College of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies The Grad HUB

Defending your thesis

Is a major milestone in the thesis program. There are several things to take care of in preparation for the defense. This page outlines what you can do to get ready.

Before the defense


The oral defence should not be scheduled until all Advisory Committee members have formally agreed the thesis is ready for examination. 

  • All defence arrangements (time, date, location) are made by the academic unit.
  • At least two weeks (for Master's) and five weeks (for Ph.D) must be allowed between the time that the External Examiner receives the thesis and the date of the defence. This time is necessary in order to give examiners the opportunity to examine the thesis carefully. It is advisable to allow for more than the minimum required times listed above. 
  • It is the responsibility of the Department Head or Graduate Chair to inform the student in a timely way of all department requirements surrounding the Oral Defence (for example, that a public seminar be given).
  • It is the responsibility of the research supervisor to provide advice and support to the student in preparing for the Oral Defence.
Defence Policies



External examiners

  • Care must be taken in proposing the names of external examiners to ensure the absence of conflict of interest, either personal or professional in nature.
  • For Master’s defences, the academic unit provides all materials to the External Examiner. 
  • For Ph.D. defences, the CGPS Program Advisor forwards the thesis and any necessary documentation to the External Examiner. 




Oral statement

It is the responsibility of the student to prepare an oral statement on the nature and importance of the research project presented in the thesis. This statement should not be a mere reiteration or repetition of the thesis or the thesis abstract. It should be about 10-15 minutes in length and must not exceed 20 minutes.

In cases where candidates are required to give a public seminar, the requirement for the oral statement may be waived at the discretion of the department or college.

It is the responsibility of a student who has a disability that could interfere with their ability to respond to questioning at an oral defence, to contact Access and Equity Services (AES) 
and, if eligible, register with AES to ensure they receive the necessary support to aid their success.



Other responsibilities of the student

It is the student's responsibility to ensure all requirements of the Program of Studies have been completed, registration is current, outstanding fees are paid, and University deadlines are respected in view of any particular convocation.




Submission of the Thesis


All revisions required in the thesis must be made and approved before the final preparation of the volume begins. It is the student's responsibility to prepare and assemble all materials for the thesis in accordance with University and CGPS regulations and to ensure that the thesis volume is complete and in good order. 

Although academic units and supervisors may be prepared to assist graduate students in this matter, they are not obliged to do so. An academic unit is under no obligation to provide financial, technical, or secretarial assistance to graduate students in the preparation of their thesis. 

The thesis, project or other written assessment in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree must:

  1. Deal in an academically satisfactory way with a definite topic related to the major research field
  2. Demonstrate ability on the part of the candidate to do independent study and investigation
  3. Be written in good scholarly style and conform to the requirements of a style manual approved by the academic unit
  4. Comply in presentation features with the specifications of CGPS. Regulations regarding the preparation, submission and examination of Master's and Ph.D. theses are published in the Catalogue.
View Catalogue



It is the student's responsibility to prepare, assemble, and distribute all materials in all copies of the thesis.

The supervisor is responsible for advising and assisting the candidate in preparation for the submission of the thesis. The supervisor is responsible for ensuring, within reasonable limits, that the thesis is of an acceptable standard and quality for the degree sought.

It is the shared responsibility of the student and supervisor to ensure that the thesis is written in correct scholarly/scientific English, that it is free of errors in punctuation and typing, and that it respects academic standards and any conventions which are specific to the discipline. 

The Advisory Committee will evaluate the thesis to determine whether it is ready to proceed to defence. The Department Head or Graduate Chair will advise the College of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies in writing when a positive decision is reached, and the defence will be requested.  At the same time, the department is expected to ensure that all documentation in the student's file contains all necessary documentation, is up to date and in order, and that the academic requirements for the degree have been met.  The department's notification will indicate the definitive title of the thesis and will suggest names of proposed external examiners, with appropriate biographical information.

Defending the Thesis

What to expect

The Chair of the defence will invite the student to make a brief oral presentation, highlighting the major issues dealt with in the thesis, the conclusions which have been reached, and the significance of the findings. This presentation should last 10-15 minutes; it must not be more than 20 minutes and should be much shorter if the student has already given a public seminar on research results attended by the Examining Committee.

With certain restrictions to be determined by the department, the defence may be open to the public. At the conclusion of the examination, any individuals who are not members of the Examining Committee will be asked to leave.

All members of the Examining Committee are expected to ask relevant and probing questions on the methodology/contents of the thesis, and/or on the research field. Candidates should respond to questions directly, in a manner which is informed by the contents of the methodology and contents of the thesis, and as concisely as is appropriate to the question. They should not hesitate to make clarification should they have the impression that the questions asked derive from misconceptions about the research material or the literature.

At the conclusion of the examination, the student will be asked to leave the room in order to allow the Examining Committee to deliberate.

How students are judged

Students are judged on their ability to speak in an informed way about their research and to respond clearly and cogently to questions on the thesis (results and methodology) and on the thesis topic (knowledge of the academic field and related literature). Standards prevailing will be those of the discipline and the College of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies.

The student will pass the Oral Examination if a majority of all members of the Examining Committee (including the research supervisor and the person chairing) vote in favour of acceptance.

An abstention is counted as a negative vote. If, however, the favourable majority does not include the External Examiner, the Dean shall refer the case, along with the External Examiner's written report, to the Graduate Academic Affairs Committee for advice and recommendation concerning action to be taken.

It may frequently happen that one or more examiner is named to withhold approval signature until certain revisions, corrections, or modifications are made. It is the responsibility of the student to make these changes. It is the responsibility of the research supervisor to provide advice and support during the revision process and to ensure that the person(s) who have withheld their signature are shown the revised copy of the thesis and asked to give approval on behalf of the Examining Committee.

Following the Defence

Electronic Submission of the Thesis (ETD)

Candidates for Master’s and Ph.D. degrees, who have successfully completed their thesis oral examination and made all the revisions and corrections required by the Examining Committee, must submit the final approved version to the ETD site.

< Drafting         5. DEFENDING         Submitting >


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