PHD Thesis


PHD Thesis Timeline

The PhD direct-entry program is structured as five years (four years for PhD with a prior master’s). The thesis proposal takes place in the summer session of the second year (first year for PhD 4-year track). As such, supervisors and students are urged to design reasonable PhD thesis projects which can be completed in three years.

Please be advised that the Final Oral Examination (thesis defense) scheduling process generally takes a minimum of eight weeks lead time. In addition, students should factor in at least an additional month for thesis revisions after the exam. These time parameters are especially important to bear in mind when a student has an approaching deadline to take up an employment offer contingent upon completion of the PhD degree. In such instances, the examining committee is often given too little time to read and digest the thesis; moreover, the student’s departure immediately after the exam is potentially problematic in terms of sufficient time for thesis corrections.

Final Oral Examination Preparation

The first step in preparation for the Final Oral Examination is to ensure that the supervisory committee is in agreement that the thesis is ready for defense. (In instances where one member is unable to provide timely feedback and has no stated objection, the thesis may go forward with approval by the supervisor and remainder of the committee.) Next, the supervisor(s) in consultation with the supervisory committee should strike the examination committee. This includes the recommendation for the external examiner (also referred to as the external appraiser) who is then vetted by the Associate Chair, Graduate Studies with final approval by the School of Graduate Studies (SGS). Note that there are specific guidelines for the selection as prescribed by SGS (see below Composition of Examination Committee).

Please notify the Graduate Administrator as soon as the committee and exam date and time have been decided, and she will request the exam room at SGS and submit the required paperwork. The Final Oral Examination is typically held at SGS, 63 St. George Street, for a minimum of 2 hours on weekdays starting between 9:30am-2:00pm. It is understood that not all this information may be available at once but the most important piece to allow eight weeks advance time is the appointment of the external appraiser/examiner.

Minimum # of Advance Weeks FOE Preparation
8 weeks Submission of CV of recommended external appraiser/examiner (final approval by SGS) + tentative thesis title
6 weeks Finalize the composition of the examination committee
6 weeks Set the date and time (room availability to be confirmed by SGS)
6 weeks Submission of the final thesis title
6 weeks Send thesis to external examiner with copy to graduate administrator (best practice is 8 weeks advance)
4 weeks

Send thesis to the rest of the examination committee members
2 weeks External appraiser/examiner submission of thesis appraisal

If this preparation timeline is not followed, it could result in delayed scheduling. Note that once officially scheduled, an FOE can only be postponed by SGS with the permission of the Office of the Vice Dean, Programs. Postponement requests will only be considered for exceptional circumstances, more specifically attributed to illness and travel challenges.

For comprehensive details on scheduling the exam, responsibilities of the student and committee, and after exam follow-up, please refer to the SGS Policies and Procedures of the Final Oral Examination.

Composition of Examination Committee

The examination committee consists of the following:

•4-6 members total (including the external appraiser/examiner)

•1-3 members from the supervisory committee

•1 external examiner* (associate or full professor at arm’s length to student and supervisor and external to the University)

•At least 2 members not closely involved with supervision of the thesis. The external appraiser/examiner counts as 1. It is, however, recommended that you appoint 2 members from the University (with GFM appointments) in addition to the external member to ensure the composition of the quorum on the exam date.

A maximum of 2 committee members may participate remotely either via teleconference or videoconference.

*The external appraiser/examiner:

•must be external to the University and hold an associate or full professorship (or equivalent) at his/her home institution.

•must be at “arm’s length” from both the student and supervisor: cannot be a research collaborator on projects or publications or former department colleague (within the past 6 years) or be a former graduate supervisee/supervisor of the candidate or supervisor.

•should not be used more than once in a two-year period by the same supervisor or in a committee with significant overlap (3 or more members).

Final Thesis Submission

The School of Graduate Studies requires the submission of theses in electronic format, Electronic Theses and Dissertations (ETDs). Please refer to the SGS website on thesis formatting requirements, submission of ETD, and required forms.