Preparing for Your Thesis Defense
Today the 17th of June can be a stressful day, as we are in the home stretch now. Only one and a half days left, and those last bits take always way too much time. Nevertheless, we are convinced of ourselves that we will be there on time and drop off the thesis. Thereafter, only one obstacle blocks the successful graduation of your Master, the thesis defense. This article provides some tips and tricks on passing this defense, despite the fact that many people see at as an ‘instant graduation’, you do not want to be the person that has to wait till August to do it all again.
The Known but Often Neglected Tips
The thesis is handed in and the first thing you want to do is go outside, meet with friends, apply for jobs and drink lots of beer, pure logic! But bear in mind that the defense can be one week from now so do keep some room to prepare. The following tips might help you during your preparation.
- Read your thesis once again, do not focus on possible mistakes (which can be frustrating) but focus entirely on the content. What have you said, why, and how could they question it? You should try to walk back ‘thesis lane’ and think about the choices you have made in the past. Are they based on specific literature, a combination of researcher issues or data collection limitations? Whatever the reason, try to write them down and think immediately about a short but strong argumentation.
- It is recommended to let somebody else read your thesis as well. It does not have to be an Asset-student because it is also important that a non-economic person gets your story. The purpose of this action is to check the thesis from another perspective and let their point of view shed new light on your thesis.
- The last action you could undertake regarding this kind of preparation is to check your most important literature, how have they conducted the research, what were their main decisions and why does your thesis differ from these articles?
- The next step is to bundle the findings of the tips above and combine them into a list of points of interest and consequent arguments. Combining the list, thinking about the deviations and looking at different perspectives help you to prepare for the questions during the thesis defense.
These tips are purely content-wise, it is recommended to follow them because you do not have to prepare a Powerpoint presentation, which is always a nice moment to dive back into the project. Because this is not the case, there is less incentive to go back to your thesis (which you probably love and hate at the same time).
Besides the content-wise preparations, it is also crucial to prepare your short introduction of your thesis well. The first impressions matter and those 3-5 minutes are your moments to shine. So tell a story and take the researchers on a small trip, it is recommended to cover the following subjects:
- What gap have you identified in literature?
- Why is your thesis outstanding, think about uniqueness such as content, approach or data?
- What are your main theoretical implications?
- What are your managerial implications?
Answering these questions in your short presentation will allow you to justify your thesis, show that you are an expert and shape the context of the following conversation.
Besides the above, I have some small tips left to make your thesis a success.
- Balance your confidence, defending your thesis does not mean that you have passed the final test. However, you have traveled a long way and you are now an expert on this topic. Thus, you are allowed to be little nervous and they will understand it, some nerves can work more in your favor than a cocky attitude. At the end, you are still a human, which brings me to the next point.
- It might be possible that you do not have an answer, this can be because you never thought about it, because it is too far away from your thesis content, or just because they try to trick you. You should not try to answer it nonetheless because making up something wrong is worse than stating that you do not know the answer. Moreover, you can give a suggestion based on your knowledge: “based on my findings, you might suggest that X could influence Y in this specific way”.
- My last tip is to skip the well-known Asset-quarter, come on time, relax and be yourself. You showed your competence in the past years and this is probably your last moment of academic glory. So take this defense serious and blow them away.
This article is written from the perspective of an MSc Strategic Management student, I expect that the thesis defense will be similar in the MSc Supply Chain Management. However, this assumption turned out to be very costly for me after the Research Skills track, because many differences arose in perspective of the researchers. Nevertheless, it is still a thesis defense and many tips apply in general.