The Oral Defense Board:

According to the catalog, an oral defense board consists of three to five members. At most one of the members may be from outside of the department. The advisor and the student together should decide the faculty members to be on the board. The student personally asks the particular faculty members to be board members. At the time of this request, the student should give the prospective board members an outline or a draft of their thesis describing the project and all results obtained.
The department highly recommends that one member of the board be from outside the department. If this outside member is from another school, the advisor may ask that person to be a board member.


The Defense:

Any oral defense should be open to the general Franklin & Marshall community. Announcements, including the title, the location, the name of the person defending, and a short abstract, should be posted at least one week before the scheduled date of the defense. Additionally, the student and the advisor should agree on the level of the sophistication required by of the audience. A good method is to suggest that the talk should be accessible to the audience members who have taken up to through a given mathematics course.

A typical defense consists of three parts. After an introduction by the advisor, the student gives a presentation lasting approximately 50 minutes on his/her project. This presentation should include any required definitions and the main results from the project. After the formal presentation, the audience is allowed/encouraged to ask questions for at most 15 minutes. After the general question period finishes, everyone leaves except for the board, the student, and the advisor. The board members then ask the students questions regarding the thesis for as long as necessary. (Note that according to the catalog, the entire process can take at most two hours.) During the defense, the advisor is not allowed to say anything unless personally addressed.

After the question period is over, the board asks the student to leave, and then take the opportunity to ask questions of the advisor. After this, the advisor leaves the room and the board determines whether the thesis and the defense deserve departmental honors. The board informs the advisor who then tells the student the board’s recommendation.

Note: Although a successful thesis and defense are required for departmental honors, they are not the only requirements. If, at any time, the department has concerns regarding the performance of the student in his/her classes, the department may decide not to grant honors to the student independently of the decision of the oral defense board.


The Written Thesis:

In addition to the oral defense, the student is required to write a detailed thesis describing the project and any results obtained. This thesis should include definitions and proofs where applicable. This thesis will be included in the College Archives.

Two final print copies and an electronic copy of the thesis must be submitted to the department chair prior to the end of finals week. It should include a title page with the following information:

  • Full name of student,
  • Department (Mathematics) to which the paper is submitted,
  • Name of course,
  • Student’s anticipated date of graduation,
  • Date paper was submitted.
  • The electronic copy should be in PDF form.

Revised 10/18/18