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HOW TO ACE THE 25 MOST COMMON PROJECT DEFENSE QUESTIONS

October 13, 2014 By Chidi Rafael

When I wrote Making Awesome Presentations: Useful Tips for Project Defense, I never knew it was
going to be a great success story. So many success stories and commendations from over 50,000
readers were just enough to make my year and give me more grace to write more.
Well, enough of the hyping! That great piece was still lacking some smaller pieces to make it totally
awesome as some Oliver Twist-Like fans still needed more to it. Questions like, what should we expect
on the D-Day? What type of Questions do they committee members ask? Can you suggest possible
questions and answers that will be asked when defending a dissertation or thesis paper? These questions
fill my mail box by the day and since I adore my readers, I have decided to write a sequel to Making
Awesome Presentations. This time around, with the help of some senior lecturers, friends and my own
experience, I have compiled some common questions you may face on your defense day and suggested
answers/approach to these questions. So as usual, Enjoy!

Top 25 Likely Project Defense Questions and Answers


Below are likely questions you may face in a defense room. Take note of these questions and suggested
answers, do good by researching more and not limiting yourself to just these questions.

Question 1: In few sentences, can you tell us what your study is all about?
The question is simple right? Many professors will tell you that most students get choked on a question
like this. Anyways the question is simple, but a bit technical. To answer this question, you need to know
every detail of your research project from chapters one to the end. The question needs an answer in form
of a summary of the entire study, therefore, to ace this particular question you need to know every detail
in your abstract. If you wrote a good abstract, this question will be a cross over for you.

Question 2: What is your motivation for this study?


Now you must be careful here. This question can be very tricky and it goes a long way in convincing your
panel members that your study is worth their time. Another way this question could be twisted is WHAT IS
THE RESEARCH PROBLEM?

To answer this question, you may decide to elaborate on the problem investigated in the study. Your zeal
to solve this problem becomes your motivation. Do not state financial reasons or the need to graduate as
a motivation as you may easily go off point.

Question 3: How will this study contribute to the body of knowledge?


At some point the need for justification will arise and that is when you will be asked to mention how your
study will add to the body of knowledge if approved.
Here you will need to use your methods, case study or any unique model or conceptual framework used
in the study to defend it. For more information on how to tackle this particular question Click Here

Question 4: What is the significance of the study?


Just like stating how your study will contribute to the body of knowledge, you will need to state the
importance of your study. To answer this question, you will need to highlight how your study will aid the
government in policy development and implementation, how it will help other students who may wish to
conduct research studies on the subject matter and how organizations and the society will benefit from
your study.

Question 5: Did you bridge any gap from your study?


Every research study must have a problem. Your ability to solve this problem and explore into areas not
yet researched on gives you the full marks allocated for answering this question. You must be able to
convince the committee members that your approach is unique and it has covered areas where much
have not been done by other researchers.

Question 6: What limitations did you encounter?


This is another simple but tricky question. Most times the question is not asked to sympathize with you,
rather to get loopholes to criticize your work. To answer this question, you must be careful with words as
you may implicate yourself. Be careful enough not to sell out yourself. Do not discourse limitations in your
methods or data analysis techniques as this may imply that your study may be biased or not well
researched. Use simple limitations like difficulties encountered in combining lectures and project instead
of limiting your study.

Question 7: What are your findings?


At this point it is expected of you to present your results or findings from the study in a clear and concise
manner. Always link your findings to your research objectives/questions. This will make your panel
members to easily be carried along.

Question 8: What Methods or Sampling Technique did you employ?


To answer this question, you must be familiar with your research methodology. Your chapter three (in
Most Projects) must be at your fingertips. Your ability to justify your sample size and technique will be
highly rewarded here. For more tips Click Here

Question 9: Why choose this method?


As discoursed above, you should not only state a particular method for the study. You must also be ready
and able to justify why you chose the method in a convincing manner. At this point you are free to quote
sources or similar studies where such methods were adopted.
Question 10: Based on your findings what are your recommendations?
Recommendations are very vital in every research study and should not be joked with. In essence you
should know your recommendations off hand.

Question 11: Based on your findings what areas will you suggest for future research?
Questions like this are just there to test your reasoning and authority in your research area. Based on
your findings in a manageable scope, you should be able to suggest future research areas in line with
your study. For example, if I researched on the challenges of personal income tax collection in Nigeria, a
good area for further study will be in other forms of taxation such as VAT, Company tax etc.

Question 12: How can your research study be put into practice?
Easy for the computer scientist and engineering students, but a bit tough for management and social
sciences since most management/social science projects are more of abstract in nature. However, you
should try your best to be realistic here. Relate your study to current trends in your environment, office,
economy, government, schools, church etc. Use of relevant examples and illustrations will score you good
point here.

Question 13: How would you summarize your study to a practitioner in a few sentence?
Your ability to convey technical information from the study will score you good points here.

Question 14: What would you change if you were to conduct the study again?
Hmmm. Be careful! Do not be too jovial. There is a loophole here! Just like your limitations, this question
can be asked to identify your week points.

Question 15: What is your measurement Instrument?


In simple terms, what data collection method did you employ for the study? Here you state if
questionnaires were distributed or data was gotten from secondary sources. For more information on
measurement instruments Click Here

Question 16: What are your research variables?


Here you will need to convince your panel members that you know what you are talking about. You need
to explain your independent and dependent variable(s) to convince them that you are on point. Your
variables are present in your project topic. You need to identify these variables and know their definitions
as well to ace your defense.

Question 17: What are your research questions?


Very simple question. It should take about 0.015 seconds to answer this question if you are fully prepared.
Question 18: What do you plan to do with your research project after Graduation?
Here you are at liberty to say your mind. If you intend to publish it, this is the best opportunity to discourse
and interact with the committee members-maybe a professor there can help.

Question 19: What source of data was employed for the study?
At this point you have to state the source(s) you got data from. In general you have to state whether data
was gotten from primary or secondary source or both. You can further convince the committee members
by discoursing on literature reviewed for the study-both theoretical and empirical.

Question 20: What theories or theoretical framework is your study based on?
This is a very technical question but interesting. Before you step into the defense room, you should know
at least two relevant theories that relate to your study. For example, the impact of motivation on
employee productivity will be based on Maslows Theory and other theories of motivation. If you cannot
find relevant theories to back up your study, consult your supervisor for help.

Question 21: How would you relate your findings to existing theories on the study?
To ace this question, one will have to read extensively. You should know existing theories on the subject
matter as well as empirical studies too. Your ability to link your findings to previous research studies
(Whether they agree or not) will go a long way in validating your study. You will score good points here
trust me.

Question 22: What recommendations do you have for future research?


Your problem solving skill is put to test here. You should be able to identify areas that will need more
research.

Question 23: What is the scope of the study?


This one is a cheap or should I say bonus question? Here you quickly state the delimitation of the study in
brief.

Question 24: What question(s) do you have for the committee?


Not a likely question in our Nigerian context, but I have defended a seminar project where this question
was asked and I was shocked to my marrows. This is an opportunity to interact with your committee
members and ask some constructive questions. Do not ask silly or too difficult questions as the goal
should be to make the committee members feel as the boss. It will also go a long way in showing that
you are a brilliant individual.

Question 25: Do you have any closing comments?


This is praising time! Use this opportunity to thank your committee members for their time and questions.
Tell them how much you have learnt from them and how you intend to correct errors (if any) identified in
your work. This can go a long way in impressing your internal and external supervisors. All the best!

BONUS TIPS

o When confronted with a difficult question, adopt a strategy to make them rephrase or
repeat the question. This will give you more time to think.

o If your research project is Empirical in nature,or you used any statistical tool to test
hypothesis, try to know how you arrived at such conclusion. Also know how your data
was analysed and the various tools used for the analysis.

o Before your defense day. Practice with your supervisor or your friends. Make them to drill
you with likely questions.

o Talk calmly with confidence. Do not talk too fast as this may pave way for tension and
stage freight.

o Read your project thoroughly. Know basic definitions and terms used in the study.

o Expand the likely questions to 50. Feel free to add yours in the comment box below.
Thanks and God bless you.

4 WAYS YOU CAN CONTRIBUTE TO THE BODY OF KNOWLEDGE


By Chidi Rafael

The essence of research is to find more knowledge and add to the existing body of knowledge.
How has your study contributed to the Body of Knowledge? This is one question students
especially at the Masters or PhD level must answer one day. The body of knowledge (BOK)
encompasses every field of study from medicine to soap making and even our regular sports. You
may choose to look at it as a vast library that needs constant updates from brilliant and creative
minds to solve newer issues in the society. If you do not contribute, posterity may suffer because
they cannot rely on old data and theories to survive and keep up with the pace at which the world
is evolving today coupled with rapid growth in technology. Just imagine if we were to be using
research studies on Malaria conducted in 1890 to cure Malaria today...imagine how many people
that will die as a result of no current work to show that nutrition has improved, life styles have
changed, hygiene is getting better, mosquitoes are getting smarter, newer herbs and chemicals
exist-now that is the essence of research! So do not feel bad when asked if your work will or has
added to existing knowledge.
From my little observations, most Nigerian students develop negative mind sets that portray their
work is not adding to the body of knowledge...if possible, it may actually be subtracting. It is very
funny how some students feel that every researchable idea or topic on earth has been tackled by
someone. Some go to the extent of feeling that there are no fresh research areas anymore,
unless you are willing to tackle the 'impossible'. The most difficult areas where little or nothing has
been done on is tagged the 'impossible'.
The funny fact is you can still contribute positively without researching on the 'impossible' or trying
to tie yourself down to a new research area where no one has ever crossed...you may hang on
the way as material availability may rob you. Various ways you can go ahead with your normal
research and still contribute meaningfully to the body of knowledge are addressed below, so take
a good time out, read them, apply them and contribute by bringing in your own ideas in the
comment box below. Enjoy!
YOUR RESERCH AREA IS YOUR FIRST CONTRIBUTION
Being smart in the defense room is your number one strength. Do not allow your panel members
to intimidate you with statements like 'this study has been conducted by plenty people already, I
do not see how it can add to existing knowledge'. Very funny right? You may not know how many
Supervisors have frustrated students with this statement. You may not know how many
recognized and international Journal websites have refused to publish original work done by
students because it is deemed 'popular' so no addition to knowledge. The first secret in
countering that statement is by using your area or case study as a major contribution to
knowledge. Remember you have got to be smart and logical here. For the mere fact that you
conducted that study in your village is enough reason for it to be of great significance. A popular
topic like 'The Impact of Motivation on Employee Productivity in New York' may not have the
same findings if conducted in a town in Nigeria say- Oshogbo. The mere fact that we have
researched on the impact of motivation on employees in Oshogbo, (which may be totally new) is
a contribution to the body of Knowledge. Surprised?
YOUR METHODS CAN BE A CONTRIBUTION
Another way students can add great significance to existing knowledge is by methodology
adopted. By reviewing empirical studies on a subject matter, a student can discover a new
method or approach in tackling the same problem identified in prior research studies. For
example, data collection method, sample size, data analysis can be changed to tackle the same
problem in-order to bring out a unique study. If Mr. A and B used questionnaires in their study, you
can also contribute by reviewing secondary data instead or opt for other measurement
instruments such as observations, focus group studies, interviews etc. Different Inferential
statistics or data analysis methods can also be adopted here to bring a difference and hence add
to the body of knowledge. If appropriate, deeper analyses such as regressions, ANOVA and the
rest can make you outstanding.
SOLVING TRENDING ISSUES
Your ability to solve trending or new issues in the society is an added advantage to you. This
could be used in justifying the study as well as a way of adding to existing knowledge. Through
asking the right questions and doing a thorough data analysis, one could solve current issues in
his or her environment from the findings of the study as well as good recommendations listed.
These trending issues are still new and enough research may not have been carried out on the
subject matter. So the ability of the student to boldly tackle this new issue and surviving the
problems of new research areas and building literature for the subject area is highly rewarded,
hence it is a major contribution to knowledge.
DEVELOPING A UNIQUE APPROACH/MODEL
Although not easy as it looks, but very possible. One can actually make meaningful contribution
to knowledge by using a different approach to solving an identified problem. New models,
conceptual frameworks/concepts and hypotheses that are valid and result oriented will definitely
add to existing knowledge on the subject matter.
For Example:
The primary aim of the researcher in this study is to relook at the concept of leadership
from a new perspective.
So far most studies on leadership have focused on the individual and the personal
qualities and traits that shape leaders.
In this study the researcher has tried to shift the focus to the issues rather than the
individual glorification and this has lead to the development of The Global Leadership
Model which is based on contemporary issues.
This model or the concept is The Global Leadership Model which is issue based.

Top 40 Potential Viva Questions


July 21st, 2009 42 Comments
I submitted my thesis way back in March but, somewhere
between CREET and the Research School, the
documentation was lost or abandoned for a couple of
months. Add to that a spell in hospital when they finally
got round to fixing a date and Im left with a viva in late
August, when my thesis is fast becoming a distant
memory and Im on the mend from major surgery.
Of course, successfully completing a viva affects all sorts
of things: employment prospects, roles I can take on at
the university, status, pay and I could have done
without lying in intensive care worrying about the event
itself. Someone, somewhere at the university has messed
things up big time not that they are apologising for it,
or even owning up.
But, apart from awarding the unknown culprit(s) a
#massivefail hashtag, Im thinking positive and working
on possible viva questions. Ive been setn, or read, several
lists of these so here they are, my selection of the Top
40 Potential Viva Questions.
1. Can you start by summarising your thesis?
2. Now, can you summarise it in one sentence?
3. What is the idea that binds your thesis together?
4. What motivated and inspired you to carry out this
research?
5. What are the main issues and debates in this subject
area?
6. Which of these does your research address?
7. Why is the problem you have tackled worth tackling?
8. Who has had the strongest influence in the
development of your subject area in theory and practice?
9. Which are the three most important papers that relate
to your thesis?
10. What published work is closest to yours? How is your
work different?
11. What do you know about the history of [insert
something relevant]?
12. How does your work relate to [insert something
relevant]?
13. What are the most recent major developments in your
area?
14. How did your research questions emerge?
15. What were the crucial research decisions you made?
16. Why did you use this research methodology? What
did you gain from it?
17. What were the alternatives to this methodology?
18. What would you have gained by using another
approach?
19. How did you deal with the ethical implications of your
work?
20. How has your view of your research topic changed?
21. How have you evaluated your work?
22. How do you know that your findings are correct?
23. What are the strongest/weakest parts of your work?
24. What would have improved your work?
25. To what extent do your contributions generalise?
26. Who will be most interested in your work?
27. What is the relevance of your work to other
researchers?
28. What is the relevance of your work to practitioners?
29. Which aspects of your work do you intend to publish
and where?
30. Summarise your key findings.
31. Which of these findings are the most interesting to
you? Why?
32. How do your findings relate to literature in your
field?
33. What are the contributions to knowledge of your
thesis?
34. How long-term are these contributions?
35. What are the main achievements of your research?
36. What have you learned from the process of doing
your PhD?
37. What advice would you give to a research student
entering this area?
38. You propose future research. How would you start
this?
39. What would be the difficulties?
40. And, finally What have you done that merits a PhD
An Oral Defense: Preparation and Presentation
By William G. Wargo, Ph.D. / April 23, 2014
An Oral Defense can be required to defend the proposal and/or the complete dissertation.
Congratulations on getting to either stage of the dissertation process.

Here are some guidelines you may want to consider as you prepare for your Oral Defense:

Create a PowerPoint slide for each of the following topics, unless your chair or the university
provides a list of topics:

Dissertation title and your name;

How you developed an interest in your research topic;

The Problem;

The Purpose of the Study;

The Participants or Subjects (inclusion criteria for the proposal or actual summary for the
complete dissertation);

The Research Questions and/or Hypotheses;

The Design and Procedures;

The Findings/Results (only for the complete dissertation); and

Conclusions and Implications (only for the complete dissertation).

Compliment the committee for their assistance up to this point, regardless of whether they gave
you much help or not.

Prepare a professional presentation and expect to be interrupted with probing questions.

If a question is asked that gives you discomfort or confuses you, ask for more information about the
question. Ask for a clarification of one or more aspects of the question. This approach could give
you an additional 10 to 30 seconds of precious time to think of an appropriate response.

Be clear on the time allotted for an oral defense. Your Chair usually decides.

Limit your planned presentation to about one-third of the total time of the defense.
Regardless of the nature of committee members comments, never show anger or other negative
emotions. There is an attitude among some faculty to try to make an oral defense as difficult as
possible for the student and make you sweat. You want to be prepared for the one with a
confrontational approach. Always stay calm.

Always accept blame and responsibility for omissions, typographical errors, and erroneous
writing.

After your presentation is completed and you have answered all their questions, since you will be
doing a telephone oral defense, expect that the Chair will ask you to hang up and call back in a few
minutes.

It is almost always the Chairs responsibility to maintain a list of required or suggested additions
or changes.

If you are defending your proposal, expect the committee to require major adjustments. At this stage
the standards of quality are always higher than previously accepted. If you are defending your
complete dissertation, expect extremely high standards.

At an Oral Defense, your verbal communications skills are just as important as the written quality of
your manuscript. This why I have always offered a mock oral defense for my clients. The
experience of trying out their presentation on me gives them added confidence and helps to polish it.
We collaborate and discuss all the slides to be used in the PowerPoint presentation.

Regardless of whether an Oral Defense is for the proposal or the complete dissertation, it is an
examination. It is also a chance for the committee to assess the doctoral students competency to
continue or worthiness to graduate.

And believe me, I know how scary this can be especially by yourself without any preparation. So
if youd like help with this, click here to apply for a free consultation.

If this is an emergency and you need immediately assistance, please email me at


wgwargo@academicinfocenter.com or call me at (951) 301-5557.