Imagine this: you’ve finished writing a dissertation. You completed your dissertation editing. Your dissertation formatting looks good, and meets all of your university’s rules and expectations. You’ve got your committee’s signatures and approval. Could it be? Yes. You survived your dissertation defense! While it might seem far off, you, too, will get to that defense date!

It can be exciting and sometimes overwhelming to finally put to bed a project like a dissertation – a project that’s been a major part of your life for so long. The day of my dissertation defense, I was thrilled – but also terrified! I got home from the defense and I just didn’t know what to do with myself. So what should you do with yourself when you’ve defended and filed your dissertation?

Make Plans

The afternoon following my dissertation defense, I was at a loss. I’d been writing and editing my dissertation for so long, and now it was over, and it felt like it had ended with much less fanfare than I had anticipated. Much like Gina Bereca of the Chronicle of Higher Education describes, I felt strangely let down and went through a bout of post-dissertation ennui. Left to my own devices, I probably would have just sat on my couch watching Netflix all day. But my husband whisked me off for celebratory margaritas instead. I needed the distraction badly, and it helped me realize what a major thing I’d just accomplished! I’d recommend making plans with someone who can go out with you to help you debrief after your defense, whatever the outcome.

Don’t Overthink Your Defense

Maybe your defense went smoothly. Maybe it was stressful or even traumatic. The important thing to remember is that it is over, and you got through it. Don’t relive the hard parts over and over in your mind. Instead, focus on the positive: you defended your dissertation.

Catch Up

Guess what. There has been a world of stuff happening while you’ve been cloistered away dissertating. In the days following your defense, catch up with the outside world. If you have time, reach out to friends who you haven’t seen in a while. If you have the inclination, catch up on new research in your field beyond your dissertation topic. Give your brain something new to focus on and think about.

Put Your Dissertation Aside

Maybe you have plans to convert your dissertation into a book someday, or publish the chapters as articles. But give yourself a break first. I’d suggest putting your dissertation aside, at least for a little while. It’s probably the only thing you’ve been thinking about for a long time. Let it rest and come back to it in a couple of months – after taking a break from your dissertation, you might be able to return to it refreshed, and with new ideas.

Identify How Your Defense Can Help With Next Steps

Once you’re feeling like you’ve had enough distance from your dissertation, start thinking about how the feedback your committee gave during your defense can help you as you work towards publication. What concerns did they raise? What did they praise? I found that the conversation I had with my committee during my defense helped me clearly identify the innovative aspects of my dissertation’s argument. As I’ve been working to adapt it into a book, being able to clearly state my project’s contributions has been extremely helpful.

Celebrate

Raise a glass to yourself! You wrote a dissertation and you’ve earned it.

Your dissertation defense day may seem far away, but you will get there, sooner or later! Imagine how great it will feel when all of the pieces fall into place. A dissertation consultant can help you get to your defense faster. Our dissertation research services can help you effectively develop original research strategies. A dissertation editor can make sure that your dissertation writing is top-notch. And a dissertation formatting expert can take care of the final details.