Procedures For Masters' Thesis Defence

Approved by Graduate Directorate: 10 February 1997
Approved by C.O.W.: 30 April 1997

1. Selection and appointment of external referee

           After consultation with other members of the supervisory committee, the supervisor is to submit the names (plus postal and email addresses and telephone numbers and information as to reputations) of at least two potential referees to the Departmental Chair in order of preference. This should be done at least 6 weeks before the anticipated date of the defence.

These potential referees should be knowledgeable and experienced in the area of research covered by the thesis, and must not have been involved in the thesis work, or other research, of the student. They can be anywhere in the world, and do not usually attend the defence. They should not be currently associated with Dalhousie University (either as employees or with honourary appointments). They should usually be members of the graduate faculty of another university. If this is not the case, the Departmental Chair must be provided a CV and an explanation as to why the person is appropriate.

2. Contacting the selected referee

           The Departmental Chair, assisted by the Chair's secretary, will telephone the referees in turn to ask if each is agreeable and will evaluate the thesis within 3 weeks of receipt. The referee is informed that we would like the thesis evaluation form (plus any other comments) returned by courier or FAX. There will be an honorarium of $100 for reviewing the thesis, which is paid by the Department.

3. Submission of thesis by student

           The student will submit to the Departmental Chair's secretary sufficient copies of the MSc thesis for all members of the examining committee (see below for membership). The thesis must be complete and ready for printing, if acceptable [see "Faculty of Graduate Studies, Regulations for Submission of Theses"]. A minimum time of 3 weeks must be allowed for the external examiner to read the thesis before the scheduled date of the defence.

4. What is sent to the referee

a) one copy of the thesis

b) thesis evaluation form to be returned to Departmental Chair's secretary (which, when returned is distributed to the chair of the examining committee)

c) statement of time frame for evaluation and date of defence (confirms telephone information)

d) credit with courier for return of evaluation sheet

e) information as to how they will be paid.

5. The examining committee consists of:

 a) the chair of the examining committee, selected on a rotating basis from all full-time tenured associate and full professors in the Biology Department

 b) external referee (not usually present--if the referee is present a thesis evaluation form should still be completed)

c) the student's supervisory committee which includes the supervisor

d) a Faculty of Graduate Studies representative (only if appointed by the Dean, possibly at the request of the student or chair of the examining committee).

           The external referee and supervisory committee (examiners in categories b) and c) above) must fill in thesis evaluation forms.

6. Setting up the examination

    The defence is set up by the Departmental Chair's Secretary who:

       a) Finds a suitable chair of the examination committee
       (with consultation from the Graduate Directorate and Departmental Chair as necessary)

       b) Distributes copies of the thesis and thesis evaluation forms to all examiners

       c) Consults with the student and examiners to choose a suitable time

       d) Arranges a room

       e) Makes, and posts, posters advertising the defence. The posters list the date, time, place, student's name, thesis title, names of the examining committee, and affiliation of the external examiner and other non-Dalhousie examiners

        f) Makes sure that the external examiner's report is received before the defence and given to the chair of the defence

        g) Gives the chair of the defence and other examiners the necessary forms.

7. What happens at the defence:

        a) Presentation by student (10-20 min)

        b) The chair of the examining committee reads aloud appropriate sections of the evaluation of the thesis by the external referee (if not present--if present the external referee questions the student)

        c) The student defends her/himself verbally

        d) Questioning from examiners (supervisory committee and supervisor)

        e) Questioning from audience (defences are open to anyone inside or outside the university)

         f) In camera meeting of examining committee to decide how thesis is to be graded (by the majority opinion of examiners present). Categories are:

-- approved as submitted;

-- approved upon specific corrections being made (a deadline must be given for the approval of the revised thesis by the supervisor and/or other examiners, generally less than one month);

--rejected with permission to submit a revised thesis (a deadline must be given for the submission of the revised thesis, generally less than one year);

-- rejected outright.

         g) The student is asked to return so that she/he can be told the results of the examination.

         h) In the case of a pass, the examiners sign the signature page of the thesis. The external examiner, if absent, is not required to sign this page. In the case of a pass conditional on revisions, the supervisor (or some other designated examiner) may withhold their signature until the revisions are completed.

8. After the defence

        a) The chair of the examining committee informs the graduate coordinator in writing of the results of the examination, including any deadline for the approval of the revised thesis, and attaches thesis evaluation forms from all examiners (except the chair, and faculty representative). The graduate coordinator then places this information in the student's departmental file and give copies to the student and his or her supervisor. In the case of an outright failure, or failure with a right to resubmit, the graduate coordinator sends notification to the Dean of Graduate Studies.

        b) If corrections to the thesis are required by the examining committee, the supervisor (and/or anyone else specified by the examining committee) informs the graduate coordinator in writing when these corrections have been completed satisfactorily

        c) The student submits the original and four copies of the final version of the thesis to the Graduate Studies Office [see: Faculty of Graduate Studies, Regulations for Submission of Theses].

Other useful information:

       1. Biology Department Graduate Programme Procedures (sections 13-16).

       2. Graduate Studies Calendar. This gives the dates by which theses must be handed in to the Department before the examination, and to Graduate Studies after the examination with the thesis approved, for graduation during the different convocations. This affects whether your pay fees!

       3. Faculty of Graduate Studies, Regulations for Submission of Theses.

       4. Signature page of thesis. The student should bring one to the thesis defence.

       5. Evaluation form, Biology Department Master's Thesis (for external referee and other examiners).

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