The Oral Defense

The oral defense is required of all students who complete the thesis/project. The members of the committee are selected by the student and the faculty adviser. Names of the committee members must be submitted to the Honors College by the end of the first semester the student is registered for thesis hours.

Composition of the Defense Committee: Choose the defense committee early in the first semester of your thesis work and submit the Senior Honors Thesis Committee form to the Honors College (see link below).  The defense committee must have four members: the thesis advisor, another faculty member from the major department, a faculty member from a related department (the external committee member), and an Honors College Advisory Committee faculty member. In the instance that the thesis has co-advisors, one of the co-advisors can be the external member from the related department, serving in two capacities. The Honors College Advisory Committee representative can only serve in that role, not as an advisor, internal or external committee member.

The oral defense should be held at least thirty days prior to the student’s graduation date. The student should remember, however, that the defense cannot take place unless the committee members have received a copy of the thesis manuscript at least a week prior to the anticipated defense date; some committee members prefer an even longer review period. The defense committee members should receive their copies only AFTER the thesis advisor has indicated that the thesis is ready to be defended. 

It should be emphasized that the copy of the thesis presented to the defense committee is the penultimate copy. The final copy will be prepared after the defense so that committee members may make corrections, suggest changes, and generally point out areas that might need additional attention. The student should meet with the advisor shortly after the defense to discuss suggested revisions and should secure the advisor’s approval of the final version.

At the defense, the student normally opens with an overview statement of the purpose, method, and results of the thesis (15- 20 minutes). Committee members then ask questions, usually in turn, in what turns out to be a relatively informal and lively exchange of ideas, lasting an average of an hour and a half. A student passes with no more than one negative vote. The thesis, as with all Honors coursework, is letter-graded, and the committee may suggest an appropriate letter grade for the student’s work; however, the thesis adviser is responsible for determining and submitting the student's grade.

The defense itself may be held in a room in the Honors College or in a suitable room in the building of the student’s major. Please contact the Honors College to reserve a room in Johnson Hall via email at or call 330-672-2312.

All relevant forms and deadlines are listed on our student forms page:

  • The Thesis Defense Committee form declares the participating members of the thesis defense committee.
  • The Oral Defense form is completed immediately upon completion of the oral defense.

Please click the link below to access a list of Honors College student forms.

Honors College Student Forms