Department of Theater Arts

Senior Thesis Defense Guidelines for Students

Brandeis Department of Theater Arts, as of February 2017

A senior defense is an opportunity for you to share your thesis with your advisor, secondary advisor and reader(s). The purpose of a defense is to celebrate your work, reflect upon your creative and intellectual journey, evaluate the outcome and hear more from you about your inspiration for the thesis as well as the process. It is also an opportunity for questions and feedback from your faculty advisors. This is a chance for you to articulate your ideas in an oral presentation and engage in dialogue with your faculty.

Below are the steps you need to take to schedule your defense as well as some guidelines on what to expect and how to prepare.


  1. You are responsible for scheduling your own defense and coordinating a time with your advisors, readers and guests. (You may invite guests to your defense outside of your advisors and readers. We especially encourage you to invite those who were involved in the creation of your thesis. If you invite your peers, we ask that they be connected to the creation of the work. Please have these guests approved by your advisor. )
  2. You must schedule a date for your thesis defense, with your advisor by the end of the second full week of classes in the semester in which the defense will take place. You will need to plan for a half hour prior to the start of the defense. This time will be used by the faculty in attendance for a discussion prior to the start of the defense.
  3. You will sign out a room for the defense at the bulletin board outside of the Director of Production’s office. If you need an AV set up, we have certain rooms that provide that. If you have any questions, please contact the Academic Administrator.
  4. Prior to the defense, please schedule a meeting with your primary advisor to ensure you are prepared. You are encouraged to rehearse your presentation and to reach out to faculty for guidance and coaching.
  5. The paper/written requirement of your senior thesis must be handed in to your advisors and readers with enough time for all to digest prior to the defense.
  6. You will be asked to create a formal oral presentation for your defense. A visual aid/PowerPoint is required. In addition, your presentation may have an element of performance. (For example, if you wish to show a video clip of your work, invite actors to do a scene, etc. you are welcome to do so. We only ask that this not take the place of your speaking about your work – only enhance our understanding and provide specific examples during your oral presentation. This clip or performance should be no longer than 5 minutes.) The oral presentation may contain any or all of the following. The exact details of your presentation will be decided with your advisor.
  • Introduction/overview
  • Description of the objectives of the thesis
  • Discussion of the process and challenges faced
  • Closing/reflection. What did you discover? What would you still like to explore? What questions come up for you now?

The Defense

  1. The defense will run a maximum length of one hour. Please bring a one page summary of your defense presentation, with copies for those in attendance, to be handed out prior to the start of the defense.
  2. The defense begins with the student giving an oral presentation of their work. Students should allow 20 minutes maximum for this presentation. Please speak about your process from beginning to end, preparation and research, rehearsal process and technical rehearsal (if applicable). Please end with a reflective portion regarding the outcome. Please consider the following questions: What was successful and why? What needed more attention, resources, time and why? What would you do differently based on what you learned in the process? If you were given more time and resources, how would you continue to develop your thesis?
  3. The faculty will then ask questions based on the final product and the students defense. (20 minutes)
  4. The faculty will then give feedback and their own reflections on the thesis. There will be time for questions from the students for the faculty and conversation. (20 minutes)

Grading and Awarding Honors

The grade and honors for your thesis will be decided in consultation between your advisor, reader and the faculty. The grade and honors is based on knowledge and reflection demonstrated during the defense, your written work and the entirety of your creative process on the thesis.