Thesis Advisory Committee (TAC) Meetings and Deadlines

A graduate student must complete one TAC meeting per year of study. During the first semester of study, you must nominate members to the TAC. For MSc candidates, you must nominate 2 professors. For PhD candidates, three professors are required. Normally, all TAC members are also members of the FGPS, but depending on the area of research, it may be appropriate to include individuals with necessary expertise who are not members. These requests are approved on a case by case basis. Please consult the Graduate Program Director.

The first TAC meeting must be completed by the end of the first term. This deadline is fixed. Failure to complete the TAC meeting by this deadline results in a registration condition in the student file (meaning the student will be unable to register for the second term until the TAC is completed. In practice, this means that students will have to pay late fees to the University). Please encourage your students to plan their TAC meetings well in advance to avoid end-of-term anxiety.

PLEASE NOTE: Many students ask for extensions on the deadline because they (i) don’t feel ready; or (ii) would like to learn more, do more, have more results. Neither of these reasons are particularly valid given that the TAC meeting is not graded. The purpose of the TAC meeting is to assess progress, and the reason for having the first TAC meeting in the first semester is to ensure that students understand their research question, understand why the research is important, understand the first experimental steps to be taken, and have a “if everything goes according to plan” long-range plan. There is no expectations that students will know everything, but they should prepare themselves. There are certainly no expectations for productivity, especially given that they are also taking their first grad course. It is your role to help them understand what will happen in the first meeting, what your expectations are, and to encourage them to just move forward. The first TAC is of little diagnostic value in terms of student success.

 

The Role of the Thesis Advisory Committee
  1. Monitor progress of the student in the program and academic performance 
  2. Provide guidance on the conduct of the research project.
  3. Discuss and approve the student's thesis proposal. 
  4. To provide the Graduate Studies Director and Graduate Studies Committee with advice and recommendations regarding the student's progress in the program through the completion and submission of an annual report (TAC report) after each meeting, which will be shown to the student and kept in his/her file. The report includes: 
    1. a rating of the student progress and performance (satisfactory or not satisfactory)
    2. written comments on the student progress and performance

 

Format of the Report

These guidelines are intended to help students write the research proposal for their first Advisory Committee meeting. These guidelines do not apply for the progress report or the Comprehensive Exam for the transfer from M.Sc. to Ph.D. program.  The research proposal must be submitted a minimum of 1 week prior to the Advisory Committee meeting.

Format:  There are no page limits for the Research Proposal, but in general 10-12 single-spaced pages excluding figures and references should be sufficient.

Part 1: Introduction 

The Introduction must include a review of the pertinent literature and a critical evaluation of previous studies. The last part of the Introduction must clearly lead to the research question that is the basis for the study (the rationale). The Introduction is expected to be between 2-3 pages. 

Part 2: Objectives and Hypothesis 

The research proposal must include a hypothesis and the experimental objectives. These should be clear and concise. 

Part 3: Research Plan

The research plan should describe the experimental approach to be used to test the hypotheses. The experimental conditions (e.g. drugs to be used, time of exposure, specific conditions that animals are exposed to) and the techniques to be used should be described. The Research plan is expected to be between 2-3 pages. 

Part 4: Results

If preliminary data are available, then present them as it is done in a manuscript to be submitted. That is, describe briefly and concisely the data in a "Results" section. Figures and tables may be added at the end of the proposal or integrated into the text. Each table and figure must have a legend that briefly describe the methods used. If preliminary data are not available, then a discussion of planned experiments and progress towards setting up those systems is expected.

Part 5: Conclusion

A short paragraph that summarizes the objectives and significance of the research in terms of new knowledge to the field.

 

Writing a Progress Report

A progress report is a short document outlining experimental progress since the last TAC meeting. It should be no longer than 5 single-spaced pages (not including figures or references) that includes a brief introduction to the research project, the hypothesis and experimental aims, and the results since the last meeting. It is appropriate to add also a plan of action for the upcoming year, highlighting the critical next experiments that the student will concentrate on. Remember that the student will make a brief presentation during your TAC and are available to remind the committee about any past experimental progress.

 

Meeting Procedures

TAC meetings have a standard format.

  1. Preamble

    The members, if they wish, can have a short discussion before the meeting starts in the absence of the student. This meeting should be brief and should include a discussion of student progress (eg. coursework), and any successes or concerns.
  2. Presentation by the Student

    When it is a research proposal, the student should present a short summary of his/her research proposal, a description of the hypotheses and experimental approaches and any preliminary data (if available) as well as their significance. When it is a progress report, the student then presents a summary of the hypotheses, his/her results obtained so far and their significance, describes future experiments (if any), and describes any changes in the research project from the previous meeting.
  3. Discussion

    During or after the presentation, the members of the Advisory Committee, can ask questions regarding the student's progress, can ask questions to assess the student’s depth and breadth of knowledge, can ask questions regarding the significance of the experimental procedures and results, can ask questions regarding his/her future experimental plans. TAC members are encouraged to challenge students in regards to the significance of the results. It is also very important that the committee members point out the strong and weak aspects of the student’s progress. Members should not hesitate to propose new approaches if they feel that the project has potential pitfalls. 
  4. Advisory Committee Report

    Following the Discussion, the student is invited to leave the room. Members discuss the student progress.  This is the time when the Advisory committee report is written and signed by all members of the Committee. The supervisor can then fill his part before he/she submits the report to his/her student. It is the responsibility of the graduate student to read the report, fill in the last section, sign his/her name and submit the report to the Graduate Program Academic Administrative Officer in room 2016.  Reports are kept in the student’s file.  
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