Senior Thesis Support
Surviving the Defense
The Senior Honors Thesis defense may take a variety
of forms based on the kind of project you completed.
Usually, the student presents the results of his or her
thesis, then the committee asks questions. The student
should also be prepared to ask questions to fine-tune
the thesis if he or she seeks publication or intends to
pursue the project further in graduate school.
- Fine Arts and Creative Projects: usually a
presentation or performance
- Sciences and Social Sciences: usually a poster
session and/or PowerPoint presentation
- Humanities: usually a discussion
Be Prepared to Answer These Kinds of Questions:
- In one sentence, what is the main point, claim,
or argument of your thesis?
- Specific questions about the content, argument,
and audience of your thesis:
- Why did you rely on Scholar X as opposed to
- Why did you decide to omit Theory Z?
- How did bringing together these two
different disciplines enrich or limit your
- Please clarify what you mean by this
statement on page 32 . . . .
- How does this project contribute to work in your
- How has your conception of this project changed
over the past year?
- By completing this project, what have you
learned about conducting research in your field?
- Were you unable to accomplish any aspects of
this project as you originally conceived it? Why?
- What part of the thesis process did you most
enjoy? What part was most difficult?
- What have you learned from doing a long-term
- If you had to do it all over again, what would
you do differently?
- Do you plan to continue this project/research,
and if so, how? (In other words, do you aim to
publish it, turn it into a master's thesis, compete
for a Fulbright, . . . ?)
Some Tips for Preparing for the Defense:
Remember: It's your thesis, and the
defense is your last chance to get professional feedback
about your work and your writing. So, plan the defense
(as best you can) to meet your needs and interests.
Re-read your thesis. Make any minor corrections.
(Usually, you will have time after the defense to
prepare the final manuscript for Tisch archives).
Anticipate the sections of your thesis that may raise
questions from your committee. Jot down any questions or
concerns about your thesis that you can ask your
committee at the defense.
If you will do a PowerPoint presentation, demonstration,
performance, reading, or poster session at your defense,
prepare for it thoroughly. Create professional-looking
visual aids. Practice your presentation so that you do
not go over the amount of time allotted (ask you
committee how much time you will have). Do a
dress-rehearsal for a small group of friends or with a
graduate tutor who can critique your performance and
help you improve it.
Arrange a "mock defense," with your friends playing the
role of your committee members. Practice giving a
presentation from notes or prepared text so that you can
read confidently and make eye contact. After your
presentation, your friends should ask questions about
your thesis so you get used to responding in a
professional and mature manner.
Spend some time in the room where your defense will be
held: arrange the chairs as you'd like them to be; sit
or stand and practice speaking aloud; visualize the
defense situation and the kind of exchange you want to
have with your committee.
Plan in advance what you will wear.
Get a good night's sleep the night before.
After the defense:
Make sure your advisor completes and signs the
Recommendation for Thesis Honors Form and
submits it to Dowling Hall by 5:00 PM the Friday of
Celebrate! You've earned some fun!
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