My master thesis dissertation is approaching, but I have a few concerns. First of all, I am not native English speaker. When I practiced my presentation on my own (I recorded my speech), it was not coherent to me. I feel that the transition between each sentence might be difficult to understand. Can anyone instruct me or provide me a useful English speech that is commonly used for thesis defending?

Second of all, I have limited time to present my work, and I tried to make my presentation as possible as clear to outliers. So to make the presentation clear, I have prepared some background knowledge for my audience, but the time to introduce this background knowledge in bioinformatics is more than what I expected. What should I do? My expected audience has a background in computer science, while I finished my thesis in bioinformatics. Can anyone give me possible ideas? Is there any volunteer that can give a useful English speech for thesis defense? Thanks a lot.

3 Answers 3

  • Use short, simple sentences.

  • Write a draft script to go with your slides.

  • Find a friend or an editor for hire to check your draft script.

  • Make sure you understand each of the corrections this person provides.

  • Create a target listener. Ideally, this person will be well aligned with your committee members' profiles. Reduce the background information part of your talk as much as possible. Include only the background information your target listener really needs to hear.

  • Give practice talks to friends.

  • Videotape one of your practice talks. Many people gesture too much with their laser pointer or ruler, so watch out for that.

  • After your talk, during the Question period, make sure to repeat each and every question that is posed before you start to answer it. This will (1) ensure you have understood the question, (2) ensure everyone in the room has heard the question, and (3) buy you thinking time. Practice doing this.


I don't think there is anything special about thesis defending vs presenting your work in general at a conference or to a group of fellow researchers. So focus on English, not English for thesis defending.

I find that I'm better at writing English than speaking it. So I type out my presentations and read it from my tablet, looking up at pauses (commas and full stops). You can read and practice your speech many times to get better at the pronunciation and flow this way before the big day. If reading is out of the question, create a flow diagram of your argument with bullet points at each block that you can then use to build your arguments (if you are worried about staying coherent).

Is the audience native English speakers? If not, just apologise for your accent at the start, ask people to stop you if they don't understand, and take it very slow. People who are not native speakers understand, because they themselves struggle with this issue.

Regarding your second issue. Keep it short and sweet, clear and concise. Rather ask the audience to stop you and ask a question if they get lost, which you can then explain with explanation slides (located at the end of your presentation that you can quickly page to if required).


From experience, I would suggest to take part and listen to dissertations of your peers. Listening to others will help you understanding what is a good/bad practice in a presentation. Then, practice a lot if you do not feel sure.

It is good to spend time letting the audience understanding your work's background, but do not say to much! Just point out the main, important background information. For example, if the total presentation time is 20 minutes, I would divide it as: 7 min for background, 7 min for core of the project (e.g. method used, experimental setup), 5 minutes to show and comment the results, 1 min for conclusions.

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