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Masters Thesis Defense


The masters thesis defense is the portion of the thesis project in which the student goes before a group of experts in the field, usually including professors from the department, and answers any questions they might have concerning the thesis. Masters thesis defenses can be stressful, but by that point in the project, students usually know their topics so well that they are able to pass the examination by a strong margin.

One key to passing a masters thesis defense is to find out the format of the defense ahead of time. Different departments conduct defenses in varying ways and with varying degrees of formality; for example, sometimes the experts and the student meet over coffee or lunch, and at other times the experts arrange themselves side by side, like a panel discussion, and fire questions at the student, who is standing in front of them. Knowing the format in advance will help the student prepare psychologically.

A second key to passing a masters thesis defense is to study the material thoroughly. Although writing the thesis will cause the student to become deeply knowledgeable on the subject, the length of the project can hinder the student's recall. Therefore, students who are preparing for masters thesis defenses should at the minimum carefully reread their theses, and if they have time and energy, they may want to reread their major research sources or major bodies of data. One should try to allow at least a month to study for the defense.

The experts may ask questions out of a desire to learn more about the topic, to challenge the student's ideas, or to see if the student concedes that other conclusions are possibly valid. The student should answer all questions patiently and courteously but should feel comfortable pressing his or her opinions in spite of what the experts seem to be thinking. The experts want to see that the student owns his or her knowledge and can discuss it authoritatively.


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