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Defend Your Thesis

Schedule Thesis Defense

Once all members of the thesis committee have read and approved a complete thesis draft, students may schedule the oral thesis defense by submitting a completed Thesis Defense Information Form, to the Honors Program office. Students must provide a finalized draft of the thesis to their committee members at least one week prior to the defense, and make no additional changes to the thesis during the interim period until the defense.

Defend Your Thesis

At the oral thesis defense, a student presents their research and findings in a meeting with their thesis committee. Thesis defenses are open to the university community, and students may invite guests to attend. The thesis committee members examine the students’ work by asking detailed questions pertaining to the project. As prelude or postlude to the actual thesis defense, we encourage the Honors Coordinator to take 5-10 minutes to briefly review the student’s overall Honors experience.

While most defenses last between 60-75 minutes, participants are encouraged to schedule 90 minutes so that the proceedings will not be rushed. The thesis faculty advisor conducts the defense and is free to make any modifications to the agenda as necessary.

A typical Honors thesis defense proceeds as follows:

  • Introductions and Opening Prayer
  • Opening Presentation by the student (approximately 10-15 minutes). The student may use this time to talk about their interest in the project and give an overview of their research and findings. Some students use PowerPoint presentations, etc., but a visual presentation is not required and should not overshadow the Q&A discussion.
  • Questioning by the thesis committee members. The Q&A is the heart of a defense designed to test the quality of the student’s research and writing, as well as the limits, conclusions, or implications of the thesis. It provides an opportunity for the student to respond to the committee’s questions and think critically through the complete thesis process in a culminating experience.
  • Dismissal of candidate and other guests while committee deliberates
  • Committee Decision and Summary. The committee may make one of three judgments: 1) Pass: The thesis is complete and meets the full expectations of the examiners (minor revisions or corrections are permitted); 2) Pass with Qualifications: Thesis will be accepted upon completion of agreed upon revisions; 3) Recess: Major revision needed; requires the defense be reconvened.
  • Review of Students’ Honors and/or undergraduate experience (5-10 minutes)

Honors Policy Note: Unless restricted by University policy (i.e., Covid-19 protocols), students defending a thesis must be physically present on campus for the defense.  Students away from campus as they are finishing up a thesis are expected to return to campus to defend the finished thesis. The advisor must be physically present, together with the student, at the defense. Only the faculty reader or the Honors Coordinator may participate remotely.  Having a committee member (reader or Honors Coordinator) not in attendance should be rare, and must be approved in advance by all members of the thesis committee and the Honors Program office. Appropriate facilities should be used for the teleconference to assure quality interaction – not just a laptop screen. 

Once the defense is complete, members of the thesis committee complete and sign the Thesis Submission Form, indicating the decision of the committee and including summative comments from the advisor. This form must be returned to the Honors Program office (102 MSRB) by a member of the committee (not student) or via campus mail after the defense or all qualifications have been completed.