Online defence – is it scary?

Throughout the pandemic, we hear more and more about diploma defences online. What does it really mean? What is the schedule? How to prepare for it? We can help you with a first-hand account! Magdalena, the Translation Team Manager from our sister company, MD Online, has just obtained her PhD in that way. She has agreed to share her experience with you to put you at ease if you are waiting for your own online defence.

eCORRECTOR: Gaining a PhD is preceded by a stressful defence procedure. Were you more tense knowing that it will be 100% online in your case?
Magdalena right before the online defence started

Magdalena right before the online defence started

Magdalena: I have to admit that it was scary at first. It was a defence procedure virtually unknown to me and it was to be a historic event, first online PhD defence at my university, one of the first ones in the country. The public nature of a PhD defence was a logistic challenge as all participants had to sing up earlier and arrange proper equipment. Luckily, my commission and thesis supervisors succeeded in making the whole process smooth and in accordance with the regulations. All and all, it was a very enjoyable academic experience!

eCORRECTOR: Can you tell us a bit more about your research?

Magdalena: Certainly! I examined translation from the perspective of a medium, so a specific text type. In my case, a book, a graphic narrative and a computer game. I wanted to learn whether problems in translation are triggered by the content or rather the nature of the medium. As a fan of fantasy literature and a gamer,  I chose the well-known Witcher universes, namely the first translated book, Dark Horse’s graphic narrative and CD Projekt Red’s computer game. I was also interested in the influence of the central work, so Andrzej Sapkowski’s books, on the translation of other media types emerging within this universe.

eCORRECTOR: How did you prepare for your online defence? It surely required additional preparations.

Magdalena: Obtaining a PhD is always a public event, so everyone can attend and, what’s “worse”, ask a question on whichever topic they choose! Every PhD candidate has to review the scope of the thesis and the research area, but also prepare for surprises. Same applies to an online defence. I also prepared the self-presentation in a slide-show format to make it more interactive and illustrate my research better. Furthermore, I had to publicly reply to the reviewer’s comments, which is a standard procedure, so I prepared a document beforehand to make it smoother.

eCORRECTOR: Was the online defence procedure significantly different from the one we’re used to?

Magdalena: “Traditional” defences are solemn events; a PhD is not a triviality. The introduction, presenting reviewers, thesis supervisors and the commission, outlining the candidate’s academic record, self-presentation, discussion on review results – it’s all carried out in a very serious manner. Everyone is elegantly dressed from head to toe. I try to hide my smile when people ask me what I wore for my defence and I had… tracksuit bottoms 😊 Just as other participants, I was dressed for the occasion from the waist up, but it was difficult to force ourselves to abandon that bit of comfort when at home. There were also some funny moments when someone forgot to mute their microphone or did not turn it on and we could only see the gestures. I think such mishaps are unavoidable during online events. Therefore, I cannot say that it was not solemn or serious… it was just different.

eCORRECTOR: How was the non-public part with the vote carried out?

Magdalena: When the commission was to discuss whether to accept my thesis, all non-essential participants were “kicked out” from the online event. When the professors reached a decision, were all re-invited to hear the verdict. The voting was secret, conducted via an app prepared for this purpose.

eCORRECTOR: Thank you for your time and explaining how an online defence looks like. Some of the authors that cooperate with us face such a perspective, so this interview may help them conquer it. We would like to use this occasion to congratulate Magdalena and wish her further academic success!

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