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The process of crafting and defending your dissertation can often feel daunting and leaves many PhD candidates feeling overwhelmed. However, once you break it down into smaller goals, defending your dissertation begins to feel a lot more achievable. Christina Bambrick, assistant professor of political science at the University of Notre Dame provides scholars preparing for their dissertation with a 5-step outline for a successful defense.

The 5 Steps to a Successful Dissertation:

01 Find Your Topic

Be thinking about your topic from day one and read about it broadly. Use this time to devise and build a review team and actively seek feedback from other scholars.

02 Starting Your Prospectus

Bambrick says that the most crucial aspect of this stage is getting down the initial prospectus, while understanding that your dissertation will evolve. From there, you can use this time to secure fellowships and begin to learn citation software, which will be crucial throughout the process.

03 Research & Writing

Write, write, write! The third step to a successful dissertation involves becoming comfortable with writing frequently and intentionally. Bambrick advises setting a daily goal of at least 20 minutes and being thorough in leaving detailed notes for yourself for your next writing session.

04 The Job Market

To prepare your work for the job market, Bambrick suggests treating your chapters as articles and using them for publishing. She notes that when doing this, make sure to cater your articles to specific publication audiences for a better chance at getting published.

05 Defending Your Dissertation

As your dissertation defense approaches, it’s beneficial to understand all the expectations. Bambrick suggests observing your colleagues’ defenses and meeting with your advisor for a more in-depth discussion on what’s expected.

Whether you are interested in attending graduate school or a current student seeking academic career advice, the Institute for Humane studies offers a variety of programs and services to assist you on your journey.

5 Steps to a Successful Dissertation

Here is the timeline for our application process:

  1. Apply for a position 
  2. An HR team member will review your application submission  
  3. If selected for consideration, you will speak with a recruiter 
  4. If your experience and skills match the role, you will interview with the hiring manager
  5. If you are a potential fit for the position, you will interview with additional staff members
  6. If you are the candidate chosen, we will extend a job offer


All candidates will be notified regarding the status of their application within two to three weeks of submission. As new positions often become available, we encourage you to visit our site frequently for additional opportunities that align with your interests and skills.