Writing a thesis can be stressful but defending the thesis in an oral presentation can be even more painful. However, it doesn’t have to be. With good preparation, you can defend your thesis successfully. But what makes a good thesis defense?
A good presentation helps you with your thesis defense since it helps you to capture the panel’s attention and provide you cues and reminders on what they think about your thesis. It can also help you keep your data and content organized so that it offers a good flow during the presentation.
Thesis Defence: Overview
The thesis defense comes in two parts; a thesis and a defense. A thesis represents a student’s collective understanding of their program of study. A thesis is one of the requirements to attain a graduate or a postgraduate degree in whatever field you may wish to pursue.
However, a thesis isn’t just a sheer requirement. It helps the students to grow in their respective disciplines and allowing them to present their findings of the study. It also helps to gauge the students’ understanding of their field of study.
A thesis is not a mere essay, it needs to assert something. As such, the thesis is considered as one of the most crucial research document that allows students to make during their academic life.
The thesis defense is a crucial part of thesis completion and it entails the presentation of the document of evidence to support and prove your research problem. As such, you need to make preparations to present your thesis to a panel of experts. This is because they will critique your research and ask pertinent questions about your research and it is your job to convince them and defend your findings with relevant data and facts.
Presentation Structure and Slides Content
- Title Page
Your presentation slide should contain all the information that is contained on the title page of your back-up hard copy. The slide can include;
- Title of your research paper
- Your name
- Name and details of your course
- Name of advisor
The introduction slide should provide the committee with a clue of the following:
- The topic of your thesis research
- The specific research questions that endeavor to answer
- Why your research question is crucial
- The objectives of your research
- Literature Review
A literature review is a detailed section and you don’t have to necessarily cover everything during your presentation. However, you can capture the following;
- Relevant current research that is closely related to your research topic
- Various theories applicable to your research topic
- Areas of weakness that presently highlighted
Ensure that you touch on the factors that are pertinent to the thesis. This can include the following;
- Type of study you conducted; qualitative, quantitative or mixed
- Methods you used and why
- Details of the population, sampling methods, and other important information
- State how you analyzed the data you collected
This is the part you must give you committee a good understanding of what you discovered during your study. As such, it should cover the following;
- Description of data you collected during your research
- Results of the analysis you did on the data
- Most significant findings from your data
For easy presentation, be sure to highlight the meaning of your findings concerning your research topic and the outcomes of the research you did. Relate the findings to what other researchers found in the past. Explain any unusual or surprising result.
This is the end of your thesis defense and you are required to summarize all that you have found within your research. Conclude by;
- Restating your research questions
- Illustrate how your results answer these questions
- Show what contribution you have made to your area of study
- Mention any limitations to your research
- Suggest what future research should focus on
- Make any recommendations
Tips on Preparing for Thesis Defence Presentation
Once you enroll for your graduate degree, you may think that the end is a bit far away. However, the end comes up rather faster than you imagined and you have to hand in your thesis. A thesis requires a lot of work and it is often the last thing you officially do before earning your degree is to defend your thesis. Here are some tips on how to get ready for your thesis defense.
- Anticipate Questions and Prepare for them
Just like we mentioned early, you can prepare for most of the questions that the committee will ask you. For this, you have to thoroughly read through your thesis and create a host of possible questions that you think you could be asked. Additionally, since you already know who will be on the panel, you can pay attention to their academic expertise. What areas do you think they will mostly focus on? If possible, sit at other thesis defenses with these panelists to get a feeling for how they ask and what questions they ask.
Moreover, as a graduate student, you ought to be adept at anticipating test questions, therefore, take advantage and gather as much information and facts as possible before your defense begins.
- What to do When You Don’t Know the Answer
One of the scariest things during your thesis defense is to lack an answer to a question asked by a committee member. Of course, you can prepare for possible questions, but you can never know the exact questions the committee will ask you. You possibly won’t have the answers to all the questions you will be asked. However, one thing to keep in mind is that the thesis defense is not about being perfect or knowing everything, it is rather how you deal with challenging situations.
Although it is ok to “I don’t know”, it is important to try and say something that you need to do to find out the answer. This demonstrates your ability to think like an academic.
- Have a Backup Plan
Keep in mind that technology can be unpredictable just like life is. As such, there isn’t a guarantee that your PowerPoint presentation is going to work perfectly up to the end of your presentation. It is therefore important to have a backup plan for this kind of situation. One such backup plan is to have hand-outs that you can give each committee member a copy and have your own for presentation purposes.
- Dress Formally
A thesis defense is a formal event and often, the entire department is invited to participate. The thesis defense session is akin to a rite of passage for graduate students and faculty who have supported them through the challenging academic process. Though most universities don’t give clear guidelines on how to dress for the thesis defense, they do regard it with dignity and respect. So this might be a no-brainer, but you should know that dressing formally is great for presenting your thesis.
- Dealing with Nervousness
Facing a committee of experts for the presentation of your thesis can make you very nervous. This is normal. However, nervousness can make you change the way you present your thesis. For instance, you may tend to talk faster than usual and can make it difficult for the committee to follow and understand you.
Nervousness can also cause a mental block. Therefore, try to kick it out by taking a deep breath, pause, and take your time. You must articulate your presentation for the committee to clearly understand your thesis. Remember to inhale and exhale!
- Narrow the Presentation of Ideas
It doesn’t matter how long your thesis is, but you certainly can’t read everything during your presentation. As such, work on narrowing down your ideas to the main points, facts, and important statistics and findings. If the committee members think that you are too shallow, then don’t hesitate to get into the details.
- Rehearse Your presentation
Certainly, you need to practice your presentation before your classmates or friends. This will enable you to gather confidence. You will also get better especially if your thesis presentation has time restriction given to each presenter.
- Review Your Materials
Even if you are ready and confident with your upcoming thesis presentation, you still need to review all the materials you will use during the defense. Have with you a hard copy of your thesis so that you don’t get lost during the presentation, especially when you forget some of the specific details or facts. You will simply scan through the document to get them right. Make sure you know your thesis document in and out before facing the committee.
A thesis defense is certainly not an easy task, especially if you have no experience. The same goes for the entire thesis research and writing. Nonetheless, with proper preparation and resilience, you will be able to successfully defend your thesis. By following the presentation structure and tips on how to prepare for your thesis defense, we believe you will have an easy time during your presentation.
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