Thesis defense is serious business but don’t sweat it too much

Some of you might know that the final project or exam in the Global Health masters program is a 10,000 word thesis. It is the project that is most stressed on from day one. And that is even before you know what global health means. The time duration designated for the thesis is around three months which often seems to be less than sufficient.

Like I did, some of you will also, at some point, find yourself frazzled with deadlines and meetings with supervisors or co-supervisors and trying to complete your thesis on time. Well, that also depends on the kind of research project you have taken up and whether you are going abroad to do your data collection. In my class, quite a few brave people went to countries like Zambia, Gambia, Uganda, Sierra Leone, India, and Germany to do their primary data collection or to get a feel of the source of data they were to work with.

The defense or the presentation of the thesis where you “defend” your project is compulsory although it is not graded, only marked with a pass or a fail. You pass if you present your thesis and fail if you don’t show up. The only way you can fail your part is if you put in an extra effort in make an unintelligible presentation. The time designated to each student is 40 minutes. 10 minutes to present your work, 10 minutes for your opponent to ask questions and give comments, 15 minutes for your examiners to ask you questions and give comments and 5 minutes for the rest of the audience which is mostly your own class fellows.

The entire thing can become quite stressful. Examiners may be tough. Presentations might go smooth enough to make the entire class clap or brutal enough to make everyone cringe in their seats. But those 40 minutes do go by even though awfully slowly sometimes. And they will for you as well if and when you present your thesis or project. So don’t stress it too much.

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