Now that you’ve successfully gone through the entire process of choosing your project topic, creating the research methodology, possibly administering questionnaires, completing and finally submitting your final year project, it’s time to prepare for your thesis defense! This article will give you an insight on some useful tips that will help you to prepare for your final year thesis defense.
The thesis defense is one aspect of the final year project that most students find rather terrifying. But it doesn’t have to be that way for you. With proper preparation, you’ll feel less stressed and more confident as the day approaches.
To help your preparation, I’ve put together 7 useful tips that, if applied, will guarantee you a successful thesis defense.
7 useful tips to prepare for your final year thesis defense
Here! Let’s look at these 7 useful tips to prepare for your final year thesis defense:
Prepare a quality PowerPoint but also have a backup plan
Once you’ve finished writing your final year project, it’s best you prepare your PowerPoint slides immediately. This should give you sufficient time to create a quality, well-structured PowerPoint and make necessary changes before the date of your thesis defense. Some simple tips to prepare quality PowerPoint slides are:
- Use bullet points rather than complete sentences
- Where possible, add one relevant image on each slide
- Use different presentation styles for your slides
- Only use animation where necessary to make your message clearer
Having done these, you’ll also need to have a backup plan. We all know that technology can sometimes be unpredictable, meaning your PowerPoint may not work as planned. So, create a backup such as handouts that you can use in case anything goes wrong.
Create a list of possible questions and prepare for them
A major part of your thesis defense is the question-and-answer section, i.e. when committee members ask you questions about your project; often after your PowerPoint presentation (although they could ask you questions at any time). Your ability to provide correct and meaningful answers shows that you have a proper understanding of your research project. A good way to achieve this is to anticipate questions and create a list of possible questions by going through your entire project. If you know the likely committee members, look at their areas of academic expertise, and write down possible areas of your project they’re likely to focus on. Find answers to these questions and use them in your practice to feel more confident.
Practice and practice some more
There is no better way to go about preparing for your thesis defense than to practice extensively. Practicing your presentation before your thesis defense allows you to gain more insight into your project, make adjustments on your PowerPoint slides where necessary, and most importantly, gain more confidence before the D-Day. You can practice in front of your mirror, family and friends, fellow final year students, and your project supervisor, if possible. Remember to inform them that you’re practicing for your thesis defense, and open to all questions and suggestions for improvement. With proper practice, you’ll feel more comfortable with your presentation and less nervous and stressed on the D-Day.
Practice with time
Depending on your university, your project defense may take an hour or less. It’s best that you practice with time, so that you can present within the time limit on the D-Day. To do this, use a stopwatch to time yourself as you practice. Try to present your PowerPoint and answer as many relevant questions as possible within a time frame. Keep your answers as concise as possible.
Dress for success
Your thesis defense will be attended by academic (and non-academic) members of the department, an external professor, and possibly other students. It’s a formal event, and you should treat it with utmost dignity. How you dress tells your audience your level of professionalism even before you begin your presentation. So, it’s necessary that you dress formally and wear clothes that are well-ironed and presentable. Even if your university doesn’t have a dress code, it’s better to overdress and look professional than to underdress and risk the possibility of being labelled as unserious.
Even if you don’t know the answer to a question, be confident
One thing that may scare you about your thesis defense is being asked a question that you can’t answer. Although you may practice several questions, one can’t really tell the exact questions that the committee members will ask. But be rest assured that your thesis defense isn’t about you knowing everything. Even when you don’t have an answer to a question, don’t panic. Calm down and give a suitable idea or explanation. For example, you could say, “I’m not entirely sure, but I would say […] because of x and y, however you may have to do […] in order to find out”. The most important thing is to show the committee that you can think like an academic.
Don’t let your nerves get the best of you
While it’s inevitable to experience some form of nervousness during your thesis defense, you need to learn to keep your nervousness in check. Being overly nervous can make you talk much faster or laugh nervously. Try to slow down, take deep breaths and answer calmly. Take a few seconds to understand any question before you answer. Keep your answers as concise as possible. Smiling can give you a positive energy boost. However, avoid nervous laughs which could be irritating. As mentioned above, practicing extensively will help you handle your nerves better.
Having read this article, we’re confident that you’re now fully equipped to have a successful thesis defense. Don’t believe the myth that the committee is out to get you. Rather, they’re on your side and want you to graduate!
Do you’ve questions or more useful tips to add, feel free to write them in the comments section below. Remember to share this article with other students. All the best!