Medical Biophysics Graduate Student Association


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Preparing For Your Thesis or Dissertation Defense

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The good folks at UWO from GRADupdate offer some great tips for people working on their thesis. Here you go:

To prepare for your thesis or dissertation defense….

  • Create an outline and short presentation (15-20 mins) describing:

o   Why your research problem is important

o   How the research arose

o   What others have done in your area of research

o   Methodology used

o   Results of the investigation

o   Contribution of knowledge from your thesis or dissertation (but don’t try to claim more than is really there)

o   Clearly be able to explain the reasons for limitations of scope and for exclusions

  • Be aware of guidelines and requirements from your department.
  • Talk to others who have already defended – what questions were they asked?  This can be a good way to get some ideas of the types of questions that are asked in a defense.  If possible, attend others’ defenses.
  • Before your defense, meet with your advisor to plan and organize the defense.  Also, be sure to pay close attention to your advisor’s advice as he or she has likely heard many defenses and knows what committees are looking for.
  • Acknowledge your expertise!  You have been researching and writing for a long time and you probably know your topic far better than most of the faculty who form your thesis/dissertation committee.  Acknowledging your expertise can help to build confidence.
  • Visualize your most successful moments in the past.  Putting yourself in a positive frame of mind can help manage some of your anxiety.
  • Rest, eat well, and get enough sleep the night before your defense.
  • Be passionate.  If the committee members see how much you care about your subject they will be engaged and more likely to believe in what you are saying.
  • Make sure you are familiar with the presentation equipment you are going to use.  Have all materials you need well in advance of the defense.


Davis, G.B. & Parker, C.A. (1997). Writing the doctoral dissertation.  Hauppauge, New York : Barron’s Educational Series, Inc.  **available in SDC’s Resource Library, Rm. 4100, WSS

Schweiger Levy, J.,  “Perform Your Best at your Orals” from All-But Dissertation Survival Guide website:

“Defending Your Thesis While in Graduate School” from website