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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: 22nd May 2024, 04:08 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.

questions to ask at a dissertation 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. 

questions to ask at a dissertation 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 .

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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25 Thesis/Dissertation Defense Questions

December 17, 2023

When you’re considering going to graduate school , or you’re about to defend your master’s thesis or PhD dissertation, chances are you’ve come across something called the thesis defense. The thesis defense is arguably one of the most fundamental steps to take in order to attain your graduate degree. Each university will have its own tailored expectations of the thesis defense. Yet, as a whole, the thesis defense is an opportunity for you to demonstrate in front of the committee the extensive research you’ve completed and the critical skills you’ve developed. Due to the critical nature of the various thesis defense questions/dissertation defense questions you’ll be asked, it’s best to be prepared and practice with other students. Try to even attend a thesis defense if you can. Overall, consider the thesis defense as a chance to showcase how you’ll best contribute to that academic field of research.

The thesis defense can range from anywhere between one to two hours, depending on your program. As a whole, you’ll present how you decided to choose this topic of research, what you discovered, and what those findings led you to realize. The committee – those overseeing and critiquing your thesis defense – will then ask you a series of thesis defense questions, as well as your written thesis because they’ll have already read it by then. In most cases, by the end of the questioning, the committee will either decide to approve your thesis or give you possible suggestions on how to reapproach your research.

How to best prepare for thesis defense questions

Much like preparing for the GRE or deciding what graduate program you wanted to apply to at the beginning of your graduate academic journey, familiarizing yourself with what to expect on the day of your thesis defense will only lighten the burden. Whether you’re a new master’s student or considering how to pursue a PhD , it’s important to know ahead of time how to best prepare for the thesis defense questions. If you’re getting ready to defend the master’s thesis or prepare for dissertation defense questions, see how you can answer the following thesis defense questions that might come your way on the day of the presentation.

1)  What does your research focus on?

Be ready to state right away the synopsis of your research. Although it may seem like a simple, straightforward question, the committee will be looking to see the terminology you use when describing the focus of your research.

2) What influenced you to research this topic?

The committee will be interested in knowing what influenced you to choose this specific topic of research. What motivated you? Shape your answer in a way that reflects the field of study your topic of interest is in and the issues that stood out to you.

3) What does your study encompass and cover?

Consider the parameters and scope of your research for your thesis defense. By defining and delineating the grounds that you covered with your research, you will inform the committee with a better understanding of how you decided to focus on your topic of interest.

Thesis Defense Questions (Continued)

4) what was the goal of your research.

This question will surface often whether you are defending your master’s thesis or preparing for the dissertation defense questions. It’s important to state what your thesis meant to achieve. Think of what the core focus of your thesis is, and state how that was the driving factor in your research.

5) What were your expectations going into this research?

Describe how your hypothesis was formed. Were there any things you had expected or any preconceived notions you had on this topic before you pursued this research? Where did these expectations come from? Did any previous research affect the way you approached your thesis defense as a whole?

Defending a Thesis (Continued)

6) what did you study that made you want to conduct this research project.

This is a great opportunity for you to show what literature you reviewed that led you to pursue the research. Be ready to discuss the literary review of what has already been contributed to this field of study. Reflect on the realizations made when confronting certain data and if it was feasible for you to conduct your research given the existing contributions. Examining this type of literary review will serve you well during the following thesis defense questions.

7)  Who is the targeted audience for this research?

It will be important to state who the targeted audience is, or what types of people will be affected by your research. Will these particular parties benefit from your research? How will they be affected? Consider not just the targeted audience, but also those in parallel groups who may be impacted by your findings.

8)  Why did you choose this title for your research? – thesis defense questions

The way you have named and titled your research will convey what you consider most important to the committee. What does your research try to explain in the given title? Is there a reason you chose the specific words in your title to convey a main point? The committee will want to see the intentionality of every word here and how it relates back to your research.

9)  How did you conduct your research questions and did your approach change?

While you were preparing and conducting your research, you might have found that your research questions were changing, depending on the sample you were studying. Oftentimes, if you are utilizing qualitative research methodology, the types of qualitative questions may change based on the answer. How did that change affect your research process? Did you have to shift your approach to the subject matter or reconsider focus groups?

10)  What impact does your research have on the existing literature?

Reflect on how your research made a contribution to the overall understanding of the field at hand. Think of why this was necessary and state that concisely. This will trickle into other thesis defense questions.

11)  Did you address any gaps in the field of your research?

Answering this thesis defense question will show how significant the findings of your research are. The goal of anyone’s research is to fill in the gaps of a field. Why did the pre-existing literature not suffice to address the focus of your research?

12)  What did you come across during your research?

It helps to have options of how you’ll convey this. Try to be prepared to summarize in detail, within a minute, what your findings were. Then see what you can paraphrase in 5 minutes. How about in 10 minutes? Doing so will assist you in identifying the most relevant piece of information based on how the committee asks you this thesis defense question.

13)  Did you find anything unexpected or surprising during your research process? – thesis defense questions

This would be a good opportunity for you to state how any surprises you came across helped you make certain decisions about your research. While you defend the master’s thesis and think of how you’ll prepare for the PhD dissertation defense questions, this is a “curveball” moment that demonstrates how you took charge of the challenge presented and continued your research despite what you had confronted.

14)  Under what parameters is your research valid?

Parameters were mentioned in question 3 above, but consider the specific conditions that would need to be in place for your findings to be valid. What are the elements that would have to be in place? Be ready to identify these during this thesis defense question.

15)  What were the challenges when conducting your research?

Were there any roadblocks you faced when gathering your data? Did you have to reconsider your research methodology at all? Identifying this will help the committee understand the direction and trajectory of your research.

16)  What were the challenges when working with your subject matter?

If you were interviewing people, did the focus groups not adhere to what you had asked them to do? Why? Walk the committee through your approach here.

17)  Why did you choose the research methodology that you chose?

While you’re defending the master’s thesis or answering dissertation defense questions, you’ll be asked specific questions about your research methodology. Was it qualitative? Quantitative? Why? What made you believe that this would be the most effective way to conduct your research?

18)  How did you form your hypothesis?

Tie back in your expectations for your research and consider what you thought the expected results would be for this thesis defense question. Were there any factors, both past or recent, that had helped shape your hypothesis?

19)  How did you gather the data to conduct your research and what sources did you use?

Recount what steps you took to decide how to access the data. Did certain libraries offer more resources? Was there any censorship that you came across that posed as a roadblock to collecting data?

20)  What are the practical implications of your research?

For both master’s and PhD students, this is always an important thesis defense question to keep in mind. In life outside of the academic institution, how will your research be of practical use to society? It’s a question that most graduate students ask about themselves before graduating, so it’s best to know how to answer this one about your research!

21)  How did you decide what samples to study in the research you found? What was your approach in using sample groups?

For example, if you used sample or focus groups, how did you go about selecting these groups? How did you get access to the data here? Don’t be hesitant to state the challenges you might have faced while doing so. As long as you frame it in a way that helps provide a more intricate portrait of the trajectory of your research, you’re on the right path.

22)  What are the independent and dependent variables in your research?

Use this thesis defense question to show how balanced your research methodology was by naming the different factors. How did the independent variables affect how the dependent variables changed?

Dissertation Defense Questions (Continued)

23)  considering your contribution to this field of research, where else would require further research what more needs to be done in this field.

As a master’s student defending your master’s thesis or as a PhD candidate preparing for your dissertation defense questions, you are already a researcher. And as a researcher, you must present what else must be done in your field of research on top of what you’ve accomplished. What does your research further suggest?

24)  What did you ultimately gather from your research? What did you learn during and after the process? – thesis defense questions 

Aside from stating your findings as a whole, this would be a good moment to express if you found anything significant outside of your thesis that you hadn’t expected. Was there something you learned while gathering your data or writing up your text that you never thought you’d come across?

25)  After you complete your degree, what do you want to pursue professionally?

It’s not uncommon for master’s or PhD students to not know exactly what they want to do once they graduate. But for this last thesis defense question, it’s good to have a solid answer that will tie back into the research you’ve done. Do you have further research plans in this field? Do you want to pursue a profession that would enable this and strengthen the practical reality of it?

Thesis Defense Questions – Additional Resources

We hope you found this list of common thesis defense questions useful as you prepare for defending your thesis. Other articles that you may find relevant include:

  • Top Feeders to PhD Programs
  • Do You Need a Master’s to get a PhD?
  • How to Write a Grad School Statement of Purpose
  • Graduate School Admissions

Joanna Hong

With a BA from Pitzer College and an MA from University College London, Joanna has worked in London, Berlin, and Los Angeles covering many cultural and political issues with organizations such as Byline Media, NK News, and Free Turkey Media. A freelancer for The New York Times, her work has also appeared in Newsweek, Dazed and Confused Magazine, and The Guardian, among others. In addition, Joanna was the recipient of the 2021 PEN America Emerging Voices Fellowship in Fiction and is currently completing her first novel.

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17 Thesis Defense Questions and How to Answer Them


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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The top 10 thesis defense questions (+ how to prepare strong answers)

Crafting a thesis is significant, but defending it often feels like the ultimate test. While nerve-wracking, proper preparation can make it manageable. Prepare for your thesis defense with insights on the top questions you can expect, including strategies for answering convincingly.

Mastering the thesis defense: cultivate a success mindset

Confidence enables you to present your research with conviction, while composure allows you to navigate any challenges with grace and clarity.

Remember, you know your thesis best, so trust in your expertise.

In essence, a success mindset encompasses the belief in your abilities, coupled with the ability to remain calm and focused under pressure.

Stay composed and focused, relying on your thorough preparation. If you encounter a question you can’t answer, gracefully guide the conversation back to familiar topics.

By embracing these principles and staying confident and adaptable, you’ll navigate your thesis defense with ease.

Question 1: Why did you choose this particular topic for your research?

This question delves into the origins of your academic journey, aiming to understand not just what you studied, but the underlying motivations and processes that drove your exploration. It’s not merely about the superficial aspects of your research, but rather about the deeper intellectual curiosity that ignited your quest.

Moreover, discuss the gaps you identified in the existing literature that motivated you to contribute to your field. What deficiencies or unanswered questions did you observe? How did these gaps inspire you to embark on your research journey with the aim of filling these voids? By articulating the specific shortcomings in the current body of knowledge, you demonstrate a nuanced understanding of your research area and underscore the significance of your work.

Question 2: How does your research contribute to the existing body of knowledge?

This question delves into the vital role your research plays within the existing body of knowledge, urging you to articulate its significance and impact. It’s not merely about the subject matter you’ve studied, but also about the unique contributions and advancements your research brings to your field. To effectively respond, delve into the intricacies of your work and its implications for the broader academic landscape.

Illuminate how your findings could influence future research trajectories. Explore potential avenues for further inquiry that emerge from your research findings. Consider how your work opens up new questions or areas of exploration for future researchers. By identifying these potential research directions, you demonstrate the forward-looking nature of your work and its potential to shape the future trajectory of your field.

Question 3: What are the key findings of your research?

Furthermore, relate these findings to the broader implications they hold for your field. Articulate how your research contributes to advancing knowledge or addressing pressing issues within your academic discipline. Consider the potential impact of your findings on theory, practice, or policy, highlighting their relevance and significance within the larger scholarly community.

Question 4: Can you defend your research methodology?

Defending your research methodology entails a comprehensive understanding of its rationale, alignment with research objectives, and acknowledgment of potential limitations. It’s not merely about explaining the methods employed but also justifying why they were chosen over alternative approaches. To effectively respond, delve into the intricacies of your methodology and its implications for the study.

Be prepared to discuss the limitations inherent in your chosen methodology and how you mitigated them. Acknowledge any constraints or shortcomings associated with the selected approach, such as potential biases, sample size limitations, or data collection challenges. Demonstrate your awareness of these limitations and discuss the strategies implemented to address or minimize their impact on the validity and reliability of your findings.

Question 5: How did you analyze the data and what challenges did you encounter?

Begin by outlining the techniques used for data analysis. Describe the specific methods, tools, and software employed to process and interpret the data collected. Whether it involved quantitative statistical analysis, qualitative coding techniques, or a combination of both, provide insights into the analytical framework guiding your study. Additionally, discuss the rationale behind the chosen analytical approach and how it aligns with the research objectives and questions.

In summary, when addressing inquiries about data analysis, consider the following key points:

Question 6: What theoretical frameworks or references underpin your research?

Elucidate on how these frameworks shaped your hypothesis and analysis. Describe how the theoretical perspectives and insights gleaned from seminal works informed the development of your research questions, hypotheses, and analytical framework. Discuss the ways in which these theoretical frameworks guided your data collection and interpretation, influencing the selection of variables, measures, and analytical techniques employed in your study.

Question 7: How did you address ethical considerations in your research?

When addressing ethical considerations in your research, it’s essential to demonstrate a commitment to upholding ethical standards and protecting the rights and well-being of participants. Responding to inquiries about ethical protocols involves explaining the steps taken to ensure ethical conduct throughout the research process, describing the consent process and data protection measures implemented, and mentioning any institutional review board (IRB) approvals obtained.

Mention any institutional ethics review board approvals you obtained. Highlight any formal ethical review processes or approvals obtained from relevant regulatory bodies, such as IRBs or ethics committees. Discuss how the research protocol was reviewed for compliance with ethical guidelines and standards, including considerations of participant welfare, informed consent procedures, and data protection measures. By acknowledging the oversight and approval of institutional review bodies, you demonstrate your commitment to ethical integrity and accountability in conducting research involving human subjects.

Question 8: In what ways does your research contribute to the field?

Begin by detailing the novel insights your thesis provides. Articulate the key findings, discoveries, or perspectives that distinguish your research from existing literature and contribute to advancing knowledge within your field. Discuss how your study fills gaps in current understanding, challenges established assumptions, or offers innovative approaches to addressing pressing issues, highlighting its potential to generate new avenues of inquiry and broaden the scope of scholarly discourse.

In summary, when addressing inquiries about the contributions of your research to the field, consider the following key points:

Question 9: How did you ensure your research was free from bias?

Describe any blind or double-blind procedures employed in the study. Explain how blinding techniques were used to prevent bias in data collection, analysis, or interpretation. This may involve withholding certain information from researchers or participants to minimize the potential for conscious or unconscious bias to influence the results. Discuss how these procedures were implemented and their impact on enhancing the credibility and impartiality of the research outcomes.

Question 10: Where can future research go from here?

When considering the potential trajectory of your research topic, it’s essential to identify areas where further investigation could yield valuable insights, discuss unexplored questions that emerged from your research, and reflect on the limitations of your study as starting points for future research endeavors. Responding to inquiries about the future direction of research involves suggesting fruitful areas for further investigation, highlighting unresolved questions, and leveraging the limitations of your study as opportunities for future exploration.

Reflect on the limitations of your study as starting points for future research. Acknowledge any constraints, biases, or methodological shortcomings that may have influenced the outcomes or interpretations of your study. Discuss how these limitations provide opportunities for future research to refine methodologies, address confounding variables, or explore alternative theoretical frameworks. Consider how addressing these limitations could enhance the validity, reliability, and generalizability of future research findings within your field.

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Preparing For Your Dissertation Defense

13 Key Questions To Expect In The Viva Voce

By: Derek Jansen (MBA) & David Phair (PhD) . Reviewed By: Dr Eunice Rautenbach | June 2021

Preparing for your dissertation or thesis defense (also called a “viva voce”) is a formidable task . All your hard work over the years leads you to this one point, and you’ll need to defend yourself against some of the most experienced researchers you’ve encountered so far.

It’s natural to feel a little nervous.

In this post, we’ll cover some of the most important questions you should be able to answer in your viva voce, whether it’s for a Masters or PhD degree. Naturally, they might not arise in exactly the same form (some may not come up at all), but if you can answer these questions well, it means you’re in a good position to tackle your oral defense.

Dissertation and thesis defense 101

Viva Voce Prep: 13 Essential Questions

  • What is your study about and why did you choose to research this in particular?
  • How did your research questions evolve during the research process?
  • How did you decide on which sources to include in your literature review?
  • How did you design your study and why did you take this approach?
  • How generalisable and valid are the findings?
  • What were the main shortcomings and limitations created by your research design?
  • How did your findings relate to the existing literature?
  • What were your key findings in relation to the research questions?
  • Were there any findings that surprised you?
  • What biases may exist in your research?
  • How can your findings be put into practice?
  • How has your research contributed to current thinking in the field?
  • If you could redo your research, how would you alter your approach?

#1: What is your study about and why did you choose to research this in particular?

This question, a classic party starter, is pretty straightforward.

What the dissertation or thesis committee is assessing here is your ability to clearly articulate your research aims, objectives and research questions in a concise manner. Concise is the keyword here – you need to clearly explain your research topic without rambling on for a half-hour. Don’t feel the need to go into the weeds here – you’ll have many opportunities to unpack the details later on.

In the second half of the question, they’re looking for a brief explanation of the justification of your research. In other words, why was this particular set of research aims, objectives and questions worth addressing? To address this question well in your oral defense, you need to make it clear what gap existed within the research and why that gap was worth filling.

#2: How did your research questions evolve during the research process?

Good research generally follows a long and winding path . It’s seldom a straight line (unless you got really lucky). What they’re assessing here is your ability to follow that path and let the research process unfold.

Specifically, they’ll want to hear about the impact that the literature review process had on you in terms of shaping the research aims, objectives and research questions . For example, you may have started with a certain set of aims, but then as you immersed yourself in the literature, you may have changed direction. Similarly, your initial fieldwork findings may have turned out some unexpected data that drove you to adjust or expand on your initial research questions.

Long story short – a good defense involves clearly describing your research journey , including all the twists and turns. Adjusting your direction based on findings in the literature or the fieldwork shows that you’re responsive , which is essential for high-quality research.

You will need to explain the impact of your literature review in the defense

#3: How did you decide on which sources to include in your literature review?

A comprehensive literature review is the foundation of any high-quality piece of research. With this question, your dissertation or thesis committee are trying to assess which quality criteria and approach you used to select the sources for your literature review.

Typically, good research draws on both the seminal work in the respective field and more recent sources . In other words, a combination of the older landmark studies and pivotal work, along with up-to-date sources that build on to those older studies. This combination ensures that the study has a rock-solid foundation but is not out of date.

So, make sure that your study draws on a mix of both the “classics” and new kids on the block, and take note of any major evolutions in the literature that you can use as an example when asked this question in your viva voce.

#4: How did you design your study and why did you take this approach?

This is a classic methodological question that you can almost certainly expect in some or other shape.

What they’re looking for here is a clear articulation of the research design and methodology, as well as a strong justification of each choice . So, you need to be able to walk through each methodological choice and clearly explain both what you did and why you did it. The why is particularly important – you need to be able to justify each choice you made by clearly linking your design back to your research aims, objectives and research questions, while also taking into account practical constraints.

To ensure you cover every base, check out our research methodology vlog post , as well as our post covering the Research Onion .

You have to justify every choice in your dissertation defence

#5: How generalizable and valid are the findings?

This question is aimed at specifically digging into your understanding of the sample and how that relates to the population, as well as potential validity issues in your methodology.

To answer question this well, you’ll need to critically assess your sample and findings and consider if they truly apply to the entire population, as well as whether they assessed what they set out to. Note that there are two components here – generalizability and validity . Generalizability is about how well the sample represents the population. Validity is about how accurately you’ve measured what you intended to measure .

To ace this part of your dissertation defense, make sure that you’re very familiar with the concepts of generalizability , validity and reliability , and how these apply to your research. Remember, you don’t need to achieve perfection – you just need to be aware of the strengths and weaknesses of your research (and how the weaknesses could be improved upon).

Need a helping hand?

questions to ask at a dissertation proposal defense

#6: What were the main shortcomings and limitations created by your research design?

This question picks up where the last one left off.

As I mentioned, it’s perfectly natural that your research will have shortcomings and limitations as a result of your chosen design and methodology. No piece of research is flawless. Therefore, a good dissertation defense is not about arguing that your work is perfect, but rather it’s about clearly articulating the strengths and weaknesses of your approach.

To address this question well, you need to think critically about all of the potential weaknesses your design may have, as well as potential responses to these (which could be adopted in future research) to ensure you’re well prepared for this question. For a list of common methodological limitations, check out our video about research limitations here .

#7: How did your findings relate to the existing literature?

This common dissertation defense question links directly to your discussion chapter , where you would have presented and discussed the findings in relation to your literature review.

What your dissertation or thesis committee is assessing here is your ability to compare your study’s findings to the findings of existing research . Specifically, you need to discuss which findings aligned with existing research and which findings did not. For those findings that contrasted against existing research, you should also explain what you believe to be the reasons for this.

As with many questions in a viva voce, it’s both the what and the why that matter here. So, you need to think deeply about what the underlying reasons may be for both the similarities and differences between your findings and those of similar studies.

Your dissertation defense needs to compare findings

#8: What were your key findings in relation to the research questions?

This question is similar to the last one in that it too focuses on your research findings. However, here the focus is specifically on the findings that directly relate to your research questions (as opposed to findings in general).

So, a good way to prepare for this question is to step back and revisit your research questions . Ask yourself the following:

  • What exactly were you asking in those questions, and what did your research uncover concerning them?
  • Which questions were well answered by your study and which ones were lacking?
  • Why were they lacking and what more could be done to address this in future research?

Conquering this part dissertation defense requires that you focus squarely on the research questions. Your study will have provided many findings (hopefully!), and not all of these will link directly to the research questions. Therefore, you need to clear your mind of all of the fascinating side paths your study may have lead you down and regain a clear focus on the research questions .

#9: Were there any findings that surprised you?

This question is two-pronged.

First, you should discuss the surprising findings that were directly related to the original research questions . Going into your research, you likely had some expectations in terms of what you would find, so this is your opportunity to discuss the outcomes that emerged as contrary to what you initially expected. You’ll also want to think about what the reasons for these contrasts may be.

Second, you should discuss the findings that weren’t directly related to the research questions, but that emerged from the data set . You may have a few or you may have none – although generally there are a handful of interesting musings that you can glean from the data set. Again, make sure you can articulate why you find these interesting and what it means for future research in the area.

What the committee is looking for in this type of question is your ability to interpret the findings holistically and comprehensively , and to respond to unexpected data. So, take the time to zoom out and reflect on your findings thoroughly.

Discuss the findings in your defense

#10: What biases may exist in your research?

Biases… we all have them.

For this question, you’ll need to think about potential biases in your research , in the data itself but also in your interpretation of the data. With this question, your committee is assessing whether you have considered your own potential biases and the biases inherent in your analysis approach (i.e. your methodology). So, think carefully about these research biases and be ready to explain how these may exist in your study.

In an oral defense, this question is often followed up with a question on how the biases were mitigated or could be mitigated in future research. So, give some thought not just to what biases may exist, but also the mitigation measures (in your own study and for future research).

#11: How can your findings be put into practice?

Another classic question in the typical viva voce.

With this question, your committee is assessing your ability to bring your findings back down to earth and demonstrate their practical value and application. Importantly, this question is not about the contribution to academia or the overall field of research (we’ll get to that next) – it is specifically asking about how this newly created knowledge can be used in the real world.

Naturally, the actionability of your findings will vary depending on the nature of your research topic. Some studies will produce many action points and some won’t. If you’re researching marketing strategies within an industry, for example, you should be able to make some very specific recommendations for marketing practitioners in that industry.

To help you flesh out points for this question, look back at your original justification for the research (i.e. in your introduction and literature review chapters). What were the driving forces that led you to research your specific topic? That justification should help you identify ways in which your findings can be put into practice.

#12: How has your research contributed to current thinking in the field?

While the previous question was aimed at practical contribution, this question is aimed at theoretical contribution . In other words, what is the significance of your study within the current body of research? How does it fit into the existing research and what does it add to it?

This question is often asked by a field specialist and is used to assess whether you’re able to place your findings into the research field to critically convey what your research contributed. This argument needs to be well justified – in other words, you can’t just discuss what your research contributed, you need to also back each proposition up with a strong why .

To answer this question well, you need to humbly consider the quality and impact of your work and to be realistic in your response. You don’t want to come across as arrogant (“my work is groundbreaking”), nor do you want to undersell the impact of your work. So, it’s important to strike the right balance between realistic and pessimistic .

This question also opens the door to questions about potential future research . So, think about what future research opportunities your study has created and which of these you feel are of the highest priority.

Discuss your contribution in your thesis defence

#13: If you could redo your research, how would you alter your approach?

This question is often used to wrap up a viva voce as it brings the discussion full circle.

Here, your committee is again assessing your ability to clearly identify and articulate the limitations and shortcomings of your research, both in terms of research design and topic focus . Perhaps, in hindsight, it would have been better to use a different analysis method or data set. Perhaps the research questions should have leaned in a slightly different direction. And so on.

This question intends to assess whether you’re able to look at your work critically , assess where the weaknesses are and make recommendations for the future . This question often sets apart those who did the research purely because it was required, from those that genuinely engaged with their research. So, don’t hold back here – reflect on your entire research journey ask yourself how you’d do things differently if you were starting with a  blank canvas today.

Recap: The 13 Key Dissertation Defense Questions

To recap, here are the 13 questions you need to be ready for to ace your dissertation or thesis oral defense:

As I mentioned, this list of dissertation defense questions is certainly not exhaustive – don’t assume that we’ve covered every possible question here. However, these questions are quite likely to come up in some shape or form in a typical dissertation or thesis defense, whether it’s for a Master’s degree, PhD or any other research degree. So, you should take the time to make sure you can answer them well.

If you need assistance preparing for your dissertation defense or viva voce, get in touch with us to discuss 1-on-1 coaching. We can critically review your research and identify potential issues and responses, as well as undertake a mock oral defense to prepare you for the pressures and stresses on the day.

questions to ask at a dissertation proposal defense

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This post was based on one of our popular Research Bootcamps . If you're working on a research project, you'll definitely want to check this out ...

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Interesting. I appreciate!

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Really appreciating

My field is International Trade

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Peter Gumisiriza

This is a full course on defence. I was fabulously enlightened and I gained enough confidence for my upcoming Masters Defence.

There are many lessons to learn and the simplicity in presentationmakes thee reader say “YesI can”

Milly Nalugoti

This is so helping… it has Enlightened me on how to answer specific questions. I pray to make it through for my upcoming defense

Derek Jansen

Lovely to hear that 🙂


Really educative and beneficial

Tweheyo Charles

Interesting. On-point and elaborate. And comforting too! Thanks.

Ismailu Kulme Emmanuel

Thank you very much for the enlightening me, be blessed

Gladys Oyat

Thankyou so much. I am planning to defend my thesis soon and I found this very useful

Augustine Mtega

Very interesting and useful to all masters and PhD students


Wow! this is enlightening. Thanks for the great work.

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Defending Your Dissertation: A Guide

A woman in front of a bookshelf speaking to a laptop

Written by Luke Wink-Moran | Photo by insta_photos

Dissertation defenses are daunting, and no wonder; it’s not a “dissertation discussion,” or a “dissertation dialogue.” The name alone implies that the dissertation you’ve spent the last x number of years working on is subject to attack. And if you don’t feel trepidation for semantic reasons, you might be nervous because you don’t know what to expect. Our imaginations are great at making The Unknown scarier than reality. The good news is that you’ll find in this newsletter article experts who can shed light on what dissertations defenses are really like, and what you can do to prepare for them.

The first thing you should know is that your defense has already begun. It started the minute you began working on your dissertation— maybe even in some of the classes you took beforehand that helped you formulate your ideas. This, according to Dr. Celeste Atkins, is why it’s so important to identify a good mentor early in graduate school.

“To me,” noted Dr. Atkins, who wrote her dissertation on how sociology faculty from traditionally marginalized backgrounds teach about privilege and inequality, “the most important part of the doctoral journey was finding an advisor who understood and supported what I wanted from my education and who was willing to challenge me and push me, while not delaying me.  I would encourage future PhDs to really take the time to get to know the faculty before choosing an advisor and to make sure that the members of their committee work well together.”

Your advisor will be the one who helps you refine arguments and strengthen your work so that by the time it reaches your dissertation committee, it’s ready. Next comes the writing process, which many students have said was the hardest part of their PhD. I’ve included this section on the writing process because this is where you’ll create all the material you’ll present during your defense, so it’s important to navigate it successfully. The writing process is intellectually grueling, it eats time and energy, and it’s where many students find themselves paddling frantically to avoid languishing in the “All-But-Dissertation” doldrums. The writing process is also likely to encroach on other parts of your life. For instance, Dr. Cynthia Trejo wrote her dissertation on college preparation for Latin American students while caring for a twelve-year-old, two adult children, and her aging parents—in the middle of a pandemic. When I asked Dr. Trejo how she did this, she replied:

“I don’t take the privilege of education for granted. My son knew I got up at 4:00 a.m. every morning, even on weekends, even on holidays; and it’s a blessing that he’s seen that work ethic and that dedication and the end result.”

Importantly, Dr. Trejo also exercised regularly and joined several online writing groups at UArizona. She mobilized her support network— her partner, parents, and even friends from high school to help care for her son.

The challenges you face during the writing process can vary by discipline. Jessika Iwanski is an MD/PhD student who in 2022 defended her dissertation on genetic mutations in sarcomeric proteins that lead to severe, neonatal dilated cardiomyopathy. She described her writing experience as “an intricate process of balancing many things at once with a deadline (defense day) that seems to be creeping up faster and faster— finishing up experiments, drafting the dissertation, preparing your presentation, filling out all the necessary documents for your defense and also, for MD/PhD students, beginning to reintegrate into the clinical world (reviewing your clinical knowledge and skill sets)!”

But no matter what your unique challenges are, writing a dissertation can take a toll on your mental health. Almost every student I spoke with said they saw a therapist and found their sessions enormously helpful. They also looked to the people in their lives for support. Dr. Betsy Labiner, who wrote her dissertation on Interiority, Truth, and Violence in Early Modern Drama, recommended, “Keep your loved ones close! This is so hard – the dissertation lends itself to isolation, especially in the final stages. Plus, a huge number of your family and friends simply won’t understand what you’re going through. But they love you and want to help and are great for getting you out of your head and into a space where you can enjoy life even when you feel like your dissertation is a flaming heap of trash.”

While you might sometimes feel like your dissertation is a flaming heap of trash, remember: a) no it’s not, you brilliant scholar, and b) the best dissertations aren’t necessarily perfect dissertations. According to Dr. Trejo, “The best dissertation is a done dissertation.” So don’t get hung up on perfecting every detail of your work. Think of your dissertation as a long-form assignment that you need to finish in order to move onto the next stage of your career. Many students continue revising after graduation and submit their work for publication or other professional objectives.

When you do finish writing your dissertation, it’s time to schedule your defense and invite friends and family to the part of the exam that’s open to the public. When that moment comes, how do you prepare to present your work and field questions about it?

“I reread my dissertation in full in one sitting,” said Dr. Labiner. “During all my time writing it, I’d never read more than one complete chapter at a time! It was a huge confidence boost to read my work in full and realize that I had produced a compelling, engaging, original argument.”

There are many other ways to prepare: create presentation slides and practice presenting them to friends or alone; think of questions you might be asked and answer them; think about what you want to wear or where you might want to sit (if you’re presenting on Zoom) that might give you a confidence boost. Iwanksi practiced presenting with her mentor and reviewed current papers to anticipate what questions her committee might ask.  If you want to really get in the zone, you can emulate Dr. Labiner and do a full dress rehearsal on Zoom the day before your defense.

But no matter what you do, you’ll still be nervous:

“I had a sense of the logistics, the timing, and so on, but I didn’t really have clear expectations outside of the structure. It was a sort of nebulous three hours in which I expected to be nauseatingly terrified,” recalled Dr. Labiner.

“I expected it to be terrifying, with lots of difficult questions and constructive criticism/comments given,” agreed Iwanski.

“I expected it to be very scary,” said Dr. Trejo.

“I expected it to be like I was on trial, and I’d have to defend myself and prove I deserved a PhD,” said Dr Atkins.

And, eventually, inexorably, it will be time to present.  

“It was actually very enjoyable” said Iwanski. “It was more of a celebration of years of work put into this project—not only by me but by my mentor, colleagues, lab members and collaborators! I felt very supported by all my committee members and, rather than it being a rapid fire of questions, it was more of a scientific discussion amongst colleagues who are passionate about heart disease and muscle biology.”

“I was anxious right when I logged on to the Zoom call for it,” said Dr. Labiner, “but I was blown away by the number of family and friends that showed up to support me. I had invited a lot of people who I didn’t at all think would come, but every single person I invited was there! Having about 40 guests – many of them joining from different states and several from different countries! – made me feel so loved and celebrated that my nerves were steadied very quickly. It also helped me go into ‘teaching mode’ about my work, so it felt like getting to lead a seminar on my most favorite literature.”

“In reality, my dissertation defense was similar to presenting at an academic conference,” said Dr. Atkins. “I went over my research in a practiced and organized way, and I fielded questions from the audience.

“It was a celebration and an important benchmark for me,” said Dr. Trejo. “It was a pretty happy day. Like the punctuation at the end of your sentence: this sentence is done; this journey is done. You can start the next sentence.”

If you want to learn more about dissertations in your own discipline, don’t hesitate to reach out to graduates from your program and ask them about their experiences. If you’d like to avail yourself of some of the resources that helped students in this article while they wrote and defended their dissertations, check out these links:

The Graduate Writing Lab


The Writing Skills Improvement Program


Campus Health Counseling and Psych Services



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Dissertation Defense: Steps To Follow To Succeed

dissertation defense

A dissertation defense is arguably one of the most important milestones in every student’s career. While it signals that your tenure as a student is soon about to close, it validates all your efforts towards your thesis.

Being cautious about including all the necessary details is very important to successfully complete your dissertation proposal defense. This article tells you everything that you need to know about writing a defense that can add great credibility to you as a student.

What is A Dissertation Defense?

The first thing that you need to learn is what is a dissertation defense and what is its purpose. In simple terms, it is a presentation made by a student to defend all the ideas and views that are presented in a dissertation.

The presenter must include details like what is the reason for choosing specific research methods, the theory that has been selected for the paper, and other such points. This presentation is made before an audience that comprises of the university committee, professors and even fellow-students. It is met with questions and answers that gives the student an opportunity to provide more clarity on the dissertation in order to convince the committee to approve it.

Stages of a Dissertation Defense

One of the most important dissertation defense tips provided by several professors is to breakdown the process into three steps:

  • Preparation : This stage involves collection of all the necessary information that must be included in the defense dissertation and making all the arrangements for the actual meeting.
  • The defense meeting : This is where you decide how you will present the defense. The actual meeting is hugely reliant on the performance, body language and the confidence in your oral defense.
  • After the defense meeting : This stage, also known as the follow up, requires you to make the necessary revisions suggested by the university committee. You can even provide bound copies of the whole dissertation to distribute among different members of your departments. In the follow up stage, one must also think about expense that are related to publishing the Ph.D. dissertation defense as well as printing additional copies of the manuscript, if required.

How Long is a Dissertation Defense?

The first thing that a student should know is how long does a dissertation defense last? The length has to be carefully calculated to make the impact that you want. One of the most important steps in the dissertation preparation is to understand how much time each department allocates to the closing oral defense. When you plan in the early stages of your dissertation itself, you can write it in a manner that allows you to defend it in the allocated time.

Usually these meetings including the presentation, the oral defense and the question and answer session last for about two hours. In most cases, these two hours also encompass the time needed by members of the committee to deliberate.

How to Prepare for the Dissertation Defense

Now that you know how long is a dissertation defense, the next step is to prepare well enough to make your presentation impressive.

Here are some tips on how to prepare for a dissertation defense:

  • Watch other students in action to learn about different presentation styles. You can attend defenses of different colleagues in your department as well as other departments in your university.
  • Get all the details about the deadlines and the rules of your college or university about scheduling your defense.
  • Scheduling is also a very important part of your preparation. It is important to note that members of the committee and University chairs need to make time for these defences in a very packed schedule. Coordinate the date, venue and time of your defense as early as possible.
  • Prepare a manuscript adhering to the necessary formatting rules. Review your manuscript thoroughly before you hand it in. During your PH.D, your faculty will also assist you with the defense. For this, they must have a crisp and polished copy of your manuscript.
  • Most colleges have the facility for a pre-defense meeting. This is the best opportunity to sort out any concerns that you may have about the actual meeting. It is a good idea to ask the chairs what types of questions may be put forward and if there are any problems with the defense that need to be resolved. When you prepare for a pre-defense meeting, think of it as the final one and give it your all.
  • Put together all the material that you need for the defense. A detailed, yet to-the-point presentation must be prepared.
  • The final stage of preparation is practicing your presentation over and over again. It is not just the presentation but also the approach towards the questions that you must practice.

Tips To Nail Your Actual Meeting

With these tips you will be one step closer towards a successful defense that will help your dissertation pass and be approved:

  • All meetings should begin by addressing the chair. Make sure you thank all the committee members and the advisors for the efforts that they have put it. This gives you a professional start to the presentation.
  • The presentation should cover the following subjects in brief:
  • The research topic
  • Literature review
  • The methods used for analysis
  • The primary findings of the research
  • Recommendations of additional research on the subject in the focus.
  • Do not get rattled by any discussions among the chairs. They will deliberate on any disagreements or topics of interest. This is a part of the process and is not a reflection of the presentation itself.
  • There are two questions that are commonly asked that you should be prepared for. This includes the weaknesses of the dissertation and the research plans that you have made post-dissertation.
  • Use subtle gestures when you are talking. Do not overuse your hands when doing so. The whole meeting including the question and answer session should have a very formal appeal.
  • The tone of your voice must be assertive without making it seem like you are trying to hard. Be clear and enunciate when you speak.

Once the questions have been answered, the committee will leave the room. Then, after the deliberation, you will be informed if your dissertation has passed or not.

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Dissertation Defense

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  • School of Education Educator Dispositions
  • What do you see as the main contributions of your research for your discipline, practitioners, and/or policy makers?
  • In what ways, if at all, does your study contribute to the existing literature and/or prior research in the field? In what ways does it extend the literature? Contradict the literature? Fill gaps in the literature? Clarify contradictions in the literature?
  • In planning and conducting this study, which major theorists influenced your thinking?
  • What are the conflicting issues in your field (every field has conflicts—hence, the research problem), and what contributed most to your understanding of these issues?
  • In what ways do you expect that your work will clarify the conflicting issues in your field?
  • What motivated you to conduct this study? In other words, what brought you to explore this particular topic?
  • What new learning about qualitative research have you come away with as a result of conducting this study?
  • What, if any, are the unanticipated outcomes of your study? What surprises have you come away with?
  • What new learning about yourself have you come away with having conducted this study? What additional insights has the dissertation experience afforded you?
  • What were the high and/or low points for you in the dissertation experience?
  • If you were to redo this study, how might you conduct this study differently? How might you change your research methodology? Why?
  • How could you build on or extend this research in the future?
  • What are the major strengths and/or limitations of your research design/methodology?
  • What might further strengthen this study?
  • Why did you analyze the data in the way that you did? How might you have analyzed your data differently?
  • What suggestions might you offer somebody about to conduct a study of this nature?
  • How did you arrive at your conceptual framework?
  • What are the theoretical components of your framework?
  • What informed your conceptual framework?
  • How did you decide upon the components that you include in your conceptual framework?
  • How did the components of your conceptual framework assist you in visualizing and explaining what you intended to investigate?
  • How did you use your conceptual framework to design your research and analyze your findings?

Bloomberg, L. D and Volpe, M: Completing your qualitative dissertation: A Roadmap from Beginning to End (Sage 2016).

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Hardest Research Proposal Questions and Best Sample Answers

Featured Expert: Dr. Michela Insenga, PhD

Hardest Research Proposal Questions and Best Sample Answers

Practicing with sample research proposal questions and answers can have great benefits for any major research project such as a dissertation or thesis. This is often the final step before you finally get your doctorate degree. However, before all of that, you must first craft a research proposal. This is a detailed outline that will transform into the thesis that you will eventually have to defend in front of a panel of distinguished academics. It is always important to be aware of what thesis defense questions you will be asked when it is all said and done, but you may have to start justifying your research a little earlier on with the completion of a research proposal.

In this article, we include sample questions and answers you could be faced with when submitting your research proposal, some tips for preparing your responses, as well as the benefits of seeking professional help from a grad school advisor .

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Article Contents 13 min read

What to expect for your research proposal.

Early on in your PhD process, you may have to submit a research proposal that details the scope of your research and what you plan to for an eventual thesis or dissertation project. You have already learned how to find a PhD topic , so now it is time to put your passion for your field into practice and start to manifest the ideas swimming in your head.

This document should include the specific topic you would like to research, what angle you will be taking for your research, as well as your justification for choosing this subject. Regardless of whether or not your goals are the same as when you wrote your research interest statement sample , you must still provide an update about what your project is going to examine.

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The purpose of the research proposal is to convince your supervisor that you are on the right direction. You are essentially providing a roadmap for your supervisor through your motives in undertaking this project and how you plan to complete it. Your supervisor will have to evaluate whether or not your project is relevant to the degree you are completing and manageable within the time constraints or other limitations you have.

As a result, you may have to undergo a research proposal defense or your supervisor will ask guiding questions about the state of your project. While this is still very early in the process, it is a great way for getting to know how to prepare for a thesis defense , as the questions you will be have a similar intent. Receiving guidance on your research before spending a lot of time on it can be more beneficial to you as you complete coursework or any other responsibilities as a graduate student. Questions from your supervisor can make your think critically about the end result of your result, and will hopefully lead to a better result.

Be Very Familiar With Your Proposal

This sounds like an obvious tip, but PhD research proposals can be 1500-2000 words long and can be a lot of information to remember at once. Once it is complete, try and have as great of a grasp of the material as you can. Before going into any meeting where you will discuss your work, make sure to become reacquainted with the information you have found and the goals you are hoping to achieve. Re-read your proposal several times to both proofread it for typos or other errors, but also to become comfortable with its contents. You want to make sure that your answers line up with the document you are officially submitting as your proposal.

Ask for Advice

If you are having trouble creating your proposal, you can always consult thesis writing services to help you plan out and put your thoughts into words. Professionals can also help with your speaking ability when responding and help you strategize so that you deliver efficient responses that sum up your research faithfully. Either together with an advisor or on your own, you can predict the obvious questions that are coming and prepare yourself to answer them. If your supervisor will be overseeing your proposal, try to anticipate what concerns they will have. Come up with a list of questions yourself, so you can workshop how you answer them.

Use Strategies to Answer Questions

Just like preparing for graduate school interview questions , you can develop strategies for how to answer questions about your research proposal. Keep your answers direct. You can also pose questions about areas you are unsure about. Do not be afraid to not have all the answers. At this point of your research, you are not expected to know everything point. The purpose of your proposal is to see where you are at right now and what you need to adjust on to make the best final product possible. Your supervisor or other academics that will pose questions about your proposal are not out to get you. They have years of experiences with similar projects, and are likely are qualified to give helpful feedback on your work in progress.

1. What is your research project about?

This answer should be a short summary about your research project. This question may seem like this simplest of them all, but you need to have a solid direction on where you want your thesis to go in order for it be effective. It does not need to be as complete as if you were to be summarizing your final product, since your project is still in its development stages. For instance, a sociological study regarding gendered tendencies towards deviant behaviors on the internet might be formatted in this manner:

For this research project, I plan to examine the rise of online deviant sociological behaviour on social media platforms during recent global shutdowns such as the COVID-19 pandemic and how gender identity and sexual orientation amplify these concerns. These acts of deviance can include instances of catfishing, deception, pornography, obscenity, cyber bullying, flaming, among others. I will also relate these findings to psychological impacts of both the perpetrators and victims or other relevant criminal behaviors that do not take place online, pointing out the differences between common trends for men vs. women in these altercations.

2. Why did you select this particular topic?

This question is meant to assess your motivation for choosing the subject of your research proposal. It is possible that you have previously touched on this kind of question during your graduate school interview when answering “Why do you want to do a PhD?” . This answer is one that could get a little more into your personal inclination towards the research you pursue. Focus on your particular interests and shape it to the goals of the project. For example, if you conducted a study called, “Forgotten Minds: Book History and Women’s Lost Contributions in 18th and 19th-century England” then you can frame your answer in this way:

As a scholar of the marriage industrial complex that permeated British society in past centuries, I am interested in the ways that a patriarchal structure can silence the marginalized voices of others, as matrimony often did for women. This is all the more evident in the interdisciplinary field of book history, where women’s contributions to the publishing were often ignored, erased, or overshadowed by their husbands. I wanted to indicate any trends that can be discovered by examining the roles of women in 18th and 19th-century printing houses and potentially unearth the forgotten stories of women who worked in these instances.

3. Does your project have a working title?

Titles are very important for academic articles or formal dissertation projects. If you have already learned how to publish as a graduate student , you will know that the title is how other academics or students will find your work when searching through journals and databases. You need to make sure your title is accurate to the research provided. At this point, your title will likely not be final, but it always important to be thinking about.

Sample Answer: My tentative title is “Take a Chill Pill: Natural and Traditional Methods for College Student Anxiety Levels”. I chose this title because it represents both the holistic self-care methods such as meditation and exercise as well as prescription medication. It also points out the focus group immediately, since the study will examine current college students between the ages of 18-24 and indicate any patterns for how they manage stress among unprecedented times.

4. What scope do you think your project will have?

Your proposal will likely touch on several points related to your topic, but it is not really plausible to have a project that considers every single aspect imaginable. You may need to narrow this down as you further develop your research. Start thinking of the boundaries you may have to set as you progress through your work.

Sample Answer: This study will examine consumption trends related to the snack food industry. To start with, I have chosen over 25 products from different companies will be able to be listed and reviewed in the final thesis submission.

5. What makes your project original?

Being a publishing academic is all about filling the gaps in scholarship. Make sure to point out what makes your project stand out from others in the field.

Sample Answer: The project focuses on how remote working and telemedicine shifts the delivery of family medicine procedures in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. It does engage with similar studies on the topic of telemedicine, but will add a new perspective by discussing family doctors practicing in the greater Montreal area, specifically, which is a subset I have not yet found within existing scholarship.

6. How is your research in conversation with existing scholarship?

While your research must add something to the field, it also should be in a dialogue with other published works. Explain your process surrounding the other studies you have used to guide your own thesis.

Sample Answer: As my project is related to how autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis present themselves in young adults, I have included fundamental studies on the topic from Dr. Arthur Golden and Dr. Melina Rizzo, as well as other more current examples of scholarship. My study will utilize their concepts in relation to a focus group that is below the age of 30.

7. What kind of research methodology will you be using?

How you will be accessing this research is just as important as the research itself. Try to have a clear path about the measures you will take to complete your study.

Sample Answer: I aim to use detailed and meticulously written surveys about women’s birth experiences at hospitals or affiliated birthing centers. These results will act as the main foundation for my study on maternity health care and treatment.

8. Have you found there to be any interesting developments so far?

Was there any part of the part of the process that you did not expect? For this response, detail any new directions your research has taken as of writing your proposal.

Sample Answer: While looking for evidence that suggests that gender socialization of children affects their behaviour, I was surprised to find out that there is a discrepancy between the emotional responses in animated characters based on gender. Female or feminine-presenting characters are shown smiling on screen much more than their male counterparts, and the masculine-presenting characters were generally more likely to be shown as upset or even violent. That is a development in my research that I did not initially think of or foresee.

9. What do you think your biggest limitations for this research will be?

Look into the work you will have to do for your eventual full-length research project. What do you see being the most difficult part?

Sample Answer: I am looking into the nutritional benefits of drug store chewable gummy multivitamins. However, based on an individual’s prior health conditions or genetic makeup, the results may vary or be distorted. I am presuming that this will be a major limitation as I write my thesis.

10. What will be the dependent and independent variables of this project?

When researching, there are different variables that can potentially affect your results. An independent variable is not affected by other variables in your study, while dependent variables also change if other variables do.

Sample Answer: My study will investigate the impact of guidance counselling for junior and senior high school students. The independent variable is the type of help they require, such as college applications, social development skills, or academic performance. The dependent variable would be the actual outcomes of said counselling.

11. What is your provisional research timeline?

Even if it is not 100% stuck to, try to have a detailed timeline in mind about when research will be completed and how you will fulfill all of your obligations prior to the respective deadlines.

Sample Answer: The provisional research timeline for my proposal is designed to ensure systematic progress and timely completion of all research objectives. My timeline is divided into five phases:

Preparation Phase (4 weeks): In this initial stage, I will conduct a thorough literature review to familiarize myself with existing research and identify potential gaps. Simultaneously, I will finalize the research questions and establish the overall framework for my study.

Data Collection and Analysis (8 weeks): During this phase, I will gather primary data through surveys and interviews, ensuring data collection aligns with ethical guidelines. Once collected, I will proceed with data analysis, utilizing appropriate statistical methods to extract meaningful insights.

Literature Integration (4 weeks): Building upon the analyzed data, I will integrate my findings with existing literature to provide a comprehensive context for my research.

Drafting and Revision (6 weeks): I will dedicate this phase to writing the research proposal. The initial draft will be critically reviewed and refined through multiple iterations to enhance clarity and coherence.

Finalization and Submission (1 week): In the final phase, I will incorporate feedback from peers and advisors and polish the research paper to its final form. The completed research paper will be submitted by the designated deadline.

This provisional timeline, spanning 23 weeks, allows for flexibility and contingency plans to accommodate unforeseen challenges. Regular progress assessments and adjustments will be made to ensure timely completion and adherence to all obligations.

12. Who are the demographics who will be most interested in your research?

An important aspect of your research to think about will be who will be the most interested in reading it, as well as who it impacts the most.

Sample Answer: The demographics most interested in my research are likely to be professionals and policymakers within the healthcare industry. Given the focus of my research on implementing technology-driven solutions to enhance patient care and improve healthcare outcomes, healthcare practitioners, administrators, and researchers would find the findings particularly relevant.

Additionally, technology enthusiasts, innovators, and entrepreneurs interested in the intersection of healthcare and technology are also expected to show interest in the research. This group may be keen to explore potential commercial applications of the proposed solutions or seek opportunities for collaboration.

Moreover, the research would significantly impact patients and healthcare consumers. As technology increasingly plays a vital role in healthcare delivery, patients would be interested in understanding how these advancements can positively influence their healthcare experiences and overall well-being.

To ensure the research's reach and impact, I will disseminate the findings through academic publications, conferences, and workshops. Additionally, I will aim to engage with relevant professional organizations, healthcare institutions, and technology forums to stimulate interest and foster practical applications of the research outcomes.

By targeting these demographics, the research can make a meaningful contribution to the field of healthcare technology and help drive advancements that benefit both healthcare providers and patients alike.

13. What do you hope to be the significance of your research?

This is the “So what?” of your research. Will your research have lasting impacts? Evaluate which current issues your research could resolve.

Sample Answer:

The significance of my research lies in its potential to revolutionize healthcare delivery through technology-driven solutions. By addressing current issues such as inefficiencies in healthcare systems, lack of patient engagement, and suboptimal outcomes, my research aims to foster lasting impacts. Implementing technology to improve patient care, streamline processes, and enhance healthcare accessibility could lead to better health outcomes, reduced costs, and an overall improvement in the quality of healthcare services.

14. Are there any ethical issues or debates surrounding your research project?

Some projects are directly tied to ethics and moral issues that are currently being debated. It would be important to mention any ties to these issues and how your research is part of a larger conversation.

Sample Answer: While my research primarily focuses on technology-driven solutions to enhance healthcare, there are potential ethical considerations surrounding data privacy and security. As the research involves collecting and analyzing patient data, ensuring the confidentiality and informed consent of participants is paramount. Additionally, discussions about the responsible use of artificial intelligence in healthcare and potential biases in algorithms are relevant to the larger conversation on the ethical implications of technology in healthcare. Addressing these issues will be crucial to maintaining the integrity and societal benefit of the research.

15. Do you have any personal predictions for the outcome of your research?

If you haven’t yet conducted surveys or a thorough literature review, relay what you think will happen and any other concerns to your supervisor.

Sample Answer: As of now, without conducting surveys or an extensive literature review, I anticipate that the research will demonstrate the potential of technology in positively impacting healthcare outcomes and patient experiences. However, I am also aware that challenges related to data security, technology adoption, and ethical considerations may arise during the research. I will keep my supervisor informed about any unexpected findings and concerns throughout the study to ensure a comprehensive evaluation of the research outcomes.

Now that you have seen some sample answers, here are some additional questions you can take on:

  • What sample groups are you using and why?
  • What secondary sources do you plan to use?
  • What do you believe is the strongest point in your research?
  • Are there any biases that could exist in your research or your secondary sources?
  • What are some ways your findings will be put into practice?
  • What was the approach you took when starting your project?
  • What phenomenon are you trying to understand with this research?
  • How has your research project changed from when you started this degree?
  • Do you see any foreseeable weaknesses or blind spots in your study?
  • What measurement instrument did you use for this research?
  • What theoretical framework is your research based on?
  • Is the literature you chose up to date?
  • What pertinent information have you found so far?
  • Does your research have any use for policy makers?
  • What do you plan to do with this research project once you have graduated?

When you are wondering, “should you pursue a master’s or a PhD?” , you truly need to consider the importance of research within the discipline you choose. Part of being an academic is the ability to contribute to the field and, by extension, society as a whole. The research proposal and the subsequent dissertation may be the last step to complete your degree, but it is also can be the first real step of your professional career.

Any meeting with your supervisor or instant where you have to defend your work is simply part of the process of being a working academic. This can have lasting implications for the future of your career, as knowing how to conduct and present research effectively is key to learning how to find a job in academia . That being said, the first step is putting yourself in the best position to succeed. Using PhD consultants can make all the difference for your project. If you are currently applying to graduate school, these trained experts can help you get into the school of your dreams or assist with finding programs that suit your skillset. They can also provide pointers on your research, as many of them have been in your shoes before.

A research proposal is a concise and structured document that outlines the key objectives, methodology, and significance of a proposed research project, aiming to convince others about the value and feasibility of the study.

A typical research proposal for a doctoral thesis is usually between 10 to 20 pages, depending on the specific requirements of the academic institution and the complexity of the research project.

To find the right research topic for a doctoral thesis, consider your interests, expertise, and the significance of the topic in your field. Engage with relevant literature, consult with advisors and experts, and identify gaps or unresolved issues to narrow down your focus.

Yes, you can and you should include your research on your grad school CV . 

Most graduate programs will ask you to defend your research proposal. However, if it’s a smaller project, a review of the proposal may be sufficient. 

To prepare for a research proposal or thesis defense, thoroughly review your research work, anticipate potential questions, and practice presenting your findings in a clear and concise manner to effectively communicate your research objectives, methodology, and results.

Some mistakes to avoid when writing a research proposal include: lack of clarity in research objectives, insufficient literature review, neglecting to address potential limitations, and failing to align the proposal with the funding agency's guidelines or the university's requirements.

Yes, you can always reach out to thesis writing services for some guidance. 

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questions to ask at a dissertation proposal defense


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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Preparing the Thesis Proposal Defense

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Ingrid J. Paredes is a Ph.D. candidate in chemical engineering at New York University. You can find her on Twitter @ingridjoylyn .

questions to ask at a dissertation proposal defense

In my program, we have four major milestones towards graduation: the qualifying exam, which is based on a critique of a peer-reviewed publication; the thesis proposal defense; the data defense; and finally, the dissertation defense. At the end of this month, I’ll check #2 off of my list. The defense requires the preparation of a report and delivery of a presentation detailing what I plan to do for the last two years of my PhD. Since defenses are often set up similarly, I’ve compiled a roundup of my own tips on how to prepare.

Create a Plan and Compile Your Resources As soon as you schedule your proposal defense, create a plan for what tasks you need to accomplish. Megan’s checklist is a great place to start. Talk to other graduate students in your department who have defended recently, especially students who share committee members with you. Talk to your adviser to ensure that your timeline works.

Productivity At Megan’s suggestion , I also included non-thesis daily tasks into my schedule, including commute time, leisure time, and food plans in my own timeline. I’m usually flexible with these, but having them on my calendar for the weeks leading up to my defense has helped me budget my time properly. I am also very religious with my writing time – even if I hit a block with my proposal, I try to work on other projects (like this blog post!) or journal to keep momentum. To avoid distractions, I usually set a timer for 20 to 30 minute intervals where I focus just on writing, and then I take a break for a few minutes.

Storyboarding Before I write a paper or start a slide deck, I write on a stack of index cards with each of the topics I’d like to discuss to storyboard my research. This process works because it removes the distractions that come with working on a computer. Like, when I’m writing in Word, I often get so caught up with formatting and inserting references after each sentence that I write that it distracts me from actually writing.

For my proposal, I’ve organized my cards into three sections that I laid out on the floor: the introduction, the proposal plan, and my conclusions. Each index card has a title and a few bullet points and/or sketches of the material I plan to discuss. I laid these out in separate columns in front of me, which allowed me to easily visualize how much time I was dedicating to teach topic as well as the flow of my talk. I’ve run through this deck of cards a few times now, reciting a very rough version of my talk and reorganizing them as I’ve seen fit. It’s only once I feel confident about the logic of the presentation that I’ll actually finish writing and create my Powerpoint slides.

Backup Slides My weak point in presentations is taking questions –I’m usually so nervous that I freeze. Having backup slides has been a safety blanket for me. Whenever I make a slide on a topic and feel like I need to provide more information, I chuck all of that information into a separate slide deck. That way the information is on hand for me to pull up on the screen in case any questions call for it. Preparing these is studying for the exam in and of itself!

Time Yourself I speak really quickly when I’m nervous. To avoid finishing a 30 minute presentation in 10 minutes, I run through my presentations a few times with a timer on, even timing pauses and slots for questions. These pauses allow me to catch a break as well as for my listeners to do likewise.

Ask for Specific Feedback When I first started preparing my for my defense, my adviser told me to pretend like I’m a lawyer. Make my presentation tight, from logic to design. I suggest practicing with your lab group and peers as well as with groups that aren’t familiar with your work. I have a few friends who are used to this by now, and I’ll go to them asking for feedback on specific aspects of my talk, like grammar, the number of “um’s” or “likes” I say, or slide design. Friends outside of my field have also been helpful in asking me about the basics of my research, helping me tighten my arguments.

I try to practice in front of the same crowd twice, first for an initial run, and then in the second go. Afterwards, I have a set of questions that I like to ask:

-  What stood out to you in the talk?​ - Which part of the talk was most boring? - At which point if any did I seem the most nervous/unsure? - Did you notice any body language—hand gestures, looking away from the audience?

My presentation is 30 minutes long, which is a little over the length of a sitcom. While I know I won’t be as funny as an episode of Fresh off the Boat, I can plan to be as engaging as possible, and the best way to do that is to ask the audience themselves for feedback!

Editing For writing, I’ve recorded an audio version to see how the words sound off the page. I’ll stick with a sentence until they sound right for me to say out loud. For presentations, I go back and make revisions right after a rehearsal while they’re fresh on my mind.

Day Of While I’m not there yet, I do have a day-of ritual for any exam or presentations! I eat my favorite meal, I go through my presentation no more than twice, and I wear an outfit I’ve planned a few days in advance and practiced my talk in. Most importantly, I make sure to buy a bottle of champagne to celebrate immediately after.

What tips do you have for preparing for your quals?

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questions to ask at a dissertation proposal defense

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Defending your dissertation proposal

T he dissertation proposal and defense represent key milestones in the journey to the degree (Bowen, 2005). Each section of the proposal meets goals critical not just to a successful proposal defense but to the success of the entire dissertation research endeavor. When you and your faculty advisor agree that the dissertation proposal is complete, you will schedule a proposal defense. Ideally, your academic program will inform you in advance of the expected timeline. Within this timeline, you will then work with your advisor and committee members to determine a day and time for the defense. Institutional norms and policies likely require that the finished proposal be provided to the committee a specific number of days or weeks in advance of the defense. Typically, you should expect to provide at least two weeks lead time prior to the proposal defense (Butin, 2010). In today’s post, I will share some details on what to expect and how to prepare for defending your dissertation proposal.

questions to ask at a dissertation proposal defense

The proposal defense serves two functions. First, the defense allows you to demonstrate your knowledge of the topic and the research process. Second, the defense ensures that you move forward with the dissertation in the strongest possible position. Your chair and committee should make sure you are prepared to complete the study, and that the study is feasible in terms of research design and timeline (Lei, 2009). In effect, a successful proposal defense (and the resulting faculty signatures of approval) constitutes an agreement between the student, the chair, and the committee. For the committee, the agreement codifies that you have done the proper due diligence and can produce a quality dissertation; for you, the approval provides the security of knowing that the committee supports the intended research design and direction.

After setting the defense date and providing a copy of the proposal to the committee, you should prepare for the defense. In most cases, you should not make edits or changes to the proposal after sending it to the committee, even if you notice typographical errors or other small issues. The committee takes care and time to read and prepare questions based on the document they receive; making changes after the document is sent defeats this purpose. While you should not change the document itself, you do need spend time preparing your oral remarks for the proposal defense. Of course, the expectations for this element of the dissertation process vary according to institution and/or dissertation chair preferences; nevertheless, all students can expect to engage in at least a short oral presentation of the proposed study. The committee will have read your proposal at this point, so prepare a talk that summarizes just the main ideas of your dissertation. Let’s say you are asked to present for no more than 15-30 minutes (this practice is a common one). You may want to divide this time into thirds and spend 5-10 minutes on each chapter of your proposal. Additionally, check with your chair to determine if technology is available in the room, if you are expected to use technology, or if handouts or other written materials are expected or preferred.

In addition to preparing for the proposal defense, you may also spend the time between the proposal submission and defense by preparing documents for eventual submission for human subjects research review. Often called the Institutional Review Board or IRB, this department on campus oversees human subject research. Approval from this university office, in addition to the dissertation committee, must be received before moving to data collection. These documents should not  be submitted prior to the proposal defense, since changes to the research design commonly occur at the proposal defense and would need to be incorporated into the final human subjects review proposal submission.

You should enter a proposal defense with the expectation of edits. A student rarely if ever leaves a defense without edits. The amount and extent of edits may vary, but feedback that clarifies and strengthens the dissertation serves as the primary outcome of a proposal defense. Edits do not necessarily mean that the original dissertation design was weak; rather, you should think of the defense and feedback from the committee as a collaborative process resulting in an even stronger study (Lei, 2009). After you present an oral summary of the proposal at the defense, committee members often take turns asking questions, sometimes in round-robin style, but other times in conversation with you and each other. You may be asked why you made specific choices as opposed to alternative options in the research design or to explain the logic that led to a specific design feature. The conversation can last for over an hour depending on the topic and the committee members. When the defense reaches a stopping point, you may be asked to leave the room for the committee to deliberate about next steps.

While what happens inside the room once you leave may seem mysterious, it is actually straightforward. The committee primarily discusses what edits, and in what form, they will require you to complete. Once everyone is satisfied, you will be called back into the room and informed of next steps. Three possible outcomes exist from a proposal defense.

  • Pass without edits. The committee approves your dissertation proposal with no additional changes requested. Note: This is quite rare.
  • Pass with edits. The committee approves your dissertation proposal pending edits. The requested revisions may be small or major, but do not require you to re-defend your dissertation proposal.
  • The committee does not approve you moving forward, which means major changes or even a complete overhaul of your entire proposal is necessary. Unless you have pushed for a defense without your chair’s approval or failed to do what was requested during the proposal writing process, this outcome should not happen.

When edits are required, they will be shared with you after the proposal defense or perhaps in a subsequent meeting with the chair, depending on your chair’s preferences. Your committee may have raised a number of potential revisions during the proposal defense, but not all of these will be required. Working with your chair, you will create a to-do list of all issues to be addressed in response to the critiques and suggestions of the committee. Timelines can vary, but two actions generally must be taken at this point: 1) The submission of your human subjects review materials and 2) edits to the proposal. While IRB documents are usually submitted before  students turn back to the proposal to make the needed edits, the order of these actions may vary between institutions.

A useful way to tackle the committee’s edits is to take the notes from the proposal defense and place them in one column of a two-column table. In the other column, outline the specific edit you made in response to the committee’s suggestion—you should undertake this tracking process while making edits to the proposal. Make sure to include the edits as well as their respective page numbers in your proposal. This format helps keep you accountable to all the committee’s requested changes and facilitates a later review by the chair and/or committee. You can include the list of revisions when submitting the revised proposal to the chair and, if requested, the committee.

Some committee members may want to see the revised proposal, while others are comfortable delegating that responsibility to the dissertation chair. Confirm with the committee and chair about their preference for overseeing this process at the proposal defense. In addition, you should know if and when the committee members are willing to sign the institutional documents accompanying a successful proposal defense. Ask your advisor, program administrator, or other faculty which documents are necessary for the defense and if you need to bring those with you. These documents signify that you have officially advanced to doctoral candidacy, a key step of the doctoral process.

Successful PhD Dissertation Defense: Questions and Answers

Are you looking for common questions and answers about PhD dissertation defense? You may want to check out the following for some of those you might be asked during the PhD defense of your paper. Before that, though, make sure to take note of them, but not limit yourself just to these common questions.

phd dissertation defense

Questions and Answers

What is your study about, how significant is the topic, how can the research topic contribute to currently available research on it, what were the limitations encountered, the importance of your phd thesis defense.

At the end of all your hard work, you will be required to defend the research that you have done in front of your peers. For many this is something that they will approach with great trepidation. Few people like to talk in public, and defending your own research in front of real experts in your own field that will want to pick holes in what you have done can be a real challenge.

This is why you really do need to spend a lot of time and effort in ensuring that your PhD defense is up to scratch and that you are fully prepared for what may be asked of you. Each institution and even country will approach a PhD defense differently. Yours could be just defending to a board of two professors through to a wider public audience with several professors asking questions of you. Whatever it is that is expected of you, however, you will need to prepare accordingly.

phd dissertation help defense

How to Prepare for Your Defense of Dissertation

After you have submitted your dissertation there really is no time for you to relax. While you cannot do any more to your paper it is now time to very much concentrate on how you are going to defend it. A poorly defended dissertation could result in you being tasked with a huge number of revisions and even additional research. A successful PhD thesis defense, however, should result in only minor changes, it is very rare that a panel will allow you to escape this ordeal with nothing to do.

The following tips will provide you with a good framework to help you with preparing both your presentation and yourself for your PhD proposal defense:

  • Be sure that you know precisely what the format of your defense will be.  Every institution differs in some way with regards to the length of your PhD defense presentation, the makeup of your audience, through to how long they will ask questions for. Make sure that you understand exactly what you are walking into.
  • Don’t leave things to the last minute before you begin your preparations. It can be very easy to fall into the party trap as soon as you have submitted your dissertation, however, you should wait until after your defense PhD thesis before you begin your celebrations.
  • Read and reread your dissertation several times. Re-familiarize yourself with everything that you have done. Also go back to some of your main sources and reread those also.
  • Don’t produce too many or too few slides for your presentation: 100 slides for a 10-minute talk is going to be far too many and 10 will not be enough for 20 minutes.
  • Cover the main points of your research: clearly show why you have done it, why it is important, what impact it will have as well as the usual what you actually did and found.
  • Don’t neglect details on your slides: label axes and try to use the same format throughout.
  • Tell a story: you want your presentation to actually flow so take the time to work on your transitions between slides.
  • Don’t just read the slide: a slide should be a prompt for what you have to say not just a teleprompter for you to read from.
  • Practice. Then practice again. Give your presentation for PhD defense several times to your friends so that you are totally comfortable with what you are doing.
  • Try out the room. walking into a presentation and finding that the projector will not talk to your laptop or some another disaster is avoidable.

While you are never going to be able to prepare for every question for PhD defense you should be able to answer anything around the core area of your research. If asked something that you really do not know the answer to simply say that you don’t know or explain how you would go about trying to find an answer. Just because someone asks you a difficult question, it does not mean that they have an answer to it either.

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Our Dissertation Advice Services

One of the mistakes that most graduate students commit when writing is not having any plan at all. This causes them to spend time on doing pointless tasks when they could have focused all their energy in tackling their research, analyzing the information they have gained and translating data into a well written paper. Although many rely on online help, having a clear idea on how or where to begin is an advantage. The good news is that our PhD comics thesis defense writing service can do more than just write dissertations but we can also help coach you into getting your dissertation done in time. From formatting to reviewing and editing we are your one stop shop for all your needs.

We Can Help

It’s not surprising to find graduate students having a hard time getting started on their PhD oral defense especially when they lack a plan of attack. The idea of having to go through this final hurdle often put pressure on students that they can’t seem to focus on their work. This is not a good sign especially if you want to achieve your MBA or PhD. We are ready to help you with all the writing issues!

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What questions to prepare for PhD defense?

I will soon defend my PhD in social science in Sweden. I want to ask what questions the evaluation committee will ask me during the defense? If they ask me some questions outside my thesis, what shall I do? Is it enough only know well my own research? What quality I need to successfully defend my PhD?

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ff524's user avatar

  • 9 Have you not gone to other people's defenses before? Have you asked your advisor? –  xLeitix Commented Mar 30, 2015 at 11:19
  • 4 I don't recall ever hearing any restrictions on what I can ask in a thesis defense. Ordinarily, I ask about things in the thesis, prerequisites for things in the thesis, and things that the candidate happens to mention during the defense. I could, in principle, ask a completely off-topic question, to which the candidate might well reply "I have no idea"; presumably, such an answer wouldn't damage the outcome of the defense (unless the other 4 examiners agree with my craziness). –  Andreas Blass Commented Mar 30, 2015 at 13:37
  • 5 Whatever field you study and whatever type of presentation you give, always be prepared for questions asking you why you made certain decisions. It won't hurt preparing for them and it might actually improve your presentation if you hadn't thought about it before. –  Mast Commented Mar 30, 2015 at 13:49
  • 5 Obligatory XKCD: xkcd.com/1403 –  Corey Ogburn Commented Mar 30, 2015 at 18:17
  • 4 I was asked "who is Maud Menten?" (see 1910's at famouscanadianwomen.com/famous%20firsts/… ) Since I used the Michaelis-Menten equation in my work, it was borderline relevant. Luckily there is a plaque to her on the U of T campus, so I knew both the equation half of the answer and the trivia question half. That was the only question that examiner asked. Seriously, know your thesis well and ask your supervisor if you can expect anything unusual, and you'll be ok. They don't generally let you defend if they don't think you're ready. –  Kate Gregory Commented Mar 30, 2015 at 18:32

4 Answers 4

Generally speaking, PhD defenses come in two flavors, and it is not possible to say a priori which one yours will fall into:

  • A real thesis "defense" focuses on the thesis, and all questions will relate to the scope of the research work. In this case, knowing your own work and its context well enough should be sufficient, but it is of course possible that somebody asks you why you used method A rather than B. In this case, saying that you don't know B may not fly as an answer. However, you should not get a completely disconnected question just to test your general subject area knowledge.
  • A "Rigorosum" ( dict.leo translated this for me to "doctoral viva", no idea if this is a well-known term) is a general final exam for a doctoral candidate. Typically, this will also include questions about the disseration, but anybody in the exam commission is free to ask about other topics in the field as well. Typically, the questions are getting "easier" (more high-level) the farther they are away from the topic of the dissertation. The claim here is that a fresh PhD should have both, depth and breadth in her/his knowledge.

There are a number of ways to figure out which class your defense will fall into:

  • Attend other defenses . Typically, PhD defenses are public, and it is highly recommended that any PhD candidate should visit a few before her/his own, to get to know the procedure and get a feel for what the defense talk is supposed to look like.
  • Ask your advisor . The advisor should obviously know what the requirements of the defense are, exactly.
  • Look it up in the programme description . Usually, the programme description will contain exam regulations for the defense, and this should describe the exam procedure and who is supposed to ask what kind of questions. This approach has two dangers: (1) you may misunderstand what the exam regulations are saying - as they are more legalese text, you may misunderstand the gist of it, and (2) the actual exam may happen differently than specified - there is no telling whether the exam regulation exactly captures the real spirit of the defense. Hence, you should really also talk to your advisor and/or attend other defenses as well.

xLeitix's user avatar

  • 9 Typically, there's a non-public part of the defense after the public part where the general public is asked to leave and the committee can grill the candidate in private. That's where the interesting/hard/potentially embarrassing questions are likely to come. This is harder to prepare for and benefits from asking your advisor and recent other students for guidance. –  Bill Barth Commented Mar 30, 2015 at 13:24
  • 4 @BillBarth Ok, I was not aware of that. In all universities that I was aware of, everything needs to be public to have traceability of decisions. –  xLeitix Commented Mar 30, 2015 at 16:42
  • "Viva" (short for viva voce ) is the term used in the UK (and some other countries?), I'm not sure if use of this term corresponds to your two categories or not. At my UK university you are expected to answer questions generally on your field as well as your thesis. –  MJeffryes Commented Mar 30, 2015 at 16:48
  • 3 In addition to that, vivas in the UK are typically behind closed doors in their entirety - only two(ish) examiners and the candidate, with even the advisor being absent. –  E.P. Commented Mar 30, 2015 at 22:28
  • good answer. i would like to add that the OP should look into their supervisor's reviews of the thesis. in some countries/unis these are provided beforehand. they contain the main criticism and these will come up also in the defense. the defense talk itself should already address them. –  henning no longer feeds AI Commented Jul 12, 2015 at 16:11

Some types of questions that often come up:

Questions about some detail of your work. The point of such questions is often not so much the correctness of this small part of your dissertation, but rather to get you to demonstrate your ability to explain what you've done. This also helps to balance out the presentation, which typically covered the whole thesis in much less detail. For example, in mathematics you might be asked to go over the proof of one of your theorems in detail. Since you've spent more time working on these details than any of the examiners, and assuming that the examiner hasn't spotted a substantial error, you should be in a good position to answer such a question. Don't panic and assume that you've made some huge mistake, but rather go through the material carefully and convince the examiner that you're correct.

What are the broader implications of your work? This is actually a hard question for most students to answer because they've been so focused on the details of their thesis that they may not have taken time to see how it fits into the broader picture of progress in their discipline. This will also be an important question when you eventually interview for faculty positions.

Can this method be applied to some other problem Y? You may be asked how the techniques used in your dissertation could be applied to a different problem. If the answer is that the technique doesn't extend in that direction, then you should be prepared to explain why not.

Questions about what exactly is new in your work. You should have been extremely careful in writing your dissertation to properly cite earlier work and distinguish your new contributions from that earlier work. If this isn't clear to the examiners, you may be asked to clarify.

Brian Borchers's user avatar

I attended about a dozen PhD defenses and recently defended my own PhD. Based on my (very limited) experiences, questions can be roughly categorized into two types:

Knowledge : the first set of questions or statements are usually to test your knowledge on your topic, the related work and whatever you have written down in your thesis and/or papers. If you have done all the work, these are mostly fairly easy to answer and are your way to demonstrate the awesome work you have done. These questions are to clarify, justify and frame your work related to others, in order to get a solid understanding of your contribution. Examples:

  • Can you explain what you mean with #concept you introduce#?
  • Why did you categorize or describe #your concept# in this way?
  • I believe #your topic# relates to #other guys theory# in such a way, which introduces an interesting contradiction. Can you comment or elaborate on this?
  • What is the main limitation of your work, and how could you address it?

Reasoning : committee members may also ask provocative or even harsh questions to see how strong you believe in your work but also whether you can transcend your topic and reason on a higher level. These questions or statements can be directly related to your topic but can also be more general. These types of questions are usually given to see how well the candidate performs when put under pressure and when they are questioned about things beyond their thesis. These can be interpreted as "nasty" questions, but remember that you can turn the questions around to your advantage. Examples:

  • Why do you believe this is science? What is science?
  • You spend #x# years researching this? Why did you choose the topic and why should we and the community care about it?
  • I don't see the contribution in your work, can you explain?
  • Why do you think you deserve a PhD?
  • Why did you choose this specific application domain?

Again, this is based on my personal limited experience, but it applied to my PhD defense as well.

dsfgsho's user avatar

You do not have much influence on the questions from the committee. If your PhD studies were more or less normal and you got that far, everyone wants you to succeed. They will not ask anything incredible (if they are relatively normal as well).

As for the public questions, my experiences are :

the friends you gave questions to. You have to choose the ones who have good reflexes to jump up and down when time for public questions come. You also have to train the "what a surprising question look"

the odd colleague who decided to ask a question about something related to your field, but far enough for you to have no idea. You sweat a lot, visualize him hanging on a tree and hope for the best. Best is to answer whatever you know on the subject and everyone acts happy. If he persists then you ask him what is his view on the subject so that he sits down ashamed mumbling "I have no idea"

finally the 173 years old professor who absolutely wants you to discuss his article from 1952. You thank for the question and talk about the article from 2012 someone wrote on a related subject.

(events described above actually happened to me in the course of my 2 hours defence)

WoJ's user avatar

  • 1 Even though I will not ever have to go though a PhD defense anymore, it would have been great to understand the downvotes. –  WoJ Commented Jul 12, 2015 at 17:59

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questions to ask at a dissertation proposal defense

Home » Feature » Top 18 Possible Questions in a Thesis Defense

Top 18 Possible Questions in a Thesis Defense

A thesis defense is an important milestone in a student’s academic career. It is a chance for the student to demonstrate that they have learned the material and are able to defend their work in front of their peers and professors. The thesis defense is also an opportunity for the student to learn more about what it takes to be a successful researcher. In order to prepare for the thesis defense , the student should review their research paper and practice speaking about their findings. They should also be prepared to answer questions from the audience.

When you’re ready to present your thesis to your professor, you’ll likely have a few questions in mind. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Here are the ten most common questions and what to expect when defending your work.

What should you expect during your thesis defense?

Your thesis defense is the culmination of your graduate studies. It is a time to showcase your hard work and intellectual prowess. You will be questioned by your committee, who will be looking for evidence that you understand your research and can defend it against criticism. Be prepared to answer questions about your research, methodology, findings, and implications. You may also be asked about your future plans and how you see your research impacting the field of study. Be confident and poised during your defense; it is an opportunity to demonstrate that you are a scholar worthy of a degree.

Top 18 Questions and Answers During Thesis Defense

A graduate student’s academic career isn’t complete without a successful defense of a thesis. For graduate students, the defense of their thesis before a panel of experts is a critical step in the process of proving the validity of their findings. To help you prepare for your own thesis defense, we’ve compiled a list of 18 frequently asked questions and their associated answers.

1. What are the main findings of your thesis?

In your response, you should briefly summarize your investigation. The question is straightforward but requires technical knowledge for a more complete explanation of the concepts. For instance, if you were attempting to describe the relationship between job satisfaction and affective commitment in a thesis, you could construct your response as follows:

The main findings of my thesis are that there is a significant relationship between job satisfaction and organizational commitment and that this relationship is mediated by affective commitment. Additionally, I found that there is a significant relationship between affective commitment and turnover intention.

2. Why did you choose this study?

This question demands that you explain your initial motivation for pursuing the topic. Your responses may touch on your own research interests. For instance, if you did a study titled “The Extent of State Obligations in Preventing and Combating Human Trafficking: Challenges and Perspectives for a Philippine Human Rights-Based Approach,” your response could be as follows:

I chose this study because human trafficking is a grave violation of human rights and a pressing global issue. The Philippines is considered a source, transit, and destination country for human trafficking, making it an appropriate context for examination. By exploring the extent of state obligations in preventing and combating human trafficking, I aim to shed light on the challenges faced by the Philippine government in fulfilling its duties. Additionally, I seek to highlight the potential of a human rights-based approach to address this issue effectively. Through this research, I hope to contribute to the existing literature and generate practical recommendations for policymakers and stakeholders in the Philippines and beyond. Ultimately, my goal is to contribute to the eradication of human trafficking and the promotion of human rights on a broader scale.

3. What is the significance of your findings?

The response to this research question should describe the influence of your work on your field of study. You may discuss the fresh insights that your study has contributed and their impact on society.

The significance of my findings is that they could help to improve the accuracy of predictions made by machine learning algorithms. My thesis defense was important because it showed that my research is valuable and has the potential to make a contribution to the field of machine learning.

4. How did you go about conducting your research?

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as the research process will vary depending on the topic of your thesis and the methodology you’re using. However, in general, you’ll want to start by finding relevant literature and articles, then designing and conducting experiments or surveys to collect data, and finally analyzing and interpreting your findings. You’ll also need to present your findings in a clear and concise way in your thesis defense.

5. What sources did you use for data collection?

You would have looked for information on your topic from a variety of sources. You are free to expand on those sources. You could have used databases, web content, or even conducted primary research by interviewing prospects. As a result, you can discuss these sources. Please see the following response:

For data collection, I used a variety of sources, including both primary and secondary sources. For my primary sources, I conducted interviews with experts in the field and collected survey data from consumers. For my secondary sources, I analyzed studies conducted by other researchers as well as data from government agencies and private companies.

6. What are the limitations of your research?

This is another easy question that is hard to answer. Most of the time, the question isn’t asked to help you feel better but to find ways to criticize your work. You have to be careful with your words if you want to answer this question, or you might get yourself in trouble. Be careful not to sell yourself short. Do not talk about the problems with your methods or how you analyzed the data. This could make it seem like your study is biased or not well done. Instead of putting limits on your study, use simple things like how hard it is to combine lectures and projects.

My research is focused on the use of big data and machine learning in marketing. However, there are many other applications for these technologies that I am not able to explore in my thesis. Additionally, there are many potential pitfalls with using big data and machine learning that I am not able to explore in my research.

7. What are the implications of your findings?

This question concerns the application of your study. You should discuss how your study benefits society and how it might aid in resolving pressing problems.

The implications of my findings are that more research is needed to fully understand the effects of climate change on plant communities. Additionally, my research suggests that climate change may lead to a decline in plant diversity, which could have serious consequences for ecosystems.

8. How does your thesis contribute to existing knowledge in your field?

Explain how your research will add to the existing body of knowledge. To answer this question, you must describe how your research will serve the government in policy formation and execution, how it will aid other students who may wish to conduct research on the topic, and how organizations and society will benefit from your research.

My research is significant because it has the potential to improve the accuracy of predictions made by machine learning algorithms. This could have a major impact on a wide range of industries, including finance, healthcare, and manufacturing.

9. What are the future research directions that could be taken based on your findings?

You should be able to discuss the new fields of research that have been opened up as a result of your research as a researcher. Researchers in the future will be able to use this as a starting point. For instance,

The future research directions that could be taken based on my findings are:

  • Investigating the effects of different types of music on cognitive function.
  • Examining the effects of music listening on mood and emotions.
  • Studying the long-term effects of music listening on cognitive function.

10. In a few sentences, can you tell us what your study is all about?

In your response, you should briefly summarize your investigation. The question is straightforward but requires technical knowledge for a more complete explanation of the concepts. For instance, if you wrote a thesis attempting to explain the effects of various types of stress on memory, you could structure your response as follows:

My study is about the effects of different types of stress on memory. I am looking at how different types of stressors, such as physical or psychological stress, affect people’s ability to remember things.

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

As a researcher, it is critical that you choose a title that accurately reflects the content of your thesis. How did you make the final decision to name your work? Your committee will want to know that. For instance,

The title of my research is “The Role of Social Media in the Political Process.” I chose this title because I think social media has a huge role to play in the political process. I’m interested in how social media can be used to engage people in the political process and how it can be used to spread information about candidates and issues.

12. What is the scope of your study?

In your response, you must define the scope of your study and precisely what you are researching. There may be several elements involved, but you must define the parameters you have chosen to investigate. As an example,

The scope of my study is to analyze the effects of a new management style on employee productivity. The elements involved in the study are the employees of a company who will be randomly divided into two groups, one with the new management style and one without. The parameters of the study are the number of employees in each group, the length of time the study will be conducted, and the productivity metric that will be used.

13. Who will be most interested in your research?

You can discuss who might be affected by your research and who might benefit from it. Consider the following example:

The people who will be most interested in my research are other researchers in the same field. They will be interested in my findings and how they can apply them to their own work. I also hope that my research will be of interest to the general public, as it could have implications for their everyday lives.

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

Every research study must address an issue. Your ability to solve this challenge and explore previously unexplored places earns you the maximum possible score for this response. You must be able to persuade the committee members that your technique is novel and that it has covered regions where little research has been conducted by other researchers.

The gaps that I intended to bridge with my research were the lack of knowledge about the role of emotions in decision-making and the lack of understanding of how people make decisions under stress. My research aimed to fill these gaps by exploring how emotions affect decision-making and how people make decisions under stress.

15. What research findings surprised you?

When conducting research, you discover results that you did not anticipate. If you have had such an incident, you may describe it to the evaluation committee in your response. For instance,

I was surprised by how little difference there was between the test scores of students who attended private and public schools. I also found that the achievement gap between rich and poor students is much wider than I expected.

16. What is the validity of your findings?

You must discuss the criteria under which your research findings are valid.

The validity of our research findings is based on the accuracy and precision of our data. Our data was collected using a valid and reliable survey instrument, which means that our findings are likely to be accurate. Additionally, our results were analyzed using appropriate statistical techniques, which increases the reliability of our findings.

17 . What theories or theoretical framework is your study based on?

This is a very technical but intriguing question. Before entering the defense room, you should be familiar with at least two relevant theories related to your research.

The study is based on the theory of planned behavior. This theory looks at the factors that influence people’s intentions to behave in a certain way. It includes beliefs about the behavior, attitudes towards the behavior, and social norms regarding the behavior.

18 . Based on your findings, what are your recommendations?

In every research study, recommendations are very important and should not be taken lightly. In the end, you should be able to give your recommendations at any given time.

Based on my findings, I recommend that businesses focus on creating valuable content and building relationships with their customers. They should also strive to create a strong online presence through social media and SEO.

How to Prepare for Your Thesis Defense

First, make sure you know what is expected of you during the defense. Familiarize yourself with the format and the questions that will be asked. Next, practice presenting your thesis to others. Get feedback and work on refining your presentation. Finally, be prepared to answer any questions that may be thrown your way.

The thesis defense is a nerve-wracking experience, but it is also a chance to show off all of your hard work. Be sure to prepare for the questions that will be asked of you, and remember to relax and have fun. By preparing for these questions, you can ensure that your defense goes as smoothly as possible. The thesis defense is an important milestone in your academic career, so congratulations on making it this far!


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