A thesis defense! Everybody seems diffident of taking an oral examination. But how can you not be intimidated? After all, you are defending a topic in front of experts! In this situation, fear is more of a natural response than exception.
A research proposal is essentially a brief statement of a question or issue and a synopsis of how the question or issue is to be answered or addressed. This paper discusses how to write a research proposal for a regular college paper, a dissertation and for the purposes of funding, institutional review or ethics approval. For a regular college paper the research paper consists of the title, question, and a summary of the research performed or research leads. For a dissertation, the research proposal is constituted by the title, statement of the problem, review of the literature and defining of research methodology. A custom research proposal to obtain funding or for the purposes of institutional review or ethics approval consists of the title, literature review, methods and ethics, budget and work plan. Following is a detailed discussion on the aforementioned types of research proposals.
For a college paper, the research proposal presents a problem and the research already conducted or needed to answer it. Essentially, it lets the professor know that you have chosen a paper topic and have spent some time and effort on its research. The problem can be chosen by either the professor or the student and should be reasonably broad enough to encompass the issues and themes covered in the paper and reasonably narrow enough to warrant discussion with a specific direction. In addition, the student should have already formulated a thesis, a statement that defines the problem. The second part of the research proposal consists of thoughts on how one is to go about answering the question. The student may or may not have already conducted research on his/her topic. This section could include a summary of sources consulted or analytical arguments that support the thesis. Sometimes, a student is allowed the option of including an annotated bibliography. Thus, a research proposal for a college paper presents a question and the steps taken to answer it.
A research proposal for a dissertation is similar to a research proposal for a college paper; however it is more in-depth and requires a higher level of analysis. The statement of the problem includes the research question. The review of literature includes a summary and analysis of related research and indicates that the PhD student is well versed in research conducted in his/her field of inquiry. It is intended to set the stage for his/her own research. Finally, it includes a defining of research methodology. This section is devoted to discussing how one obtained the research necessary to answer the problem presented. This can include a discussion on research design, subjects, instruments and procedure. The subject sub-category refers to the “who” of the research and includes a discussion of the sampling procedure, if applicable. The instruments sub-category refers to the methods of measurement and answers the “why” element of the research and discusses whether the instruments are reliable and valid. The procedure sub-category answers the questions: “how long did it take to carry out the study?, “what activities were performed?”. Thus, custom written research proposals presents a synopsis on the research conducted to answer the problem presented in the dissertation.
To obtain funding or for the purposes of institutional review or ethics approval, a research proposal is required. The first part of the proposal consists of the title, literature review and research question. The literature review summarizes and analyzes related research. The research question includes the objective and hypothesis. The second part is constituted by a discussion of methods. The sub-categories of the method section are: design, subjects, instruments/measure, sample size and analysis. The subject sub-category answers the questions “who?,” “how were subjects recruited?,” “how were study groups formed?.” The instruments refer to the objective, concept and measuring model, reliability, validity, sensitivity, and interpretability. The data analysis sub-category refers to the shape, central tendency, variability, analytical/inferential statistics, and hypothesis test. The section on ethics, budget, and work plan refer to the respect, beneficence and justice of the research and the budget. The ethics part of the section refers to the recruitment process and participation, harms and benefits and the issue of informed consents. The budget part of the section refers to itemization of costs, costs of consultants and equipment and indirect costs. This is one possible model of a research proposal for funding, institutional review or ethics approval.
In essence, the research proposal aims to define a problem and summarize research findings related to answering it. For a college paper, it can include a brief discussion on the problem and sources consulted. For a dissertation, it can include a discussion of the problem, review of literature and methodology. For funding, institutional review or ethics approval, it can include a statement of the problem, literature review, methods and ethics, budget and workplan. Each of these proposals is similar in that they present a problem and research necessary to address it. They also each have their specific differences. This paper is meant to provide possible models for research proposals for custom college essays, term papers, research papers, dissertations, and for the purposes of funding, institutional review and ethics approval.
It turns out that the outcome of your thesis defense is largely dependent on how you manage your fears! Believe it or not, no matter the amount of stuff you know and your arduous rehash, you are bound to fail if you are not psychologically conditioned to face your challenge. Hence, focus on this aspect and put in mind its relative significance to your preparations: Actual preparations (30%) and execution (70%). At the onset, there might be a need to defend this percentage allocation.
Recall what a custom written thesis or dissertation means. It is usual for institutions to refer to the word thesis as some kind of an involved research work, usually done by an undergraduate student or a graduate pursuing a masteral degree. Certainly, a masteral thesis is relatively more comprehensive in scope and normally defended in front of an examining panel or a committee. A custom dissertation is a research paper or a thesis usually done by a candidate to a doctoral degree. However, it has become customary for many institutions to refer to a dissertation as a doctoral thesis. At any rate, a baccalaureate, masteral, or especially the doctoral thesis is a serious piece of original research work that requires considerable time to complete under the guidance of an advisor, usually a professor or expert in the field that the student is working on. Therefore, mastery of the thesis or its subject content is one that cannot be expected of a student simply in a matter of weeks; in fact, mastery is developed from the time of thesis conception to reproduction! This is just to say that understanding the subject matter during the relatively short time allotted to the preparation for a defense is too late a preparation – and, certainly, this is not leading to any mastery of subject matter. Currently, this is not what is meant also by preparations.
Accordingly, preparations for a thesis defense rest on one crucial assumption or requirement: Mastery of the topic and those matters relevant to it. Precisely, you must have built some considerable confidence on your knowledge about your subject matter through the years that you were working on it. Otherwise, there is no point scheduling for a defense- simply, you are not ready!
Suppose that you do have the required knowledge and confidence about it. Here are down-to-earth pointers that may help you through a successful defense, stated in suggested order of execution:
1. The Planning
Call it a “game plan,” but there is nothing more assuring at the back of your mind than a well laid out plan. Begin by setting aside a comfortable amount of time for your preparation, say, a month or so. Make sure that the rest of the tasks that you must do must fit in this allotted time, plus some allowances. Yes, assume contingencies in your plan and strategize how to manage them. For instance, remember that you will need help from other people (classmates, colleagues, professors, etc.); hence, give leeway for their busy schedules.
Visiting classmates, colleagues and members of your committee must be first in your plan. Ask about the business of defending a thesis. Some students are so organized and conscientious that they logged questions and responses of old examinations for the succeeding examinees to use. Take a preview, and try to comprehend the underlying scope and limitations. Further, it is likely that you will get a characteristic profile of your examining committee from older students. Use all these information to probe further: Visit your committee members. Thoughtful visitations, at the least, will help impress them of your seriousness. Most of the time, a good professor will not resist a curious, dedicated and thoughtful learner.
3. Refine Your Plan
Nobody says that you cannot go back to the drawing board and make changes to your plan in case of difficulties with your dissertation. In fact, you must do this as often as necessary. Were the advices by other students inaccurate? What imminent changes are possible? The end result must be a strategy for a defense that is most comfortable for you. Besides, you can only feel comfortable once you know you have already a fair handle of the situation.
4. Defense Materials
It is quite alright to bring important visual aids or extracts from your thesis (charts, drawings, quotations, tables, etc.) to help you elaborate on your responses to questions. It is not necessary to carry a heavy baggage inside the examination room, but it is certainly assuring to have with you “everything” that you might think will be helpful. Remember, as always, “pictures speak louder than words,” and, when short of articulation, one visual aid may be ready for the rescue. Really, you may not have to say, “As you know” if I have only brought with me that particular diagram, you might know exactly what I mean.” Do not underestimate the value of simple tools like colored pens. You might actually be asked to demonstrate certain details on a blank transparency, to support your arguments. Likewise, you may not have to say, “Is there a pen somewhere? I wish I can write it all out for you.” Certainly, a lack of simple tools during your defense can be misinterpreted as some lack of seriousness or mastery on your part.
The old adage “Practice makes perfect” still holds. Gather some friends and classmates to do the “mock orals” for you. Allow any of them to depict the questioning style of your committee members, and do the practice as realistically as possible. Your final hints to your potential performance can be gauge from here. When permissible, request for two or three sessions and consider the suggestions and key improvements each time. To a large extent, your own group can best decide on whether or not you will eventually succeed.
From this point onward, you are on your own. After all, the decision to succeed or not still is your own. Now, it is the right time to work out on you psychological conditioning. The following pointers may serve as your inspiration to manage any remaining fear and ensure a smooth defense:
A. Do you have any reason to expect what can possibly go wrong? You had years of studying your subject. You have addressed many issues and queries along the way. And, you know you are still in command of your thesis. What then can be more assuring on your part?
B. Did you complete your preparations from planning to “mock orals”? Did you receive a final nod from your friends and classmates? Was your main advisor happy about this? If so, do you have further reasons to harbor any fear?
C. Remember what failure means. Your years of stay in school have been expensive. You will not like paying for the same real estate twice. You would rather like a job that earns you a better livelihood or push you to a higher degree or accomplishment. Simply, you cannot afford to be ruined by mere fear of one examination!
D. Finally, all humans fear- yes, your committee members included! At least you are a normal human being. Understand what is meant by failure- it is not the end of everything! Knowing this fall back position and your strong drive to succeed is your final defense against fear.
On your examination day, these are the remaining final preparations:
- Do not overdress yourself. You are up to a rough ride; come on a presentable (formal) yet comfortable attire.
- Try to act natural and well composed. Without being presumptuous, look ready to take up any question.
- Understand each question well and/or clarify before making any response.
- Don’t ever bluff! You are in front of respectable and knowledgeable people. It is alright to say “I cannot have the explanation offhand,” “I can’t seem to remember a good explanation,” or “I don’t believe that I have an answer to that.” Yes, honesty matters to your committee next to mastery.
In sum, your prime pointer to defending your custom-written PhD thesis or dissertation is largely on your defense against irrational fears. Strive to manage these fears through strong psychological conditioning backed by your ready mastery of your thesis and some systematic preparations. “No guts, no glory.” Remember: If gamblers can exploit courage to win by pure luck, certainly, you can succeed because you have the tangible ingredients to success.
Contributed by Rex Balena, PhD.
Multidisciplinary Scientist and Educator Consultant: Data processing, basic and advanced statistical analyses, PowerPoint/multimedia presentations, and custom essay writing on science and education topics.