I am going to present my thesis in the next week. I am in a confusion what I should present in the final defence (1 hour). How much into detail I should go. I have successfully given my pre-synposis. I am currently thinking about the thesis defence. To me it appears I should focus on my work rather than talking about others work. I have been told that in the defence there will be few members from other discipline. Taking this thing into consideration I think I should first convey the high level idea and then go into the detail. So that everyone in the panel have idea about my work.


2 Answers 2


Although this answer comes too late for OP, it may help others. If it is permitted at your institution, attend defense presentations of others before you must prepare your own. As others have said in comments or answers, thesis and dissertation defenses are highly variable and depend on the customs of the country, the institution, and even the individual department. Very best is to attend presentations of students whose committees are chaired by your own committee chair.

If you aren't able to attend a defense or two, try to talk to one or two people who successfully defended recently.

In either case, take notes, plan your defense, then review your plan with your advisor or committee chair. They'll appreciate that much more than an open-ended "What shall I do?" type question.

A word of comfort: Your advisor or chair should never let you reach the stage of defending unless you are ready. I know there are exceptions to that general rule, but your advisor wants you to succeed, not only for yourself, but also because an advisor looks bad when students fail.

  • 1
    Why the down vote? The best way to know what people in your program is to attend other defenses in your program. Commented Dec 15, 2020 at 17:02
  • I am not the downvoter, but I note that here in the UK, the nearest-equivalent events to thesis defences (viva voce examinations) are not open to attendance by anyone other than the candidate, the examiners, and at some institutions the (lead) supervisor. Commented Dec 15, 2020 at 17:21
  • @DanielHatton Thanks. I didn't know that. I'll edit the answer.
    – Bob Brown
    Commented Dec 15, 2020 at 17:24
  • @DanielHatton ... and also, I find it very helpful when people point out problems with what I post. Even if I can't correct the answer or choose not to, the comments help everyone who may read the answer in the future. So, thanks again!
    – Bob Brown
    Commented Dec 15, 2020 at 17:37

This depends quite a lot on the traditions in your country and your institution. My experience is with a "presentation" of the main results and a defense of how you arrive at those results. In math it would be a theorem statement and proof outline or at least (for a public defense) showing the general path that leads to the main results.

Another way to think of it is in terms of the question you originally set out to answer, then the answer, and then the basis on which you reach that answer.

If the "other members" will vote on your success then you need to tailor it to their understanding, rather than leaving them in the dark, especially if they are allowed to question you.

But, yes, focus on your own work and get to the essence of it. Both what you conclude and why you conclude it. If your work follows closely on earlier work of someone else, you can mention that briefly for context.

An excessive level of detail can be omitted, but be prepared for questions that might require that you give the detail.

But if this answer doesn't seem to ring true, then your traditions might be quite different from those I'm used to. In that case, speak with your advisor about this. They surely know what will work.

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