Preparing a Presentation for Your Thesis/Dissertation Defense

The development of your thesis presentation is your first opportunity to showcase your work. Your presentation should be about one-half hour long and should concentrate on your findings and recommendations.

A sample outline of your presentation might look like this:

  • goal/objectives of the research (2 min)
  • literature review/theoretical framework (5 min)
  • methodology (5 min)
  • findings (10 min)
  • recommendations (5 min)

Presentation Tips:

  • Practice your presentation at home. This will help increase your comfort level with the slides and  speakers notes, the timing of each piece of your presentation and allow you to remain within the recommended time for the presentation. Practice will provide you with the means to speak to your work without relying on your speakers notes word-for-word. Some of the best presentations are done by those who don’t have to rely on their speakers notes, but can expand on their statements in their own words.
  • The findings and recommendations are the crux of your thesis defense presentation. The literature review, theoretical framework and methodological/ethical issues should form the backdrop and context for these findings.
  • Develop your presentation starting with your findings and recommendations and work backwards. By understanding which pieces of your literature review and theoretical framework are needed to support your findings, you will ensure all of the appropriate information is included. This also helps you make decisions about the inclusion of extraneous information, which may be interesting but may not support your findings and recommendations.
  • As mentioned above, the thesis defense is the time to showcase the time and effort you have put into your thesis. However, keep in mind that your audience is not always familiar with your topic. When developing your presentation, try to ensure that there are no inherent assumptions in your statements; spell out your rationale for your findings and recommendations. Not only will this help your audience better understand your research, it might ward off a few questions at the end of your presentation!

Development of the slides:

The information you include in your slides helps to formulate the flow of the presentation. Your slides are intended to provide an outline of what you would like to say and should not include, word for word, your presentation. Short, concise, summary statements will make the most impact with your audience.

You could have a slide for each of the following:

  • Problem statement or Hypothesis
  • “Why is this a Hard Problem?”
  • Approach or Methodology
  • “Why is this Innovative?”
  • Assumptions and Constraints
  • Initial Results (Promise of Great Things to Come)
  • Validation Plan
  • Limitations and Applicability
  • Expected Contributions
  • “What’s beyond this thesis?”
  • Roadmap of Thesis

Hints:

  • Include only key words or phrases on the slides for your presentation. This will help your audience concentrate on you, not on your slides.
  • Diagrams, picture, graphs, charts etc. are always helpful. In the case of your thesis defense it can help you share key pieces of information in a visually stimulating manner. For example, the inclusion of graphs rather than tables or the use of flow charts will help make your findings more  user-friendly.

Be prepared to answer the following questions to defend yourself:

  • Why will your work change the world (or at least your field)?
  • What would you do differently, if you had a do-over?
  • How will you know you are done? What does success mean?
  • How much of your work can be generalized?
  • What part of the work was research and what was engineering?

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