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Thesis Information for Philosophy Students: Defending

The Defense

What exactly is a defense?
The defense is the point in the process in which you formally present your work. During your defense you will be expected to present and defend your thesis in front of your advisor and committee members and to do so in a cohesive manner. You can expect to be asked a number of questions after your presentation, and you need to be armed with the knowledge and skill necessary to answer the questions confidently. Finally, the committee meets in private to discuss the presentation and your research. After they have deliberated they will meet with you to inform you whether you passed, and if so, what final revisions they would like you to make.

Set a date
Get the date settled early on in the semester (committee members have a number of obligations other than your thesis and it may be difficult to schedule if you wait until the last minute).  It’s best if the defense date is at least one week before your thesis is required to be uploaded to Scholar Works @ Georgia State University.

Discuss your defense with your advisor so you know what to expect.  Prepare a brief summary statement highlighting the most important parts of your research and the contributions they make to the topic. Anticipate questions your committee make ask of you and formulate answers.

What to expect
Remember, the committee is not there to make you miserable, but to ask for clarification on points and to voice their questions/comments on points they find interesting or problematic.   

Two things to remember about your defense:  

  1. Avoid dogmatism. Defending your thesis doesn’t mean denying that it has flaws, or leaves issues unresolved. If committee members raise objections, take them seriously, and show that you can think in a nuanced way about their implications.


  1. Don’t be too apologetic. You’ve done a significant piece of research and writing: stand by the parts you think are the strongest and most central, and show that you can get your head around criticisms, and formulate responses that go beyond “I’ll have to think about that” or “I guess I didn’t think about that.”

A good defense is more like a lively discussion than an interrogation.  Don’t be afraid to ask committee members about their motivation for a question, or even to occasionally turn a question back on an examiner. Don’t be sassy, but don’t act like a cornered animal, either. 



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