...........Article published on December 5th 2008

What is a Research Project Defence


Research project defence is a systematic presentation and defence by the researcher, of his/ her research work in front of the reviewers/ examiners committee and other audience. At research defence a researcher has to briefly explain his entire project from start to finish and highlight all the activities and findings pertaining to his research project. He is also required to explain and answer the questions asked about his research work by the reviewers/ examiners and audience.

Defence Preparation

It is necessary that a researcher before he finally faces his research defence must do thorough preparations for his research defence. Once he is confident about his preparations then only he should arrange/ ask for his research defence. At research defence a researcher needs to make people understand about his research work. In addition to this it’s an opportunity for the researcher to convince people that his research work is authentic and well supported by experimental results and logical concepts. Further, he also justify that the present research work carried out by him fulfil the requirements for the academic degree and he has developed an expertise in a particular area of study. For this he has to make a systematic presentation of his research work.

Activities

Before a researcher actually prepare for his defence he must know clearly that what he is going to present, how he will organize his presentation, what are the most expected questions and how he will answer to those questions. The following activities may help a researcher for an effective and systematic defence preparations;
  • A researcher must structure his presentation before he actually starts working on it. He must plan that what he is going to present and how he will make the presentation.
  • Self-assessment of research work and identifying possible questions. Preparing answers for all such possible questions.
  • Discussions with advisors/ supervisors and other researchers on his research work. To have their views/ suggestions for a better presentation of the research work and expected questions on his research work.
  • Find opportunities to discuss your research work with your friends and colleagues. You may have some new questions on your research work. 
  • Read your thesis thoroughly and try to identify aspects of your research that are particularly confusing and need further explanation. Also, try to identify such contents for which you feel that you have missed to discuss in your report.
  • Try to attend one or more defences prior to yours. At the defence try and keep your focus on the interactions that occur. Does the other researcher seem relaxed. What strategies do the other researcher use to keep relaxed. How does the other researcher interact with the defence committee members. Does the other researcher seem to be able to answer questions well. What would make the situation appear better. What things should you avoid. You can learn a lot from sitting in such a meeting.
  • Assess your weaknesses – nervousness, confusions, poor vocal expression or any other. If you find any of such weaknesses try to work on it so that you overcome such weaknesses before your go for your research defence. 
  • Rehearse well for your presentation. Ask some of your friends to attend such rehearsal. If possible, you may invite your advisor/ supervisor and other senior researchers for one of such rehearsals, this may give you confidence and you will know where you were lacking in your preparations. Further, you may record one of such rehearsal on a small tape recorder or if possible, on a handy camera. You may watch your presentation later on, this may help you to find out your weaknesses and you may have an idea for further improvements.
Preparations for Research Defence Presentation

Presentation    includes two key components one, what you are going to present and other how you are going to present. Therefore, it is essential that you must structure your content matter that you are going to present. Also, plan an effective mode of presentation.

Structure of Presentation

Before a structure for presentation is planned, a researcher must be clear about the time allotted for the presentation. As a general rule no presentation should be very long, ideally it should not be more than 30 minutes. However, in most of the cases the chairman of the research defence committee may allot some additional time or he may ask the researcher to present his research work in less than 30 minutes. Therefore, a researcher must prepare his presentation in such a manner that he may easily adjust to such variations at the time of defence.  

What goes into a research project presentation is the most important and crucial aspect of any research defence. At presentation one has to be the best not only on his presentation but also he has to answer all the questions asked by the committee members in a very convincing manner. His presentation by itself must demonstrate the overall quality of his research work. As a fact there is no single format for a research project presentation. This is because every research project is different. However, there are several key components, which must be included in every research defence presentation. The key components for any research defence presentation are;
  • An introduction to the research problem and an argument as to why that problem is important. 
  • Specific objectives of the research study.
  • An overview of the study area, location, physiography, climate or other relevant themes related to the proposed study.
  • A review of literature relevant to the research problem.
  • A description of the research methodology adopted to perform the research.
  • A description on primary and secondary data collection and analysis.
  • A description on experimental data generation, if any.
  • Interpretation of results and final findings.
  • Conclusions and recommendations, if any. 
  • A note on the limitation of the present study. 
  • Describe how the results and the findings of the present research work will be utilized. 
  • A note on future studies and extension of the present research work.
In addition to this a research defence presentation must also include a self-explanatory title slide, acknowledgements and a note of thanks.
 
Self Preparations

It is necessary that a researcher before he finally faces his research defence must be well prepared for the defence. Once he is confident about his preparations then only he should arrange/ ask for his research defence. He must know clearly that what he is going to present, how he will organize his presentation, what are the most expected questions and how he will answer to those questions.

Prior to defence a researcher must assess his weaknesses. These weaknesses may be nervousness, confusions, poor vocal expression or any other. If any of such weaknesses are present he must try to work on it so that he overcome such weaknesses before he faces the research defence. The following points may be helpful in overcoming such weaknesses;
  • To overcome nervousness always think positive and believe in yourself.  You must understand that you are the most knowledgeable person as far as your research problem is concerned. Realize your capabilities and trust your knowledge on concerned research subject. Concentrate more on such portions of your research work where you feel that your knowledge on theoretical concepts is shallow. Rehearse well for your presentation. Ask some of your friends to attend such rehearsals. If possible, you may invite your advisor/ supervisor and other senior researchers for one of such rehearsals, this may give you confidence and you will know where you were lacking in your preparations. Further, you may record one of such rehearsal on a small tape recorder or if possible, on a handy camera. You may watch your presentation later on, this may help you to find out your weaknesses and you may have an idea for further improvements.
  • Confusions will only occur when you are not well prepared for your presentation. The only means to overcome confusions is to make sure that you prepare your self well prior to the defence. Repeated readings of your presentation content matter and rehearsing it for number of times may help you to overcome confusions. If not clear on certain portions of your research work further reference readings and consultation with your advisor may help to remove confusions.
  • Poor vocal expression is a very serious weakness; if an individual is poor in his vocal expression he will ruin his research work at the time of presentation. Vocal expression means the way an individual speaks and what feelings are exposed on his face when he speaks. Vocal expression and style makes a presentation impressive and convincing. Vocal expression is a difficult skill to master and it comes through practice and dedication. However, some important tips to improve vocal expression are mentioned below;
    1. Read the content matter of your presentation repeatedly so that you remember the text and sequence correctly.
    2. Rehearse loudly your presentation content matter number of times facing a mirror and watch out your expressions on your face. 
    3. When confidant, call some of your friends and rehearse in front of them.

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Mode of Presentation

Before a researcher decides on which mode he is going to made his presentations he must check the availability of the required resources for the proposed mode. There are two modes of effective presentation; i) The ‘Over Head Projector (OHP)’ and ii) ‘Data Projector’. For Over head projector the content matter has to be prepared over transparencies. The transparencies may be prepared by freehand writing with permanent OHP pens or content matter may be photocopied over the transparencies. For ‘Data Projector’ the presentation may be prepared on ‘Microsoft Power Point’ software and directly it may be displayed with the help of a Personal computer or laptop. Of the two modes ‘Data Projector’ is an effective means of presentation.

Some important tips for power point presentation preparation are listed below;

  • Make your presentation in Landscape layout and use simple background or apply simple design template. Ideally the background colour or design template must be of dark colour and the text written should be in bright colour. 
  • While preparing slides be concise and precise. The text written over each slide must be in points. Write only important points in the slide. Use small sentences, ideally not more than two lines. Do not over crowd the slides with text. Underline or highlight the key words in the sentences. Headings must be in capital, bold letters and underlined. Ideally headings must be in 18 point and other text in 16 or 15 point. However, adjustment in font size may be made depending upon the font style selected by an individual. Avoid using custom animation effects on text as much of the time is wasted in animated display. 
  • Keep slide transition on mouse click mode, do not make it on automatic mode. If you keep slide transition on mouse click mode you will have a flexibility to change the slide as per your choice at the time of presentation.
  • Show only important results and try to display results and findings of the research graphically. This may improve the presentation. 
  • Use maps, figures and photographs to support various concepts and results of your research. This will not only make you comfortable in convincing the defence committee but it will also make your presentation attractive.
  • While preparing layout of slide try to arrange a figure or a photograph at least after every alternative slide. This will keep the audience attentive and involved in your presentation. 
  • Do not use such words for which you are not sure for their meaning. Do not use difficult words to impress audience. Do not use overly simplistic language in the slides.
Research Defence Presentation

For an effective presentation it is essential that a researcher not only make a good presentation of his research work in front of Research defense committee but it is equally important that he must present himself in a very confident manner. For a good presentation the following points may be helpful;
  • Enter into meeting hall confidently with a gentle smile on your face. Before you start your presentation convey thanks to the meeting member / organizer who has invited you for the presentation. Simply say ‘thank you Sir’ facing towards him.
  • While presenting look towards the defence committee members and the general audience. Do not look continuously towards the screen or in a particular direction. While speaking do not stand at one place only gently move towards right or left.
  • Speak clearly and loudly; give emphasis on the key words. Avoid using words like ‘I mean’, ‘You sea’, ‘you know’,‘Of course’ etc. While presenting if you forget something do not try to recall it, as it may give unnecessary pause and you will break your continuity.
  • Avoid reading word by word from the slide. Just look at the key words and frame your own sentences.
  • Finish your presentation with a note of thanks.
  • Listen carefully to the questions asked by the defence committee members and the audience. Think for a while frame the answers in your mind and explain gently, use supporting slides. If you are not sure for the answer do not try to answer it, gently say sorry sir.
  • Take proper note of the suggestions made by the committee members. All such suggestions may be helpful for the improvement of your report.
Dissemination of Research Findings

No research study is complete without dissemination of research findings. By dissemination you will explain how the results and findings of the research study will be used for the betterment of concerned scientific concepts or how they may be utilized for the welfare of the society. The results and findings may overcome the shortcomings or gaps in the existing theoretical concepts and analytical techniques. By dissemination of research finding you will explain that what are the further possibilities of extension of present research.

For this purpose, prepare an article or paper that shares the findings of your research. There will be no better time to do this than just after your defence. Immediately after your defense is the right time, as you know your study the best and you will be in the best position to put your thinking on paper. If you don’t do it immediately after your defence probably you will never get it done. Capitalize on all of the investment you have made in your research and reap some additional benefits.

Means of Dissemination of Research Findings

There are several means of dissemination of research findings. Some important means are listed below;
  • Technical Journals - National and International
  • Seminars, symposia, conferences and workshops
  • Presentations in concerned Departments/ organisations
Technical Journals

Technical Journals provides an opportunity to the researcher to publish his paper, which is widely circulated among a group of scientist working in the respective fields.  Before publishing the paper technical editorial board of the Journal will sent the paper to the eminent researchers/ reviewers for the examination of the quality of research work. Based on the comments / remarks on the quality, received from the eminent researchers/ reviewers the editorial board will publish the paper. These Journals are national and international depending upon their circulation. These are published monthly, bi-monthly, quarterly, Bi-annually or annually. A list of such reputed journal may be obtained by Internet browsing. Most of the Journals have their web sites and provides instructions and general requirements for the authors intending to contribute technical papers to the respective Journal.

Technical Paper Preparation for a Journal

Each technical journal has its own format and general requirements. However, there are some basic requirements, which are common for all technical journals. The following points may be useful for the preparation of a technical paper, to be submitted to a reputed journal;
  • Identify the relevant technical journal in which you can publish your paper. You may have information in this regard from your advisor or any senior researcher working in the related field. Also, you may get this information by Internet browsing.
  • Next step is to get the instructions and general requirements for the authors. This you may find at the last page of any reprint of the technical paper published in that journal. You may also get this information from the web site of the respective journal. 
  • While writing a technical paper strictly follow the instructions and general requirements set by the respective journal. The technical paper should not be very long, ideally not more that 15 pages. Write specific and to the point. Show only relevant figures having proportionate well readable text. Only show important data used for the research methodology. Avoid putting number of tables, if necessary try to merge tables so that the number of tables becomes less. Write clearly and precisely particularly, the abstract and conclusions, so that by reading this section of your paper reader easily understands that what your research is all about.
Seminars, symposia, conferences and workshops

Seminars, symposia, conferences and workshops are organized by various organizations from time to time through out the year. The organizing departments/ organizations make vide publicity vide various media prior to these events. These can be national or international. By submitting a technical paper to such seminars, symposia, conferences and workshops a researcher has an opportunity to present his research work personally in front of a group of scientists/ researcher. A researcher has an opportunity to explain to the scientific community for his unique findings and the contributions made for the welfare of the community in general.

Presentations in concerned Departments/ organizations

If a researcher has worked on some practical problem, which directly relates to the welfare of the community of the area, his research findings may be helpful for the development of that particular area. For the dissemination of his research findings he may approach the concern department in that area and may propose to make a presentation in front of the concerned officers.