The MRP and Thesis Process

If you are writing a thesis, you must register for UNIV*7500, Research/Writing once your courses are completed. This course 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 the thesis proposal should be developed during the second semester. A well-articulated thesis proposal should be completed by the end of the second semester. Incoming students who wish to proceed by way of a thesis should make the early development of the proposal a top priority and should move as quickly as possible toward the selection of their advisor and advisory committee.

The decision to do a thesis should be reached by the student in close consultation with the advisory committee, and in all cases the decision must be approved by the committee.

The thesis itself is closely monitored by the student’s advisor, but the student should be sure that all members of the advisory committee are kept up to date 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.

Thesis Proposal

The thesis proposal is, in many respects, more difficult and challenging than the thesis itself. It fulfils important functions for the student and the advisory committee.

For the student, it represents the opportunity to articulate a manageable problem and select appropriate strategies of inquiry. It provides a framework for the work that 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.

The proposal need not be lengthy, but should be complete. The 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. When 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 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 thesis employing extant data. In these cases, the proposal would be altered accordingly.

A sample of students’ research proposals is available from the Graduate Program Assistant.

A Thesis Proposal Approval form should be signed by the advisory committee and submitted, along with a copy of the proposal, to the Graduate Program Assistant.

Thesis Components

The preferred order of sequence of the components of the thesis is:

  • Title page, including international copyright symbol
  • Abstract
  • Acknowledgements
  • Table of Contents
  • List of Tables (if any)
  • List of Figures, Illustrations, Plates (if any)
  • Body of Text (broken down into chapters)
  • Bibliography or References
  • Appendices (if any)

Thesis Defence Committee

The thesis defence committee consists of the advisor, advisory committee members, and examiner. In addition, there must be an administrative chair, whose duties will consist of:

  • Arranging to have the appropriate forms at the defence;
  • Managing the defence, deciding the order of questioners, and moderating the discussion;
  • The chair would not necessarily be expected to read the thesis;
  • The chair would not be required to direct questions to the student, but could do so during the informal question period.

Thesis Examiner

Each defence must have an examiner selected by the student’s thesis committee in consultation with the student. The examiner would be a faculty member who is external to the student’s advisory committee, but who would normally be internal to the department. The examiner must be a tenured faculty member. The duties of the examiner are:

  • To read the thesis;
  • To indicate in a short written report the strengths and weaknesses of the thesis, to be submitted to the advisor at least one week prior to the scheduled defence date;
  • To attend the thesis defence;
  • To direct questions to the student in the thesis defence;
  • To vote in the defence process.

Thesis Schedule

The Graduate Calendar specifies for each semester a “last date” upon which approved theses may be submitted to the Office 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". Students 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 weeks prior to the anticipated date of the defence.

The sequence of events is as follows. Students must follow this sequence closely.

Timeline Event
8 weeks:

The Advisory Committee agrees on a timetable for the completion of the thesis and defence.

The Advisor informs the Graduate Coordinator and the Graduate Program Assistant of the timetable.

4 weeks:

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

3 weeks:

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(s), Thesis Examiner and Chair of thesis defence).

1 week:

Report on thesis from Thesis Examiner is received by the Advisory Committee and the student at least one week before the defence.

Defence day:

Final Oral Examination.

Post Defence:

Student produces revised final version of thesis based on comments from examination committee.

Further details can be found in the Thesis Submission Schedule.

Oral Defense

The candidate will make a presentation on the thesis, which should be approximately 20 to 25 minutes long. The oral examination will be open to the public; members of the audience may question the candidate only upon invitation of the chair of the examination committee after the presentation. The oral examination is typically 2 hours in duration, the maximum duration is 2.5 hours (See Box 2 for suggested timing). The oral examination consists of two rounds of questions about the thesis itself, but may include more general issues related to the field of study.

During deliberations, the members of the examination committee, including the thesis examiner, will report individually on the final oral examination and the written thesis. The candidate will be deemed to have passed if no more than one of the examiners votes negatively. An abstention will be regarded as a negative vote. The Report of Master's Examination Committee will record the decision as satisfactory or unsatisfactory. If unsatisfactory, the candidate may be given a second attempt. A second unsatisfactory result will constitute a recommendation to the Board of Graduate Studies that the student be required to withdraw.

It is understood that final oral examination revisions arising from the external examiner’s report and from feedback from the examination committee may be necessary to produce an acceptable revised final version of the dissertation.

Box 2

Suggested MA Oral Examination Timing

  • Introduction by Chair- 5 minutes
  • Presentation of research findings/scholarly work by candidate – 20-25 minutes
  • Public Question Period -10 minutes (max)
  • Break - 5 minutes (max, public are free to leave)
  • Examination Period - 1 hours and 40 minutes (questions only from examiners)

Order of Two Rounds of Questions by Examination Committee:

  1. Thesis Examiner (Member of the Graduate Faculty, not on the Advisory Committee)
  2. Member of the Advisory Committee
  3. Advisor or second member of the Advisor Committee

Suggested time allotted to examination committee members:

Examiner: Round 1 Round 2
Thesis Examiner 15 minutes 10 minutes
Advisory Committee 15 minutes 10 minutes
Advisor/Advisory 15 minutes 10 minutes

Thesis Submission

After you have successfully defended your thesis at the final oral examination and made any required revisions, your thesis must be submitted electronically to the Atrium. Also included in the electronic submission must be a copy of an abstract consisting of no more than 150 words. The Certificate of Approval, the circulation waiver and the copying license must be submitted to the Office of Graduate Studies.

Major Research Paper

The major research paper is not a thesis. It is probably more useful to think of it as an extension of course work; in fact, the Board of Graduate Studies has legislated that students doing a major research paper must register for the appropriate course (for Sociology MA students, this course is SOC*6660, Major Paper).

Although it is emphasized that the major research paper is not a thesis, students may elect to report original research that they have undertaken. Or, the major research paper may take the form of a longer essay, a critical review of literature within a specific area, an extended methodological exercise, to name a few alternatives.

The major research paper is usually prepared under the direction of the student’s advisor. Comments and suggestions are solicited from advisory committee members. When a final version of the paper is ready for evaluation, the advisor and committee member(s) read and grade the paper. This should be done two weeks prior to the deadline date for grade submission. Committee members review and grade the paper, and consult with one another to arrive at a final grade, which is submitted to the Graduate Program Assistant. If the advisory committee is unable to agree upon a grade, a grade is determined based on an average of the grades submitted by individual committee members.

There is no final examination, written or oral, in the case of the major research paper.

Major Research Paper Proposal

Students who opt to complete a major research paper are required to prepare a proposal that must be reviewed and approved by the advisory committee.

The proposal fulfils important functions for the student and the advisory committee.

For the student, it represents the opportunity to articulate a clear statement of the intent of the major research paper. It also provides a framework for the work that follows and a timetable for completion.

For the advisory committee, it represents a working agreement, a consensus regarding the work to be completed. It also provides a statement of purpose against which the completed major research paper can be evaluated.

The proposal need not be lengthy, but should be complete. The format is difficult to specify because of the various options available for the major research paper. The format should be determined in consultation with the advisory committee.

A Major Research Paper Proposal Approval form should be signed by the advisory committee and submitted, along with a copy of the proposal, to the Graduate Program Assistant.

Research Ethics

If you propose to conduct research involving human participants for either your thesis or major research paper, your research must be approved by the University Research Ethics Board. Consult your advisor to determine precisely what is required for such a review.