Surviving your thesis defense

Defending your thesis to the committee can be the most terrifying part of the process. You have poured years of your life and a good bit of sweat and tears, and maybe even some blood, into preparing your thesis. The task of defending it to the committee and be overwhelming for many students, but here are five tips that can help you get through it.

Remember the committee wants you to succeed

This is usually true because they know how hard you have worked If you have put all of that time and effort into the project you are serious about it. They want to see you be successful. They will ask questions and challenge you yes but they usually will not try to trap you, trick you, or make you look like a fool. So long as you have done the work you can prove yourself to them and they want to see you succeed.

Know that you know your topic

By the time you are ready to defend your thesis, you will have been living and working on your project for several years. It would have been a part of you. You know it inside and out. It is this knowledge that can give you the confidence you need to ace the discussion and successfully defend your thesis.

Know when to shut up

Sometimes less is more and in some cases this can be true with your thesis defense. Answer the questions that are asked but do not go on and on. Rambling can be counter productive. You may think that the more you can say the smarter you sound but the opposite can happen if you get off topic or make weak arguments. Be concise and give the best answers you can. Often times it is the quality of what you say that will impress the committee more than the quantity of the words you say.

Don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know”

There is no shame in being honest saying you are not sure about an answer. It is better than taking the risk of sounding silly by talking about something you do not know about. It also shows that you are humble and honest- traits that the committee will also be looking for. Even the smartest person cannot know everything about their area, and you should not expect yourself to know everything and be able to fully answer every question the committee asks you. Do your best and answer honestly.

Get a good night’s sleep

Cramming the night before will do more harm than good. Worrying won’t do you any good at all either. Sleep is the best thing you can do to prepare. You have worked for years on this and you know your stuff. Do a general review and then get some good sleep the night before if you can.

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