For nearly a thousand years—that
is, for as long as university students have been writing theses—the last hurdle
in the process has been an oral examination. Your thesis director and the two other readers you have chosen make up
the examining committee. Often, this
meeting is referred to as “defending” your thesis, although in modern times
examinations are usually much more cordial and less adversarial than the word
“defense” would imply.
Most students find it rewarding and intellectually
exciting to spend an hour discussing their project with three people who have
already expressed great interest by agreeing to be mentors. If you have been in
close communication with your thesis director and committee during the research
and writing stages, and if you can say with assurance that you have done your
best work, there is no reason not to approach the oral examination with
confidence and good cheer.
Your thesis director will be in
charge of the session, and you should ask him or her what you might expect in
terms of procedures and types of questions. You may be asked to begin the exam
with a statement of your thesis and a brief summary of your work (if so, you
will want to prepare rather than trying to “wing it”). The members of the
committee will then take turns asking you questions.
Your adviser or committee may have
some final changes or corrections for you to make before you print out the
final copy that is going to be bound and preserved. This is, in fact, a fairly
common occurrence, and you should schedule the defense early enough to allow
for these final corrections.
have satisfied your committee, each will sign the approval page attesting that
your work meets the standards of your field for an undergraduate honors thesis.
(Rather than having your professors sign one approval sheet and photocopying
it, you will want to create a sheet of original signatures for each copy of the
thesis you need.)