Appendix B: Thesis Proposal and Thesis

Registration and Getting Started

If you have chosen the thesis option, you must register for UNIV*7500, Thesis Research/Writing, once your courses are completed. This course number has no credit. The time available for selecting a thesis topic, reviewing the literature, working through the theoretical orientation, and developing research strategies is very short.

Therefore, for those who intend to write a thesis, the first rough draft of a thesis proposal should be completed no later than several weeks after the start of the second semester. A well-articulated thesis proposal should be completed by the end of the second semester, if not earlier.

Incoming students who wish to proceed by way of a thesis should make this early development of the proposal a top priority and should move as quickly as possible toward the selection of their Advisor and Advisory Committee. This proposal should not exceed 15 pages (not including references).

The decision to undertake a thesis should be reached by the student in close consultation with his/her Advisory Committee, and in all cases the decision must be approved by the Committee.

If the Advisory Committee approves, the final draft of the thesis proposal may be circulated to the Graduate Faculty for input. In the wake of any feedback, the Committee may then advise the student to proceed with the research with or without further modification of the proposal. A thesis proposal approval form should be signed by the Advisory Committee and the proposal is placed in each student's file.

Writing Your Thesis Proposal

Writing your thesis proposal is a difficult and challenging process. It fulfils important functions for the student and the Advisory Committee. In particular, the thesis proposal forces the student to articulate a manageable problem and select appropriate strategies of inquiry. It provides a framework for the work which follows and a timetable for completion.

For the Advisory Committee, it represents a working agreement, a consensus regarding the major research decisions, which will not be questioned later except in terms of quality of execution. It provides a statement of purpose against which the completed thesis can be evaluated. It also provides a framework for the creation of an ethics protocol.

The proposal need not be lengthy, but it should be complete. In general, 12 - 15 pages, including references, should be sufficient for a proposal. This does not, however, include your ethics protocol, which must be completed and submitted with the required appendices.

The proposal format is difficult to specify because of the number of research options. Generally, however, the proposal includes the following items:

  • A clear statement of the problem in terms of theoretical context and practical relevance. An extensive review of the literature is not required, but the student should make explicit the theoretical context and tradition of inquiry in which the work is set.
  • An explicit statement of the research design for empirical research. Where and as relevant, this will include a statement of major research decisions, such as sampling, operational definitions, strategies for data collection, and methods of data analysis.
  • A statement of any ethical problems, and a protocol for addressing them, which might be foreseen in the research and the strategies proposed for their solution.
  • A statement of any unusual needs in terms of organizational liaison, access to confidential data or financial resources in which outside agencies or the University might have to intervene.
  • A concise timetable for the completion of the thesis.

This list applies primarily to projects that involve actual field research. However, a student may elect to do a thesis on theoretical or methodological issues, or an empirical one employing extant data. In these cases, the proposal would be altered accordingly.

Moreover, it is important to understand that Research Ethics Board approval must be granted prior to the recruitment of any research participants.

Consequently, time must be set aside to fill out the ethics protocol forms. Research Ethics Board approval may take some time, and it is therefore important to consider dates for submission of your ethics protocol well in advance. Discussing this with your Advisor is strongly recommended.

Note: A more detailed document "Thesis Proposal Guidelines" is available from the Graduate Program Assistant. Each student is responsible for ensuring that s/he understands these guidelines.

Thesis Structure

The thesis itself is closely monitored by the student's Advisor, but the student must ensure that all members of the Advisory Committee are kept up to date (including regarding anticipated timelines) along the way. When conflicting advice is received from members of the Advisory Committee, the student is urged to have the Advisor call a meeting of the Advisory Committee so that differences can be reconciled.


The page limit for PIA MA theses is between 70 and 100 pages (25,000 - 35,000 words), not including references, charts, graphs, appendices and other supplementary material. It is incumbent on the student to remain within this page limit.

Formatting and Thesis Submission Guidelines

Please visit the Office of Graduate & Postdoctoral Studies website for details about thesis formatting, thesis submission and final thesis procedures. It is responsibility of each student to ensure that s/he understands and follows these guidelines closely.

And, please remember that you will decide on the format of your thesis in consultation with your advisory committee. Note that in most cases, an electronic copy of the thesis must be submitted to the Atrium.

Master's Thesis Schedule

The Graduate Calendar announces for each semester a "last date" upon which approved theses may be submitted to the Dean of Graduate Studies in order to qualify for a graduate degree at the ensuing Convocation. Reasonable time must be allowed to prepare the approved thesis in its final form following the defence of the thesis. The Final Oral Examination (defence) should therefore take place not fewer than seven to ten days prior to the "last date". Candidates are urged to protect their interests by initiating the procedures as much as possible in advance of the deadline dates suggested in the following schedule.

It is the responsibility of the advisor to begin making arrangements for the master's thesis defence at least eight (8) weeks prior to the anticipated date of the defence.

The sequence of events is as follows (students must follow this sequence closely):

By 8 weeks before

The Advisory Committee agrees on a timetable for the completion of the thesis and defence. The Advisor informs the PIA Graduate Coordinator and the Graduate Program Assistant of the timetable.

By 4 weeks before

Formation of the Examination Committee. This should be done by the student's Advisor and the PIA Graduate Coordinator.

By 3 weeks before

Request for Thesis Examination completed (form available from Graduate Program Assistant). All members of the Advisory Committee must have read the final draft of the thesis and sign this form stating that the thesis is ready for defence.

Thesis made available to all members of the Examination Committee (Advisor, committee member, thesis examiner and chair of thesis defence).

By 1 week before

Examiner's Report on thesis is received by the Advisor

Day 0

Final Oral (Master's) Examination. Examiner's Report is presented to student after defense.

Read the Submission Checklist on the OGPS website for more information.

File attachments