Q: What type of question asked in defence?
Thank you for your question! While the questions may vary depending on the university and other factors, these are some of the common aspects discussed.
They may ask you to provide a summary of your thesis, the main takeaway, your inspiration to conduct your study, and your inspiration to form a part of the field in question, to inform themselves of your background and ideologies. They may also be specific in this regard, in terms of what motivated particular research questions. Further, they may query you regarding changes in your perspective about your research topic over time, in terms of how it has evolved. This may also involve questions regarding critical turning points and decisive factors in your research.
They may also wish to verify your understanding of the extant literature and your contribution to it; hence, they may ask you questions about the existing gaps, controversies, weaknesses, or areas with a lack of consensus in the existing literature, and how your study aims to bridge some of these. Alternatively, they may ask how the study complements and relates to or ties in with existing literature.
To further understand your theoretical foundations, they may ask you to name a few papers or authors that relate to, are similar to, or strongly influence your ideologies/research area/thesis from theoretical and practical perspectives. They may also ask you to draw parallels and identify differences between your research and that of other specific authors of the interviewer’s choice.
In terms of pertinence and relevance, they may ask you to justify the importance of your study–is it an urgent issue? What are some of the practical implications and theoretical findings that would help the academic community and society at large? Alternatively, they may ask you how your work ties in with a specific aspect (such as the ongoing health crisis or a relevant factor of the interviewer’s choice).
To test your understanding in terms of practicalities, they may ask you whether you’re aware of the history or background of a relevant topic of their choice or to list some recent developments in your field.
They may like to understand the target reader you’re aiming to reach and accordingly ask you about this. Likewise, they would also like to know your publication goals and what you aim to do with your thesis (or certain parts/aspects of your overall work).
They may also ask you to evaluate your research in terms of the accuracy of your results, its strengths/achievements and weaknesses, potential limitations, areas with a scope for improvement, the results’ generalizability, the robustness (and for how long will your results be relevant), and the most interesting findings (if you had to choose a few). They would like to know the basis of your evaluation, so they may ask you about the parameters you’ve used to assess your own work. This assessment can also be done in hindsight in terms of what could’ve been done differently (a different methodology, database, etc.), so they may ask you questions pertaining to alternative ways of conducting your study and about why you made specific choices (the advantages offered by your methodology, dataset, etc. in comparison to others). This can also involve a critical analysis of advantages of alternatives that you had to give up in lieu of your choices.
They may also delve into ethics, protocols, and challenges as well as solutions in this regard. To understand your overall journey as a student and researcher, they may ask you about your takeaways and learnings from your course, your suggestions for prospective students, your accomplishments that validate your academic endeavors so far, and your achievements that justify the outcome you’re seeking from the current interview/for the future. They may ask you to specify these sought outcomes (where you would be expected to focus on your future career plans, for instance).
Finally, to gauge your ability to plan and foresee challenges as well as potential solutions, they may ask you for a rough design of a new research, difficulties that you can predict, ways you can think of to circumvent them, and the procedure/steps you would follow (for instance, where would you begin?).
We hope these help, and we wish you the very best with this!