Well, you’ve finally done it. Your completed thesis draft has been turned in to your thesis committee. You made the edits, conformed to the university standards, and inserted each footnote.
Now, all you have to do is defend the thesis you have been working years to complete.
Usually, we type-A graduate students want to know what we need to do to succeed (i.e. Read This, Write This, Response to This, and so on). But how to prepare for something that seems so nebulous? Well, there is no perfect way to prepare – this may depend on your field of study. But here is a general checklist to get you started!
10 Tips for Prepping for Your Thesis Defense
- Talk to recent grads from your program. Seriously, make a list and start emailing. Offer to take a few out for coffee or lunch so you can pick their brain.
- Make sure your paperwork is in order. University beaurocracies can be difficult to navigate. Check – and double-check! – with your program administrator and the college of graduate studies to make sure you are good to go.
- Talk to your thesis chair. Some chairs will gladly share the questions they plan on asking. Others will let you sweat it out. Either way, they can give you valuable advice and guidance on their expectations.
Review your thesis. What? Yes, you did read that correctly. Of course, after all this time, you know more about your thesis topic than you’d ever have wanted to – but make sure to review the main themes and arguments to make sure can discuss it on a broad level.
Perfect your answers to these two questions: “How does your thesis fit in to the field?” and “Why does this thesis matter?” Chances are, variations of these two questions will come up in your thesis. Be ready with an answer.
- Address some of the issues that may come up. Don’t misinterpret this – we don’t mean “obsess over every possible problem”! Chances are, you already know some of the controversial or weak elements in your work. Practice answering criticisms on these points.
- Go to another student’s defense! These are typically open to the public and will show you how the process actually works. For the most valuable experience, try to sit in on a defense in your field of study.
- Prepare and practice your presentation. What this will look like depends a lot on your field. Check with your chair to see what is expected. This may be as simple as a 5-minute speech and as involved as a 30-minute presentation with Power Point.
Pick an outfit ahead of time. If you don’t typically dress up, make sure you have an appropriate, professional ensemble at the ready. You don’t want to pull out something the day of and realize it won’t work!
Relax and enjoy the process. Don’t think of the defense as a “tearing apart” of your thesis. This is your chance to get valuable feedback on how to take your work to the next level. Take some time off for yourself before the defense and then enjoy the ride!
Have you defended a thesis? Leave us your tips! Feel free to ask us questions if you have them!