You wake up in the morning, everything is normal, everything is as it should be. For a few moments your eyes still think it is just another ordinary day, except you suddenly realize, it isn’t.
You have work so hard for it, you know the theory, you have done the research, you have discussed it, you have written it, you have prepare it, now it is time, time for the culmination, time your thesis oral defense.
My field is engineering, but I have seen many friends in the field of business and art graduate and culminate their studies with a beautiful outstanding oral presentation. The following are some advises, encouragements and tips gather from my experience and my close relationships. I hope that if you are in this exciting moment of your life, this article can contribute, even if it is just a little, to that one last step you need to take before graduation.
Welcome to the beginning of the rest of your life
Actually, this process began when you chose to make a degree, whether it is a bachelor, master, Ph.D or other. The day you decided to take this step, your life changed. But you didn’t do it for a piece of paper, you did it for the knowledge, for the challenge, for the opportunities, you did it for you. That’s what this day is about, it is about you, your effort, your dedication, your passion, and it is about your future.
Am my words making you nervous? I think not, you already know the importance of this day. Your heart beats loud and fast, your mind is unsteady and perhaps your hands are sweaty, but don’t worry, this is normal. We all got nervous on that day, even if some people do not show it, or show it other ways, we all got nervous. Let me give you some encouraging words for that and at the same time let me give you some tips to excel on this magnificent day.
Before you start
I hope you get the chance to read this article before you even chose a topic, but if you didn’t then I hope you knew this.
Choosing your Topic
1. Be passionate about it.
Perhaps one of the most important points is choosing something you are truthfully interested in. If you like something you are going to be more motivated to finish it well. Plus, you will not think of it as a duty you have to complete. You will put more of yourself if what you are researching really wakes up your interest. So, DO NOT chose a topic just because there is nothing else. Ask yourself why would you want to do that? After all you are going to be spending a few months with it. The attitude towards your projects can be de defining point between succeeding or not. As the matter of fact, is THE defining point, so if you don’t love it, learn to love it.
2. Be relevant.
It does not matter your field or your interests, you have to think of something that people will be interested in. It is perfectly fine if you want to talk about “taking naps”. You just gotta present it in a way that it is useful for humanity and for the improvement of society. Instead of “relevant” I like to use the word “transcendental”, because ideally your topic will contribute to make the world a better place.
Choosing the right Advisor.
Depending on the field of study, you may first chose your advisor and then your topic, or if not you search of a topic you are interested in and then chose your advisor. Either the way, make sure you that the person guiding you is the right person. The comunication you have with him or her is of extreme relevance to the outcome. Does this person gets the best out of you? Does he or she inspires you?
You advisor will soon become your colleague and not only your professor. Your relationship should be smooth and friendly enough to work side by side. Remember, you will be meeting this person often, and that person will be grading you, your communication has to be good.
Developing the thesis
Let us assume that you love and you are passionate about topic. Let us also assume that your advisor is the best one you could have.
The only thing that will make your thesis flourish is reading others work and studying it. Notice that I am not saying “reading it” I said “studying”. On each of the journal papers your read, you have to stop analyse them, squeeze them and get all the useful stuff from it. This takes time but it is needful.
When I was doing my master thesis, I read about 5-8 journals a week and then discuss them with my advisor, because by repeating all the acquired information you make sure you learn it. It was habit of my research lab that we had to present and discuss with all the group, at least one journal a week. This way we get more brain storm, not only from the advisor but from the other students.
Not only with your advisor or lab group, discuss your research with everybody. It will not only make you feel more passionate about it, but you will slowly see if you have flaws or points where you need to improve. And perhaps you can get extra ideas from different people.
3. Don’t give up
It’s hard, it is complicated, and sometimes you may feel like you will not make it, but you have understand that you are the one who sets limits. Believe in yourself, in your abilities, in your capability. But if you really do not see a good outcome, do not linger too long and change some of the parameters before you have wasted too long on wrong assumptions. But DO NOT give up!
If you give up, you are not ready for the diploma!
Preparing for your oral presentation.
You are the end of the road, you just gotta do this one last step.
You might have had the chance to present before, or maybe this is the only time you are going to do it, either the way, you will be fine. You are the author of your work. While presenting you are the only one in the room who knows and understands fully the topic, not even your advisor is as expert in this field as you are.
1. Watch others
I truly recommend assisting to your friends or classmates and learn from them. The best would be to be present to your avisor’s other advisee’s presentations. Never assume that you are too good that there is nothing you can learn. At least try to assist to 2 defences.
If possible, have everything ready at least 1 week before. Try not to rush and do things as calmly as possible.
If it is under your possibilities try to get to know a little about the other memeber of your evaluating committee, so you know in advance their interest and what kind of questions they may ask.
3. Make a relevant presentation
You do not need to give too much of theory, the people evaluating you, are likely to already know this. Instead try to spend more time on the things you did. I know it is hard, because your topic is awesome and you also want to show off all the new things there are out there. But do not forget, it is about you and you are the most awesome one.
4. Make clear statements.
You are probably asked to make an outline, it might look something like this:
When you get to the objectives, actually say” The objective of this is…..” and when you get to the conclusion do not forget to make it strong and well defined. Do not be shy to say “It is concluded that…” Or “I concluded that….” . Do not be afraid to use that verb, “To concluded”. By saying it, you will draw the attention and you can finally say your discovery or outcome.
A couple of other tips,
- Number our slides
- Name your tables and graphs with a number and a short description
- When you finish the presentation, set it to a loop, so the first slide comes after the last one.
If you are not used to practice for a presentation , this is not like any presentation, this is your thesis oral defense. So, PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE. Practice at least 2 times with your advisor, the first time when you think you are ready and the second time, after you are sure you are ready. Practice with your friends, practice with our family, and then practice again. It is your deference, there is not such thing as over doing it. If you do not make it, you are going to have to wait to book another date and you won’t be able to graduate when you foresaw it. Don’t screw up all your effort because you didn’t practice enough.
The Thesis Final Oral Presentation
You made it, you are here, and you will succeed!
1. Get a good sleep.
2. Dress appropriate.
3. Be on time.
There is nothing else to say. You will do just fine. Do not ever dare to hesistate that your research unimportant. It isn’t! You have made it this far and it is worthy. You have spend time, effort and probably money on this. People believe in you. So, do not let the though of “It is nothing, it is not important” cross your mind. Because remember, it is about about, and you are important, you are relevant, you are trascendental.
I hope these encouragements and tips help you, and please let know how you did on your defence.
You do not need luck, I wish you the best of success!!!!
Please note that these are basic ideas and tips. It worked for me, but your case may be different. Take it as a reference.
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