An oral defense or viva is an oral examination in which a student defends his/her thesis to an audience of experts as part of the requirement for his/her degree.
Based on the above, to defend one’s dissertation orally (i.e., in person, with the committee present, along with potentially other school officials and students) requires an intimate knowledge of the research and analysis that was conducted - including any possible questions pertaining to the study.
From experience, I’ve concluded that the oral defense serves two primary purposes:
To satisfy academic criteria that the completed study is (a) rigorous, (b) reflects a certain-level research, and (c) was, in fact, conducted by the learner.
To gather the committee and interested parties in celebration of the work completed by the learner.
1. In few sentences, can you tell us what your study is all about?
The question is simple right? Many professors will tell you that most students get choked on a question like this. Anyways the question is simple, but a bit technical. To answer this question, you need to know every detail of your research project from chapters one to the end. The question needs an answer in form of a summary of the entire study, therefore, to ace this particular question you need to know every detail in your abstract. If you wrote a good abstract, this question will be a cross over for you.
2. What is your motivation for this study?
Now you must be careful here. This question can be very tricky and it goes a long way in convincing your panel members that your study is worth their time. Another way this question could be twisted is WHAT IS THE RESEARCH PROBLEM? To answer this question, you may decide to elaborate on the problem investigated in the study. Your zeal to solve this problem becomes your motivation. Do not state financial reasons or the need to graduate as a motivation as you may easily go off point.
3. Did you bridge any gap from your study?
Every research study must have a problem. Your ability to solve this problem and explore into areas not yet researched on gives you the full marks allocated for answering this question. You must be able to convince the committee members that your approach is unique and it has covered areas where much have not been done by other researchers.
4.What is the significance of the study?
Just like stating how your study will contribute to the body of knowledge, you will need to state the importance of your study. To answer this question, you will need to highlight how your study will aid the government in policy development and implementation, how it will help other students who may wish to conduct research studies on the subject matter and how organizations and the society will benefit from your study.
5. What limitations did you encounter?
This is another simple but tricky question. Most times the question is not asked to sympathize with you, rather to get loopholes to criticize your work. To answer this question, you must be careful with words as you may implicate yourself. Be careful enough not to sell out yourself. Do not discourse limitations in your methods or data analysis techniques as this may imply that your study may be biased or not well researched. Use simple limitations like difficulties encountered in combining lectures and project instead of limiting your study.
6. What is the scope of the study?
This one is a cheap or should I say bonus question? Here you quickly state the delimitation of the study in brief.
7. Why did you choose this method?
As discoursed above, you should not only state a particular method for the study. You must also be ready and able to justify why you chose the method in a convincing manner. At this point you are free to quote sources or similar studies where such methods were adopted.
8. What Methods or Sampling Technique did you employ?
To answer this question, you must be familiar with your research methodology. Your chapter three (in Most Projects) must be at your fingertips. Your ability to justify your sample size and technique will be highly rewarded here.
9. What is your measurement Instrument?
In simple terms, what data collection method did you employ for the study? Here you state if questionnaires were distributed or data was gotten from secondary sources. For more information on measurement instruments.
10. What theories or theoretical framework is your study based on?
This is a very technical question but interesting. Before you step into the defense room, you should know at least two relevant theories that relate to your study. For example, the “impact of motivation on employee productivity” will be based on Maslow’s Theory and other theories of motivation. If you cannot find relevant theories to back up your study, consult your supervisor for help.
11. What are your research variables?
Here you will need to convince your panel members that you know what you are talking about. You need to explain your independent and dependent variable(s) to convince them that you are on point. Your variables are present in your project topic. You need to identify these variables and know their definitions as well to ace your defense.
12. What are your major findings?
At this point it is expected of you to present your results or findings from the study in a clear and concise manner. Always link your findings to your research objectives/questions. This will make your panel members to easily be carried along.
13. How would you relate your findings to existing theories on the study?
To ace this question, one will have to read extensively. You should know existing theories on the subject matter as well as empirical studies too. Your ability to link your findings to previous research studies (Whether they agree or not) will go a long way in validating your study. You will score good points here trust me.
14. How will this study contribute to the body of knowledge?
At some point the need for justification will arise and that is when you will be asked to mention how your study will add to the body of knowledge if approved. Here you will need to use your methods, case study or any unique model or conceptual framework used in the study to defend it. For more information on how to tackle this particular question.
15. Based on your findings what are your recommendations?
Recommendations are very vital in every research study and should not be joked with. In essence you should know your recommendations off hand.
16. Can you explain how did you implement your study?
17. How is your study covering your variables?
18. Are your theories supporting your results? How?