How to defend your thesis paper?

By on June 17, 2014

Paper submission is an integral part of all doctoral programs and most of the master’s programs as well. A thesis refers to a research work where the student makes claims and supports these claims with reasons. However, a thesis does not represent facts and the claims made by the student and can therefore prove incorrect as the thesis progresses.

The objective behind including a thesis work in higher education is to check the student’s capability to go beyond the established facts and contribute something relevant to the available literature on the subject. At this stage, the students are expected to not only read but read between the lines and adopt the role of a critique. The success follows those who identify the gaps in existing research, objectively define how this current research can be of help, and recommend the scope for future research.

How to face your supervisor?

Thesis submission in an academic program does not completed merely by writing the thesis, one needs to prove and defend it as well. Before meeting the supervisor with the final draft of the thesis, it is advisable that the students prepare brief notes highlighting the main points of the thesis:

  1. The aim and objectives of the research.
  2. The problem statement.
  3. The significance of the research.
  4. The limitations of the research.
  5. The main points identified during the literature review.
  6. The research methodology was adopted.
  7. The main findings and conclusion of the research.

Besides, it is also important that the student adopts a confident attitude and positive mind frame while meeting the supervisor. One must stay prepared for criticism at this stage in order to achieve a better final outcome.

Common questions to expect from your supervisor

Research gaps

During the thesis defense, a supervisor always aims at evaluating the overall substance and usefulness of the research. The supervisor tries to find out whether the claims made by students are supported by proper reasons or not. For this purpose, the supervisor usually asks:

  1. How would you justify your research topic?
  2. What led you to undertake such research?
  3. Whom the research will benefit?
  4. How did you reach these research questions?
  5. What theories guided you to the selected research methodology?
  6. What are the limitations of your research methodology and what can be done to overcome the same?
  7. How does your research contribute to the existing literature?
  8. How would you justify the findings of your research?
  9. How does your research pave the way for future research?

Why does your supervisor scrutinize your thesis work?

Choosing the right supervisor for the thesis is a key decision one makes during their academic program. Many times the students presume that the ultimate objectives of supervisors during thesis defense are to identify the loopholes in the thesis and reject their claim. A number of students even hesitate to consult their supervisors throughout the duration of the thesis, out of this fear. But it is a major mistake on part of the students. One must keep visiting the supervisor during the course of the thesis and discuss the progress made. The supervisors are there to help students prove their thesis in a better way. The supervisors definitely assume the role of a critique but that is only done to get the best out of the student. The supervisors review the entire thesis and check whether the claims made by the student are justified and whether he/she has supported it with proper reasons; whether proper methodology has been adopted; and whether findings really contribute something relevant. A supervisor is an experienced person with proven expertise in the field and therefore it would be a good idea to ask for his/her feedback.

How and when to amend your thesis to justify your supervisor?

A thesis is usually submitted in parts. The first part of the thesis contains the ‘introduction’ and ‘review of literature chapters while the second part contains the ‘research methodology, ‘data analysis, and ‘findings, conclusion, and recommendations chapters. It is always advisable to keep consulting the supervisor throughout and make changes according to the feedback on a regular basis so that in the end, the editing work is not piled up. However, the supervisors usually do not read the entire thesis and as already said adopt a critical mind frame during their review; as such a few comments may be found irrelevant by the student. It is therefore recommended to amend only those parts of the thesis on the basis of the supervisor’s comments which are justified and defend the rest with reason. The student must first try to find enough reasons for every claim he/she makes and address the supervisor’s feedback. However, if proper reasons cannot be found to justify the claims, it would be better to amend the thesis as per the guidance of the supervisor.


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