Top 10 Ways to Successfully Defend Your Thesis

Keith Peters

Never mind the cold sweat that’s running down your brow or the butterflies in your stomach — they are all normal as most students would say. You check the time on your wristwatch, iron out your formal attire with your sweaty hands, and try your best to delight in the last few minutes before you face the panel.

By now, you’re pretty sure that you can address all the questions they will throw at you — except that you suddenly had a mental block because your nerves just won’t settle down. You start to become fidgety, place your palms on your face, and try your hardest not to break down. We know that’s pretty brutal, but this could be the unfortunate scenario you might find yourself in if you come unprepared for your thesis defense.

Presenting a good statement and laying down your justifications on paper is winning half the battle during thesis season. Successfully defending your work is another matter. Whether you’re in college or graduate school and your thesis defense is fast approaching, these ten useful tips will get you ready and confident to face the panel and help you become eloquent in your subject matter.

Know your audience

This is the first rule of public speaking and it will do you a lot of good if you follow it. Think about it; your audience will hear and process every word you say and will give you feedback on whether or not you were understood or otherwise.

Considering that you are talking to respected leaders in the academe, you may want to review how you structure your presentations, take a second look at your slides, and weed out what’s not relevant for the panel. Know who they are and what expertise they have regarding the subject you will be talking about.

Remember that your audience will always expect to learn something new from you and this could be to your advantage as long as you can justify what you say and be able to answer extemporaneously when queried about specifics.

Introduce yourself as someone who is credible

This doesn’t mean you have to present slides to sell yourself like the proverbial pen. Give the panel the impression that you are a master of your subject matter by providing them an overview of your research, its importance, and why they should give you a listen.

Make sure you have factual bases for your claims and conclusions because these are the main foundations of a strong defense. When caught in an inconclusive theory, admit that you haven’t qualified it yet. Stretching your conclusions to unnecessary lengths might just confuse your audience more and jeopardize your chances of a good defense.

Make your presentation worthwhile

Most members of a thesis panel can also get tired from listening to a number of students defending their theses all day. This is all apart from their respective professional stresses. Giving them some engaging story might just give them relief. Try to inject relevant reports that will help you prove your points during your defense. Give them a walkthrough on how you came up with your pieces of evidence, how you went about your experiments, as well as the struggles and strides you’ve made to draw your conclusions. If you remain coherent, you’ll find yourself an attentive audience.

Be keen to detail

Bear in mind that every detail, even the small ones, are important. You wouldn’t want your audience to lose interest in your propositions due to a missing label on your presentation or if your graphs are misrepresented. This could actually be annoying for them. Review your visual aids twice or thrice as necessary especially if you are presenting a great deal of visual data.

Mind your transitions

Keeping your presentation lucid is equally important as keeping your audience’s interest. Prior to your defense, check if your presentation slides cover everything you want to present by segments, and mind how you go from one to the other. Being consistent and articulate from how you developed your thesis statement down to your ‘take-aways’ will always play an important factor during your thesis defense.

Rehearse

Don’t rely on visual aids and colorful Powerpoint presentations to thrill your audience. What they’ll expect from your defense is an intelligible presentation of arguments and findings so make sure that you rehearse a couple of times before D-day.

Refrain from reading your pointers from the slides that you present. That’s a no-no in the realm of formal presentations. These slides serve as mere complements you use to further emphasize key particulars or present graphs and charts which could be too difficult to explain verbally. Practice makes perfect, and part of the practice is to know your stuff by heart.

Gather feedback

You may also want to try and practice your defense with your fellow students as your audience. This way you can gather constructive feedback and refine your work before your defense. Start with this practice early and do it as much as you can with different audiences until you perfect what you want to say or discover what you need to work on. If you give more time for preparation, the higher the chances you have to defend your thesis successfully.

Check your equipment

This one is pretty basic but equally important. Some unprepared students who do not test the school’s or their personal equipment prior to their defense may suffer technical malfunctions and unnecessary stresses. Take a minute to check your projectors, laptop, audio, and all other technical equipment you need to deliver a clear and smooth presentation. You’ll thank yourself later.

Stick to your premises

Embrace your knowledge and be confident. As to how dogs can smell fear, so can your professors or subject experts call you out when they sense that you are just rambling on. As long as you keep your statements aligned with your conclusions and make sure that your paper is tight and free of loopholes, you’ll be fine.

Stay humble

Be confident but stay humble. Academic elders usually frown upon conceited students who give off an air of dominance over them. Respect is always the proper decorum whenever you are in the halls of the academe so exercise it.

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