Thesis and Thesis Defence

PLEASE NOTE: Effective October 1st, 2016 new regulations governing the thesis apply.

Standards

It is the student’s responsibility to ensure that the thesis adheres to the University of Ottawa’s standards.

For a Master’s Thesis: The master's thesis demonstrates that the student is able to work in a scholarly manner and is acquainted with the principal works published on the subject of his thesis. Insofar as possible, the thesis must be an original contribution to the field of research.

For a Doctoral Thesis: A doctoral thesis must constitute a contribution to the advancement of knowledge and the field of study. It also must embody the results of extensive and original research on the part of the student and its quality must be such as to merit publication.

 

Acceptable Thesis Formats

There are two acceptable formats for the thesis: classic thesis (also called monograph) and a “thesis by article”. The format is decided at the TAC meeting when permission to write is asked. In practice, MSc candidates are restricted to the classic thesis format.

Permission to use the “thesis by article” format must be approved by the Thesis Advisory Committee (TAC). Not all candidates will have produced work suitable for presentation in the thesis by article format.

Permission is granted when the following criteria are met:

  1. The candidate should have at least 3 manuscripts that are published, accepted or submitted.
  2. At least 2 of the manuscripts must be published or accepted.
  3. The student must be first or co-first author on a minimum of 2 manuscripts
  4. The work presented in the papers/manuscripts must be original and must advance the field of research significantly. Review articles cannot count towards the required number of articles.
  5. The student must have made substantive contributions to each manuscript.
  6. The candidate must have contributed significantly to the writing of each manuscript (i.e. the candidate wrote the manuscript draft including the results, methods and discussion sections related to his/her data contributions).

If the TAC decides that the “thesis by article” format is appropriate, they must complete the Permission to Write a Thesis by Article form and submit it to the Graduate Studies Office.

Approximately one month prior to submission of the thesis, the thesis supervisor(s) must forward the completed “List of Examiners for the evaluation of the thesis” form to the Graduate Studies Office. At the time the thesis is submitted for evaluation, the thesis supervisor(s) must sign the appropriate form confirming that they have read the thesis and find it acceptable for submission to the jury for evaluation, and that all required approvals were obtained.

 

Selecting Examiners

A master's thesis will be evaluated by and subsequently defended in person before a jury of no fewer than two and no more than four examiners. A doctoral thesis will be evaluated by and subsequently defended in person before a jury of no fewer than four and no more than seven members. 

All internal examiners must be members of the FGPS. For both MSc and PhD theses, a supervisor may propose an internal examiner who is not a member of the FGPS. The examiner must have equivalent qualifications to those required for membership in the FGPS, must agree to provide a written evaluation report on the thesis and to attend the oral defence in person. The Vice-Dean of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies or his/her delegate must approve the nomination. The academic unit concerned is responsible for covering any costs incurred by the examiner.

For PhD theses, one examiner should be from outside of the University of Ottawa, Saint Paul University and the Ottawa-Carleton Joint Institutes. The proposed external must be arm’s length from the student and the thesis supervisor.

There is a conflict of interest in one or more of the following circumstances:

  • There is a close personal link or family link between the proposed external examiner and the thesis supervisor(s) or student;
  • There is an administrative link between the proposed external examiner and the thesis supervisor(s) or student;
  • The thesis supervisor(s) or student has formal links with the organization or university with which the proposed external examiner is affiliated;
  • A proposed external examiner is a former thesis or research supervisor or graduate student of the thesis supervisor(s) or student; 
  • A proposed external examiner is, or was in the last six years, from the same university, organization or department, or belongs or belonged, in the last six years, to the same research unit as the thesis supervisor(s) or student;
  • A proposed external examiner has collaborated on the same research grant or has co-authored a publication with the student.

There may be a conflict of interest in one or more of the following circumstances:

  • A proposed external examiner has collaborated on the same research grant or co-authored with the thesis supervisor(s) within the past six years.
  • A proposed external examiner is an industrial or government representative who is or was in the last six years directly involved in collaborative activities with the thesis supervisor(s) or student. 

This list, while not exhaustive, illustrates the nature of potential conflicts to be avoided.

 

Evaluation procedures

All examiners must submit a detailed written evaluation report. All of the reports, including the name of the examiner, will be sent to the student, the thesis supervisor(s), the other examiners and the chair of the defence prior to the defence. 

The examiners’ reports must be sufficiently detailed to enable the student to prepare for the defence. The report must clearly indicate whether the examiner judges the thesis ready for the defence.  If the report is not sufficiently detailed, the Dean of the FGPS or his delegate, in the case of doctoral theses, or the home faculty Dean or his delegate, in the case of master’s theses, may require that the report be rewritten. 

If the reports are not received within the deadlines set by the office responsible of organizing the defence, the defence may be postponed.

 

Thesis Defence

Once the evaluation process has commenced, the office responsible for organizing the defence will tentatively schedule the defence on a time and date acceptable to the examiners, to the student and to the thesis supervisor(s). This will be confirmed once all the reports have been received. If the reports are not received within the deadlines set by the office responsible of organizing the defence, the defence may be postponed.

NOTE: Once the evaluation reports on the thesis have been received, the student is allowed to defend his thesis. However, the student, in consultation with his thesis supervisor(s), may deem it preferable to revise the thesis before going to the defence. In this case, the student may withdraw the thesis from the defence

Within five (5) business days after receiving the evaluation reports, the student must confirm in writing whether s/he wishes to:

a) defend his/her thesis;and, if not: whether
b) s/he intends to revise his/her thesis before the defence; or, 
c) s/he is withdrawing from the program.

NOTE: The decision to withdraw from the program or to revise the thesis before the defence will result in a failure, which will be recorded as an NS (not satisfactory) on the student’s transcript. A student who decides to revise his thesis must submit it for defence by the same jury within a maximum of three (3) consecutive terms (sessions). The revisions relative to the original version must be clearly indicated. The examiners will evaluate the revised thesis. The procedure and verdicts for a second defence will apply to the revised thesis. If the thesis is not submitted within the deadline, a second NS will be recorded on the student’s transcript and his file will be closed.

 

Procedures for the Defence

Immediately before the defence and in the absence of the candidate, the chairperson of the jury meets briefly with the examiners and thesis supervisor to:

(a) discuss any difficulties arising from the examiners’ reports;

(b) to explain the procedure to be adopted;

(c) to determine the sequence in which the examiners will question the candidate and the time allocated to each examiner for the questioning.

All the examiners are expected to be present at the defence.

The Chairperson begins the oral defence by inviting the candidate to present their thesis research in either a 15-20 minute seminar (MSc) or a 45-50 minute seminar (PhD). It is the Chairperson’s responsibility to ensure that the seminar does not exceed the allotted time. At the doctoral level, the public seminar will be followed by a short break (5-10 min) to allow the candidate to prepare for questioning.

The chairperson then invites the examiners (in the sequence previously determined) to question the candidate on the thesis. A second round of questions may be appropriate. Finally, the thesis supervisor is given the opportunity to comment or ask questions.

 

Verdicts at the Defence

The examiners will render one of the following three verdicts:

  1. Verdict #1. The thesis is accepted for the degree with minor corrections. The thesis supervisor(s) will ensure that all corrections are made as required by the jury. The corrections must be completed and the final version of the thesis submitted no later than thirty (30) days after the defence
  2. Verdict #2. The thesis is accepted for the degree with major corrections/revisions. The jury, in consultation with the thesis supervisor(s) must decide whether the required corrections/revisions are to be verified by the thesis supervisor(s) OR the thesis supervisor(s) and one or more examiners. The student will have one hundred and twenty (120) days after the date of the defence to complete the required revisions and to submit the final version of the thesis. The student must register for a term (session) within this 120-day period. 
  3. Verdict #3. The thesis is NOT accepted for the degree. It must be revised and undergo the evaluation and defence process again with the same jury. A #3 verdict is considered a failure and it will be recorded on the student’s transcript as NS (not satisfactory). 

Split verdict

If the examiners are unable to arrive at a unanimous verdict, the following procedures will apply:

  1. The chair of the defence will record the individual verdicts of the examiners or, on the request of an examiner, will conduct a secret ballot.
  2. If two or more examiners give a #3 verdict, the chair will record a final verdict of #3.
  3.  In all other cases, the chair will record a final verdict of #2, and the jury, in consultation with the thesis supervisor(s), must decide on what changes need to be made to the thesis and who will supervise and be responsible for approving them.

Second defence of defence following the evaluation of the revised thesis

The same jury will evaluate the revised thesis and attend the defence. The procedures for organizing the re-evaluation and the second defence are the same as those that apply for the first one. When a student decides to revise his thesis before the defence, the verdicts that will apply for the defence following the evaluation of the revised thesis are the same as those that apply for a second defence.

The possible verdicts for the second defence or for the defence following the evaluation of the revised thesis are as follows:

  1. Verdict #1. The thesis is accepted for the degree with minor corrections. The thesis supervisor(s) will ensure that all corrections are made as required by the jury. The corrections must be completed and the final version of the thesis submitted no later than thirty (30) days after the defence. Note: A student who does not submit the final version of the thesis within the deadline must register for the entire term (session). 
  2. Verdict #2. The thesis is accepted for the degree with major corrections/revisions. The jury, in consultation with the thesis supervisor(s), must decide who will be responsible for checking the required corrections/revisions: the thesis supervisor(s) or the thesis supervisor(s) and one or more examiners. The student will have one hundred and twenty (120) days after the date of the defence to complete the required revisions and to submit the final version of the thesis. The student must register for a term (session) within this 120-day period. 
     

IMPORTANT: In the case of a # 1 or # 2 verdict for the second defence, if the student does not submit the final version of his thesis within 120 days, a second failure for the thesis will be recorded on the student’s transcript and his file will be closed. 

 

  1. Verdict # 3: The thesis is NOT accepted for the degree. A # 3 verdict at the second defence is deemed a failure (NS grade) and it leads to mandatory withdrawal of the student and closure of his file.

If, at any time, a student decides not to proceed to the second defence, this will be considered a second failure (NS) for the thesis and his file will be closed.

Nomination of the Thesis for a Prize

After the verdict has been determined, the thesis supervisor is then be asked to leave the room.  If appropriate, the Chairperson should then enquire whether the examiners are prepared to recommend the thesis for a prize*.

*Only students who have completed an outstanding thesis should be nominated for a prize (University level and Faculty level). The examiners' pre-defence reports play a major role in the evaluation. For doctoral thesis, the external examiner's pre-defence report is very important.

 

A complete version of the regulations governing the thesis are available here.

 
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