, Ph.D., C.Psych.
Research Director, Graduate Program in Counselling Psychology
Trinity Western University
Langley, BC, Canada
Use the following steps when preparing for the oral defense of
1. Evaluation of oral examination is based on your presentation
and your answers to questions from the examining committee.
2. Be well prepared for your presentation - academically, mentally
and physically. Try to be well rested and focused before your
3. In your preparation, don't try to memorize all the studies
cited in your thesis, but you do need to know the details of a
few key studies, which form the basis of your investigation.
4. You need to be familiar with larger issues, such as the basic
assumptions, theoretical framework, paradigm, cross-cultural perspectives,
Christian integration, etc.
5. More importantly, you need to have a deep understanding of
the nature of your research problem and the major issues involved.
6. You may bring with you important materials for easy reference
in the course of your defense; these may include key articles,
computer print-outs of results, etc.
7. Your presentation is evaluated in terms of content and clarity
as well as style.
8. Don't speak too fast and don't read from your notes.
9. Treat your presentation as a public address because there
may be non-psychologists present at your defense. Therefore, don't
use too many jargons and don't pack it with details. You need
to tell people in simple, concise language: (a) What you did,
(b) Why you did it, (c) How you did it, (d) What you found, and
(e) What do the results mean.
10. Prepare overhead transparencies, hand-outs or power-points.
Typically, they should include (a) An overview or outline of your
presentation, (b) Introduction (including research question, rationale
and hypothesis, if any, and definition of key constructs). (b)
Method (including design, methodology, sample, instruments or
questionnaires, and procedure. (c) Results (including tables or
figures summarizing your findings) and (d) Discussion (including
reasons for new or unexpected findings, contributions and limitations,
and practical implications.)
11. Make sure that you space yourself well. Don't spend too much
time on one section. For example, you should not spend more than
5 minutes on introduction, since you are allowed only 20 minutes
for your presentation.
12. Most of the questions are rather general and broad, dealing
with substantial methodological, theoretical and application issues.
However, some questions focus on specific points regarding sampling,
statistical analysis, or some questionable conclusions.
13. Be prepared to clarify or elaborate on your assumptions,
theoretical positions, methods, and conclusions. Often an examiner
plays the devil's advocate to see how well you can think on your
feet and defend yourself.
14. Occasionally, an examiner may ask a question which is unfair
or cannot be adequately answered. After a few futile attempts,
feel free to say that you don't know the answer. You may even
be bold enough to say, "Since none of my answers are acceptable,
I would really appreciate it, if you could give me some pointers
or tell me what would be a correct answer."
15. Here are some common questions: (a) If you were to do it
all over again, what changes would you make? (b) What specific
aspects of your findings can be utilized by counselors or psychologists
in their practice? (c) What is the most important contribution
of your thesis? Can you say it in one or two sentences? (d) What
are some of the competing hypotheses? Could you think of an alternative
interpretation of your findings?
16. Don't rush to any answers. It is perfectly acceptable to
think for a couple of seconds, or ask if you are on the right
track. If you are not clear about the question you are entitled
to ask for clarification.
17. Try to be concise and to the point, but at the same time
demonstrate that you have a good grasp of the complex issues involved.
In other words, do not give superficial answers, but at the same
time, do not go all over the map.
18. Put up a good defense without being defensive. Be confident
without being cocky. A good defense means that you can provide
strong logical arguments as well as empirical support o defend
your position or conclusion. However, don't be defensive, when
people criticize your study. If they are able to point out some
real flaws or weaknesses in your study, accept their criticisms
with humility, grace and gratitude.
19. Before the oral defense, talk to your advisor about areas
of concerns based on external examiner's comments. Then, discuss
with your advisor how to best address these concerns. (You advisor
can not tell you the specific questions the examiners will ask,
but he can direct your attention to issues or areas that require
some thinking or additional research.)
20. After the oral defense, meet with your advisor for debriefing
and seek advice on how to revise your thesis.
For information on how to write a research proposal, see "How
to Write a Research Proposal" by Dr. Paul T.P. Wong.