Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
Wheaton College
Academic Advising

Academics

Thesis Defense

Deadlines

Your thesis must be successfully defended, revised with any feedback from Committee members and printed on acid-free paper, ready to deliver to the Registrar’s Office at NOON, on the Monday of Senior Week.

This means that you need to defend your thesis by the Friday of exam week.

In Reality

Your committee members may be even more limited in time/availability. This means consulting all Committee Members early in the process. Fix the date with your committee members as early as possible. Fix the date with your committee members at least three weeks prior to the defense, preferably.

Three Weeks Before Your Defense

Meet with your thesis advisor to consult on the departmental “form” for thesis defenses. Plan to follow that format.

  • Does your department hold “open” thesis defenses? (Everyone is invited, students, faculty, staff—everyone).
  • Does your department tend to hold “closed” defenses? (Only Committee members invited—but do check to see if guests can be invited).
  • Other departmental specifics (such as preferred buildings, format, etc)
  • Talk with other Committee members. Determine if they want to read an advance draft of the thesis or whether they would rather just receive the final copy (with no expectation of giving you any conceptual, writing, or editorial feedback); Remember, two sets of eyes on a thesis are good. Three or four sets can catch most every typo and undecipherable phrase.
  • Confirm the availability of your Committee members and set the date of the thesis defense.
  • Arrange for the room and any equipment you need (e.g., computer terminal with Powerpoint or web access).

To arrange for a classroom, Media Center, or Holman Room during the day, contact the Associate Registrar Liz Ziroli. If you wish to use the 1960, 1962 Room, New Yellow Parlor in Balfour Hood or use Hindle or the Holman Room after 5:00, contact Gina Boyd in Events and Conferences in Balfour Hood. If you have equipment needs, you will need to confirm availability of the specific equipment with Ellen Kane in AV.

Two Weeks Before Your Defense

Submit your “near final” draft to your Committee chairperson (and any other Committee members who have agree to give you early feedback).
Let all members of your Committee know where the defense will take place.

One Week Before Your Defense

  • Check out the room in question. Look over the seating, AV, etc. Determine how you want to arrange the room. Get comfortable in the setting.
  • If possible, arrange to have the AV in place so that you can run through moving between media and getting comfortable with the equipment.
  • Get the final draft of your thesis to your Committee members for them to read.
  • Go over your presentation with your thesis advisor. Ask about probable questions.

The Day Before

  • Send a reminder to your Committee members, reminding them where and when the defense will be held.
  • Reread your thesis and make any minor corrections.
  • Call AV to confirm your equipment will be available.
  • Make sufficient copies of your Powerpoint slides/slides for your Committee members in the event your AV crashes on you.
  • Ensure your outfitt for the presentation is ready; this is to be a professional presentation, and you should dress accordingly (think business interview!)
  • Remind your Committee Chairperson to bring the thesis paperwork provided by the Registrar.
  • Print out on acid-free paper as many copies of the signature pages as you will be making into a bound copy of your thesis.

Practice your presentation

  • Generally, you will present for about 20-30 minutes
  • Each Powerpoint slide should take from one to two minutes for your audience to process. This means about 10-20 slides, maximum, in your presentation.
  • Speak slowly.
  • Be firm.
  • Do not read your slides; ensure that they are highlights of the points you will be making.
  • Get a good night’s sleep!

The Defense

  • Remember, it is YOUR thesis!
  • Ensure you have a complete copy of the thesis with you.
  • In a seminar room or classroom, you will meet with committee members and other interested audience.
  • In most cases, you will begin by giving a 20-25 minute formal oral presentation of your findings, using slides, overheads, etc., where appropriate
  • Your thesis director, as chairperson of the committee, will then invite questions from the committee and other members of the audience if it is an open defense.
  • Questions may range from detailed clarification of your research procedure to broad reflections on issues in your field of study, although the emphasis will be on your thesis itself.

Be prepared for these kinds of questions

  • In one sentence, what is the main claim, point, or argument of your thesis?
  • Why did you rely on Scholar X rather than Scholar Y? Why did you omit Theory Z? How did bringing together these two different disciplines enrich or limit your research?
  • Please clarify what you mean by this statement on...
  • How does your project contribute to knowledge in your field?
  • How has your conception of this project changed over time?
  • What have you learned about conducting research in this field?
  • Were you unable to complete any aspect of this project as originally conceived?
  • What part of the thesis did you most enjoy?
  • What would you do differently if you had to do it all over again?
  • Do you plan to continue this project?

This questioning can last up to an hour, after which the defense ends and the general audience leaves.

You will then leave the room for about ten minutes so that the committee can discuss the defense and any specific revisions or additions you must make in your final version of the thesis.

The committee will then notify you of their decision.

The Creative Arts Defense

The format for the defense of a thesis in creative arts is basically the same as for theses in other disciplines. The student must provide the written and visual portion of the thesis to the defense committee at least a week before the defense.

Then all members of the thesis defense committee attend the candidate’s art exhibition, design presentation or show, performance, etc.

A meeting with the committee for discussion is held either immediately following the show or performance or within a few days.

During this discussion, which should be about an hour long, the thesis director serves as a moderator, asking questions of the candidate and inviting questions from other members of the committee.

At the end of the discussion, the candidate leaves the room for about ten minutes so that the committee can discuss the defense and agree upon any specific revisions or additions that will be required for the final version.

Requested additions may include visual reproduction of the exhibition installation, design presentation, or show.

The committee then notifies the student of their decision.

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