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Where Can I Get Help Writing My Thesis Online?

defend my phd thesis

You’ve spent years preparing for your master’s degree or PhD. You’ve read, studied and spent hours of time and energy writing papers. Now you’ve arrived at the culmination of all this effort: writing your thesis. There are plenty of compelling stories about the time and energy that students have spent drafting their dissertations and theses.

The good news is that you’re not alone. While you certainly don’t want to hire someone to write your thesis for you, which goes against most institution policies and puts your academic integrity at risk, you can get plenty of help with certain aspects of your thesis online. Whether you’re looking for a little guidance or extensive assistance, various services can make writing or editing your thesis go smoothly.

Dissertation Editor

One of the greatest challenges of writing your thesis can be juggling your family or job responsibilities with your studies. The time that writing takes can add another layer of obligation to your already-packed schedule. Dissertation Editor is a company whose founder is a PhD-educated writer and professor, and it promises to help you complete your thesis or dissertation on time and in compliance with your university’s rules and regulations.

defend my phd thesis

Dissertation Editor’s primary function is to guide you along in the writing process and provide a helping hand in understanding everything you need to take care of. It places you with a writer who specializes in your area of study, and this individual can help you organize and analyze your research while making sure that your thesis fits your writing style and personality. This company also specializes in helping with any statistical analysis that you use in your thesis.

Thesis Helpers

If you’re concerned about using a service to help you write your thesis because you think it’ll be obvious that you hired help, don’t worry. Thesis Helpers puts its team of experienced writers to work for you to help you craft a thesis that finishes your degree on a high note. No matter what level of help you need, from narrowing down a topic to advanced editing and proofreading, they’re available to help.

defend my phd thesis

The writers have advanced degrees in their areas of expertise, and one of the best things about Thesis Helpers is that it gives you ultimate say in the final product of your thesis. This company can help you with revisions and additional research, and you can rest assured that your thesis will meet anti-plagiarism standards.

Best Dissertation

Sometimes when you’re writing a thesis or dissertation, you can get stuck on one section or chapter. You may not need assistance writing the whole thing, but getting some help with the exact portion you’re struggling with can come in handy. That’s one of the strengths of using Best Dissertation . You don’t have to rely on it for help with your entire thesis if it’s not what you need.

defend my phd thesis

Like most of the top thesis-assistance services, Best Dissertation employs writers with advanced degrees who specialize in various fields of study. What truly sets this company apart is the live support that it offers any time of the day or night. It claims to take the stress and strain out of writing your dissertation or thesis.

While some companies place a premium on helping you get your thesis written, others emphasize the editing and proofreading process. If you don’t need help with writing but need a hand with proofreading and editing, Scribbr is a good option for you. Its editors can help you get a grasp on the grammar and tone that are appropriate for academic writing.

defend my phd thesis

Scribbr doesn’t just provide boilerplate feedback that you can find anywhere. It offers personalized feedback aimed at helping you become a better writer in the long run. You can even see examples of how its editors work by looking at the company’s website.

My Assignment Help

Writing a thesis has its own challenges that other academic writing simply doesn’t, which is why the team at My Assignment Help offers its particular brand of expertise. If you need assistance with a dissertation or thesis at the PhD or master’s level, its writers have the level of education and experience to help you write an expertly crafted and edited thesis.

defend my phd thesis

My Assignment Help prides itself on hiring subject matter experts, meaning you can pair up with a helper who already has an advanced degree in your field. They understand the nuances of academic writing that are specific to your area of study, and they can provide advice on everything from making your abstract more unique to crafting a thought-provoking conclusion.


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Defending your doctoral thesis: the PhD viva

Format for defending a doctoral thesis.

Every institution will have specific regulations for the thesis defence. In some countries or institutions, the convention is for thesis defences to be public events where you will give a lecture explaining your research, followed by a discussion with a panel of examiners (opponents). Both your examiners and the audience are able to ask questions.

In other countries, including the UK, the oral examination is usually conducted behind closed doors by at least two examiners, usually with at least one being from another institution (external examiner) and an expert in your topic of research. In the UK the supervisor does not participate in the viva, but may be allowed to observe. Sometimes someone from your own institution is appointed as an independent chair. Although it is now becoming more common for the candidate to have an opportunity to give a public lecture in UK institutions, this does not form part of the examination and may or may not be attended by the examiners.

Viva preparation

Take the preparation for your viva seriously and devote a substantial amount of time to it. The viva preparation checklist may be useful to help you prepare.

Your institution may offer courses on viva preparation and there may be opportunities to organise a practice viva. Take advantage of these opportunities: they can be extremely valuable experiences.

Things you may wish to take with you

  • your thesis – mildly annotated if you wish
  • a list of questions that you might be asked and your planned responses
  • any questions that you want to ask your examiners
  • additional notes which you have made during your revision
  • list of minor corrections that you have come across during your revision.

During the viva

Your study will have strengths and weaknesses: it is essential that you are prepared to discuss both. You could think of any weaknesses as an opportunity to demonstrate your skill at critical appraisal. Examiners will seek to find and discuss weaknesses in all theses. Do not interpret criticism as indication of a possible negative outcome.

Examiners have different personalities, styles and levels of experience. Sometimes a candidate may feel that a challenge is made in a confrontational way. Experienced, effective examiners will not be inappropriately confrontational, but some will. Do not take offence. A relaxed, thoughtful, and non-confrontational response from you will help re-balance the discussion. Having an independent chair can help maintain a constructive environment.

Useful tips for during your viva:

  • Ask for clarification of ambiguous questions or ask for the question to be repeated if necessary
  • Take time to think before answering
  • Be prepared to ask questions and enter into a dialogue with your examiners
  • Be prepared to discuss your research in context of other work done in your field
  • Be ready to admit if you don't know the answer to a question
  • Be prepared to express opinions of your own

You are not expected to have perfect recall of your thesis and everything that you have read and done. If you get flustered, or need to refer to notes your examiners will understand. They have been in your situation themselves!

After your viva

There are several possible outcomes   of a thesis defence. Most commonly, your examiners will recommend to your institution that you are awarded your degree subject to minor corrections, although in some instances they might ask for more substantial work.

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Enago Academy

13 Tips to Prepare for Your PhD Dissertation Defense

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How well do you know your project? Years of experiments, analysis of results, and tons of literature study, leads you to how well you know your research study. And, PhD dissertation defense is a finale to your PhD years. Often, researchers question how to excel at their thesis defense and spend countless hours on it. Days, weeks, months, and probably years of practice to complete your doctorate, needs to surpass the dissertation defense hurdle.

In this article, we will discuss details of how to excel at PhD dissertation defense and list down some interesting tips to prepare for your thesis defense.

Table of Contents

What Is Dissertation Defense?

Dissertation defense or Thesis defense is an opportunity to defend your research study amidst the academic professionals who will evaluate of your academic work. While a thesis defense can sometimes be like a cross-examination session, but in reality you need not fear the thesis defense process and be well prepared.

Source: https://www.youtube.com/c/JamesHaytonPhDacademy

What are the expectations of committee members.

Choosing the dissertation committee is one of the most important decision for a research student. However, putting your dissertation committee becomes easier once you understand the expectations of committee members.

The basic function of your dissertation committee is to guide you through the process of proposing, writing, and revising your dissertation. Moreover, the committee members serve as mentors, giving constructive feedback on your writing and research, also guiding your revision efforts.

The dissertation committee is usually formed once the academic coursework is completed. Furthermore, by the time you begin your dissertation research, you get acquainted to the faculty members who will serve on your dissertation committee. Ultimately, who serves on your dissertation committee depends upon you.

Some universities allow an outside expert (a former professor or academic mentor) to serve on your committee. It is advisable to choose a faculty member who knows you and your research work.

How to Choose a Dissertation Committee Member?

  • Avoid popular and eminent faculty member
  • Choose the one you know very well and can approach whenever you need them
  • A faculty member whom you can learn from is apt.
  • Members of the committee can be your future mentors, co-authors, and research collaborators. Choose them keeping your future in mind.

How to Prepare for Dissertation Defense?

dissertation defense

1. Start Your Preparations Early

Thesis defense is not a 3 or 6 months’ exercise. Don’t wait until you have completed all your research objectives. Start your preparation well in advance, and make sure you know all the intricacies of your thesis and reasons to all the research experiments you conducted.

2. Attend Presentations by Other Candidates

Look out for open dissertation presentations at your university. In fact, you can attend open dissertation presentations at other universities too. Firstly, this will help you realize how thesis defense is not a scary process. Secondly, you will get the tricks and hacks on how other researchers are defending their thesis. Finally, you will understand why dissertation defense is necessary for the university, as well as the scientific community.

3. Take Enough Time to Prepare the Slides

Dissertation defense process harder than submitting your thesis well before the deadline. Ideally, you could start preparing the slides after finalizing your thesis. Spend more time in preparing the slides. Make sure you got the right data on the slides and rephrase your inferences, to create a logical flow to your presentation.

4. Structure the Presentation

Do not be haphazard in designing your presentation. Take time to create a good structured presentation. Furthermore, create high-quality slides which impresses the committee members. Make slides that hold your audience’s attention. Keep the presentation thorough and accurate, and use smart art to create better slides.

5. Practice Breathing Techniques

Watch a few TED talk videos and you will notice that speakers and orators are very fluent at their speech. In fact, you will not notice them taking a breath or falling short of breath. The only reason behind such effortless oratory skill is practice — practice in breathing technique.

Moreover, every speaker knows how to control their breath. Long and steady breaths are crucial. Pay attention to your breathing and slow it down. All you need I some practice prior to this moment.

6. Create an Impactful Introduction

The audience expects a lot from you. So your opening statement should enthrall the audience. Furthermore, your thesis should create an impact on the members; they should be thrilled by your thesis and the way you expose it.

The introduction answers most important questions, and most important of all “Is this presentation worth the time?” Therefore, it is important to make a good first impression , because the first few minutes sets the tone for your entire presentation.

7. Maintain Your Own List of Questions

While preparing for the presentation, make a note of all the questions that you ask yourself. Try to approach all the questions from a reader’s point of view. You could pretend like you do not know the topic and think of questions that could help you know the topic much better.

The list of questions will prepare you for the questions the members may pose while trying to understand your research. Attending other candidates’ open discussion will also help you assume the dissertation defense questions.

8. Practice Speech and Body Language

After successfully preparing your slides and practicing, you could start focusing on how you look while presenting your thesis. This exercise is not for your appearance but to know your body language and relax if need be.

Pay attention to your body language. Stand with your back straight, but relax your shoulders. The correct posture will give you the feel of self-confidence. So, observe yourself in the mirror and pay attention to movements you make.

9. Give Mock Presentation

Giving a trial defense in advance is a good practice. The most important factor for the mock defense is its similarity to your real defense, so that you get the experience that prepares for the actual defense.

10. Learn How to Handle Mistakes

Everyone makes mistakes. However, it is important to carry on. Do not let the mistakes affect your thesis defense. Take a deep breath and move on to the next point.

11. Do Not Run Through the Presentation

If you are nervous, you would want to end the presentation as soon as possible. However, this situation will give rise to anxiety and you will speak too fast, skipping the essential details. Eventually, creating a fiasco of your dissertation defense .

12. Get Plenty of Rest

Out of the dissertation defense preparation points, this one is extremely important. Obviously, sleeping a day before your big event is hard, but you have to focus and go to bed early, with the clear intentions of getting the rest you deserve.

13. Visualize Yourself Defending Your Thesis

This simple exercise creates an immense impact on your self-confidence. All you have to do is visualize yourself giving a successful presentation each evening before going to sleep. Everyday till the day of your thesis defense, see yourself standing in front of the audience and going from one point to another.

This exercise takes a lot of commitment and persistence, but the results in the end are worth it. Visualization makes you see yourself doing the scary thing of defending your thesis.

If you have taken all these points into consideration, you are ready for your big day. You have worked relentlessly for your PhD degree , and you will definitely give your best in this final step.

Have you completed your thesis defense? How did you prepare for it and how was your experience throughout your dissertation defense ? Do write to us or comment below.

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The tips are very useful.I will recomend it to our students.

Excellent. As a therapist trying to help a parent of a candidate, I am very impressed and thankful your concise, clear, action-oriented article. Thank you.

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Eva Lantsoght

November 30th, 2021, defending a phd thesis is an emotional moment candidates and supervisors should be prepared for.

4 comments | 48 shares

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

The PhD defence, or viva, is significant academic rite of passage, which as well as marking the culmination of years of study, can also be a highly charged emotional moment.   Drawing on years of collecting accounts of PhD defences on her blog and her recent book (Planning and Passing Your PhD Defence, co-authored with Olga Degtyareva),  Eva Lantsoght , discusses how both PhD students and supervisors can benefit from a more engaged understanding of the emotions underlying the PhD defence. 

In the days leading up to my doctoral defence, I had a recurring nightmare about my supervisor forgetting to show up for my defence. I was well-prepared, and since I was defending in the Netherlands, my thesis was already printed and approved. Failing was virtually impossible. Why then, was I nervous about my doctoral defence to the point of having recurring nightmares?

After eventually passing my doctoral defence, I decided to collect stories about the doctoral defence (or viva, depending on the country) around the world for my blog. I was originally fascinated by the differences between defence formats (such as the sword newly minted doctors receive in Finland and the medal in Chile ). Over time, however, I started to see that below the superficial differences, all types of defence show similarities. One is that there is always an emotional dimension to the defence. My worries before my defence were hardly an isolated case. Many doctoral candidates report strong emotions around thesis submission, in the weeks leading up to the defence, during the event, and even afterwards, when the post-defence blues may kick in.

Typically, discussions on the doctoral defence centre around the scholarly dimension. A defence is often viewed solely as an academic event marking and evaluating the end of a research project

Typically, discussions on the doctoral defence centre around the scholarly dimension. A defence is often viewed solely as an academic event marking and evaluating the end of a research project. However, in our recent book Planning and Passing Your PhD Defence , which I co-wrote with Olga Degtyareva, we have paid special attention to the emotional dimension of the defence (of course, in addition to the scholarly dimension preparing for answering questions, and other traditional aspects related to the doctoral defence). This was in part because, we strongly felt that we shouldn’t consider the defence as a regular examination, where a standard set of criteria are used to assess a student. Besides its function as an examination, the defence is also a rite of passage, a confirmation, a celebration, and the culmination of years of independent research work. Emotions are murky and difficult to factor in for assessment. The emotions involved in the doctoral defence make it a unique event: for the candidate, the examiners (or committee members), and for the supervisor. Being aware of these emotions, and bringing them to light, is important to understanding the defence better and the role it plays in a research career.

In my work on the doctoral defence, I found (to my surprise) that the major differences between defence formats did not influence the candidates’ perception much . On the other hand, I did find important differences in the emotions felt by candidates related to the defence, as a function of socio-demographic aspects, notably gender. Women doctoral candidates experience more negative feelings before the defence, and if they had a negative experience during the defence, the negative impact on their perception as a researcher could often be long-lasting. Being aware of how different groups experience the emotions related to the defence differently is important, especially for supervisors and examiners, and can be empowering for candidates. Besides simply being aware of the emotional dimension, it can also enable the small changes that can help settle things when emotions run high: taking a short break, offering water, getting up to open a window, or moving to another topic of the thesis.

defend my phd thesis

While each PhD candidate, each research study, and each PhD trajectory are unique, there are some common emotions that deserve to be mentioned. First of all, in the weeks or days leading up to thesis submission, candidates often feel that the work is not enough, worthless, or otherwise insufficient, and these feelings can contribute to perfectionism. Other candidates may be so tired of the thesis that every small action may feel like a terrible chore. Some feel relieved upon submission, and others worry about how it will be received.

Many candidates also worry about how they will perform. For candidates in the United Kingdom, where the viva takes place before final submission of the thesis and may determine the level of corrections required for the thesis, candidates worry about what the outcome of the thesis and viva will be. Major revisions could potentially add months to the doctoral journey. Because the viva is behind closed doors, candidates also may not know very well what to expect. In the Netherlands, where candidates are sure they will pass, other causes lead to worry and anxiety. As the defence is public, candidates feel the pressure to perform well in front of the committee, friends, colleagues, and family.

it is also important for supervisors and examiners to be aware of this emotional dimension, and to know how different groups of candidates experience these emotions

The first step in dealing with this anxiety, is to name and acknowledge it, and to know that these feelings are normal. Candidates who passed without corrections worry about passing their defence as much as those who had more work on their thesis after the defence. Breathing techniques, meditation, and relaxation exercises can help. University counselling services should be there to support as well. Being well-prepared for the day of the defence itself may also help candidates to feel more in control over the day and their feelings. A positive action, such as stopping by colleagues and expressing gratitude to them before the defence, can improve defence-day-anxiety. Many candidates feel more nervous right before and at the beginning of their defence. Taking notes, repeating the question, or asking for clarification of the question, are all valid options to start answering in a calm and controlled manner. At the end of the defence, candidates can be nervous to hear the outcome, and the minutes while the committee is in deliberation may feel like hours. Then, after hearing the verdict, often the final flood of emotions (relief, happiness, pride, or perhaps disappointment, anger, or worry about the thesis revision) comes.

Emotions play an important role leading up to and during the doctoral defence. Understanding the role of these emotions is important for candidates, so that they know that what they are feeling is normal, and does not mean that they are not worthy of a doctorate. At the same time, it is also important for supervisors and examiners to be aware of this emotional dimension, and to know how different groups of candidates experience these emotions. Being aware of and holding space for these emotions allows all those who are involved in the defence to experience the defence, not simply as a test of knowledge, but as the important moment it is, in the formation and affirmation of a new scholar.

Note: This article gives the views of the author, and not the position of the LSE Impact Blog, nor of the London School of Economics. Please review our  comments policy  if you have any concerns on posting a comment below.

Image Credit: Ralph Leue via Unsplash. 

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About the author

defend my phd thesis

Dr. Eva Lantsoght is a Full Professor in Civil Engineering at Universidad San Francisco de Quito in Ecuador and tenured assistant professor at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands. Her blog and co-hosted podcast PhD Talk addresses the mechanics of doing research, PhD life, and general academic matters. Find her @evalantsoght or at evalantsoght.com.

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In Australia there is no defence process and typically no discussion between the examiners…lots of secrecy and anonymity for some reason.

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What is a Thesis Defense?

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

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

What is a Thesis?

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

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

Defending the Work

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

Preparation for Your Thesis Defense

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

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

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Preparing for your PhD thesis defence

As you start thinking about the end stages of your PhD, it’s important to understand the processes and timelines related to the thesis defence so that your degree completion is not delayed. Even if your thesis defence seems far away, there are several planning considerations you can consider early on to help the end stages of your PhD go smoothly.

On this page you will find videos, tools, and information about what the PhD thesis defence is , timelines for the PhD thesis defence , and tips for a successful PhD thesis defence .

All PhD students should also ensure that they read the PhD thesis examination regulations and review the thesis preparation guidelines prior to their oral defence. If your thesis defence will be conducted remotely, you should also review the process for a remote thesis defence .

What is the PhD defence?

Understanding the purpose, processes and possible outcomes of the thesis defence can help you feel more prepared for the defence itself. In this video, you’ll learn about what the defence is, who’s there, what happens, and the deliberation and range of possible outcomes.

Transcript - Demystifying the thesis defence at University of Waterloo (PDF)

You may wish to learn more about some of the topics discussed in this video. Here are some helpful links to learn more:

Examination committee members (including the external examiner): Visit the PhD thesis examination regulations section on the  PhD thesis examining committee for more information about the committee members, including information about the external examiner and conflicts of interest.

  • Closed thesis defences and non-disclosure agreements: Visit the PhD thesis examination regulations section on guidelines for thesis examination without public disclosure for more information about closed thesis examinations.
  • Thesis defence decisions and outcomes: Visit the PhD thesis examination regulations section on  decisions for additional information about decisions and outcomes.
  • Thesis submission: Visit the thesis submission webpage for information about the thesis submission process, including approvals that must be obtained before submitting your thesis.
  • UWSpace: Visit the Library’s UWSpace webpage for information about what UWSpace is and how to submit, or deposit, your thesis to UWSpace.

Timeline to defence

Early planning considerations.

Well before your defence date, there are several considerations to think about that can help make the end stages of your degree go smoothly and ensure your defence date and degree completion are not delayed:

  • Being aware of formatting requirements will save you time on revisions later on – the last thing you want to be doing before submitting your thesis to UWSpace is updating page numbers or your table of contents! Consider using the Microsoft Word or LaTeX thesis template produced by Information Systems & Technology. 
  • The Dissertation Boot Camp can help you develop effective writing practices and strategies for completing your thesis, while the three-part Rock Your Thesis workshop series will provide practical guidance for planning, writing, revising, and submitting your thesis project. You can also book an individual appointment to do backwards planning with an advisor. They can help you utilize the planning tools most effectively, while providing hands-on guidance and feedback.  
  • If you are using third-party content, including your own previously published work in your thesis, or seeking intellectual property protection (for yourself or another involved party), there may be implications for your thesis or defence. Learn more about copyright for your thesis , and email [email protected] for help with copyright questions related to your thesis.
  • Depending on your departmental or discipline’s norms, you may require approval from your entire committee, or just your supervisor. Ensure you talk with your supervisor and/or committee early on to confirm processes and timelines, so you’re not surprised later.
  • Depending on your departmental or discipline’s norms, your supervisor may select an external examiner themselves, or they may seek your input. Talk to your supervisor early on about this process, as in some faculties the external examiner may need to be vetted and approved as early as the term before you wish to defend. Remember that there are conflict of interest guidelines around the appointment of the external examiner , and the PhD candidate should not be in communication with the external examiner prior to the defence.
  • A PhD thesis must be on display for a minimum of 4 weeks prior to the defence date. To accommodate, you may need to submit your thesis as early as 6-8 weeks prior to your defence. Review your faculty specific backwards planning tool for the thesis submission deadline in your faculty and learn more about the display period in the PhD thesis examination regulations.
  • After your successful thesis defence, you will likely have some required revisions to your thesis. It’s important to understand revision timelines , especially if you’re hoping to become “degree complete” before a tuition refund or convocation deadline. Find tuition refund and convocation deadlines in the important dates calendar .
  • Following your thesis defence, there are several steps to be taken before your final, approved thesis is accepted in UWSpace. Ensure that you’re aware of these thesis submission steps and timelines in advance.

Backwards planning tools

Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs, in collaboration with the Faculties, have prepared faculty specific backwards planning tools to help PhD candidates map out the timelines related to their thesis defence and degree completion.

Select your faculty below to download a PDF copy of the backwards planning tool. We encourage you to discuss your ideal timelines with your supervisor(s) and your department graduate program co-ordinator.

  • Faculty of Health backwards planning tool (PDF)
  • Faculty of Arts backwards planning tool (PDF)
  • Faculty of Engineering backwards planning tool (PDF)
  • Faculty of Environment backwards planning tool (PDF)
  • Faculty of Mathematics backwards planning tool (PDF)
  • Faculty of Science backwards planning tool (PDF)

Tips for success

The PhD thesis defence is the culmination of years of hard work! The tips outlined in this video, compiled from recent PhD graduates and experienced thesis defence chairs, cover tips for preparing for your defence, day-of logistics, and defending successfully.

Transcript - Your Thesis Defence: Tips for Success (PDF)

Will your PhD thesis defence be held remotely? We’ve compiled additional tips for success specifically related to the remote defence.

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Graduate Studies

Defend dissertation.

The doctoral final oral examination, or dissertation defense, is the last formal step before the dissertation manuscript is submitted and the doctoral degree awarded. The focus of the final examination is the dissertation and its relationship to the candidate’s field of study. Its purposes are:

1. To provide an opportunity for candidates to communicate the results of their research to a wider group of scholars; 2. To afford an opportunity for the members of the examination committee, as well as others (faculty, students, staff, etc.), to ask relevant questions; 3. To ensure that the research reflects the independence of thought and accomplishment of the candidate rather than excessive dependence on the guidance of a faculty member; and finally, 4. To ensure that the candidate is thoroughly familiar not only with the particular focus of the dissertation but also its setting and relevance to the discipline of which it is a part.

At least two weeks before the final examination is held, and no later than November 1 for Fall graduation, April 1 for Spring, or July 1 for Summer, the major graduate unit must notify Graduate Studies of its scheduled date by submitting the Announcement of Examination form . In order to defend during the intersession, the student must be registered for the following semester. The student is responsible for providing each member of the dissertation committee with a complete copy of the dissertation in ample time for review prior to the examination.

The presentation and examination phases of the exam are open to the University community and are published in various sources; the deliberation phase is only open to the committee. At the conclusion of the examination, the dissertation committee members confer and make one of the following recommendations, which must be agreed upon by at least three of them:

  • That the dissertation be approved without change;
  • That the dissertation be approved subject only to minor editorial corrections: or
  • That the dissertation be rewritten or revised before approval.

If the committee chooses either the first or second recommendation, they may decide that no further meetings are needed. In the second instance the director of the dissertation is responsible for seeing that all necessary corrections are made before the dissertation is submitted to Graduate Studies. If the third recommendation is made, the full committee may elect to meet again to determine that their concerns have been addressed.

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Writing a paper? Don't get lost.

How to prepare an excellent thesis defense

Thesis defence

  • What is a thesis defense?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • What happens at a thesis defense?

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

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

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

Your presentation

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

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

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

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

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

Questions from the committee

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

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

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

  • 6 tips to help you prepare for your thesis defense

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

1. Anticipate questions and prepare for them

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

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

2. Dress for success

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

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

3. Ask for help, as needed

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

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

4. Have a backup plan

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

5. Prepare for the possibility that you might not know an answer

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

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

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

6. De-stress before, during, and after

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Frequently Asked Questions about preparing an excellent thesis defense

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

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

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

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