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Dissertation proposal defense: 12 tips for effective preparation, published by steve tippins on may 11, 2020 may 11, 2020.

Last Updated on: 2nd February 2024, 02:59 am

The dissertation proposal defense is a nerve-wracking time for even the most hardened of doctoral students.

Even a pirate (writing his dissertation on effective cutlass techniques), will quake a bit in his boots before delivering his dissertation proposal defense.

However, it doesn’t need to be a stressful time. 

As a longtime Dissertation Committee Chair and committee member, I’ve overseen more dissertation proposal defenses than I can count. I’ve also helped students through the process as a coach . 

If you follow these tips for preparing and delivering your presentation, you shouldn’t have any problem passing your proposal defense.

Dissertation Proposal Defense Tips

man in a blue shirt working on his laptop

Preparing for your Dissertation Proposal Defense

1. anticipate questions.  .

In your presentation, try to answer all of the questions you expect your committee to ask. That way, you control the material. Your committee will be more satisfied with your preparation and understanding and it will be less likely that you have to answer questions that you aren’t prepared for.

what is a thesis proposal defense

2. Look for Weaknesses.  

If there are potential weaknesses (in your study, proposal, or presentation), address them ahead of time. Ask peers or mentors to review your proposal or presentation for weaknesses. Look at it yourself with a critical eye. Even if you’re not able to eliminate a weakness, take steps to address it as best you can so that your committee can be confident that you’re aware of it and able to handle it.

multicultural group of people all collaborating together on a laptop

3. Practice.  

Ideally, you would practice with someone who has been a committee member before. They’ll point out the types of questions they would see your committee asking, so you can prepare for those. I can’t understate the value of having this kind of feedback beforehand so that you can properly prepare. I offer this service as part of my dissertation coaching package .

4. Avoid Wordiness on PowerPoint Slides . 

Most dissertation proposal defenses have PowerPoints. Don’t put too many words on the slides! People will start reading the slides instead of paying attention to you. Then they’re off somewhere else which will produce questions that you’ve already answered when they weren’t paying attention.

5. Be Able to Pronounce the Words Correctly. 

This might sound obvious, but as a dissertation committee member , I’ve heard far too many students struggle through pronunciations of important terminology. This is probably because, up until this point, they’ve only read them and not spoken them out loud. 

However, it gives the committee the impression that they don’t know what they’re talking about. Make sure you can properly pronounce all the words you plan on using (like “phenomenological” and “anthropomorphism,”). 

6. Watch Recordings of Previous Defenses.  

woman with headphones listening to online courses and taking notes

Some schools have recordings of previous defenses. Listen to one or two. See how the procedure goes. Even if it’s not anything in your discipline, it will still help you get familiar with the procedure itself, which will help you be more comfortable when the time comes.

During your Dissertation Proposal Defense:

7. breathe . .

I’ve seen way too many people try to do their dissertation proposal defense seemingly in one breath. Give your committee time to hear and understand what you’re saying. Remember to leave some moments of silence to allow your audience to digest what you say. Also remember that one second of actual time feels like about thirty minutes to someone who’s giving an important presentation. Breathe. 

woman in a bright suit jacket looking at her student giving a presentation

8. Remember: They Want to Pass You.  

If you’ve gotten to the point where your committee has scheduled a dissertation proposal defense for you, that means they believe that you can pass it. They want to pass you. Remember that. 

They’re not out to screw you, they’re not out for “gotchas.” They’re saying, “we believe you’re ready, show us that’s true.” While they will be rigorous in their evaluation because they have a responsibility to make sure that they don’t allow you to move forward until you are ready to, it’s helpful to remember that they believe you can pass. 

9. Answer the Question, No More.  

When committee members ask questions, answer only the question–don’t give them anything more than that. Imagine that you’re a witness in a courtroom (or don’t if that makes you more nervous). Committee members value direct, relevant answers and often find tangents irrelevant and frustrating.

10. Dialogue With Your Committee.  

If the committee disagrees with something you said, it can be a discussion. You don’t need to just roll over and say “Yes, you’re right. I made a mistake and I’m very bad.” That’s not what your committee wants to hear, either. 

what is a thesis proposal defense

A much better response would be, “I hear what you’re saying, however, this is the reason I’m going in this other direction. What do you think about that?” So you’re beginning to engage in discussions as a scholar. Your committee will be impressed by your ability to think critically and your willingness to engage in dialogue.

man in beige suit jacket holding a presentation on a whiteboard

However, do not make it adversarial. It’s incredibly important to be respectful in these conversations. After all, your committee members have significant control over your life for as long as you’re writing your dissertation.

11. Make Life Easy for Your Committee.  

It’s always good to send your committee members a copy of your PowerPoint presentation and the most recent copy of your proposal the day before the defense. They likely already have a copy, but when in doubt, make their lives easier. It doesn’t cost you anything. Someone might accidentally have an old copy, or might take them some time to find the copy they have. You want their life to be as easy as possible so they can focus on moving you forward.

12. Pay Attention to Time. 

Ask your Chair (in the preparation stage) how long you have to make your presentation. It’s extraordinarily important to stay within this timeframe. If you’re told 25 minutes but you take 50 minutes, committee members are predisposed to say “why isn’t this person better prepared, and why are they wasting my time?”

Likewise, if you run through a 30-minute presentation in ten minutes (nervousness can sometimes lead to very fast talking–that’s why it’s important to practice beforehand), your committee will be wondering why you didn’t use the whole time that was allotted to you. And you’ll likely have to field a lot of questions you weren’t prepared for.

Dissertation Proposal Defense Summary

As long as you prepare properly, your dissertation proposal defense should be nothing to worry about. Your committee thinks you’re ready: all you have to do is show them you’re right.

If you’d like help preparing for your defense, or if you’d like to reduce the amount of time it takes to finish your dissertation, take a look at my Dissertation Coaching Services .

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Steve Tippins

Steve Tippins, PhD, has thrived in academia for over thirty years. He continues to love teaching in addition to coaching recent PhD graduates as well as students writing their dissertations. Learn more about his dissertation coaching and career coaching services. Book a Free Consultation with Steve Tippins

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How to prepare an excellent thesis defense

Thesis defence

What is a thesis defense?

How long is a thesis defense, what happens at a thesis defense, your presentation, questions from the committee, 6 tips to help you prepare for your thesis defense, 1. anticipate questions and prepare for them, 2. dress for success, 3. ask for help, as needed, 4. have a backup plan, 5. prepare for the possibility that you might not know an answer, 6. de-stress before, during, and after, frequently asked questions about preparing an excellent thesis defense, related articles.

If you're about to complete, or have ever completed a graduate degree, you have most likely come across the term "thesis defense." In many countries, to finish a graduate degree, you have to write a thesis .

A thesis is a large paper, or multi-chapter work, based on a topic relating to your field of study.

Once you hand in your thesis, you will be assigned a date to defend your work. Your thesis defense meeting usually consists of you and a committee of two or more professors working in your program. It may also include other people, like professionals from other colleges or those who are working in your field.

During your thesis defense, you will be asked questions about your work. The main purpose of your thesis defense is for the committee to make sure that you actually understand your field and focus area.

The questions are usually open-ended and require the student to think critically about their work. By the time of your thesis defense, your paper has already been evaluated. The questions asked are not designed so that you actually have to aggressively "defend" your work; often, your thesis defense is more of a formality required so that you can get your degree.

  • Check with your department about requirements and timing.
  • Re-read your thesis.
  • Anticipate questions and prepare for them.
  • Create a back-up plan to deal with technology hiccups.
  • Plan de-stressing activities both before, and after, your defense.

How long your oral thesis defense is depends largely on the institution and requirements of your degree. It is best to consult your department or institution about this. In general, a thesis defense may take only 20 minutes, but it may also take two hours or more. The length also depends on how much time is allocated to the presentation and questioning part.

Tip: Check with your department or institution as soon as possible to determine the approved length for a thesis defense.

First of all, be aware that a thesis defense varies from country to country. This is just a general overview, but a thesis defense can take many different formats. Some are closed, others are public defenses. Some take place with two committee members, some with more examiners.

The same goes for the length of your thesis defense, as mentioned above. The most important first step for you is to clarify with your department what the structure of your thesis defense will look like. In general, your thesis defense will include:

  • your presentation of around 20-30 minutes
  • questions from the committee
  • questions from the audience (if the defense is public and the department allows it)

You might have to give a presentation, often with Powerpoint, Google slides, or Keynote slides. Make sure to prepare an appropriate amount of slides. A general rule is to use about 10 slides for a 20-minute presentation.

But that also depends on your specific topic and the way you present. The good news is that there will be plenty of time ahead of your thesis defense to prepare your slides and practice your presentation alone and in front of friends or family.

Tip: Practice delivering your thesis presentation in front of family, friends, or colleagues.

You can prepare your slides by using information from your thesis' first chapter (the overview of your thesis) as a framework or outline. Substantive information in your thesis should correspond with your slides.

Make sure your slides are of good quality— both in terms of the integrity of the information and the appearance. If you need more help with how to prepare your presentation slides, both the ASQ Higher Education Brief and James Hayton have good guidelines on the topic.

The committee will ask questions about your work after you finish your presentation. The questions will most likely be about the core content of your thesis, such as what you learned from the study you conducted. They may also ask you to summarize certain findings and to discuss how your work will contribute to the existing body of knowledge.

Tip: Read your entire thesis in preparation of the questions, so you have a refreshed perspective on your work.

While you are preparing, you can create a list of possible questions and try to answer them. You can foresee many of the questions you will get by simply spending some time rereading your thesis.

Here are a few tips on how to prepare for your thesis defense:

You can absolutely prepare for most of the questions you will be asked. Read through your thesis and while you're reading it, create a list of possible questions. In addition, since you will know who will be on the committee, look at the academic expertise of the committee members. In what areas would they most likely be focused?

If possible, sit at other thesis defenses with these committee members to get a feel for how they ask and what they ask. As a graduate student, you should generally be adept at anticipating test questions, so use this advantage to gather as much information as possible before your thesis defense meeting.

Your thesis defense is a formal event, often the entire department or university is invited to participate. It signals a critical rite of passage for graduate students and faculty who have supported them throughout a long and challenging process.

While most universities don't have specific rules on how to dress for that event, do regard it with dignity and respect. This one might be a no-brainer, but know that you should dress as if you were on a job interview or delivering a paper at a conference.

It might help you deal with your stress before your thesis defense to entrust someone with the smaller but important responsibilities of your defense well ahead of schedule. This trusted person could be responsible for:

  • preparing the room of the day of defense
  • setting up equipment for the presentation
  • preparing and distributing handouts

Technology is unpredictable. Life is too. There are no guarantees that your Powerpoint presentation will work at all or look the way it is supposed to on the big screen. We've all been there. Make sure to have a plan B for these situations. Handouts can help when technology fails, and an additional clean shirt can save the day if you have a spill.

One of the scariest aspects of the defense is the possibility of being asked a question you can't answer. While you can prepare for some questions, you can never know exactly what the committee will ask.

There will always be gaps in your knowledge. But your thesis defense is not about being perfect and knowing everything, it's about how you deal with challenging situations. You are not expected to know everything.

James Hayton writes on his blog that examiners will sometimes even ask questions they don't know the answer to, out of curiosity, or because they want to see how you think. While it is ok sometimes to just say "I don't know", he advises to try something like "I don't know, but I would think [...] because of x and y, but you would need to do [...] in order to find out.” This shows that you have the ability to think as an academic.

You will be nervous. But your examiners will expect you to be nervous. Being well prepared can help minimize your stress, but do know that your examiners have seen this many times before and are willing to help, by repeating questions, for example. Dora Farkas at finishyourthesis.com notes that it’s a myth that thesis committees are out to get you.

Two common symptoms of being nervous are talking really fast and nervous laughs. Try to slow yourself down and take a deep breath. Remember what feels like hours to you are just a few seconds in real life.

  • Try meditational breathing right before your defense.
  • Get plenty of exercise and sleep in the weeks prior to your defense.
  • Have your clothes or other items you need ready to go the night before.
  • During your defense, allow yourself to process each question before answering.
  • Go to dinner with friends and family, or to a fun activity like mini-golf, after your defense.

Allow yourself to process each question, respond to it, and stop talking once you have responded. While a smile can often help dissolve a difficult situation, remember that nervous laughs can be irritating for your audience.

We all make mistakes and your thesis defense will not be perfect. However, careful preparation, mindfulness, and confidence can help you feel less stressful both before, and during, your defense.

Finally, consider planning something fun that you can look forward to after your defense.

It is completely normal to be nervous. Being well prepared can help minimize your stress, but do know that your examiners have seen this many times before and are willing to help, by repeating questions for example if needed. Slow yourself down, and take a deep breath.

Your thesis defense is not about being perfect and knowing everything, it's about how you deal with challenging situations. James Hayton writes on his blog that it is ok sometimes to just say "I don't know", but he advises to try something like "I don't know, but I would think [...] because of x and y, you would need to do [...] in order to find out".

Your Powerpoint presentation can get stuck or not look the way it is supposed to do on the big screen. It can happen and your supervisors know it. In general, handouts can always save the day when technology fails.

  • Dress for success.
  • Ask for help setting up.
  • Have a backup plan (in case technology fails you).
  • Deal with your nerves.

what is a thesis proposal defense

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PhD Thesis Proposal Defense: Common Questions and Feedback

PhD thesis proposal defense questions and feedback

This past two weeks I attended a number of proposal defense of PhD students at my University. In this post, I discuss the general format of a proposal defense as well as discuss the most common questions asked and feedback given to the students by the external examiners.

Structure of a PhD proposal defense

Outcomes of a phd proposal defense, common questions and feedback for chapter 1 of the proposal, common questions and feedback for chapter 2 of the proposal, common questions and feedback for chapter 3 of the proposal, general feedback, final thoughts, related posts.

A proposal defense has: the student defending his proposal, two external examiners, the student’s supervisors, the audience, and the chair of the defense. The defense is structured as follows:

  • The chair opens the session by welcoming and acknowledging the student, his supervisors and the external examiners.
  • The chair also outlines how the defense will be undertaken including any rules that should be adhered to.
  • The chair then welcomes the PhD student to introduce himself and make a presentation (usually 15 minutes).
  • After the presentation by the student, the chair opens the floor to the external examiners to give their comments, ask questions and give feedback to the student on how to improve the proposal.
  • The student is then required to respond to the questions asked and comments given.
  • The chair then makes his remarks.
  • Afterwards, the PhD student, his supervisors and the audience are requested to leave the room to allow the chair and the examiners to make their determination. The student and his supervisors are then called back in and the determination is spelt out to them.

There are about 4 possible outcomes after the student presents and defends his proposal:

  • The proposal passes with minor or no corrections.
  • The proposal passes with major corrections.
  • The student retakes the proposal by re-writing it (may include change of topic) and defending it again.
  • The proposal is rejected.

Rarely will a student be asked to re-take or will a proposal be rejected especially if it has been adequately supervised. This is because before the proposal is submitted for oral defense, it must be reviewed and signed by the supervisors.

Below is a list of the common questions and feedback for chapter 1:

  • What is your working definition of [concepts]?
  • Which sector do you want to focus on?
  • From a [country/region] perspective, please explain what is the problem?
  • How do you intend to solve the problem you have identified?
  • What will your proposed solution comprise of?
  • Who are the recipients of your proposed solution?
  • What is the primary outcome of the research?
  • Your objectives use [concept] while your problem statement talks of [a different concept]. What’s the difference between the two [concepts]?
  • In the research objectives, there is an interchange and insertion of different words. Be careful about the concepts you use. There needs to be consistency in the concepts used throughout the proposal.
  • What is the knowledge gap? That is, what is known and what is unknown that your study will attempt to address?
  • How do you relate [different variables included in the topic]? Is one a precedent of the other?
  • Are you investigating or examining? The topic says investigating while the objectives talk of examining.
  • The presentation does not discuss [sector of focus], the opportunities that exist, and the challenges it faces. This would give the student a good basis for undertaking the research.
  • There is no continuity in the objectives.
  • There is no discussion of the study’s contribution to knowledge and practice, which is very important for PhD-level study.
  • The background has many concepts that throw off readers on what the focus of the study is.
  • The problem statement is not focused.
  • What is the placement of the study regionally?
  • The objectives are too long and broad; they should be specific.
  • What is the underlying hypothesis of your study?
  • One of the research questions is biased. The researcher should take a neutral stand.

Below is a list of the common questions and feedback for chapter 2:

  • Which theories have inspired your work and who are the proponents of those theories?
  • For each theory discussed in your proposal, briefly state what it says and how it informs your study.
  • How are the theories related to your study?
  • Why did you select those theories and not [other theories]?
  • There are no empirical studies reviewed in your proposal.
  • Your work must converge with other peoples’ work to be able to show the gap that your study is trying to fill.
  • How did the choice of theories help you come up with your study’s concepts and variables?
  • How will you measure the variables [in the topic]?
  • You have just touched the surface of the empirical review, which should be a substantial section of your literature review.
  • It is not clear what the research gap is from the literature review.
  • After the empirical review, that’s when you now discuss the conceptual framework.
  • The conceptual framework should clearly show the dependent and independent variables and their relationships.

Below is a list of the common questions and feedback for chapter 3:

  • Kindly explain what your research philosophy is.
  • What will your [quantitative] model comprise of?
  • How are you going to verify and validate your [quantitative] model?
  • Why is the sampling formula appropriate to your sector and study? Justify the sampling formula used in the proposal.
  • Justify the choice of the sampling technique [e.g. purposive sampling].
  • Justify your choice of data collection and data analysis methods.
  • Are you going to use an inductive approach or a deductive approach to your study?
  • There needs to be consistency between your objectives and research philosophy.
  • If you have a number of population categories, you need to clearly articulate the sampling techniques for each category.
  • The data analysis methods should be clearly articulated.
  • The ethical considerations of your study should be adequately discussed.
  • The data collection instruments should be part of the proposal defense.
  • Your choice of research design and methods should be justified.
  • What is your unit of analysis?
  • Who are your study’s population?
  • Will you have different questionnaires for different respondents?
  • The data collection tools should have adequate background information questions to enable comparisons across different socio-economic and demographic groups.
  • Why are you lagging a variable? Justify the need to lag the variable.
  • Justify the choice of the model [e.g. Structural Equation Model].
  • Which specific multivariate analysis will you use?
  • Which tests are you going to conduct for the model and why? [e.g. normality, multicollinearity tests etc]
  • The variables of your study should be defined.

In addition to the chapter-specific questions and feedback given, the students also received feedback on:

  • The formatting of their proposals, including the font styles and size allowed, the numbering of the documents,
  • The inclusion of front pages such as cover page, declaration, abstract, table of contents,
  • The inclusion of back pages such as reference list and appendices which should include letter of introduction, consent letter for study respondents, data collection instruments, and work plan (Gantt chart) for the study.
  • The style of referencing recommended by the School e.g. APA, which should be consistent throughout the proposal. The proposal defense should also include some of the citations so as to give it an authoritative feel.

From my observations during the four proposal defenses I attended, a proposal defense is an opportunity for the PhD student to defend his work and to convince the interviewing panel that the student knows what he is doing and what is required of him moving forward. Most of the panellists will do their best to make the student feel comfortable rather than intimidate him so PhD students should not panic when preparing to defend their proposals.

Of importance is adequate preparation before the defense and making sure that the proposal and presentation follow the guidelines provided by the School. Lastly, PhD students should keep in mind that the aim of the proposal defense is to help improve upon the student’s proposal and ensure that the research will meet the scientific rigour and standards of a PhD-level work.

How To Write Chapter 1 Of A PhD Thesis Proposal (A Practical Guide)

How To Write Chapter 2 Of A PhD Thesis Proposal (A Beginner’s Guide)

How To Write Chapter 3 Of A PhD Thesis Proposal (A Detailed Guide)

How To Format A PhD Thesis In Microsoft Word (An Illustrative Guide)

Comprehensive Guidelines for Writing a PhD Thesis Proposal (+ free checklist for PhD Students)

Grace Njeri-Otieno

Grace Njeri-Otieno is a Kenyan, a wife, a mom, and currently a PhD student, among many other balls she juggles. She holds a Bachelors' and Masters' degrees in Economics and has more than 7 years' experience with an INGO. She was inspired to start this site so as to share the lessons learned throughout her PhD journey with other PhD students. Her vision for this site is "to become a go-to resource center for PhD students in all their spheres of learning."

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17 Thesis Defense Questions and How to Answer Them

EditrixJD

A thesis defense gives you the chance to show off your thesis work and demonstrate your expertise in your field of study. During this one- to two-hour discussion with the members of your thesis committee, you'll have some control over how you present your research, but your committee will ask you some prodding questions to test your knowledge and preparedness. They will all have read your thesis beforehand, so their questions will relate to your study, topic, methods, data sample, and other aspects.

A good defense requires mastery of the thesis itself, so before you consider the questions you might face,

1. What is your topic, and why did you choose it?

Give a quick summary in just a few sentences on what you've researched. You could certainly go on for hours about your work, but make sure you prepare a way to give a very brief overview of your thesis. Then, give a quick background on your process for choosing this topic.

2. How does your topic contribute to the existing literature? How is it important?

Many researchers identify a need in the field and choose a topic to bridge the gaps that previous literature has failed to cover. For example, previous studies might not have included a certain population, region, or circumstance. Talk about how your thesis enhances the general understanding of the topic to extend the reach beyond what others have found, and then give examples of why the world needs that increased understanding. For instance, a thesis on romaine lettuce crops in desert climates might bring much-needed knowledge to a region that might not have been represented in previous work.

3. What are the key findings of your study?

When reporting your main results, make sure you have a handle on how detailed your committee wants you to be. Give yourself several options by preparing 1) a very general, quick summary of your findings that takes a minute or less, 2) a more detailed rundown of what your study revealed that is 3-5 minutes long, and 3) a 10- to 15-minute synopsis that delves into your results in detail. With each of these responses prepared, you can gauge which one is most appropriate in the moment, based on what your committee asks you and what has already been requested.

4. What type of background research did you do for your study?

Here you'll describe what you did while you were deciding what to study. This usually includes a literary review to determine what previous researchers have already introduced to the field. You also likely had to look into whether your study was going to be possible and what you would need in order to collect the needed data. Did you need info from databases that require permissions or fees?

5. What was your hypothesis, and how did you form it?

Describe the expected results you had for your study and whether your hypothesis came from previous research experience, long-held expectations, or cultural myths.

6. What limitations did you face when writing your text?

It's inevitable — researchers will face roadblocks or limiting factors during their work. This could be a limited population you had access to, like if you had a great method of surveying university students, but you didn't have a way to reach out to other people who weren't attending that school.

7. Why did you choose your particular method for your study?

Different research methods are more fitting to specific studies than others (e.g., qualitative vs. quantitative ), and knowing this, you applied a method that would present your findings most effectively. What factors led you to choose your method?

8. Who formed the sample group of your study, and why did you choose this population?

Many factors go into the selection of a participant group. Perhaps you were motivated to survey women over 50 who experience burnout in the workplace. Did you take extra measures to target this population? Or perhaps you found a sample group that responded more readily to your request for participation, and after hitting dead ends for months, convenience is what shaped your study population. Make sure to present your reasoning in an honest but favorable way.

9. What obstacles or limitations did you encounter while working with your sample?

Outline the process of pursuing respondents for your study and the difficulties you faced in collecting enough quality data for your thesis. Perhaps the decisions you made took shape based on the participants you ended up interviewing.

10. Was there something specific you were expecting to find during your analysis?

Expectations are natural when you set out to explore a topic, especially one you've been dancing around throughout your academic career. This question can refer to your hypotheses , but it can also touch on your personal feelings and expectations about this topic. What did you believe you would find when you dove deeper into the subject? Was that what you actually found, or were you surprised by your results?

11. What did you learn from your study?

Your response to this question can include not only the basic findings of your work (if you haven't covered this already) but also some personal surprises you might have found that veered away from your expectations. Sometimes these details are not included in the thesis, so these details can add some spice to your defense.

12. What are the recommendations from your study?

With connection to the reasons you chose the topic, your results can address the problems your work is solving. Give specifics on how policymakers, professionals in the field, etc., can improve their service with the knowledge your thesis provides.

13. If given the chance, what would you do differently?

Your response to this one can include the limitations you encountered or dead ends you hit that wasted time and funding. Try not to dwell too long on the annoyances of your study, and consider an area of curiosity; for example, discuss an area that piqued your interest during your exploration that would have been exciting to pursue but didn't directly benefit your outlined study.

14. How did you relate your study to the existing theories in the literature?

Your paper likely ties your ideas into those of other researchers, so this could be an easy one to answer. Point out how similar your work is to some and how it contrasts other works of research; both contribute greatly to the overall body of research.

15. What is the future scope of this study?

This one is pretty easy, since most theses include recommendations for future research within the text. That means you already have this one covered, and since you read over your thesis before your defense, it's already fresh in your mind.

16. What do you plan to do professionally after you complete your study?

This is a question directed more to you and your future professional plans. This might align with the research you performed, and if so, you can direct your question back to your research, maybe mentioning the personal motivations you have for pursuing study of that subject.

17. Do you have any questions?

Although your thesis defense feels like an interrogation, and you're the one in the spotlight, it provides an ideal opportunity to gather input from your committee, if you want it. Possible questions you could ask are: What were your impressions when reading my thesis? Do you believe I missed any important steps or details when conducting my work? Where do you see this work going in the future?

Bonus tip: What if you get asked a question to which you don't know the answer? You can spend weeks preparing to defend your thesis, but you might still be caught off guard when you don't know exactly what's coming. You can be ready for this situation by preparing a general strategy. It's okay to admit that your thesis doesn't offer the answers to everything – your committee won't reasonably expect it to do so. What you can do to sound (and feel!) confident and knowledgeable is to refer to a work of literature you have encountered in your research and draw on that work to give an answer. For example, you could respond, "My thesis doesn't directly address your question, but my study of Dr. Leifsen's work provided some interesting insights on that subject…." By preparing a way to address curveball questions, you can maintain your cool and create the impression that you truly are an expert in your field.

After you're done answering the questions your committee presents to you, they will either approve your thesis or suggest changes you should make to your paper. Regardless of the outcome, your confidence in addressing the questions presented to you will communicate to your thesis committee members that you know your stuff. Preparation can ease a lot of anxiety surrounding this event, so use these possible questions to make sure you can present your thesis feeling relaxed, prepared, and confident.

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How to Effectively Prepare for Your Thesis Defense

what is a thesis proposal defense

You’ve completed your research study, written your thesis, and think you’re done! If only it were this easy. Before you finish with your thesis, there is one last hurdle to overcome: the thesis defense.

What is a thesis defense?

A thesis defense is an opportunity for you to present your research study before other academic professionals who will evaluate the quality of your academic work. While a thesis defense can sometimes feel like a cross-examination in a court of law, in reality, there is no need to fear your thesis defense as long as you are well-prepared. In this article, we’ll talk about how to prepare for a thesis defense, what to expect at the defense itself, and what comes after your defense. 

Why do I have to defend my thesis?

At your thesis defense, you will discuss everything you’ve learned with a group of interested examiners who are eager to hear your thoughts.

The fundamental purpose of a thesis defense is to prove that you have mastered your subject and can be considered as a knowledgeable expert in your field, thereby allowing you to graduate successfully. For many students, a thesis is one of the first attempts at conducting original research and demonstrating that you are equipped to function as an independent expert in your field. If qualified academic professionals can assess your work, question your methods and results, and confirm that your study is sound and novel, then you meet the requirements.

The exact format and expectations for your thesis defense will differ depending on the region you study in and your institution’s rules for the thesis program. The thesis defense meeting may have just two or three examiners or may have a whole panel of examiners along with an audience. 

If the thought of facing your professors, peers, and parents to present your research study makes you feel dizzy, you aren’t alone . Moreover, a thesis defense is a great opportunity for you to hone your public speaking skills as well as talk about your research study. At your thesis defense, you will discuss everything you’ve learned with a group of interested examiners who are eager to hear your thoughts.

While the format for a thesis defense will vary, as mentioned above, most thesis defenses consist of:

  • Presenting your research study (using PowerPoint or other similar tools)
  • Answering questions from your thesis committee
  • Receiving feedback from your thesis committee

So how can you prepare for it? Let’s talk about some important tips.

Preparing: Before the defense

It is useful to attend multiple defenses and ask others who have gone through the process what it was like.

The best way to prepare for a thesis defense is to attend other defenses at your institution so that you know what to expect. It is useful to attend multiple defenses and ask others who have gone through the process what it was like. Senior students are often happy to provide advice and can give you specific insights about particular examiners as well as details of the administrative process at your institution.

You should also talk to your thesis advisor well in advance of your defense about what to expect. Ask whether you need to shortlist your own committee, how long your presentation should be, and how long the thesis defense will be. The duration of a thesis defense varies by the degree level as well as the institution. On average, expect your defense to be at least an hour long, possibly longer for a Ph.D.

What should my presentation cover and how can I prepare it?

While preparing your presentation, also prepare a list of questions and answers that you think are likely to be asked by your committee.

You will need to prepare a presentation that will cover the details of your research study. It is wise to rehearse this presentation multiple times in advance of your thesis defense so that you will be comfortable when you actually present in front of your audience. While preparing your presentation, also prepare a list of questions and answers that you think are likely to be asked by your committee. If you can, enlist the help of a classmate or friend to be the examiner. They can ask you questions about your research study so you will be able to practice addressing these questions.

One mistake many students make is assuming that all members of their defense committee will thoroughly read their thesis prior to the defense. This is simply not always the case. For this reason, you should make sure your presentation makes sense to someone who has not actually read your thesis. A typical thesis defense presentation gives:

  • An introduction to the topic
  • Explains how the study is significant in the field
  • Covers the main highlights of the methodology and results of the study
  • Picks out the main points from the discussion and conclusion

What should I do the day before my defense?

Before your thesis defense, make sure you have backups of everything you need saved in multiple formats and multiple locations.

Before your thesis defense, make sure you have backups of everything you need to be saved in multiple formats and multiple locations. Put your presentation and your thesis on a USB drive, email it to yourself, upload it to the cloud, and print it out. Leave nothing to chance: you want to be absolutely prepared to defend your thesis short of an act of God obliterating the venue. In addition, make sure you prepare hard copies (printouts) of both your thesis and slideshow for the committee members. It need not be professionally bound at this stage, but they will appreciate having reference material on hand.

Finally, there are some practical steps to take in preparation for the thesis defense. Choose your outfit in advance (you should dress professionally) and practice presenting in it. You should also make sure you know the exact location of the thesis defense venue. Scope out the venue before your defense, if possible, so you can imagine yourself there while you rehearse. If you are presenting virtually, test all your equipment in advance and have a backup plan in case your internet goes out or your computer suddenly crashes. Most importantly, make sure that you eat well and get proper rest the night before. Don’t stay up late rehearsing last minute in the hopes of improving your chances of passing your defense. You will do much better if you are well-rested and alert. 

Time to shine: At the defense

Try to stay calm and remember you are not on trial!

What can you expect on the day of the defense?

Typically, you will enter the room, set up, and begin your presentation once the committee indicates that they are ready. As mentioned above, it is always advisable to bring hard copies of both your thesis and slideshow for the committee. That way, they can easily refer to what you are talking about as you present. Make sure you also bring a pencil and notebook with you to take notes, and some water, because you will get thirsty as you talk.

After you are done with the presentation, the committee members will ask questions. Try to stay calm and remember you are not on trial! Your committee generally wants you to succeed, but they also want you to prove that you really know what you’re talking about. Do your best to answer their questions and never be afraid to admit when you don’t know something. It is much better, to be honest than to be caught lying or making something up during your thesis defense.

After the question and answer session, depending on your institution, you may be asked to leave the room while the committee deliberates. You may also be present while they discuss the merits of your defense and make suggestions for how to revise it. Alternatively, they might adjourn to another room if there is a large audience present. After they deliberate, they will usually thank you for your time, and your defense will be over. At some institutions, they will inform you if you passed right away, while at others, you will find out after a few days. 

How does my committee decide if my work is good or not?

In general, you can expect your thesis defense and your thesis as a whole to be evaluated based on the below criteria:

  • Whether the thesis meets the departmental requirements
  • Whether the research study is logical and clear
  • Whether the stated objectives are met in the study
  • Use of primary and secondary literature
  • Use of relevant and up-to-date sources
  • Methodological rigor
  • Your ability to critically analyze data, facts, relevant literature, and synthesize information into a coherent narrative
  • Writing quality and flow
  • The validity of your conclusions based on your data and analysis
  • The relevance and importance of your research study in the field
  • Your ability to clearly and coherently present what your thesis is about
  • Your ability to answer questions about your work accurately and in-depth
  • Your ability to acknowledge and consider other theories or perspectives and explain why you dismissed one theory in favor of another

In summary, the examining committee want to know:

  • Did you meet the thesis criteria set by your institution?
  • Did you perform high-quality research work?
  • Do you know what you are talking about?

After the defense: What’s next?

After your thesis is approved, you will need to have it professionally bound and then submit copies to your university.

After your thesis defense, you should definitely celebrate and congratulate yourself for all your hard work! Unfortunately, you aren’t quite done yet. Although the committee may notify you about passing, it is also very likely that you will be asked to make some changes to your thesis before you are finally done. You should work with your advisor to finalize and incorporate any comments you received into your work as quickly as possible.

After your thesis is approved, you will need to have it professionally bound and then submit copies to your university. You will also get the chance to order copies for yourself. This process also differs by institution, so make sure you talk to the administration department to figure out what you need to do and when to complete this process.

All in all, while a thesis defense is a scary and overwhelming event, it is also an incredible achievement. Earning your degree is no small feat, and you should definitely feel proud of yourself once you have done it! Check out our site for more tips on how to write a good thesis, where to find the best thesis editing services , and more about thesis editing and proofreading services .

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To prepare for your thesis defense, make sure that you:

Find out your institutional requirements

Talk to your advisor well in advance about what to expect and prepare

Attend defenses of other students to see what they are like

Prepare your presentation early so you can rehearse it

Rehearse your presentation with a timer

Make a list of questions and answers about your research study

Enlist a friend to be the examiner and ask you questions

Prepare multiple backups of your materials (USB drive, Google Drive/Cloud storage, email, hard copy) 

Have a plan for computer/internet problems if you are presenting virtually

Eat well and get a good night’s rest before the defense

Arrive at the defense venue early enough to test any IT equipment or internet connection

What should I do to prepare for my thesis defense? +

  • Find out your institution’s requirements
  • Attend other thesis defenses
  • Speak to your advisor
  • Prepare and practice your presentation
  • Enlist a friend or classmate to act as the examiner and ask you questions while you practice

How long is a typical thesis defense? +

Every institution is different, but most thesis defenses are at least an hour long.

What should my thesis presentation actually contain? +

 A typical thesis defense presentation introduces the thesis topic, explains how your study is significant in the field, and covers the main highlights of the methodology and results of the study. It finally picks out the main points from the discussion and conclusion section of your thesis.

What if I fail my thesis defense? +

The odds that you will fail are extremely low! Most advisors and committees do not let a candidate schedule a defense unless they feel the candidate is ready. So, don’t worry about it. However, if you do fail for some reason, your institution will have a process for you to apply to try again.

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Dissertation Proposal Defense

The purpose of the  dissertation  proposal  defense  meeting is to assess the merits of the proposed research and the ability of the doctoral candidate to conduct this research in a scholarly manner. The proposal must be defended in a formal meeting to be attended by all members of the committee, in-place or virtually. People other than the committee members and the student proposing the study typically do not attend the proposal defense meeting.

Once the chair deems the proposal ready for the full committee’s review, the candidate will be given permission to schedule a proposal defense.  The candidate will contact the committee members to find a date and time acceptable to all members, and will secure a conference room for the defense.  The candidate will provide a copy of the proposal to the chair and committee members at least two weeks prior to the scheduled defense of the proposal, either electronically or in hard copy, depending upon the preferences of individual committee members.

At the defense, the candidate will be expected to defend the proposal and answer questions regarding the proposed study. A unanimous vote of the committee members at the time of the proposal defense is required for approval of the proposal. If unanimous approval is not given at this defense, the chair will make recommendations to remedy any deficiencies, and a second proposal defense meeting will be scheduled.

When all committee members are satisfied that a proposal is viable, they will sign a  Dissertation Proposal Approval Form .  The candidate will submit the signed form to the Office of Academic Programs. In the event that a faculty member resigns from the dissertation committee after the proposal has been formally accepted, the new member appointed to the committee must agree to accept the dissertation proposal as previously approved.

Human Subjects Approval After the dissertation proposal has been approved, the candidate must receive human subjects approval by the School of Education’s Institutional Review Committee (EDIRC) before any data may be generated or analyses begun.  The candidate and the dissertation committee chair must submit verification of  university required training  in research ethics when submitting the online EDIRC proposal form.  The candidate is required to designate the dissertation committee chair as a co-principal investigator for this study.  More information about this process is available on the  Protection of Human Subjects Certification  web page.

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what is a thesis proposal defense

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Proposal Defense Policy & Procedure

The proposal and its purpose.

The Information School encourages and supports the wide range of dissertation topics and methodologies generated from the study of information science. The dissertation proposal represents a formal understanding between the Supervisory Committee and the doctoral Candidate. This agreement outlines the work to be done and the intellectual rigor the Committee expects from the Candidate. The proposal functions as a map guiding the Candidate towards the effective completion of the dissertation project.

The dissertation proposal should substantially advance the doctoral candidate toward completion of the dissertation.  It may take the form of the preliminary chapters of the dissertation.

The Elements

The doctoral Candidate works closely with the Chair of the Supervisory Committee and other voting members of the Supervisory Committee in determining the composition of the dissertation proposal and in writing the proposal.

The proposal should contain detail sufficient to describe the significance, background and rationale for the dissertation and the work the Candidate will perform for the dissertation.

The following list of elements is typical for a dissertation proposal in the information field.  However, the School recognizes that this list may not fit all dissertation proposals and thus should be considered as illustrative only. 

  • Statement of the Problem – includes the background, context in the information field and in the broader scheme of academic pursuits, key questions, significance of the problem, and description of chosen methodology.
  • Grounding and Rationale – provides a discussion of need in the area of study which may include a comprehensive review of theoretical, conceptual, technological or methodological precedents which directly relate to the dissertation topic. This section may also include a detailed analysis of the precedents that justify the need for the research, or review the literature that relates to the research.
  • Research Plan – details the methods that will be used or the processes that will be followed during the course of investigation. This section describes how the questions posed by the dissertation will be addressed.

The Defense

The Candidate, assisted by the Chair as necessary, schedules a date, a time, and a room for the defense.  The Candidate submits details regarding the proposal defense, including date, time and location of the defense, members of the Supervisory Committee, proposal defense title, as well as an abstract, to the iSchool web calendar, the Chair of the Ph.D. Program, and Student Services Office.

At least two weeks before the scheduled proposal defense date, the final written proposal must be submitted to all members of the Supervisory Committee.  At this time or earlier, the voting members of the Committee, in consultation with the Candidate, determine the length and outline the structure of the defense. 

The defense is a scheduled and announced public event.  Any person may attend.  However, the deliberations of the Supervisory Committee are private.

The Process

Students presents their dissertation proposal orally, with visual accompaniment as desired by the candidate, to the supervisory committee and the public.

The dissertation proposal defense proceeds as outlined below. 

Prior to the start of the examination :

  • The Candidate must be physically present at the exam.
  • The Chair (or at least one Co-Chair), the GSR, and one general committee member must be physically present at the exam.
  • If the Chair is not physically present, then the exam must be rescheduled. 
  • If the GSR is not physically present at the time of the exam, a substitute GSR may be secured subject to Graduate School rules.  If no GSR can be found, then the exam must be rescheduled.
  • If a general member is not physically present then, the exam should be adjourned and rescheduled to a later time/date.
  • A majority of the Supervisory Committee must be physically present at the exam.  E.g. a Supervisory Committee with the minimum 4 required members (Chair, GSR, and 2 general members) must have the Chair, the GSR, and at least one general member physically present at the exam. A Supervisory Committee with 5 members (Chair, GSR, and 3 general members) must have the Chair, the GSR, and at least one general member physically present at the exam.

Once the Exam Starts"

  • The Supervisory Committee may meet initially in private, with or without the Candidate present.
  • The Chair announces when the Candidate and the public may join the Committee for the defense.
  • The Candidate presents the key elements of the dissertation proposal.
  • The Supervisory Committee and/or the public questions the Candidate.
  • The public may question the Candidate as time permits.
  • Finally, the Supervisory Committee reconvenes in private for deliberations.  The voting members vote for one of the following:
  • a.  Accept —a PDF version of the proposal will be submitted to Student Services. The proposal will be available to the public for reading.
  • b.  Accept with minor revisions —the Committee requests minor revisions, which are approved by a process that is established by the Chair. A PDF version of the proposal will be submitted to Student Services. The proposal will be available to the public for reading.
  • c.  Accept with revisions —revisions require approval by the Chair and selected members or the supervisory Committee.  See Process** below.
  • d.  Reject —the Supervisory Committee may recommend either 1) that a second defense is permitted after a period of additional preparation, or 2) that the student is dropped from the Ph.D. program in Information Science at the University of Washington.

A simple majority vote is required. In the event that a simple majority vote does not occur, the deliberations of the Supervisory Committee are continued and a decision is made within ten days of the proposal defense date.

If after ten days the Supervisory Committee cannot make a decision, then the candidate may reconstitute the Committee, and schedule a new defense.

*Process for 'Accept with Revisions'

The revision process proceeds as follows:

  • The committee informs the candidate verbally of the revisions required and the date by which revisions are to be completed.
  • The chair, in consultation with the committee prepares a written description of the required revisions. A copy of the letter is provided to Student Services to place in the student's permanent academic file.
  • The chair and the candidate determine the date by which the revisions must be completed, normally within 3 months.
  • The chair distributes the written description to the candidate and the committee.
  • Two weeks after the revisions are submitted by the candidate, the committee informs the candidate whether the revisions are accepted or rejected.
  • If accepted, a paper copy and PDF version of the proposal are submitted to Student Services; at least one copy is available to the public for reading.
  • If rejected, the committee recommends, as outlined above, to either permit a second defense or to drop the student from the program.
  • If the revisions are not completed successfully within the specified time period, the chair may extend the time for revision to up to one year from the date of the proposal defense. After one year, the chair may petition the Ph.D. committee for an extension.
  • If the revisions are not completed successfully in the time frame designated, and if the supervisory committee and the Ph.D. committee concur, the proposal is rejected and the student is dropped from the Ph.D. program in Information Science at UW.

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  • Thesis proposal and defence

A doctoral thesis should be based on extensive research in primary sources, make an original contribution to knowledge, and be presented in acceptable scholarly form. Students entering the program with MFA degrees may include studio work as a component of their program of study and thesis project, with the approval of the Humanities Program Director and the student’s advisory committee.

About the thesis proposal

A thesis proposal is submitted and defended in the term following the writing of the comprehensive field examinations. Students are admitted to candidacy for the Ph.D. upon acceptance by their advisory committee of the written thesis proposal and its successful oral defence.

The thesis proposal is approximately 25 pages long (double-spaced), and contains:

  • a substantive presentation of the thesis question
  • a brief review of the literature
  • a bibliography
  • an overview of the proposed structure (chapter by chapter) of the thesis. It should be a substantial reworking of the initial research proposal.

See a  sample thesis proposal

Thesis proposal defence

The Thesis Proposal defence is especially important in cases where non-paper thesis components are being considered. The student's supervisory committee, in collaboration with the Humanities Director, must assess and approve the nature of the relationship between the thesis components and the pertinence of the chosen medium. The committee must establish the student's competence to work with the chosen medium.

If a student fails the thesis proposal defence, he or she may request a second (and last) attempt, the repeated defence to take place after a period of at least three months from the date of the original defence, and no later than one year after the date of the original defence.

Steps to complete your thesis proposal

  • The student develops the proposal in consultation with the Major field supervisor, with input from the Minor field advisors.
  • The student submits the thesis proposal to the three members of his or her advisory committee, and if they are satisfied that the thesis proposal is ready to proceed to defence, they complete and sign the  Thesis Proposal Submission Form.
  • The thesis proposal together with the completed and signed thesis proposal submission form are submitted to the Director of the Humanities Program for further approval.
  • Upon the Director’s approval, the student’s Major field supervisor coordinates a time for the thesis proposal defence. All three member of the student’s advisory committee participate in the thesis proposal defence, which is chaired by the Humanities Director and normally takes place in the Humanities conference room.
  • The student gives a brief oral summary of the proposal;
  • Committee members engage the student in a discussion of aspects of the proposal and beyond that of the projected doctoral dissertation, touching on such issues as the theoretical framework and methodology to be used, structure of the dissertation, schedule for its completion, etc.;
  • During the discussion, committee members may also ask questions about the comprehensive fields exams, especially as the exam topics relate to the student’s dissertation project.
  • Following the formal defence, the advisory committee with the Humanities Director assess the student’s performance in camera, and decide on a pass or fail grade.
  • A thesis proposal grade sheet for the Thesis Proposal with Defence will be provided to the student's major field advisor who will complete, sign, and submit it to the department , S-LB 689.01 . The committee may also indicate on a separate paper whether there are concerns that the student should keep in mind as they proceed towards work on their doctoral dissertation and attach it to the grade form.

Please note the Humanities PhD program changed some sections of its curriculum in 2017. Students in the pre-2017 curriclum stream have their  Thesis Proposal with Defence coded as HUMA 886 (3 credits) , while after 2017 it is coded as  Thesis Proposal with Defence HUMA 894 (6 credits) .

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How to Write a Dissertation or Thesis Proposal

Published on September 21, 2022 by Tegan George . Revised on July 18, 2023.

When starting your thesis or dissertation process, one of the first requirements is a research proposal or a prospectus. It describes what or who you want to examine, delving into why, when, where, and how you will do so, stemming from your research question and a relevant topic .

The proposal or prospectus stage is crucial for the development of your research. It helps you choose a type of research to pursue, as well as whether to pursue qualitative or quantitative methods and what your research design will look like.

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What should your proposal contain, dissertation question examples, what should your proposal look like, dissertation prospectus examples, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about proposals.

Prior to jumping into the research for your thesis or dissertation, you first need to develop your research proposal and have it approved by your supervisor. It should outline all of the decisions you have taken about your project, from your dissertation topic to your hypotheses and research objectives .

Depending on your department’s requirements, there may be a defense component involved, where you present your research plan in prospectus format to your committee for their approval.

Your proposal should answer the following questions:

  • Why is your research necessary?
  • What is already known about your topic?
  • Where and when will your research be conducted?
  • Who should be studied?
  • How can the research best be done?

Ultimately, your proposal should persuade your supervisor or committee that your proposed project is worth pursuing.

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Strong research kicks off with a solid research question , and dissertations are no exception to this.

Dissertation research questions should be:

  • Focused on a single problem or issue
  • Researchable using primary and/or secondary sources
  • Feasible to answer within the timeframe and practical constraints
  • Specific enough to answer thoroughly
  • Complex enough to develop the answer over the space of a paper or thesis
  • Relevant to your field of study and/or society more broadly
  • What are the main factors enticing people under 30 in suburban areas to engage in the gig economy?
  • Which techniques prove most effective for 1st-grade teachers at local elementary schools in engaging students with special needs?
  • Which communication streams are the most effective for getting those aged 18-30 to the polls on Election Day?

An easy rule of thumb is that your proposal will usually resemble a (much) shorter version of your thesis or dissertation. While of course it won’t include the results section , discussion section , or conclusion , it serves as a “mini” version or roadmap for what you eventually seek to write.

Be sure to include:

  • A succinct introduction to your topic and problem statement
  • A brief literature review situating your topic within existing research
  • A basic outline of the research methods you think will best answer your research question
  • The perceived implications for future research
  • A reference list in the citation style of your choice

The length of your proposal varies quite a bit depending on your discipline and type of work you’re conducting. While a thesis proposal is often only 3-7 pages long, a prospectus for your dissertation is usually much longer, with more detailed analysis. Dissertation proposals can be up to 25-30 pages in length.

Writing a proposal or prospectus can be a challenge, but we’ve compiled some examples for you to get your started.

  • Example #1: “Geographic Representations of the Planet Mars, 1867-1907” by Maria Lane
  • Example #2: “Individuals and the State in Late Bronze Age Greece: Messenian Perspectives on Mycenaean Society” by Dimitri Nakassis
  • Example #3: “Manhood Up in the Air: A Study of Male Flight Attendants, Queerness, and Corporate Capitalism during the Cold War Era” by Phil Tiemeyer

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The research methods you use depend on the type of data you need to answer your research question .

  • If you want to measure something or test a hypothesis , use quantitative methods . If you want to explore ideas, thoughts and meanings, use qualitative methods .
  • If you want to analyze a large amount of readily-available data, use secondary data. If you want data specific to your purposes with control over how it is generated, collect primary data.
  • If you want to establish cause-and-effect relationships between variables , use experimental methods. If you want to understand the characteristics of a research subject, use descriptive methods.

A thesis or dissertation outline is one of the most critical first steps in your writing process. It helps you to lay out and organize your ideas and can provide you with a roadmap for deciding what kind of research you’d like to undertake.

Generally, an outline contains information on the different sections included in your thesis or dissertation , such as:

  • Your anticipated title
  • Your abstract
  • Your chapters (sometimes subdivided into further topics like literature review , research methods , avenues for future research, etc.)

A well-planned research design helps ensure that your methods match your research aims, that you collect high-quality data, and that you use the right kind of analysis to answer your questions, utilizing credible sources . This allows you to draw valid , trustworthy conclusions.

The priorities of a research design can vary depending on the field, but you usually have to specify:

  • Your research questions and/or hypotheses
  • Your overall approach (e.g., qualitative or quantitative )
  • The type of design you’re using (e.g., a survey , experiment , or case study )
  • Your sampling methods or criteria for selecting subjects
  • Your data collection methods (e.g., questionnaires , observations)
  • Your data collection procedures (e.g., operationalization , timing and data management)
  • Your data analysis methods (e.g., statistical tests  or thematic analysis )

A dissertation prospectus or proposal describes what or who you plan to research for your dissertation. It delves into why, when, where, and how you will do your research, as well as helps you choose a type of research to pursue. You should also determine whether you plan to pursue qualitative or quantitative methods and what your research design will look like.

It should outline all of the decisions you have taken about your project, from your dissertation topic to your hypotheses and research objectives , ready to be approved by your supervisor or committee.

Note that some departments require a defense component, where you present your prospectus to your committee orally.

Formulating a main research question can be a difficult task. Overall, your question should contribute to solving the problem that you have defined in your problem statement .

However, it should also fulfill criteria in three main areas:

  • Researchability
  • Feasibility and specificity
  • Relevance and originality

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How to Start a Thesis Defense Presentation

How to Start a Thesis Defense Presentation | Quick Tips & Tutorial for your presentations

After months and years of hard work, the moment to wrap things all up is finally here—your thesis defense presentation.

Whether you’re pursuing a master’s degree or doctorate, it’s the final step to that much-deserved achievement. 

A thesis defense requires a lot of prior research and preparation. And as important as its content is, so is how you present it because a stunning design with clear data and text hierarchy plays an immense role in comprehension.

In this article, we’ll explore how you make your thesis defense .

The organization is the key to success. Establishing some previous steps before any project or work is essential for the result to be very positive. And the defense of a thesis could not be less. 

Below, we will develop all the necessary steps to make a thesis defense presentation and we will give you some tips on how to carry them out.

How to Make an Amazing Presentation

Defining the concept of your thesis presentation, structuring your thesis defense presentation, how do you welcome the audience, tell them why you did this thesis, go into the content by explaining your thesis part by part, how to end the defense of the thesis.

After a long time of research and study, the content of your thesis is ready. Now, you have to find the best way to reflect all that effort behind your work. The information comes across more clearly if you use a visual format, as it attracts the attention of the audience. To present your thesis information in a clear, concise, and ultimately amazing way, you can use one of our unique thesis defense templates , available at Slidesgo.

As an example, in this article, we are going to use the Ecology Thesis template . With it, we will show you what to include in your presentation and how to make an attractive design.

After choosing the Google Slides and PowerPoint template that best suits the needs and subject matter of your thesis, it is time to define an overarching concept.

This is the main theme on which your designs are based. It must be relevant to your thesis as its purpose is to guide your selection of colors, typography, images, style, etc. 

These must be portrayed in a way that supports the main message of your slides and should be aligned with your concept both visually and sociologically.

Once you have defined the concept, you will have to move on to the next step: structuring the content of your thesis. A good structure will show that there is a good organization behind the work, but most importantly: it will highlight your content.

In this article, we are going to show you a structure that could be a good example of how to structure a thesis, but you can adapt it to what your specific content requires.

Before you begin your thesis defense, you should welcome your audience. A good presentation will make you connect with your audience, which will result in more general interest in your work.

Use an appropriate language register (avoid informal language), but be approachable and natural.

"Welcome to the thesis defense on [the title of your thesis]". Next, introduce yourself with your name and give a short description of your background and occupation.

Don't forget to say “thank you for attending!”

To continue establishing that connection with your audience, explain the reasons that led you to do this thesis. Tell the professional reasons, and you can even say some personal ones, which will denote closeness, and your audience will appreciate it.

Now it's time to go into the content of the thesis ! After these preliminary steps, which are just as important as the thesis itself, it is time to explain part by part the structure (which you had previously established). We are going to propose a structure for your project, but the final decision is always yours!

what is a thesis proposal defense

First impressions are very important. Because your title page is the very first thing viewers see, it must be striking and impactful. It also sets the stage for the rest of your slides.

In one glance, the following should be established:

  • Thesis defense topic
  • Design style

For instance, the ecology thesis’s title page uses illustrations of a natural landscape to represent the topic of nature and a striking shade of blue to set the tone.

The sans serif font used depicts clean-cut typography and style and the thesis topic is written in large and bold typography, which draws attention to it immediately.

what is a thesis proposal defense

Right after your title page, include an introduction slide to provide more details about your topic. 

This means explaining what you hope to answer with your research, its importance to your field, and why you chose it.

Continue to incorporate design elements relevant to your concept. This example has done just that by using a different natural landscape and including animals. For coherence, stick to the same typography and style throughout your presentation.

what is a thesis proposal defense

The aim of the literature review slide is to illustrate your knowledge of your thesis topic and any relevant theories.

Walls of text kill a design. For clarity, we recommend presenting this with bullet points. Each one should be short and sweet and only touch on the basics; you can elaborate on them in your speech. 

Don’t forget to be consistent with your design. In our example, we’ve maintained the tone of blue chosen and added illustrations of leaves in the far corners of the slide. 

Also, address similar research that has been done. This is to showcase your topic’s originality and, if relevant, how it’s different and/or an improvement from previously done research. 

what is a thesis proposal defense

This is one of the most important parts of a thesis defense presentation.

It allows your viewers to assess the rationality and validity of your approach and consequently, the accuracy of your results.

A great methodology slide explains the what , how, and why :

  • What method did you use for your research
  • Why did you choose it
  • How did you conduct it

Because this part of your thesis will be rather technical, the most effective way to aid understanding is by using graphics like charts and tables. 

what is a thesis proposal defense

Keep text to a minimum to avoid drawing attention away from the graphics. If there is a text that must absolutely be included, consider using bullet points and keep them short.

Don’t forget to maintain color, style, and typography coherence.

what is a thesis proposal defense

The results slides are easily the most quantitative part of a thesis defense. 

Here, your aim is to simply introduce your findings. Select the most impactful data and highlight them here.

Just as with methodology, use graphics like charts, tables, and graphs to portray the data in a clear way. And, once again, try not to write too much text. Let the visual content do the talking .

what is a thesis proposal defense

After you’ve introduced your data, the next step would be to help your audience make sense of it. That means understanding what it means in the context of your thesis research topic and your discipline. 

Simply put, you should answer the question: What do the numbers mean?

The best way to approach this would be to do it as if you were creating an infographic . 

Illustrations like icons are a quick and simple way to represent your message. It also reduces the amount of text on your slide, which makes the information much more digestible. 

For a balanced thesis presentation, you should also address any outliers and anomalies.

To quote bestselling author Robin Sharma, “Starting strong is good. Finishing strong is epic.”

That’s exactly what to aim for in your conclusion.

Provide an overview of your thesis topic and remind your audience what you set out to answer with your research. In our example, we’ve used three icons accompanied by a short title and text. 

what is a thesis proposal defense

Following that, reiterate the important points of your research results you want your audience to take away from your thesis defense presentation. 

You can do so by expanding the next slide to have more icons and points, for example.

what is a thesis proposal defense

Don’t forget to address any shortcomings and limitations in your approach and extra points for suggesting possible improvements for future research.

We are going to give you a little tip to make your thesis defense a success. You can combine your defense with good public speaking techniques. Take a look at our article "How to become a great speaker" .

We hope this article has been of great help, have you already seen our templates to make the presentation of your thesis ? Choose the one that best suits your needs, we are sure that one of them will go perfectly with your thesis presentation! 

Good luck from Slidesgo.

what is a thesis proposal defense

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What is a Thesis Defense?

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If you're researching a master's degree, you'll likely come across the phrase "thesis defense" among the list of requirements for earning an advanced degree. This formal-sounding requirement usually comes at the end of a graduate program. As a student seeking a master's degree, your thesis defines your educational experience at the university. Once you've completed all the necessary coursework and finished any internship or practicum experiences, you will be required to meet with a committee to defend your work. Details of a defense vary by college, but there are some general things to keep in mind as you embark on the graduate process.

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These top, accredited schools offer a variety of online graduate degree programs. Figuring out where to apply? Consider one of these online Master’s or PhD programs.

What is a Thesis?

In most schools, the  thesis  represents a student's collective understanding of his or her program and major. Students who major in English, for example, typically explore language, literary themes, a specific author's work or a similar topic when writing a thesis paper. Universities often require theses to consist of a prospectus, which outlines the intent of the paper, and a full-length paper treatment of a particular topic. In the natural sciences, theses might cover experiments or hypothetical situations in which a student researches certain elements of his or her field.

Theses projects demand full attention, and many schools require that students devote an entire semester to completing the research and resulting paper. Students work with a faculty committee or adviser on a close basis to make sure that the research stays on schedule. Depending on the level of degree, a thesis paper can be extremely complex.

Defending the Work

Once students submit their theses papers to the thesis committee, they will be assigned a date to defend their work. In this case, "defend" does not imply that a student will have to argue aggressively about his or her work. Rather, the thesis defense is designed so that faculty members can ask questions and make sure that students actually understand their field and focus area. Defending a thesis largely serves as a formality because the paper will already have been evaluated. During a defense, a student will be asked questions by members of the thesis committee. Questions are usually open-ended and require that the student think critically about his or her work. A defense might take only 20 minutes, or it might take an hour or more depending on the goal of the committee and the requirements of the program.

Preparation for Your Thesis Defense

Students have months to  prepare for a defense . Schools want graduate candidates to be as prepared as possible when attending a defense, which means that neither the date nor faculty committee will be a surprise to the student. It's important to keep in mind that if you go into a defense with the right attitude and preparation, failing is nearly impossible. The committee wants to see how well you know your subject and your research. Nerves may get the better of you as you face unknown questions, but as with a job interview, practicing ahead of time will lead to a successful defense.

Facing a defense can be stressful, but think of it as an opportunity to share what you've learned. Remember that you aren't arguing points when you defend your work. Instead, a proper thesis defense gives you and your faculty advisers the chance to discuss your topic and research in greater detail.

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40 Thesis Defense Questions

40 Thesis Defense Questions

Practicing answering thesis defense questions in a mock thesis defense is the best way to get ready for this challenging step in your academic career. Aside from knowing your research project inside and out, you must have solid strategies for tackling different question types and talking about why you chose your research topic. You might have already answered questions related to your research interests in your research interest statement and grad school interview questions , but now after years for in-depth study, it's time to really test what you have accomplished! Check out some of the hardest thesis defense questions below and read our expert responses!

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Article Contents 11 min read

What to expect in a thesis defense.

A thesis defense is your chance to demonstrate your in-depth knowledge and expertise in the topic of your research thesis. While you will be able to take charge of the narrative and present your research to those on your thesis committee, the professors will prod you to test how well you know and understand your topic. The questions are mostly open-ended and give you the chance to showcase your knowledge and understanding, as well as any future plans you may have regarding your research topic.

A thesis defense usually lasts between one and two hours, depending on the area of your research. It starts with you giving a presentation of your interest, findings, and conclusions. After you have finished, the committee members will ask you questions based not only on your presentation, but also on your written thesis as they will have read it before your presentation. Lastly, the committee might approve your thesis or suggest changes to your paper.

Preparing thesis defense questions requires you to start well in advance. While the duration of your thesis defense might vary as per your institution's requirements, the major idea is to defend your research. Thus, you should go about preparing for your thesis defense questions by taking the following steps.

Interested in a quick overview of the section below? Check out this infographic:

Re-read your thesis for clarity

Your thesis defense questions will be based on what you have written in your research paper. Hence, it is a good idea to re-read your paper. You should be clear on the concepts and understand your research well. It might have been some time since you would have submitted your paper, so a revision should be the starting point of your preparation.  

Have an answer strategy and structure

Plan a strategy to answer the panel’s questions. Keep your answers direct, but elaborate on the research details wherever necessary. If you do not know the answer to a question, that is alright. The key is to be able to formulate an answer even if you do not possess enough knowledge to answer at that point in time. For instance, if a question is about the content of your research, you can say something like “I am not certain my research touches on the question you are asking, but my research has led me to Dr. X. Based his evidence, I would have to conclude that…” Having a strategy for answering even the most unexpected questions can be a life saver in these situations!

Most of the thesis defense questions can be easily predicted based on your research. You can prepare a list of possible questions when you are going through your paper. Getting to know the committee can help you in preparing better. Their areas of expertise can help you in determining what they might ask. Once you have a list of questions, you can start brainstorming how you might answer them. 

Prepare your slides in advance

If you require visual aids such as slides, it is a good idea to prepare them beforehand. You can double-check the slides and make sure that your presentation will run smoothly on the day of your thesis defense. Make sure your slides are arranged in the correct order. 

Attend a thesis defense of other candidates if it is an open event

If your institution allows it, you can visit a thesis defense of other candidates. This will give you an excellent idea of what you can expect in your meeting. If it is not possible to attend the event, you can speak to your peers to find out how their meeting went and what questions were asked.

Dress appropriately for your meeting

The thesis defense meeting is a formal event, and hence you should be dressed in formal clothes. While there are no strict dressing rules, you should consider it something equivalent to a job interview. Don’t just wear your T-shirt and appear in front of the committee. Your formal suit is a better option for the occasion.

Practice speaking for your meeting

Take your preparation to the next level by practicing your presentation. This activity will give you the confidence for the actual meeting and presentation. You can request your academic peers to help you out in the practice task. Based on their feedback in the mock session, you can improve for the actual session. Make sure to prepare well for the mock session as if you are preparing for the actual session. You can also practice your speech and body language in the mock session. If you used thesis writing services , these professionals would also be the ideal people to test you in a mock thesis defense – don’t hesitate to reach out to them again!

Sample Thesis Defense Questions and Answers

1.    what is your research study all about.

In your answer, you should summarize your research in a few sentences. The question is simple but requires technical expertise for a better explanation of concepts. For instance, if you completed a thesis in an attempt to explain the constituents of dark matter in the universe and particle accelerators, you could frame your answer like this:

In this research, the different aspects of dark matter and its detection models have been investigated. The cosmic ray positron excess observed by the PAMELA detector has been discussed and explained through the construction of models of decaying dark matter. The cosmic-ray electron and positron spectra were studied assuming a general Dirac structure for the four fermion contact interactions of interest. A supersymmetric leptophilic Higgs model was constructed to explain the possible excess of gamma rays in the galactic center. Finally, by the use of Razor analysis, an improvement on the dark matter collider searches is considered.  

2.    Why did you choose this study?

This question requires you to answer what motivated you to pursue the study in the first place. Your answers could touch on your interests in the area of the study. For example, if you conducted a study called “Media Combat: The Great War and the Transformation of American Culture” then you can shape your answer like this:

The First World War (1914-1918) has always been a topic of fascination for me, and my prime interest lies in exploring the state of society at that time. I wanted to analyze the formation of a nationalized, wartime cultural apparatus during the United States' involvement in the war and how theatre and music transformed the relationship between the government and American citizens. 

3.    Why did you choose this particular title for your research?

The title of your thesis captures the main point of your research, which is why it is so important to use an appropriate title. Your committee will want to know how you came to the final decision of naming your work. For example,

I chose the title “Dark matter in the heavens and at colliders: Models and constraints” for my research thesis because my research attempts to explain the constituency of dark matter as it occurs in the universe. “The heavens” is another word for the universe. Dark matter can also be created in particle accelerators such as the CERN collider. I have attempted to provide an explanation for both of the cases through the use of models, along with describing the constraints which exist in the current times due to certain scientific limitations.

4.    What is the scope of your study?

In your answer, you have to define the boundaries of your project and define exactly what you are studying. There can be several elements involved but you have to define the parameters that you have chosen to study. For example,

My study is on the efficacy of equity stocks in the US market. For my study, I have chosen 50 companies listed on the NASDAQ. You can review the names of these companies on page 5 of my thesis.

5.    What phenomenon were you trying to understand with this research?

Describe the focus concept of your thesis in the answer. For example,

In our study “Motivation to volunteer”, we were looking to study the Theory of Planned Behavior by analyzing the behavioral and normative beliefs that influence attitudes and subjective norms.

Want increase your productivity and mainain a healthy work life balance to help get you through your thesis project? Here are some tips straight from our CEO:

6.    Who will be most interested in your research?

You can talk about who may be affected by your research and the parties who can potentially benefit from the research. Take a look at this example:

My sociology thesis on “Impact of social media on youngsters” can be of interest to sociology academics, social media companies, education experts, and parents of youngsters in general.

7.    Did your research questions evolve during the process? If so, how?

Often, qualitative research questions change over time with respect to the responses that you might get from your focus group. Or you might just change your question as you do lab research or general text research. You can describe the change to the evaluating committee. For example,

We started our study to understand the impact of the new public policy change on recycling of vinyl waste through installation of garbage bins specifically for vinyl products. However, after interviewing some of the respondents in the target community, we found that the rule is actually irrelevant to their behavior and thoughts because the percentage of vinyl waste in that specific locality was very low and it didn’t need the installation of dedicated bins for the purpose. Going by their frustrations with the current economic insecurity, our study evolved into the impact of costs incurred by public policy changes.           

8.    What gaps did you intend to bridge with your research?

Your research thesis must eliminate the present gaps in the concepts related to your subject topic.

The relationship between hard water and its effect on the size of the kidney stone is not clear yet, so we analyzed the mineral composition of hard water to determine its impact on the size of the kidney stone.

9.    Why is your research significant?

The answer to this research question should outline the impact of your research on your field of study. You may talk about the new insights contributed by your research and its impact on society.

Through my study on “The effect of chamomile in reducing stress and promoting better sleep,” patients with insomnia and anxiety will be able to find alternative treatments without the use of medicinal drugs. The medical abilities of chamomile will promote the usage of ingredients in nature and will encourage the community to plant more herbs and trees.

10. What did you find in your research?

You may describe your research in a few sentences in this answer. For instance,

In our study on “Impact of artificial fluoride in water on the human body,” we found that excessive exposure to high quantities of Fluoride can result in tooth discoloration and bone issues in humans since it has neurotoxic qualities. 

11. What research findings surprised you?

When you conduct research, you come across findings that you were not expecting earlier. If you had such an experience, you might describe the same to the evaluation committee when you answer this question. For example,

I was expecting that business promotion through social media would not be a good idea for rural enterprises in developing countries in my comparative analysis of the usage of traditional and contemporary marketing methods. But I was surprised to learn that 68% of rural textile businesses in Nigeria promote their products on Instagram.

12. What is the validity of your findings?

You have to talk about the conditions in which your research findings would be valid.

In my research, I have considered test anxiety to be involving both nervous system activation and negative thoughts. Thus, my measure of test anxiety has included the elements of both nervous feelings and negative thoughts, the conditions in which my findings are valid.

For example,

For studying the differential protein expression, its localization, and distribution at different levels, we used the method of immunostaining in our research.

14. What sources did you use for data collection?

You would have used several sources to search for data for your topic. You may elaborate on those sources. You might have referred to databases, content on the web, or even conducted primary research by interviewing prospects. Thus, you can talk about these sources. Refer to the following answer:

To understand the impact of the current tax regime on skilled workers, we interviewed 150 subjects in 5 months. Additionally, we referred to databases and scholarly works available by authors who had previously conducted such studies for previous tax laws and rates. 

15. How can your research be put into practice?

This question talks about the practical implications of your research. You should talk about how your research is beneficial for society and how it can help in eliminating current issues.

In our research titled “Effectiveness of Meditation on Reducing the Anxiety Levels of College Students in the US,” we discovered that students who practiced meditation at least thrice a week were two times more likely to score better in their exams, owing to the positive impact of meditation. So, this research finding can help in the reduction of mental health issues among students. A suitable course of action would be to hold meditating sessions a couple of times a week. 

16. How will your findings contribute to the related area of knowledge?

Our study on medicinal analysis of herbs conveys information about various medicinal benefits of chamomile in treating depression and contributes to the area of medicinal botany.

17. Did you experience any limitations in your research?

Our research on “Impact of smoking on β-cell function and risk for type 2 diabetes in US citizens” finds that smoking increases the risk of diabetes among smokers. However, smokers might be affected by some genetic conditions which can protect them from diabetes. 

18. What sampling techniques did you use?

When conducting research, it is practically not possible to study the entire number of elements. So, you would be using a method to select a sample population.

In our study “Impact of consumption of soda on the health of teenagers in Corpus Christi”, we used area sampling to divide the city into several areas and then selected some clusters for our sample group.

19. What are the dependent and independent variables in your research?

In research, several variable factors impact your study. You can describe these variables. Independent variables have values which are not affected by other variables in your study. On the other hand, the dependent variables have values that change with changes in the independent variable. For example,

In our study on “Impact of online tutoring on test scores”, the independent variable is the nature of the classes i.e., online and the participants' test score is the dependent variable.

20. What areas do you suggest for further research?

As a researcher, you should be able to describe what further areas are open for research with the addition of your research to the field. This can act as a starting point for future researchers. For example,

In my research on “Effectiveness of Acetaminophen in treating sports induced injuries”, I discovered that administering Acetaminophen is not very effective for treating joint pains such as the knee. This further suggests measures for the regulation of Acetaminophen in the production of painkillers for body pain and the search for alternative compounds.

Practice Questions

After taking a look at the sample answers, now try answering these questions by yourself:

Do you have any closing comments? "}]">

After submitting your research thesis for evaluation, you have to appear before a panel of professors and present your work; afterwards, they will ask you questions about your research.

You have to plan and prepare for your thesis defense. Review your paper and anticipate the questions that the committee can ask. Practice with mock defense sessions using professional servicesand make improvements based on their feedback. Be prepared with a strategy for answering any question asked by the panel.

Your research thesis should be on a topic of your interest. Scan your course syllabus to find something that makes you curious. Or, you can even refer to your grad school career goals statement to review what got you interested in grad school in the first place. Shortlist a few topics and zero down to the one that excites you the most.

The first step in preparing for a master’s thesis defense is to revise your research paper and write down a list of questions that the committee might ask. Find answers to those questions and get ready for your presentation. Practice your presentation beforehand. Try to attend a thesis defense of other candidates to know what you can expect in your session. 

You will get questions related to what you have mentioned in your research paper. The most common starting questions are “what is your research about?" and “what was your motivation behind choosing this topic?” Later on, the committee asks you more detailed questions on research methodology, literature review, study variables, research findings, recommendations, and areas of further research.

You can get help from a grad school essay tutor for your research thesis writing. They can help you in developing writing skills and reviewing your work. They can proofread your work and provide recommendations on areas of improvement.

You can include your research thesis on your grad school CV to show your practical knowledge and skills. You can add the details of the study in a separate section for research experience.

Immediately after the thesis defense, the evaluation panel will decide whether to approve your paper as submitted or request some changes, or reject it.

To pass a thesis defense, a majority of the panel members must approve the defense. In case of more than one vote against you, you can fail the thesis.

A thesis defense can last for two hours or longer, depending on your area of research.

Your thesis defense presentation should include the focus concept, findings, recommendation, and conclusion.

The contribution of your thesis towards your degree differs as per institution. You can refer to your course handbook for exact details. In most cases, the committee needs to approve your thesis for you to graduate from your degree.

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why did you choose this place for a research locale

BeMo Academic Consulting

Hi Jeff! Yes, this can also be one of the questions you are asked in a thesis defense!

That is good

Hello Eshetu! Thanks for your comment. Glad you found this helpful!

Very helpful

Thanks, Abel. Glad you found this helpful. 

Helpful thank you.

Hi Lagat! Thanks!

As an 11th-grade student, I don't have any experience in thesis or research defense in general. Me and my groupmates will be conducting our research title defense next week, this is invaluable information for us. Thank you!

You are very welcome, Kate!

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THIS, I REALLY APPRECIATE.

Hello Stephanie! Thanks for your comment.

EMELDA NAFULA NYONGESA

This is a good guideline to post graduate students (Masters and PhD) CPA:Emelda Nyongesa

Hi Emelda! Thanks!

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what is a thesis proposal defense

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What (Exactly) Is A Research Proposal?

A simple explainer with examples + free template.

By: Derek Jansen (MBA) | Reviewed By: Dr Eunice Rautenbach | June 2020 (Updated April 2023)

Whether you’re nearing the end of your degree and your dissertation is on the horizon, or you’re planning to apply for a PhD program, chances are you’ll need to craft a convincing research proposal . If you’re on this page, you’re probably unsure exactly what the research proposal is all about. Well, you’ve come to the right place.

Overview: Research Proposal Basics

  • What a research proposal is
  • What a research proposal needs to cover
  • How to structure your research proposal
  • Example /sample proposals
  • Proposal writing FAQs
  • Key takeaways & additional resources

What is a research proposal?

Simply put, a research proposal is a structured, formal document that explains what you plan to research (your research topic), why it’s worth researching (your justification), and how  you plan to investigate it (your methodology). 

The purpose of the research proposal (its job, so to speak) is to convince  your research supervisor, committee or university that your research is  suitable  (for the requirements of the degree program) and  manageable  (given the time and resource constraints you will face). 

The most important word here is “ convince ” – in other words, your research proposal needs to  sell  your research idea (to whoever is going to approve it). If it doesn’t convince them (of its suitability and manageability), you’ll need to revise and resubmit . This will cost you valuable time, which will either delay the start of your research or eat into its time allowance (which is bad news). 

A research proposal is a  formal document that explains what you plan to research , why it's worth researching and how you'll do it.

What goes into a research proposal?

A good dissertation or thesis proposal needs to cover the “ what “, “ why ” and” how ” of the proposed study. Let’s look at each of these attributes in a little more detail:

Your proposal needs to clearly articulate your research topic . This needs to be specific and unambiguous . Your research topic should make it clear exactly what you plan to research and in what context. Here’s an example of a well-articulated research topic:

An investigation into the factors which impact female Generation Y consumer’s likelihood to promote a specific makeup brand to their peers: a British context

As you can see, this topic is extremely clear. From this one line we can see exactly:

  • What’s being investigated – factors that make people promote or advocate for a brand of a specific makeup brand
  • Who it involves – female Gen-Y consumers
  • In what context – the United Kingdom

So, make sure that your research proposal provides a detailed explanation of your research topic . If possible, also briefly outline your research aims and objectives , and perhaps even your research questions (although in some cases you’ll only develop these at a later stage). Needless to say, don’t start writing your proposal until you have a clear topic in mind , or you’ll end up waffling and your research proposal will suffer as a result of this.

Need a helping hand?

what is a thesis proposal defense

As we touched on earlier, it’s not good enough to simply propose a research topic – you need to justify why your topic is original . In other words, what makes it  unique ? What gap in the current literature does it fill? If it’s simply a rehash of the existing research, it’s probably not going to get approval – it needs to be fresh.

But,  originality  alone is not enough. Once you’ve ticked that box, you also need to justify why your proposed topic is  important . In other words, what value will it add to the world if you achieve your research aims?

As an example, let’s look at the sample research topic we mentioned earlier (factors impacting brand advocacy). In this case, if the research could uncover relevant factors, these findings would be very useful to marketers in the cosmetics industry, and would, therefore, have commercial value . That is a clear justification for the research.

So, when you’re crafting your research proposal, remember that it’s not enough for a topic to simply be unique. It needs to be useful and value-creating – and you need to convey that value in your proposal. If you’re struggling to find a research topic that makes the cut, watch  our video covering how to find a research topic .

Free Webinar: How To Write A Research Proposal

It’s all good and well to have a great topic that’s original and valuable, but you’re not going to convince anyone to approve it without discussing the practicalities – in other words:

  • How will you actually undertake your research (i.e., your methodology)?
  • Is your research methodology appropriate given your research aims?
  • Is your approach manageable given your constraints (time, money, etc.)?

While it’s generally not expected that you’ll have a fully fleshed-out methodology at the proposal stage, you’ll likely still need to provide a high-level overview of your research methodology . Here are some important questions you’ll need to address in your research proposal:

  • Will you take a qualitative , quantitative or mixed -method approach?
  • What sampling strategy will you adopt?
  • How will you collect your data (e.g., interviews, surveys, etc)?
  • How will you analyse your data (e.g., descriptive and inferential statistics , content analysis, discourse analysis, etc, .)?
  • What potential limitations will your methodology carry?

So, be sure to give some thought to the practicalities of your research and have at least a basic methodological plan before you start writing up your proposal. If this all sounds rather intimidating, the video below provides a good introduction to research methodology and the key choices you’ll need to make.

How To Structure A Research Proposal

Now that we’ve covered the key points that need to be addressed in a proposal, you may be wondering, “ But how is a research proposal structured? “.

While the exact structure and format required for a research proposal differs from university to university, there are four “essential ingredients” that commonly make up the structure of a research proposal:

  • A rich introduction and background to the proposed research
  • An initial literature review covering the existing research
  • An overview of the proposed research methodology
  • A discussion regarding the practicalities (project plans, timelines, etc.)

In the video below, we unpack each of these four sections, step by step.

Research Proposal Examples/Samples

In the video below, we provide a detailed walkthrough of two successful research proposals (Master’s and PhD-level), as well as our popular free proposal template.

Proposal Writing FAQs

How long should a research proposal be.

This varies tremendously, depending on the university, the field of study (e.g., social sciences vs natural sciences), and the level of the degree (e.g. undergraduate, Masters or PhD) – so it’s always best to check with your university what their specific requirements are before you start planning your proposal.

As a rough guide, a formal research proposal at Masters-level often ranges between 2000-3000 words, while a PhD-level proposal can be far more detailed, ranging from 5000-8000 words. In some cases, a rough outline of the topic is all that’s needed, while in other cases, universities expect a very detailed proposal that essentially forms the first three chapters of the dissertation or thesis.

The takeaway – be sure to check with your institution before you start writing.

How do I choose a topic for my research proposal?

Finding a good research topic is a process that involves multiple steps. We cover the topic ideation process in this video post.

How do I write a literature review for my proposal?

While you typically won’t need a comprehensive literature review at the proposal stage, you still need to demonstrate that you’re familiar with the key literature and are able to synthesise it. We explain the literature review process here.

How do I create a timeline and budget for my proposal?

We explain how to craft a project plan/timeline and budget in Research Proposal Bootcamp .

Which referencing format should I use in my research proposal?

The expectations and requirements regarding formatting and referencing vary from institution to institution. Therefore, you’ll need to check this information with your university.

What common proposal writing mistakes do I need to look out for?

We’ve create a video post about some of the most common mistakes students make when writing a proposal – you can access that here . If you’re short on time, here’s a quick summary:

  • The research topic is too broad (or just poorly articulated).
  • The research aims, objectives and questions don’t align.
  • The research topic is not well justified.
  • The study has a weak theoretical foundation.
  • The research design is not well articulated well enough.
  • Poor writing and sloppy presentation.
  • Poor project planning and risk management.
  • Not following the university’s specific criteria.

Key Takeaways & Additional Resources

As you write up your research proposal, remember the all-important core purpose:  to convince . Your research proposal needs to sell your study in terms of suitability and viability. So, focus on crafting a convincing narrative to ensure a strong proposal.

At the same time, pay close attention to your university’s requirements. While we’ve covered the essentials here, every institution has its own set of expectations and it’s essential that you follow these to maximise your chances of approval.

By the way, we’ve got plenty more resources to help you fast-track your research proposal. Here are some of our most popular resources to get you started:

  • Proposal Writing 101 : A Introductory Webinar
  • Research Proposal Bootcamp : The Ultimate Online Course
  • Template : A basic template to help you craft your proposal

If you’re looking for 1-on-1 support with your research proposal, be sure to check out our private coaching service , where we hold your hand through the proposal development process (and the entire research journey), step by step.

Literature Review Course

Psst… there’s more!

This post is an extract from our bestselling Udemy Course, Research Proposal Bootcamp . If you want to work smart, you don't want to miss this .

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50 Comments

Myrna Pereira

I truly enjoyed this video, as it was eye-opening to what I have to do in the preparation of preparing a Research proposal.

I would be interested in getting some coaching.

BARAKAELI TEREVAELI

I real appreciate on your elaboration on how to develop research proposal,the video explains each steps clearly.

masebo joseph

Thank you for the video. It really assisted me and my niece. I am a PhD candidate and she is an undergraduate student. It is at times, very difficult to guide a family member but with this video, my job is done.

In view of the above, I welcome more coaching.

Zakia Ghafoor

Wonderful guidelines, thanks

Annie Malupande

This is very helpful. Would love to continue even as I prepare for starting my masters next year.

KYARIKUNDA MOREEN

Thanks for the work done, the text was helpful to me

Ahsanullah Mangal

Bundle of thanks to you for the research proposal guide it was really good and useful if it is possible please send me the sample of research proposal

Derek Jansen

You’re most welcome. We don’t have any research proposals that we can share (the students own the intellectual property), but you might find our research proposal template useful: https://gradcoach.com/research-proposal-template/

Cheruiyot Moses Kipyegon

Cheruiyot Moses Kipyegon

Thanks alot. It was an eye opener that came timely enough before my imminent proposal defense. Thanks, again

agnelius

thank you very much your lesson is very interested may God be with you

Abubakar

I am an undergraduate student (First Degree) preparing to write my project,this video and explanation had shed more light to me thanks for your efforts keep it up.

Synthia Atieno

Very useful. I am grateful.

belina nambeya

this is a very a good guidance on research proposal, for sure i have learnt something

Wonderful guidelines for writing a research proposal, I am a student of m.phil( education), this guideline is suitable for me. Thanks

You’re welcome 🙂

Marjorie

Thank you, this was so helpful.

Amitash Degan

A really great and insightful video. It opened my eyes as to how to write a research paper. I would like to receive more guidance for writing my research paper from your esteemed faculty.

Glaudia Njuguna

Thank you, great insights

Thank you, great insights, thank you so much, feeling edified

Yebirgual

Wow thank you, great insights, thanks a lot

Roseline Soetan

Thank you. This is a great insight. I am a student preparing for a PhD program. I am requested to write my Research Proposal as part of what I am required to submit before my unconditional admission. I am grateful having listened to this video which will go a long way in helping me to actually choose a topic of interest and not just any topic as well as to narrow down the topic and be specific about it. I indeed need more of this especially as am trying to choose a topic suitable for a DBA am about embarking on. Thank you once more. The video is indeed helpful.

Rebecca

Have learnt a lot just at the right time. Thank you so much.

laramato ikayo

thank you very much ,because have learn a lot things concerning research proposal and be blessed u for your time that you providing to help us

Cheruiyot M Kipyegon

Hi. For my MSc medical education research, please evaluate this topic for me: Training Needs Assessment of Faculty in Medical Training Institutions in Kericho and Bomet Counties

Rebecca

I have really learnt a lot based on research proposal and it’s formulation

Arega Berlie

Thank you. I learn much from the proposal since it is applied

Siyanda

Your effort is much appreciated – you have good articulation.

You have good articulation.

Douglas Eliaba

I do applaud your simplified method of explaining the subject matter, which indeed has broaden my understanding of the subject matter. Definitely this would enable me writing a sellable research proposal.

Weluzani

This really helping

Roswitta

Great! I liked your tutoring on how to find a research topic and how to write a research proposal. Precise and concise. Thank you very much. Will certainly share this with my students. Research made simple indeed.

Alice Kuyayama

Thank you very much. I an now assist my students effectively.

Thank you very much. I can now assist my students effectively.

Abdurahman Bayoh

I need any research proposal

Silverline

Thank you for these videos. I will need chapter by chapter assistance in writing my MSc dissertation

Nosi

Very helpfull

faith wugah

the videos are very good and straight forward

Imam

thanks so much for this wonderful presentations, i really enjoyed it to the fullest wish to learn more from you

Bernie E. Balmeo

Thank you very much. I learned a lot from your lecture.

Ishmael kwame Appiah

I really enjoy the in-depth knowledge on research proposal you have given. me. You have indeed broaden my understanding and skills. Thank you

David Mweemba

interesting session this has equipped me with knowledge as i head for exams in an hour’s time, am sure i get A++

Andrea Eccleston

This article was most informative and easy to understand. I now have a good idea of how to write my research proposal.

Thank you very much.

Georgina Ngufan

Wow, this literature is very resourceful and interesting to read. I enjoyed it and I intend reading it every now then.

Charity

Thank you for the clarity

Mondika Solomon

Thank you. Very helpful.

BLY

Thank you very much for this essential piece. I need 1o1 coaching, unfortunately, your service is not available in my country. Anyways, a very important eye-opener. I really enjoyed it. A thumb up to Gradcoach

Md Moneruszzaman Kayes

What is JAM? Please explain.

Gentiana

Thank you so much for these videos. They are extremely helpful! God bless!

azeem kakar

very very wonderful…

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M.S. Thesis Proposal Defense in Biological Sciences: Alfredo Bongiorno 2/27

02/13/2024 By Irma Silva

The Kennedy College of Sciences, Department of Biological Sciences, invites you to attend a master’s thesis proposal defense by Alfredo Bongiorno, entitled "The Role of Key Tropomyosin-Troponin T Interactions in Thin Filament Mediated Myocardial Regulation." Candidate: Alfredo Bongiorno Date: Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024 Time: 1 to 3:30 p.m. Location: Olsen 403 Committee members:

  • Jeffrey Moore, Professor, Biological Sciences, University of Massachusetts Lowell
  • Teresa Lee, Assist. Professor, Biological Sciences, University of Massachusetts Lowell
  • Matthew Gage, Assoc. Professor, Chemistry, University of Massachusetts Lowell

Title: The Role of Key Tropomyosin-Troponin T Interactions in Thin Filament Mediated Myocardial Regulation. Abstract: Approximately three in every 500 individuals are born with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) or dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM), dominant genetic conditions arising from disruptions in intracellular calcium regulation within the heart muscle. HCM manifests as impaired relaxation during ventricular filling at low calcium levels, while DCM results from impaired contraction during ventricular emptying at high calcium levels (i.e., diastolic and systolic dysfunction for HCM and DCM, respectively). Mutations in genes encoding myocardial contractile proteins, particularly thin filament (TF) regulatory proteins, are involved in both conditions. The cardiac TF, governing contraction by sensing intracellular calcium levels, undergoes conformational changes at a threshold of pCa 6, enabling myosin-actin cross bridge cycling. Notably, mutations in genes encoding Actin, Troponin (Tn), and Tropomyosin (Tpm) within the cardiac TF, especially TnT, have been linked to disease. Despite TnT being a "hot spot" for disease-linked mutations, detailed residue-specific information about TnT-Tpm interactions and their impact on heart muscle function remains unknown. This study aims to investigate the contributions of crucial Tpm-TnT interactions in cardiac muscle regulation by calcium, seeking to enhance our understanding of the molecular mechanisms underlying mutation-induced diseases. This knowledge is crucial for developing targeted therapies addressing the molecular basis of both HCM and DCM, potentially preventing eventual irreversible compensatory remodeling of the myocardium.

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COMMENTS

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    Students presents their dissertation proposal orally, with visual accompaniment as desired by the candidate, to the supervisory committee and the public. The dissertation proposal defense proceeds as outlined below. Prior to the start of the examination: The Candidate must be physically present at the exam. The Chair (or at least one Co-Chair ...

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    The entire process is covered, from the thesis proposal to the defense and publication of the thesis. The appendices contain online resources. If you have any other questions, please contact the Graduate School's main office at 874-2262. For convenience, the document will focus on the thesis format, except when special

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  24. M.S. Thesis Proposal Defense in Biological Sciences: Alfredo Bongiorno

    The Kennedy College of Sciences, Department of Biological Sciences, invites you to attend a master's thesis proposal defense by Alfredo Bongiorno, entitled "The Role of Key Tropomyosin-Troponin T Interactions in Thin Filament Mediated Myocardial Regulation." Candidate: Alfredo Bongiorno Date: Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024 Time: 1 to 3:30 p.m.

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