Master’s thesis seminar, August 31st 2012
The oral defence
– experiences of faculty and former students
Guidelines for the oral defence
The Master’s thesis must be defended at an oral defence. The oral defence
will always be individual, i.e. that even though the master's thesis has
been written by two students together, the two students must each defend
the thesis.
The individual oral defence will last approximately 45 min. per student plus
10 min. for determining the grade
(Please make sure you know the exact rules at your programme).
The student’s supervisor and an external examiner will be present at the
oral defence.
The purpose of the oral defence is:
partly to make sure that the student participating in the exam is in fact the one (s),
who have written the thesis
partly to elaborate on and to discuss in a broader context the areas which the
assessors find interesting.
to celebrate the end of your studies
The oral defence is held as a discussion between the student, the
examiner and the external examiner. These discussions serve to
- the intensions underlying the thesis and
- to elaborate on the student’s choices and decisions during the process.
It is not a traditional examination in syllabus
Finally is the purpose of the oral defence, to give the student an
evaluation and reason for the grade.
The oral defence will proceed as follows:
1. The student will start off with a presentation of one or more key issues of
the thesis.
2. Subsequently, a discussion of the thesis and the presentation of key
issues will take place, directed by questions from the examiner and
possibly the external examiner.
3. The student will then leave the examination room and the examiners will
make their assessment .
4. The student will receive his/her grade and the reason for it.
5. The assessment of the Master’s thesis consists of an overall evaluation
(that is a complete assessment) of the written master's thesis and the
oral defence.
The evaluation of the master's thesis consists of the
following elements:
The master’s thesis (exclusive of enclosures and appendices)
The executive summary (both content as well as spelling and expressive
The oral defence
The assessment of the master's thesis and the executive summary includes
both the academic content as well as the spelling and writing skills.
However, the academic content are emphasized the most.
Regarding the criteria underlying the assessment of the master’s thesis,
reference is made to the learning objectives and exam regulations written in
your programme regulations.
For master's theses written by two students the assessment will be carried out
individually, so grade differentiation between the two students may occur.
The presentation – what to include?
There is not just one way of doing it – ask yourself what you prefer to talk about.
Examples of things talk about:
• Inconsistencies, flaws and shortcomings
• Expand on issues in depth
• Expand on issues in their broader context
• New angles
• Issues that you delimited yourself from early on
• Issues you have researched, but not included in the thesis
• But don’t go out on a limb, thougt. What you say should still be relevant to
your topic.
How to prepare for the oral defence
Start working on your presentation in ample time before the defence.
Make a plan for what you would like to say during the presentation.
Create written materials like keywords, mindmaps, PowerPoints, a
commended agenda
- make them although you have no intention of using them!
Rehearse your presentation - speak out loud, time yourself, imagine the
Rehearse in front of an audience and ask for their feedback.
Decide if you would like an audience at the real defence.
The presentation
Present your agenda in headlines so your assessors will not interrup
you for someting that will come later.
Give your presentation in a manner that you feel comfortable with –
Use black/white board, PowerPoint, hand-outs, but remember that you
are 3 people in the room so choose tools that fits the situation. If you
need electronic equipment, you need to speak with the programme
administration in advance.
Print PowerPoint slides and other illustrations in 3 copies, so your
assessors can look at them during both presentation, discussion and
The discussion
The defence is a discussion between almost peers on an academic topic
that everyone in the room finds interesting.
So do not restrict yourself to answer questions and defending and
explaining your choices.
Enter into the discussion. You are the one knowing most about your topic
– and it is not a bad thing to be self-critical academically speaking.
You supervisor chairs the discussion. Some external examiners
participate in the discussion, some do not.
The oral feedback
It is not easy to concentrate when you get your feed-back – but try
Ask questions and ask for details and clarifications if necessary.
Take notes – later on it can be difficult to remember what they said.
Good luck with your oral defence!

Formal rules and general advice on the - CBS e