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Thesis UC3M: Defending your Thesis


  This guide contains generic recommendations from the Library about the way to present and defend a Doctoral Thesis. However, you will have to consult your doctoral program for specific instructions in your area and find out the specific evaluation criteria and the time assigned for the presentation and defense. One must always keep in mind the thesis advisor’s instructions and the Doctoral School Guidelines.

What is usually valued in a Thesis presentation and defense


When assigning a grade to the presentation and defense phase of the doctoral thesis, the following are usually valued:

  • The doctoral candidate demonstrates their capacity to communicate to the academic and scientific community about their areas of knowledge, with a mastery of general and specific language (English, and where appropriate, another language).
  • The presentation follows a logical structure: the order of ideas follows a simple line of argument, whereby all the relevant points of the thesis are mentioned:
    • introduction: exposition of the subject which briefly explains the purpose of the thesis and presents its objectives thereafter
    • development: explaining the methodology, the results obtained and their interpretation. This is the time to use graphics which aid in understanding the results and highlight the most important ones.
    • outcome: discussion of the results based always on empirical data, and closure of the presentation with a conclusion. The presentation will be followed by a defense in which the doctoral candidate will answer questions from the Thesis Defense Committee.
  • A continuous line in the presentation, without jumping around or backtracking, captures the interest and keeps the attention of the audience.

  • The Ph D candidate demonstrates with their presentation that they have gained solid knowledge of the subject, presented the problem well and shown that the conclusions they have reached coincide with the subject presented, or that the solution coincides with the problem.

  • Finally, the presentation and defense demonstrate that the thesis has contributed to improving the education of the Ph D candidate, who shows their abilty to promote scientific progress.


  • With regard to computer tools (Power Point, Prezi, or others) used by the Ph D candidate to support their presentation, it is important for them to manipulate slides or other props with confidence, and to demonstrate that the presentation is thoroughly prepared and enriches the text.
  • Slides should synthesize the most relevant aspects of the text. They should not merely detail the parts of the Thesis but rather help to transmit the work done by the Ph D candidate, clearly distinguishing the problem or subject addressed, the analysis and the results.
  • As for the design, a good presentation is not overloaded with text or bullet points. It has appropriate graphic support (professional-quality photographs), and if video is used, there should not be too many animations, which distract from the contents.
  • Graphs and figures should be self-explanatory, and should be used if they aid comprehension, reinforce the presentation and reduce the amount of text.
  • It is advisable to avoid the predesigned templates and default bullet points of the program. Choose a group of simple, elegant font types without serifs, avoiding fantasy fonts. Choose a neutral background color, avoiding loud colors and seeking clear/dark high contrast between the text and the background.


The doctoral thesis will be evaluated in the defense, which will take place in a public session and will consist of the presentation and defense of the research project by the doctoral candidate before the tribunal. The PhDs at the public act will be able to pose questions at the time and in the manner stipulated by the president of the tribunal. (Royal Decree 99/2011. Regulation for Official Doctoral Teaching.)  

The Ph D candidate will give an oral presentation of their thesis based on a presentation with slides. The candidate will not merely have to read the slides but also hold the interest of the audience in the following manner:

  • Demonstrate mastery of general and specific language; use terms and expressions that they understand fully and not try to impress with unnecessary terminology; be sure to correctly pronounce terms in other languages.
  • Speak slowly but with self-confidence; do not hesitate, but instead insert pauses.
  • Cover all of the contents without skipping over anything.
  • Address the Committee and the audience when speaking.
  • Speak in a tone of voice and volume that is high and clear, constant and sufficient.
  • Do not lose the thread of the argument, interrupt yourself or allow long silences.​.
  • Try not to look at your notes.
  • Use appropriate body language; use your entire body to express yourself, your eyes to look at your listeners, your hands to emphasize or give attention to something; remain standing or walk, but do not “dance” or turn your back on the audience.

To achieve these points, it is a good idea for the doctoral candidate to practice before their presentation, perhaps in front of their colleagues, or record oneself to study whether one’s expression is appropriate. It is especially important to keep track of the time allotted for giving the presentation, so this point must be clarified with the tutor and consulted in the Doctoral School guidelines.



After the oral presentation, the Committee will ask a series of questions that the Ph D candidate must answer. During this segment, it is a good idea:

  • for the candidate to respond to all the questions without asking for explanations.
  • to answer with confidence and back answers with data, including additional data that was not mentioned in the oral presentation.
  • for the candidate to use the answers to indicate how they reached their conclusions.
  • for the candidate to respond in such a way that reflects solid knowledge of the subject, using the questions to delve into additional points.
  • for the candidate to make the presentation and defense a springboard for interesting and constructive discussion about the subject of the Thesis.

How to do attractive presentations

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