Thesis Defence FAQs

Thesis Defence FAQ's

Q: What are the steps in planning a PhD defence?

A: The process begins when a student and his or her supervisory committee are in agreement that the PhD thesis will be ready to be defended in 8-10 weeks time. The student initiates the defence process electronically

The candidate should initiate online approximately 2-3 weeks before two copies of the thesis will be submitted to the School of Graduate Studies.

After online initiation, the student's supervisor will be prompted by e-mail to submit to the School of Graduate Studies a list of potential external examiners who are qualified to evaluate the thesis. It will be up to the student to propose a date and time for the defence that is acceptable to both the supervisory committee members who will attend and acceptable in terms of the School of Graduate Studies' scheduling guidelines.

A PDF version of the PhD thesis must be submitted to the School of Graduate Studies prior to the defence. A paper version of the thesis should be available if requested by either the external or internal examiners. The pre-defence copies of the thesis should be formatted according to the requirements in The Guide for the Preparation of Theses.

Q: What are a candidate's pre-defence responsibilities besides submitting the thesis?

A: As indicated above, PhD candidates must arrange a defence date and time that allow for the supervisor and two other supervisory committee members to attend. Please note that if a student has four supervisory committee members, only three are required to attend (including the supervisor) and determine whether or not the thesis has been successfully defended.

Q: Do students have to adhere to the formatting rules in the Guide for the pre-defence copy?

A: Yes, the pre-defence copy should be formatted according to the specifications in the Guide. In particular, the pre-defence copy of the thesis should be double-spaced and in 12-point font. Please note, however, that the pre-defence copy can be printed on photocopy-grade paper. Two-sided printing is encouraged.

Q: How will a candidate know if the proposed date of defence is feasible or not?

A: Once the supervisor committee members have approved the thesis and the proposed defence date/time, an e-mail is sent to the candidate indicating that the School of Graduate Studies has received notice of the proposed date/time. If an external examiner has agreed to evaluate the thesis, the thesis has been submitted in a timely manner and the proposed defence date is acceptable according to SGS guidelines, the Thesis Defence Coordinator will recruit the remaining examination committee members. If there is a problem with the proposed date/time, the student will be contacted directly. The Thesis Defence Coordinator can be reached at x23680 or gthesis@mcmaster.ca.

Q: Besides the candidate and the three supervisory committee members who have agreed to attend the defence, who else will be on the examining committee? When will the student know the identities of the internal participant(s) and the external examiner?

A: A chair and one internal examiner are usually recruited by SGS to participate in a PhD defence. The internal examiner is usually a faculty member from outside of the candidate's department/program who is unfamiliar with the student's work. Please note that if the external examiner agrees to attend the defence, an 'internal-external' examiner is normally not recruited. If the external examiner does not attend the defence, their identity will not be revealed to the candidate until the date of the examination. Please note that in rare cases, external examiners prefer to remain anonymous.

When a positive report from the external examiner is submitted to the School of Graduate Studies, a defence notice listing the participants will be sent to the candidate's department in addition to being posted on the SGS website.

Q: Are there any guidelines on the SGS website students can consult as to what goes on at a PhD defence?

A: The Guide to the Preparation of Theses contains instructions for the examination of PhD theses. The first section explains the candidate's role and the second outlines the sequence of events.

Q: Where can someone find more information about writing a 'sandwich' thesis?

A: The Guide to the Preparation of Theses contains information on the inclusion of previously published or prepared material in theses. Please note that failure to adhere to the requirements could result in a delay in the scheduling of a defence.

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