hallway for over 90 minutes, I was certain of it.

  5. I failed my dissertation defense. But I am not a failure

    Jul 6, 2018 1 Lorie Owens, or PhDiva (@ Dissertating) as she is commonly known in academic Twitter circles, paints a vivid picture of how she failed at her first dissertation defense. This...

  6. 10 reasons Ph.D. students fail

    And, it all but promises failure. The weakest Ph.D. to escape was probably repeatedly unlucky with research topics, and had to settle for a contingency plan. Aiming low leaves no room for uncertainty. And, research is always uncertain. Aim too high. A Ph.D. seems like a major undertaking from the perspective of the student. It is.

  7. Preparing for a PhD Defense

    Public Lecture Dress Professionally Items to Bring to the Defense The Closed Examination Address Questions with Confidence Outcomes After the Defense Student Status Final Corrected Copies of the Dissertation Publishing Your Final Dissertation Binding Your Final Dissertation Before Defense Preparing to Start

  8. Failed PhD: how scientists have bounced back from doctoral setbacks

    Failed PhD: how scientists have bounced back from doctoral setbacks In a scientific culture that eschews admitting failure, some researchers are staring it in the face — and finding success. By...

  9. How to bounce back from a PhD-project failure

    Be kind to yourself and then see if there is anything salvageable from your project. Look out for questions that remain unanswered, then lick your wounds and start working on something new ...

  10. Have you ever seen anyone fail a PhD Defense? : r/AskAcademia

    No. Universities will not let you defend if there is the slightest chance you will fail. It reflects very poorly on the department in front of external examiners if PhD candidates fail a defense. Also planning the defense is a lot of hassle for your department, no one wants to do the work twice. You will be ok.

  11. The Six Laws of PhD Failure

    The Six Laws of PhD Failure September 9, 2019 by Dissertation Genius To give you a dose of reality, the attrition rate at any PhD school is very high. Anywhere from a third to half of those that enroll at a PhD university will not end up graduating and finishing their dissertation.

  12. 13 Tips to Prepare for Your PhD Dissertation Defense

    1. Start Your Preparations Early. Thesis defense is not a 3 or 6 months' exercise. Don't wait until you have completed all your research objectives. Start your preparation well in advance, and make sure you know all the intricacies of your thesis and reasons to all the research experiments you conducted. 2.

  13. Fear of failing my defense : r/AskAcademia

    50 BronzeSpoon89 • 2 yr. ago This. 7 territrades • 2 yr. ago I have never seen anyone failing a PhD defense. Once, a guy was working with a specific method for 5 years, so the committee asked him 'Who invented this method and when was that?' and his answer was simply "I do not know".

  14. PhD Failure Rate

    There are essentially two ways in which you can fail a PhD; non-completion or failing your viva (also known as your thesis defence ). Non-completion Non-completion is when a student leaves their PhD programme before having sat their viva examination.

  15. Full article: Doctoral defence formats

    Introduction. The doctoral defence is the oral examination of the doctoral thesis. This event is an important step for doctoral candidates in obtaining their degree. It is important, as in some defence formats such as the UK-style viva voce or, shorter, viva, the performance during the defence forms part of the overall assessment of the thesis.

  16. The common pitfalls of failed dissertations and how to steer clear of

    Probably the most common reason for failing a Ph.D. dissertation is a lack of critical analysis. A typical observation of the examination committee is, "The thesis is generally descriptive and a more analytical approach is required."

  17. PhD Oral Defense Tips (You Need These)

    A PhD oral defense is usually a day-long event where you give a public presentation and/ or a private presentation to some examiners. These examiners will be people from your University or from other universities.

  18. (PDF) Planning and Passing Your PhD Defence: A Global ...

    The failure of dissertation advice books: T oward alternative pedagogies for doctoral writing. ... defenses-around-the-world-a-phd-defense-from-new-zealand.html. Newton, R. (2016). PhD defenses ...

  19. Tech disruptors and the defense innovation future

    For example, in the United States, SpaceX and Palantir were notable companies in the first wave in the early 2000s; both designed technology for government channels other than the Department of Defense. 1 For further information, see company websites:; A second wave began in the mid-to-late 2010s, represented by new entrants like Anduril and ShieldAI—both now ...

  20. Teach undergraduates that doing a PhD will require them to embrace failure

    18 October 2018 Teach undergraduates that doing a PhD will require them to embrace failure Students must learn that a doctoral degree isn't for everyone — and that not doing one might be a...

  21. Britain's Trident Nuclear-Missile Test Failed for the Second Time in a Row

    Military & Defense A British nuclear-missile launch failed for the 2nd time in a row — yet another embarrassment for the Royal Navy ... The January test failure is the latest in a series of ...

  22. Does anyone know someone who had failed their PhD defence? How ...

    24 richardludwig • 10 yr. ago I have asked my advisor about this, and she said in our R1 department, no. The advisor won't allow a person to get to that stage if they're not ready. I would say quals are often failed in my department (end of first year), and less frequently, comps (must be taken at least 6 months before final defense). 18 FuzzyClovR

  23. A Trident missile test-fired by a UK submarine failed. That's a lot of

    UK Ministry of Defense Redeem now A test of Britain's nuclear deterrent system ended in failure for the second time. The incident involved a $70 million Trident missile that both the US and UK ...

  24. PhD Failure Rate

    With a study covering 30 institutions, 54 disciplines, 330 programs, and 49,000 students, the site identified that the PhD dropout rate goes up to 56.6%. That should tell you the sad state of affairs about the dissertation defense failure rate. Some students start pretty well only to give up on the way.

  25. 'There's only Plan A': Defense leaders fear failure in Ukraine

    Defense 'There's only Plan A': Defense leaders fear failure in Ukraine Attendees of the Munich Security Conference were worried about Ukraine's prospects against Russia and American ...

  26. U.K. defense chief declares confidence in Trident nuclear missiles

    Defense chief tells lawmakers the U.K.'s Trident nuclear missiles are "dependable, and formidable" after a reported failed test launch off Florida. ... The cause of the 2016 failure has never been ...

  27. Trident missile test fails for second time in a row

    The test firing of a Trident missile from a Royal Navy submarine has failed, for the second time in a row. The latest test of the UK's nuclear deterrent was from HMS Vanguard and was seen by ...

  28. The Air Force knows what failed on an Osprey in a crash in Japan, but

    But it still does not know why the failure happened. Because of the crash almost the entire Osprey fleet, hundreds of aircraft across the Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy, has been grounded since Dec. 6. ... In January 2023 the Department of Defense awarded Bell-Boeing $12.7 million to improve the gearbox design across all of the Air Force, U.S ...

  29. AT&T restores service after hours of outage

    AT&T said late on Thursday an outage that disrupted calls and text messages for thousands of U.S. users and prompted federal investigations was not caused by a cyberattack.