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History Dissertation Defense

Online submission of the dissertation via ETD @ Harvard is required by the Graduate School. Dissertations must be received by 11:59 pm on the deadline date for the given degree period. NO EXTENSIONS TO THIS DEADLINE ARE PROVIDED.

Dissertations should be submitted in their final format, in accordance with the guidelines listed in the Form of the PhD Dissertation booklet, and ready for publication. The Registrar’s Office will review the document for formatting compliance. Formatting errors may prevent the conferral of the degree and the student may need to apply for the next available degree period. A sample dissertation as well as the Top Ten Common Errors are provided for your convenience.

The following two surveys must be completed and completion confirmation codes provided during dissertation submission.

1. Survey of Earned Doctorates

2.GSAS Exit Survey of Postgraduate Plans

In addition to the electronic dissertation submission, the original complete and signed Dissertation Acceptance Certificate must be delivered to the Registrar's Office, Smith Campus Center, 1350 Massachusetts Avenue, Suite 450, Cambridge, MA 02138 by the appropriate dissertation deadline. This certificate should be typed, printed on watermark paper, and match the dissertation title page exactly. It must be signed by a minimum of three readers, two of whom must be members of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. The student name must match the legal name on file at the Registrar's Office.

Writing a history dissertation is quite an intense experience. You spend months and months studying and researching the subject, and when you are finally finished with your paper, this is not the end yet. You need to defend your thesis. Defending your history dissertation is quite a nerve-wracking experience. The better you prepare for it, the easier it will flow. You can prepare for your thesis defense following a few simple rules:

  • Know the format of your defense.
  • Essentially, it may vary in different countries and even across different institutions, so you need to be prepared. You may have only two examiners or a large committee. Whatever it will be, you need to know in advance.

  • Practice your presentation.
  • You need to know the time limits for your presentation and prepare accordingly. In order for your speech to be smooth and fluent, study the material perfectly. In this way, if you forget some lines, you can still keep talking, because you know your subject. It is a good idea to practice your speech with an audience. Encourage your friends to create a mock dissertation defense setting, and ask questions.

  • You are not expected to know everything.
  • The scariest thing about your thesis defense is being asked a question you do not know an answer to. It is not possible to predict all the questions and read all the literature on the subject. The main element is to speak confidently, so that you will make your examiners happy with your answer. Do not just say “I don’t know”. Speculate on the question asked and make predictions. This way the examiners will see that you are able to think as a scholar.

  • Know your core content
  • This is the main part of your paper, you are expected to know it perfectly. Therefore, in your presentation, stick to the main problem of your history dissertation.

  • Deal with your nerves.
  • It is inevitable that you will be nervous. Just think of a way to calm yourself down.

  • Do not rush.
  • Speaking really fast will not help your presentation sound clear and coherent. Because of being nervous, you might talk fast and lose your train of thought, so deliberately slow yourself down, take a breath or drink some water.

    The main point you need to keep in mind is that the success of your presentation depends on the content of your paper. If your paper is written well and you are happy with it, then the defense will go well too.

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