The disputation lecture – a challenge in itself!

Here you will find some tips on how you can organize your disputation lecture. It’s difficult when your head is so full that you can’t separate the important from the unimportant anymore.

What is a disputation?

The disputation lat: Disputatio is, as the name suggests, the defense of the dissertation. By the way, for the ancient Greeks it is said to have come before the writing of the dissertation, only after the defense was the work worth writing.

As a rule, the disputation consists of a lecture and a discussion. Some doctoral regulations stipulate that the disputation consists of the presentation of theses, which are then discussed individually with the committee.

The disputation talk is often a challenge for PhD students, after all, they have spent two, three, four, five years (some even longer) working on their PhD and are literally specialists in their PhD topic and the related research field. This leads to a kind of operational blindness, which makes it impossible to present one’s own topic in 20 minutes.

The Disputation Lecture

The disputation talk is not about putting the entire PhD process into a disputation talk, but only what is essential! Packing your own multi-year research into 20 minutes is simply impossible, and if you wanted to recite it all, you’d probably be busy for two hours explaining everything. So, what to do? How to choose what is important and what should be in the lecture?

It is helpful to ask yourself a few questions before conceptualizing your talk so that you can use the answers to figure out how to craft your own disputation talk!


What are my main results? What is new? What is special about it?

Here it is important to emphasize your own result. How did you come up with this result, what special features does your result have and what is special about your result?

Why did I do the research?

Often there was a reason to choose exactly this topic at the beginning of the research. Sometimes it is a biographical reason, sometimes it is a political reason, or there were ecological, resp. economic reasons.

What was the scientific starting point?

What was the scientific relevance for your own PhD project and what was the exact starting point?? Is there anything special to say about it? Maybe it was even the case that a few years ago, when you started your research, the starting point was different? Are there any essential?

What was my research question and why??

What exact research question did you pursue, what is the "scientific relevance" of your work??

How did I proceed?

How and why did you design the examination this way and not differently??

What means (theories, methods) did I use to come to a result??

Why did you choose certain theories and what led you to use certain methods??

How do my results fit into the scientific context??

What changes does your result bring to science??


How do my results affect other research fields, other disciplines?

What is the significance of your research findings for other projects, other disciplines or- sub-disciplines?

What do the results mean for research in your subject??

What is changing in the research now?

What further research needs arise?

What is new now? And, maybe you have already formulated it in the outlook of your dissertation, what should be researched now??

If you think about all these questions in the conception of your disputation talk and possibly also answer them in your presentation, it will be easier for you to create, justify and deliver your talk.

It is important to define the goal of your own disputation presentation:

Defense of the dissertation: You "defend" and discuss your dissertation in front of and with a panel of experts. This means that your research is well-founded and shows what is new about your research project, respectively. what results have been achieved. A little bit you also show that it was very important to do this research and complete it the way you did.

Confirmation of the doctoral grade:

You confirm and improve your doctoral grade.
In the disputation you show that you deserve your doctoral grade, sometimes you even have to show that you are much better than the grade you have already received. In principle, your grade cannot change very much in the disputation, at least according to most doctoral regulations. If your reviewers have given you the same grade twice, it is usually almost impossible to change it. That’s why I want to tell you at this point that you might not have to worry so much at all.

Completion of the doctorate:

You complete your doctorate! The disputation is almost the last part of a doctoral degree. You still have to publish your doctoral thesis, but actually most of it is done now. A disputation is therefore a discussion on an equal footing with the reviewers, resp. the doctoral committee. Often it is not about "examining" the doctoral candidate at the end of the doctorate. A disputation presentation and the subsequent discussion can simply be an exchange between researchers at "eye level". And – the grade is usually fixed and cannot be changed by a particularly good or a particularly bad disputation!

In the OnlineCourse Shaping the final phase and passing the doctoral exam you will get information, worksheets and checklists to prepare the final phase of your PhD and to plan the defense of your thesis concretely. You learn how a disputation works and what you should pay attention to. You will get to know the building blocks of a doctoral lecture and prepare the lecture and the defense of your doctoral thesis. Besides a lot of information you will find exercises and instructions to structure this phase, to organize the disputation and finally to get through it in a relaxed way.


Dr. Jutta Wergen

You get helpful support from me in your promotion phase. In my consultations, my coachings and workshops, on and offline, I have developed helpful and fitting coaching instruments and tools.

In doing so, I focus on the practical implementation and the restoration of the ability to act of doctoral students.

I founded Coachingzonen-Wissenschaft in 2014. Here I offer, meanwhile with a team, online courses for doctoral candidates.

I have known the field of science for many years and am familiar with the structures of supporting young researchers as well as the specifics of doctoral studies. Therefore I know which typical (and untypical) problems and questions PhD students may have and I know and develop together with PhD students the individually suitable answers and solutions.

I have been working as a coach and trainer with doctoral candidates since 2001. Initially, I coordinated graduate programs, designed and offered continuing education courses. Of course, I have completed various training and further education courses myself.

As a trainer and coach, I offer workshops and coaching sessions for doctoral candidates at various universities and universities of applied sciences.

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