Defending your thesis can be one of the most stressful events for post-graduates. Feelings of anxiety about the quality of your research, your preparedness and your ability to accurately represent your topic in front of experts can make it hard for you to sleep the night (or week) before your presentation even if you wrote your paper according to dissertation writing service advices.
Whether the thesis is accepted or not will depend on the panel you’re presenting to and the quality of your presentation and the only thing you can do now is practice your presentation and try to still your nerves.
Here are some dissertation defense tips and the different levels of results you can expect.
Preparation for thesis defense
This does not involve new research. You’ve already done all the research you can do up to this point. What you need to do now is organize your thoughts to be able to make a dynamic and compelling presentation to the panel:
- Get advice- Talk to others who have successfully defended a thesis. Or even to those who have unsuccessfully defended one. Find out what the process was like, what questions were asked, how long it took, why they succeeded or why they failed.
- Your advisor should be able to help prep you for this process, helping you organize all the paperwork that goes into the defense including abstracts and summaries to be sent to the panel before your presentation. They should also let you know how much time you’ll be given to present your defense and any other specifics that are essential to your preparation.
- What’s your angle? You won’t be able to take the panel through the entire paper. Instead, you’ll need to convince them that its worthy of passing by the points you choose to present.
When defending a thesis, presenting a broad definition or a general summary of your topic won’t cut it. Based on your research and what others have contributed to this topic, what do you have to offer that others haven’t before? If you can hone in on this, you’re halfway there. The panel will want proof that you have sharp academic skills and innovative thinking.
- Presenting your defense is only part of the defense process. You’ll be asked questions by the panel. Some of these questions, you may not know the answer to. If that happens, try to answer the question to the best of your ability according to the research you’ve done. Instead of “I don’t know” you could say something like, “Based on the research I’ve done, it’s likely that xyz issue could be a result of abc.” Make an educated guess, don’t give up just because you’re not 100% sure.
- Dress codes- Dressing appropriately is important. Make sure you’re wearing clothing that is both comfortable and professional. For men a collared shirt and dress pants with dress shoes. For women, a suit or skirt and blouse and flat dress shoes or modest heels. Neutral make-up and jewelry. Avoid casual clothing such as shorts, jeans, sneakers or t-shirts.
- Practice as much as you can before giving your presentation. This is the only way you can be sure you’re prepared. Gather some classmates to serve as a mock panel, and include people who have already defended a thesis. Give them your abstract and summary beforehand. Ask them to prepare questions to ask you after your presentation and ask them to throw you some curveballs. Get their feedback on the quality of your slides (if you’re using them) and your physical presence as well as tone of voice and other details.
- Film yourself- Watching your presentation is the best way for you to find and correct weak areas. Are you talking too fast? Is your voice audible? Do you use gestures? Do you seem nervous or confident? Are you able to speak with authority without always referring to your notes?
- Watch other presentations- Go on youtube and watch others make presentations. Ted.com is full of experts making compelling presentations of their topics. Pay attention to cadence, use of slides, examples and gestures. Use the most effective methods in your own presentation.
Examination results and grading
When all is said and done, the panel will rate your defense in one on the following four categories:
- Your thesis has passed
- Your thesis needs minor revisions
- Your thesis extensive revisions
- Your thesis has not been approved
In the event of the last three, you’ll need to submit the revisions for approval or completely overhaul your research and angle. Your advisor will be able to help you navigate this process.
Thesis defense can be a nerve-wracking experience. Don’t let your nervousness get the best of you. Do your best based on the research you’ve done and the advice you’ve received from your advisor and others involved. Stay calm and present your work with confidence. Good luck!