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  • Original Tweet:

  • Yet another 400-year-old institution that warrants a complete overhaul.
  • I have to do this for exams.
  • Well, I have to scan my "workplace", but with the awkwardness of moving my laptop around, it's the same thing.
  • Did they check under the bed?  That's where most PhD cheaters are likely to hide...along with the dust bunnies and Skeleton People (you know, the ones that get you if you sleep with any part of your body hanging over the edge of the bed)
  • Do these people not understand how doors work?
  • Paul Baumer: Do these people not understand how doors work?


    They're working on it diligently
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  • What exactly is the committe's external?
  • Stephen_Falken: What exactly is the committe's external?


    The rules for PhD defenses vary widely, so it is hard to say for sure for a graduate program I'm not a part of. That said, often the composition of Thesis Committees is something like: Your advisor, 2-3 other faculty members that are part of the graduate program, 1-2 faculty members that are external to the graduate program. The idea is often that during a thesis defense you need to be able to speak to both a public audience, and to a scientist focused on your field. An external member is helping to evaluate the bigger picture.
  • Stephen_Falken: What exactly is the committe's external?


    It's the vanguard of the Spanish Inquisition that nobody expects.
  • KangTheMad: I have to do this for exam


    A thesis defense isn't really an exam, Subby has it right.

    The structure is pretty different between Universities and even between graduate programs within a University, but in general it is a public presentation followed by a (private) Q&A session with the committee. In theory you trying to show the committee that with the work you did in the past ~4 years you, in order of importance: made a meaningful contribution to your scientific field, can talk meaningfully about that contribution, and don't have any particularly embarrassing blind spots in your scientific knowledge.

    By the time you pass your prelim/qualifiers the assumption is you know more than most people about your niche field, the concept of an 'exam' in your field that you could 'cheat' on becomes a little quaint.
  • Paul Baumer: Do these people not understand how doors work?


    Or ear pieces?
    Or sneaking in after the look around?
    or or or
  • Stephen_Falken: What exactly is the committe's external?


    So, to do a PhD, you have a committee of people who are already PhDs to evaluate your work.  One of these will be the professor you are working under.  Most of the others will be people in the same program.  But there is always at least one person from another program.  They are there to (1) make sure the defense doesn't become a complete circle-jerk, and (2) to provide an outside view of your work.  Preferably, their own field has a passing connection to the dissertation, but a beat poet at a particle physics defense isn't technically against the rules.  Everyone else are going to be deep in the weeds of your research, the the external member is there to make sure "deep in the weeds" isn't really "so far up your own asses you can see each others' tonsils".  Since everyone has to do this, most programs have rotas to go torture the fresh meat coming out of other programs.  You read the dissertation, carefully formulate a question that is just coherent enough to be on topic, but with enough of an out-of-left-field flair to make the candidate sweat, and then sit back and enjoy the show.


    My question is how you "cheat" at a defense.  It is your research.  If you can't speak authoritatively about it off the cuff, you shouldn't have scheduled the defense.  Even for the gotcha questions, you have to formulate a response on the fly.  No way someone is sitting there off-camera listening, making a coherent answer, and feeding it to you in real time.  I'm not even sure you could throw them out if they were there.  All our dissertation defenses had to be open to the public.  I mean, generally no one actually came except for a spouse, parent, or morbidly curious graduate student - but you couldn't turn anyone away if they wanted to watch.  Hell, one friend's parents showed up and filmed the damned thing!  Considering one of her committee members was known to be a roaring asshole at defenses, we thought it was the perfect passive-aggressive way to keep him in check.
  • Bajtaur: In theory you trying to show the committee that with the work you did in the past ~4 years you, in order of importance: made a meaningful contribution to your scientific field, can talk meaningfully about that contribution, and don't have any particularly embarrassing blind spots in your scientific knowledge.


    Umm, number one is "you understand how to create a presented work that is understandable to other people".  A dissertation is a work-piece.  You're not a screaming moron and/or unable to communicate ideas.  Considering most are about arcane fringes, the meaningful contribution will come later - with some glaringly obvious outliers.  You really just need to prove you can do original research without smearing your feces across the walls and ranting about Arcturians and time cubes (that comes later when you get tenure).
  • Are they really expecting to catch a professor from another school standing there with a big white board to write out the answers to each query?

    Because that would actually be kind of cool.
  • I'd love to know how you're supposed to cheat at a defense. It's not like you can't have notes. And the only people capable of feeding you answers about your research are probably the ones asking you the questions in the first place.
  • BretMavrik: Yet another 400-year-old institution that warrants a complete overhaul.


    MDs are 400 years old. PHDs are approaching 900.
  • wejash: Are they really expecting to catch a professor from another school standing there with a big white board to write out the answers to each query?

    Because that would actually be kind of cool.


    I haven't done a PhD defense (yet) but my Master's thesis defense involved conversations you just can't have if you don't know what you did.
  • If your PhD chair thought you weren't prepared enough to defend, but let you defend anyway, they have failed as a PhD chair.
  • Kubo: If your PhD chair thought you weren't prepared enough to defend, but let you defend anyway, they have failed as a PhD chair.


    Yep - a failure in a defence makes the entire program look bad, and they rarely happen. Most people "failing" their PhD program tank their comprehensive exams and/or bailout on their own, or they run out of time to hack together a coherent defendable thesis.
  • phalamir: My question is how you "cheat" at a defense.  It is your research.  If you can't speak authoritatively about it off the cuff, you shouldn't have scheduled the defense.  Even for the gotcha questions, you have to formulate a response on the fly.  No way someone is sitting there off-camera listening, making a coherent answer, and feeding it to you in real time.  I'm not even sure you could throw them out if they were there.  All our dissertation defenses had to be open to the public.  I mean, generally no one actually came except for a spouse, parent, or morbidly curious graduate student - but you couldn't turn anyone away if they wanted to watch.  Hell, one friend's parents showed up and filmed the damned thing!  Considering one of her committee members was known to be a roaring asshole at defenses, we thought it was the perfect passive-aggressive way to keep him in check.


    Yeah, I'm puzzled by this.

    For my Master's defense, it was over an hour of explanation, questions and defense. Not an easy hour, and I don't care who you had trying to fill things in, it was niche enough that it wouldn't help.
  • All thesis defenses should be performed on a frictionless plane of equal density.
  • Bajtaur: Stephen_Falken: What exactly is the committe's external?

    The rules for PhD defenses vary widely, so it is hard to say for sure for a graduate program I'm not a part of. That said, often the composition of Thesis Committees is something like: Your advisor, 2-3 other faculty members that are part of the graduate program, 1-2 faculty members that are external to the graduate program. The idea is often that during a thesis defense you need to be able to speak to both a public audience, and to a scientist focused on your field. An external member is helping to evaluate the bigger picture.


    Additionally, the external member is there as a check on the department, so there's someone there from outside to call out things like what happened in this woman's defense.

    Where I am the external member is allowed to be someone who is in the same field as the other faculty members, but at a different university.  Just as long as they're not in any way affiliated with the department giving the oral exam/defense
  • Sword and Shield: For my Master's defense, it was over an hour of explanation, questions and defense. Not an easy hour, and I don't care who you had trying to fill things in, it was niche enough that it wouldn't help.


    My dad said his advisor fell asleep during his defense.

    // got the doctorate anyway
    // and then never set foot in a lab again
    // because he is an accident prone disaster
  • NeoCortex42: I'd love to know how you're supposed to cheat at a defense.


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