Preparing for a Thesis Defense: Expert Tips and More

The master’s thesis defense is the final step you need to take before graduating and receiving your master’s or PhD degree in any discipline. It’s a formal presentation you make in front of a select panel of professors and student colleagues. If it’s the first time you are receiving any of these degrees, this will likely be the first time you will have to give this presentation. But it might not be the last. This article answers some of the big questions surrounding the PhD thesis defense and gives some valuable tips to help you prepare for delivering an excellent presentation on your big day.

Master’s thesis defense: answering the big questions

  • What is a thesis defense?

The defense is basically your chance to answer questions the review panel has about your work. These can range from simple to difficult – but they are important ways of determining whether or not the work is complete and original. At this point in your academic career, you are considered an expert in the field and the written dissertation or thesis will be relied upon and viewed upon as an important contribution to academic study.

  • How long is a thesis defense?

First of all, your dissertation defense isn’t actually a document you submit. You are supposed to provide an oral presentation that can be accompanied with summary slides, handouts, and other supporting material. But the completed thesis or dissertation should be graded on its own merit. This being said your defense is a more a matter of time spent presenting. Most presentations are 25 to 30 minutes, but you should plan on delivering a longer defense just in case.

  • How to prepare for a thesis defense?

You can read several print or web guides for advice on how to prepare for a master thesis defense. And although we certainly do encourage you to access as many resources as possible, we understand that you might not have the time to read through all this information given the limited amount of time you have to get ready for the big day. What we have here, instead are the most important tips you need to know to gear yourself up for the master’s thesis defense presentation.

Five thesis defense tips

  1. Start preparing your thesis defense presentation as early as possible. Most students are given a date for their presentation to take place about a month or so after submitting their thesis or dissertation. This is ample time to prepare even if you take a few days to celebrate completing your project, as most students claim to need only about two weeks to get ready. If you do need extra time, don’t hesitate to ask, but again do so early enough so that you give yourself the time you need to adequately prepare.
  2. Use your dissertation proposal defense to set the foundation. Remember when you first started planning to embark on your research study and met with your advisor for approval? Your proposal defense can be a valuable resource toward creating your presentation defense. You don’t need to copy and paste the material or follow the exact order, but you can use it build your presentation defense so that it’s organized in a logically sound manner that resembles what it was you set to accomplish long before you submitted the final thesis or dissertation.
  3. Create thesis defense PowerPoint slides. This will help summarize the material and lead the panel towards specific discussion points you want to bring up. I know a lot of people cringe when they think of having to watch PowerPoint slides, but these work tremendously well in an academic presentation. And in spite of them being thought of as archaic – they help you dictate the presentation. There are now numerous modern tools and software to make them interesting and uncomplicated. So, put include a little splash of color to spice things up. Just be careful not to overdo it, too much “splash” and your slides might be too difficult to read or follow.
  4. Create a thesis defense presentation outline to guide your discussion. This may mirror your presentation slides or include well-crafted discussion points to bring up when the conversation comes to a lull. The point in having an outline with you during the presentation is that you can easily refer to it and get back on track without losing your place. If you don’t want to use an outline then have some notecards handy and remind yourself that it’s okay to come back to these without penalty. You’re being graded on organization and knowledge of the subject, not on memorization abilities.
  5. Make a list of thesis defense questions you can expect to receive. Many students suffer from some form of stage-fright or seize up whenever they are asked tough questions. The review panel isn’t trying to trick you; they don’t want you to fail. Expect to receive questions in order of difficulty and practice responding to them by coming up with dozens of questions for each section of your thesis or dissertation. Don’t leave any room for surprises – even a detail you believe to be unimportant can come up, so be ready for it. This will help you stay grounded and maintain a professional and natural eye contact with each member.

Where to look for more help?

This article is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to preparing for a great PhD dissertation defense. While the dissertation defense tips are informative and can get you well on your way, you should always access as many resources and seek out professional assistance whenever possible. Our thesis writing services can give you both. Check out our site and contact customer support. There are no obligations and we’re always available to answer your questions and point you in the right direction. If you need us to write, edit, review, or proofread your thesis defense we can do so at the highest levels. Just let us know what you need and we’ll be glad to assist you.