Thesis Defense

The MA defense is undertaken at the end of the third or fourth semester in residence and represents the culmination of graduate study. The Graduate School provides guidelines under Theses and Dissertations and Preparing to Graduate.

Immediately after you submit the thesis in the proper form according to the Graduate School guidelines, you should email a copy of the thesis to all of your committee members and the Directors of Graduate Study for the MA. Your committee should have two full weeks to review the thesis.

You are responsible for communicating your plans to your committee members as you plan for the defense. Keep in mind that the faculty members may be part of multiple thesis committees, so waiting until the very last possible day for the defense can be a problem schedule-wise. Your advisor must be physically present. You may also invite additional advisors (for example, other faculty or staff technologists) and a couple of supporters if you wish.

The Day of the Defense

There is no particular dress code, though getting a little dressed up is nice.

We will begin by asking you to present a brief summary of your thesis project to us. Even the members of the committee are all familiar with it, please present it as though we hadn't heard about it before. (There may be a couple of other additional people present as observers who haven't read/seen your work.) Think of it as more of a presentation than reading a paper, though you may use notes. You should also address any pieces you haven't finished yet, and/or which you completed after submission and before the defense. We encourage you to create some slides to make it easier to present your work. Make sure you are sharing the digital component as well as the written component during your presentation.  Think of this as taking about 20 minutes. Consult with your Chair for specifics in your individual case.

After your presentation, the committee members will then take turns asking you questions to clarify aspects of your project, and will offer suggestions for how to improve or enhance it. We will also ask you if you have any questions for the committee about how to finalized your project.

After everyone has had a chance to ask their questions we will ask you to leave the room for a little while and the committee will discuss whether you passed the defense, and what changes will be required, if any, for the final version of the thesis.

We will then call you back into the room, and let you know our decisions. Assuming you pass, there are some documents we will need to sign as well.

Plan for two hours, though this could be a bit shorter depending on how our conversations go.


After the defense it is necessary to make any required revisions, as well as additional documentation of your digital component, if needed.  Bear in mind that URLS may change, so think about documenting your project visually within the context of your thesis, or in an appendix, as well as through any additional external links. Talk with the Department about how to ensure the longevity of your digital project before you graduate.

Public Presentation

The public presentation is an opportunity to share your project with the world after you have turned everything in. This usually takes the form of a Rendez-Vous session where you spend about 10 minutes talking about what you have done. We can also install your project on screens or in Smith or elsewhere. Consult with us about ideas!