Thesis Defense: The Final Frontier

You’re almost there! One step at a time.

Your thesis adviser makes the call about when your defense will be.  You should communicate the timeline, but don’t demand that it’s time to defend. To graduate in a particular semester at MTSU, you must defend by about mid-way through the semester (October for Fall and March for Spring graduations).  With these tight deadlines, it’s best to plan to defend your thesis proposal in the semester before you intend to graduate.  Doing so will set you up to have a draft of your full thesis by the first month or so of the semester, building in time for revisions and for your adviser to read and provide feedback.  It also accounts for time to meet with committee members and get their feedback on sections relating to their expertise.

After rounds of revision, you will reach that blessed moment in which your adviser gives the greenlight for the defense.  Go over your thesis one more time, making sure that you are adhering to all of the university’s guidelines—pagination, margins, etc. Be diligent in this task.  Don’t rush through or assume you did things right.  Now is the time to check the formatting.

At this point, you and your adviser will have the arduous task of arranging an hour in which the whole committee can meet and a conference room is available.  I believe that scheduling the thesis is almost as much of an accomplishment than finishing the first draft.

With the thesis defense scheduled, you can begin your preparation.  I recommend meeting with your adviser for a pep talk and further guidance.  You should also read your thesis and create a PowerPoint presentation to deliver at the defense. Plan to present for about 12-15 minutes.

Tips for your presentation

  • Limit the text on each slide.
  • Don’t add annoying animations or other distractions (i.e. weird font colors, hard-to-read font, sound effects).
  • Incorporate relevant images. If you studied a TV show, I want to see images of that show in your presentation.
  • Follow the thesis structure to set up your presentation, keeping in mind that the second half of the thesis is your contribution to the field (in other words, don’t spend more than a few minutes setting up your study).
  • Back up your presentation and store in multiple places. Don’t assume the WiFi will be working.
  • Remember, you are the expert on your topic. That said, don’t talk down to your committee.
  • Practice, practice, practice!

For your actual defense, get dressed up.  It’s not a Black Tie affair, but we should be able to tell that you tried and that you care.  You spent 2+ years getting to this moment. It is a big deal.  Bring copies of the thesis signature page to the defense.

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