Expectations of the Master Thesis defense

Your almost there! The last hurdle is the defense session. In this blog post you’ll find a few guidelines for the defense session.

The presentation

Your thesis defense session is coming up soon. The manual stipulates that you need to do a 15–20-minute presentation as part of the defense. However, the manual is not specific about the content of the presentation, leaving it to the thesis coach. So here are my expectations:

The main purpose of the presentation is to pose the research question and answer, in a way that is meaningful to academics in marketing science as well as to marketing practitioners. It means that upon hearing the answer to the question, we understand what triggered your research question, what you have done to answer it, what you found, what we can learn from it and what to do with that learning.

To me this is a variation to the insight extraction framework consisting of the questions “what” (… was the question and what were the facts informing the answer), “why” (did you find what you did), “so what” (… is the meaning of the answer to marketing science and practice) and “now what” (… is marketing science and practice suggested to do with that result). Also, it is a concise version of the story as described here.

So, the suggested are, in a 15-minute timeframe:

  1. What was the reason for your work (big trend -> small trend -> behavior change) and the research question? ~2 minutes.
  2. How did you go about answering the question (theory, methodology and execution – please be CONCISE – I only need to be able to see that you did a good job), ~4 minutes.  
  3. The answer to the research question (and hypotheses) in WHAT and WHY did you find what you did, by highlighting your empirical results referring to your theory, model, and hypotheses: ~6 minutes.
  4. Discussion of what it means (SO WHAT) and what you would suggest stakeholders to do with the result (NOW WHAT), ~3 minutes.

The presentation does NOT literally follow the structure of the thesis, for two reasons, (1) it is boring as hell and (2) more likely than not you won’t make it in 20 minutes max.

Lead times are indicative. The format is a PowerPoint presentation delivered on screen or a projector. The presentation (1) should be short and crystal clear; (2) defines your quality as an academic worth the “Master title” and (3) as a future storyteller and marketing practitioner. The presentation offers a starting point for the conversation in the rest of the defense session.

After the presentation, the co-reader and coach will take 20-30 minutes to ask informed questions and you’re supposed to answer. Guests are allowed, e.g., partners, parents, siblings, or other friends. If you invite more than two people, please organize a room on campus. Otherwise, we’ll use the room of the co-reader. Then we’ll ask you (and guests) to leave the room to confer about the grade. Then we’ll ask you to come back in and announce the grade. The full session takes an hour.

Criteria for your grade

If you’re admitted to the defense session, you have met criteria to earn the study credit of the thesis. For most of you, it means that you’ll graduate. The defense is one of the criteria (number 8) that defines your grade. The other criteria are:

  1. Identify research question and project design (typically chapter 1)
  2. Write a critical review (typically chapter 2 theory)
  3. Define working concepts and conceptual frameworks (typically chapter 3 model & hypotheses)
  4. Collect and analyze research data (typically chapter 4 method and 5 analysis & results)
  5. Define, validate and evaluate solutions and models, interpret findings sensitively as a basis for making decisions (chapter 5 analysis and 6 discussion, conclusion and recommendation)
  6. Write a persuasive well-structured master thesis
  7. Research ethics and management of relationships and processes
  8. Master thesis presentation and oral defense of thesis – the subject of your defense.
  9. Independence in the entire project

Chapter indications are indicative. Please find a detailed description of the criteria here.

Good luck!

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