When you are faced with a master’s defense, you should know that each project is different and every committee will be different too. This means that every defense will need to be different. That being said, there are some general observations and tips that you can follow:
- Remember that no one wants you to fail. Your committee wants you to succeed. They have already seen drafts of your project. They have already given you comments. They already know whether you are likely to succeed and that is why they have let you get this far. The questions they ask will be hard, but not impossible.
- Remember that you have the answers. Once you reach the stage of the dissertation defense, you have been working with this project for years. You have been living, breathing, and eating it. You have written about it, talked about it, thought about it, and worried about every aspect of it for a long time. Just remember that you know the project inside and out. You have the answers.
- Recognize when you should stop talking. If you are unsure of the correct answer, or you are nervous, you might ramble. Don’t let this happen. The more you ramble in hopes that the right answer will magically flow out of your mouth, the more you will flounder and the further you will stray from your topic. Just stop talking and see if there are any follow up questions which might help you.
- Remember that the committee is being graded too. They are performing for their audience the same way that you are performing for them. Bear this in mind and it can alleviate a lot of intimidation.
- Keep things simple. Just tell them point blank what you did. Keep things simple.
- Don’t hesitate to be honest. If you don’t know, just say so. Tell them that you don’t know exactly how to answer their question. This might cause them to give you some guidance or to clarify their question, which will make it easier for you to find the right answer. This ties directly to the third tip about knowing when to stop talking. You cannot possible know everything and the committee is well aware of this. If the questioning exceeds your topic, and you are not familiar with the direction it has gone, just say so.