Preparing a solid thesis defense for the committee

By Saptarshi Basu Roy Choudhury on January 22, 2019

When a thesis is evaluated internally within the department, then less than a month’s time is designated to prepare for the thesis defense. However, if it is sent to a panel of external examiners, then more than a month can be designated. This time varies for different Universities, colleges, institutes, and countries. The goal of this examination is to check the ability of the scholar to present their work before a pool of audience comprising of members of the thesis committee, faculty members and fellow scholars.

The main objective of defending a thesis is twofold. First, it intends to evaluate how well the scholar has understood his or her field of research and second, it intends to determine whether the student is capable of conveying his or her understanding to fellow Academicians.

Stages of a thesis defense

The thesis defense is usually held in two stages within a predetermined duration of time. These are:

Stage 1: The first stage involves the presentation of the entire thesis in the form of a Powerpoint presentation (PPT). You can use MS PowerPoint or Beamer which is the LaTeX package for the presentation slide show.

Stage 2: The second stage is the questions and answers. In this stage, you shall be asked questions by the thesis defense committee and the audience.

The first stage requires making the presentation in a comprehensive and systemic manner. It includes:

  • a brief introduction of the topic of the thesis,
  • the motivation of the research,
  • the research gaps,
  • the aim and objectives it tries to establish,
  • the review of the literature,
  • the research methodology adopted and used,
  • findings of the analysis and,
  • finally implications and recommendations.

The most important component of this stage is to present the value additions of the research or in other words, the contribution that the research is making in theory and in practice.

The second shall have questions from the committee and the audience to asses the validity of the research. Some of the questions may have a specific answer. The questions can be challenging and will require a thorough understanding of the research.

Important points to focus on

  • Make a presentation which is crisp and to the point.
  • Explain and justify every argument.
  • Clarify the results.
  • Focus on the findings and value additions to the research.
  • Be open to questions and ideas.
  • Comment on recommendations, limitations and suggestions for future research.

As cliché as it may sound, it requires practice and preparation to present a thesis. Make proper use of the time designated before the presentation. Be confident and maintain eye contact with the audience during your presentation. Treat the defence as an opportunity and a significant step forward to share the hard work with peers from exchanging ideas and thoughts.