It is customary (at least from where I'm from) to have undergraduate and masters thesis viva voce with project demos. So far, I have never been to a PhD thesis defence viva voce which had a demo in it.

How (un)common is it to have a demo at a doctoral thesis defence concerning the fields of engineering, technology and especially computer science?


A project demo under this context refers to the demonstration of an important contribution put forward by the thesis defender. It may include one or more of the following

  • Practical application of concepts
  • Simulation of proposed algorithms
  • Live usecase demonstration
  • 4
    Please could you add a brief explanation of what a "project demo" is, for those outside your field? Oct 10, 2016 at 15:22
  • 1
    @user2390246 I've made the necessary edit as suggested. Kindly refer.
    – Ébe Isaac
    Oct 11, 2016 at 2:14

3 Answers 3


I've seen a couple of PhD defenses with demos (in engineering/computer science).

It's not common because many PhD theses don't naturally require a demo due to their subject, or because a demo would be logistically difficult (e.g. requires special equipment that can't be brought to the room where the defense will take place, or takes too long given the time allotted for the defense). Also, live demonstrations are somewhat prone to failure, and a PhD defense is not a good time for a failed demo :)

But if a major contribution of the thesis happens to be something demonstrable, and it's not too difficult logistically, then a demo can definitely enhance a defense. (If logistics are the issue, a short video of the demo can also enhance a defense.)

  • It was exactly what I was thinking about but just wanted to confirm. I see too many theses defenses that had a potential for a demo but was disappointed to see none.
    – Ébe Isaac
    Oct 10, 2016 at 18:28
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    @ÉbeIsaac and anyone doing a live demo on a defense: rehearse the heck out of the demo so it does not fail at the defense. Oct 10, 2016 at 20:12
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    @Mindwin And if possible, rehearse in the defense room and with the same equipment. It should be possible to borrow the room couple weeks before the defense for 1 or 2 hours.
    – yo'
    Oct 11, 2016 at 7:41
  • I have indeed seen people present videos of a demo, but never a demo live. This way there is no risk that the demo does not work, and you can fully prepare what needs to be shown in the video, which is not as easily done live especially when you have multiple different things to show.
    – Fatalize
    Oct 11, 2016 at 9:00
  • @Fatalize indeed; however, a video is not interactive as a live demo can be (e.g. in a live demo, an audience member can ask questions about some part and you can then show that part in greater detail than you had originally planned). It's a tradeoff.
    – ff524
    Oct 11, 2016 at 9:03

In computer science, a tool demo during a PhD defense is not the default case, but also not unheard of. In some CS areas such as software engineering or computer vision, a tool can be a research contribution in itself, and, therefore, lends itself to presentation at the defense.


I also have never seen a demonstration. However at PhD level there is a difference in that there will have been peer reviewed published work as evidence. This is not usually the case in Master or undergraduate thesis [in my experience].

  • 3
    Not every PhD requires a publication before the defense, although most do. Oct 10, 2016 at 15:14

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