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What is a Thesis Defense?

Going into college, students may need to make a lot of decisions. First-year students may have to deal with choosing their degree programs and moving into their dormitories. With the evolving educational system in the U.S, many schools are retrofitting their curriculums and offering more academic options. Most universities are leaning into holistic development and incorporating diversity into their programs. With this, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, there’s an upward trend in the number of college graduates in the country every year. 

In terms of academic programs, there are different fields to choose from, including architecture, communications, and business. In addition to the various fields, there are also several majors to choose from, such as computer engineering, public health, and graphic design. Most programs are designed for classroom learning and experiential learning.  

College students may also take up minors that complement their major, or it may be from a different field, such as one that fits their interests or may help them with their future careers. Some minors may include urban planning, creative writing, or different cultural studies. Aside from this, students may also have to face choosing between a two-year or four-year undergraduate program. 

Undergraduate Programs

After high school, students may either earn a bachelor’s degree or opt for an associate degree. The two degrees vary primarily by the duration of the academic program. Bachelor’s programs typically take four years to finish. In fact, according to a report, 41% of students earning a bachelor’s degree finish it within four years. This requires the student to finish 120 credit hours, providing broad education based on various subjects and an academic major. 

Basic subjects, such as history, social sciences, and mathematics are usually covered within the program’s first half. Students are exposed to subjects dealing with their chosen major, like business or engineering majors, towards the second half. Bachelor’s degree programs may be divided into Bachelor of Science (B.S.) and Bachelor of Arts (B.A.). B.S. degrees usually deal with mathematical sciences, while B.A. degrees may include social sciences and fine arts.

On the other hand, associate degrees are earned by taking up 60 credit hours, which usually takes two years to finish. Most community colleges and state universities offer this degree program. If you’re planning to finish an associate degree, you must complete a program consisting of different subjects under general education, a concentration in a particular field, and different electives based on your interests.

What is a Thesis? 

Most bachelor’s degree programs include a thesis during the student’s last year in college or senior year. In most programs, a thesis is primarily designed to ensure students understand their field or major. It serves as a culmination of what they have covered in their curriculum. Students are generally required to think critically about the work they do and answer open-ended questions.

A good thesis may aim to provide solutions to problems from different fields backed by reliable data. It may come in different forms, such as exploratory thesis, development project, and production. A development project may aim to create or enhance existing standard practices or working methods. This may involve suggesting improvements to maximize certain parameters. For example, students may study the effects of automating businesses to improve their productivity. 

On the other hand, the production thesis involves creating new products or formulating new tools. This may be practiced in advertising or business marketing, where students may be asked to produce marketing tools or new products. 

Lastly, an exploratory thesis may deal with either a development thesis or production. It may involve evaluating certain procedures qualitatively or quantitatively. Additionally, the method may involve the exploration and testing of theoretical ideas. In this type of thesis, students often gather the data to be used in the thesis independently.

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Who Needs a Thesis? 

Thesis writing isn’t always necessary for completing academic programs. It usually depends on the course track and whether or not making a thesis fits the subject taken. Nowadays, many schools offer both a thesis route and a non-thesis one to fit their students’ preferences. 

For the non-thesis track, students are given the option to take more classes instead of completing a thesis. It also applies to students seeking additional subjects within their field. Alternatively, you can either conduct research or complete supervised fieldwork rather than writing a thesis. 

Students earning an undergraduate degree in a certain field and major may present a topic related to their major. There are many majors to choose from. Some majors requiring a thesis include Philosophy, Business Administration, and Literature. A variety of subtopics may be selected for research and investigation.

For example, a civil engineering student taking up a major in structural design may present a thesis about the effects of an earthquake on the building’s structural safety. In the same way, English majors may tackle topics related to different authors and literary works across different genres. Business majors may present different proposals to improve production procedures or test out strategies to increase sales turnout.

Thesis Process 

Writing a thesis paper is usually the final requirement before graduation. If you’re in your senior year, this is vital in ensuring a diploma. Thesis-writing takes a long process and involves a lot of patience since it may involve tedious works such as data collection and research. Here are the different phases involved in creating a thesis: 

Establishing the Thesis Problem 

This also involves knowing your topic and creating the thesis title. By reading current researches or theories on your topic, you may check if there is a research problem to be solved. It’s best to formulate a clear research question that identifies all the relevant issues. It’s also best to find a faculty advisor with ample knowledge on the subject you’ll be tackling. Build a strong working relationship with your chosen advisor from whom you’ll be getting insights. Ask for their teaching schedule so you’ll know when to approach them for consultation. 

Creating a Plan

Some thesis advisers require a project plan at the start. This is to ensure that there’s a proper procedure and thought process followed from research to defense. If you’re struggling with creating a plan, you may start with an outline of your proposal. Then you may slowly build up your research per section. It’s important to know where to find your sources and what topics to research on. 

Doing your Research

Students are required to read related literature and previous projects related to your topic. This may help in being more familiar with the subject matter and in establishing your methodology. Setting up the project often takes up a substantial portion of research time for most students.

Writing the Thesis Paper

This doesn’t just involve writing the final output. Thesis-writing is done from the start of the project to establishing the research of the topic and gathering needed data. Another important aspect of a thesis paper is the analysis of the result of the experiment and how it can solve the problem stated at the start of the thesis. Lastly, conclusions and recommendations are crucial in completing a thesis paper. It’s important to relate the conclusion to the statement problem. Then, you may draw recommendations from the conclusion.  

Editing and Submission

After creating your final output, the advisor usually goes over the paperwork and recommends edits to improve the flow and data tabulation. Seek guidance and be open to criticism! This is important in polishing certain sections of the thesis paper. Certain guidelines may also be set to keep all the reports uniform. It’s important to follow the prescribed guidelines such as the font size, font style, and cover page. After all the editing is done, most departments require several formal printed copies of the manuscript for submission to the panel.

Defending the Thesis

Students defending their undergraduate thesis usually present their study, along with the results and how they came up with it. If you’re presenting data, prepare illustrations and graphs to organize them and show correlations efficiently. It is advisable to keep your presentation concise based on the limited discussion time given to you.  

To draft an effective presentation, you may start by discussing the background of the study and its problem statement. Then, you may show how you could gather the data needed to solve or support your study’s objectives. After presenting the methodology, you may present the results effectively by creating graphs and charts. The final part of the presentation would be your study’s conclusion.

The thesis defense is usually presented to a panel consisting of different faculty members knowledgeable about the subject. Following the presentation, the panel will be asking a series of questions that are relevant to the write-up. Some questions may tackle the research methodology and the significance of the study. It is why it pays to be ready and possess exceptional knowledge of the thesis paper. 

Common Parts of a Thesis 

Introduction

With the introduction, it’s important to give a clear overview of what the paper will be about. Aside from stating the subject, this section is also a good start to introducing the purpose of the study and its intended audience. It’s also the part where you can establish the boundaries for the study, which may help you focus more on getting focal results. Background information is also best discussed in this section. 

Problem Statement

When dealing with the problem statement, it’s important to be specific with the subject and its terms. This is so you can focus on a particular problem and avoid investigating a broad range of problems associated with a topic. This may lead to unmanageable methodologies, and chances are, you’re proposal may be rejected. 

The key is to have a topic that you’re interested in and find a specific problem or subtopic that you want to delve more into. Aside from specifically stating the problem, this section may include a short description of how to solve it. It may also include a summary of the proposal’s purpose and scope.

Literature Review

The literature review may come in a separate section or as part of the introduction. Either way, it’s best to find various sources related to the topic and problem. It’s best to include different sides of the subject and organize them in a structured layout. 

Methodology

This section includes how data is gathered and how it will be analyzed. You may also describe how you chose the research design and formulated the methods. Don’t forget to include the description of each procedure so readers may understand them more. You may also include certain limitations to the method applied. This may show the readers that you are aware of your constraints and have taken the necessary steps to manage them.

Results and Discussion

This section outlines the results after following the methods in the previous section. Most of the data in the research may be found in this section, and its analysis may be found in the discussion. You may use different graphs and tables to show the data in a more organized manner. The discussion section shows the interpretation of the illustrations and the correlation of the results to the questions at the start of the thesis. It’s best to cite references while discussing the results, adding more credibility and scientific backing to the claims.

Conclusion

It’s best to summarize the important information obtained in the conclusion since some readers may go to this section right away. To effectively write your conclusion, it’s important to relate the results of your experiment or research to the objective and problem of the study. You may enumerate and summarize the results when relating them to the study’s objectives. Be sure to include recommendations on improving data-gathering methods and suggest other areas that other researchers may focus on. 

Recommendations

You may also add a section containing recommendations that are related to your topic. This may include suggesting further studies or diving into a similar subtopic to support different claims. It’s important to write this section with the target audience in mind. You may separate each recommendation according to its appropriate audience. 

References

Citing your sources is an important element in an effective thesis paper. You may organize all your references in one section, alphabetically, to keep them in order. This may help the readers read on research topics and may make your statements more credible. Footnotes are also beneficial but having a section listing all your sources will make the paper more organized.

Tips in Writing Your Thesis

Writing a thesis paper comes in different parts. In every section, you may face different challenges and hardships. With this, here are some tips to consider when writing your thesis: 

  • Simplify and explain the ideas. – You may need to write in a way that a person with little to no idea of the subject can understand the paper. That’s why it’s important to define the terms used in the study in a clear manner. It’s recommended that you provide a section where abbreviations and their meanings may be shown and discussed. 
  • Think creatively. – You may need to think out of the box, especially when devising your research methodology. It’s also best to look for different ways to present your data effectively. Brainstorm for different sources and ideas that may be used to improve the overall thesis paper. 
  • Go for relevant information. – Don’t just add sources to bulk up the report. It’s important to filter your literature and only use the ones that add value to your study. Avoid repetitive studies or sources that support the same ideas. 
  • Choose a good topic. – If you have trouble choosing a topic, consider how passionate you are about the subject. If you’re genuinely interested in a topic, chances are you may be more motivated to do research and find solutions to solve problems related to that field. 
  • Close loose ends. – One of the things to consider when writing your conclusion is answering the problem statement. Any loose ends may bring in more questions, especially during the thesis defense. Address unanswered questions by recommending them in future research or a different thesis approach to the same field. 
  • Rewrite until you’re satisfied with the outcome. – You may be given ample time to finish your thesis, so it’s best not to rush things. Take your time in drafting every section of the paper. If necessary, write drafts and have them checked by your advisor from time to time. In most cases, you may be given a set schedule to consult with your advisors.
  • Be organized. – Starting with an outline may help you stay on track. It may also help you know which areas need to be done next. Aside from this, it’s best to organize your files, such as the gathered data and literature review articles, in a document folder so it may be easy for you to find them. Having disorganized files may cost you more time and leave out important files. 

How to Improve Your Thesis Defense Presentation

Going into a thesis defense can be both challenging and stressful. It’s important to consider it as an opportunity to share your knowledge and understanding of the research. Be sure to discuss your topic and results with your panel in great detail and reconsider simply throwing in arguments for the sake of it. Your presentation will also play a pivotal role during a thesis defense. 

It’s best to look for simple presentation templates since the panel may be distracted with full graphics. Make sure that the colors used in your slides are easy on the eyes and keep the animation minimal. You may prepare a clear presentation structure that starts with a title and a brief introduction to the study. Your introduction may include the field of the topic and its relevance. Keep it short, as you might need more time to discuss the latter sections of the report. You may include highlights from literature related to the study, followed by the research methodology. 

Aside from showing relevant information such as its sample population and type of study, make sure to enumerate the steps taken clearly. You may use bullets to create an organized methodology presentation. Also, be sure to include why you chose the specific methodology and how your data was analyzed. 

The next part of your presentation will include the results of your experiment or survey. It’s important to highlight the important data and results. Improve your presentation by showing the collected information in graphs or illustrations such as bar graphs or pie charts. When presenting data through graphs, make sure to use contradicting colors that may emphasize differences and label them accordingly to avoid any confusion.

In the discussion section, present only the significant findings and how it is relevant to your topic. Make sure that the conclusions are concise and answer the problem statements of the study. You may include the limitations of the study, along with your suggestions through the recommendations section. You may end your presentation by sharing your conclusion and recommendation. 

Ace your Oral Defense 

Defending your thesis is the last step of your thesis and probably the most nerve-wracking too. Your oral defense may make or break your entire thesis journey, so it’s best to exert effort on acing it. With this, here are some tips to take control of your thesis defense: 

Start with an introduction.

It’s best not to jump into the report right away. Take your time in introducing yourself or your groupmates if you’re working in pairs or threes. You may also acknowledge the members of the panel. This also gives you some time to ease into your place and prepare for the presentation. However, it’s best to make your introductions quick since you may be given a limited time to present.

Calm your nerves.

Getting nervous before a presentation is normal. However, you shouldn’t let it get the best of you and everything you have worked hard for. Being nervous while presenting may lead to you talking fast, which may confuse the panel. It may even cause you to forget and miss the report’s important highlights. It’s best to take a deep breath and take your time in going over the presentation. It’s also alright to pause before answering any question from the panel. This allows you to think and articulate your answer more clearly.

Prepare beforehand.

It’s important to go over the report several times and review the results to understand them fully. Aside from understanding the thesis paper, find time to prepare for the presentation used for the oral defense. Knowing its flow and highlights may help you maintain your confidence during the presentation. Be sure to practice and prepare what you’ll be saying. Despite sounding scripted, preparing a script may help you finish the presentation within the given time constraint. 

Formulate possible questions. 

One way to effectively prepare for an oral defense is to anticipate the panel’s questions. Take time to think about possible questions and scenarios that may be raised. Take time to list them down and research each one. This may also give you additional insight into your subject that you have missed previously. Understand the questions and formulate your answers in advance.

Keep it short but concise. 

Most students are given a short time to present their thesis. If you’re presenting your thesis, it’s integral only to include the main points and important information. You may include relevant results and organize them through graphs or tables. Avoid adding unnecessary animations that may take time and go straight to the point in terms of presentations. You may save time by following PowerPoint templates designed for presenting studies. 

Be confident.

Be confident, or at least try to pretend until you finish the whole defense. It’s important to maintain eye contact, especially with the panel. Appearing timid may show that you’re not prepared or knowledgeable of your topic. Additionally, it’s important to talk clearly and emphasize certain words, which may help you avoid sounding monotonous. You may create an outline and prepare handy notes that you can check from time to time. 

Questions Frequently Asked During Thesis Defense

Answering questions is part of every thesis defense. After sharing your thesis presentation, the panel will be asking various questions to clarify certain areas of the study. To evaluate your understanding of the topic, you may be asked to expound on the different methods applied to the research. It’s important to be aware of the usual questions so you can prepare in advance. Here are some of the possible questions to be asked in a thesis defense: 

  • What’s the significance of the study? Although this may be included in the thesis already, the panel frequently asks to check if you know the importance of your thesis by heart. It’s best to answer why you did the study and how it will contribute to your chosen field or society.
  • What are the limitations of the study? – This is rather tricky since panel members might be testing you if there are things that you failed to address or acknowledge. It’s best to go over your thesis and raise your recommendations when answering this. 
  • Briefly share with us your study. – You may face this request even after summarizing your thesis report into a twenty-minute presentation. The panelists may be testing you to see if you can explain the thesis more concisely. This will measure how you understand the entire study. An outline of the study will come in handy to answer this.
  • Why did you choose this topic? – With this question, you may share your reasons for choosing a certain topic. In addition, you may also highlight the study’s impact as one of the deciding factors. 
  • What are the problems that you have encountered? – You may share the problems that you have encountered. However, it’s best to pair them with the solutions that you came up with to solve them. 
  • Can you share any significant data? – This may either mean that you’ve shown too much data for them to notice the significant ones or simply to test if you know what data is important to support your results and discussion. It’s important to prepare for this question since this may lead to more follow-up queries. 
  • If you had a chance to change anything in your research, what would you do differently? – This question is usually asked towards the end of the defense. You may use your recommendations in answering this. Most of the panelists may ask this to challenge you to think critically of the topic and look at the study’s bigger picture. 

What Happens After the Thesis Defense?

After presenting your thesis through an oral defense, the panel will deliberate on the results and produce amendments to the study. Some may be given a passing mark wherein there are no changes to be done. This takes you a step closer to graduation. However, there are times where panelists may suggest certain revisions to the thesis paper. 

These revisions vary from major to minor amendments. Sometimes the student will need to redo an oral defense to present the changes to their study. Some revisions may be as small as changing some literature reviews or as big as restructuring the methodology and gathering the data again. Failure marks are also possible but very rare since there is usually no limit to the revisions to be made. It may take longer than usual to finish the entire thesis process.

The Takeaway

Different undergraduate degrees come with various requirements. One of which is creating a thesis paper. Bachelor’s degree programs typically involve a thesis in the student’s final year of college. It’s a culmination of what the student has covered throughout their course or major. A thesis paper comprises different sections such as its introduction, methodology, and conclusion. Each section supports the established main topic and the study’s problem statement.

If you’re finished with editing and submitting your thesis paper, the last part of the process is presenting your study in front of a panel through a thesis defense. This is vital for teachers to understand how you worked with the thesis. It may also help them assess if you’re knowledgeable enough about the topic covered. 

During the thesis defense, it’s best to show a short presentation to allow time for some questions from the panel. In terms of presenting data, be sure to organize them through charts and graphs and label them accordingly. Use slides that are simple and visually pleasing. When presenting, it’s recommended to come prepared and be confident when addressing the panel. The panel may not expect you to know everything, but they will most definitely watch how you conduct yourself during the thesis defense.