Thesis and Defense

If you are in a thesis program, you will likely begin working on your thesis once you have completed your coursework. Writing a thesis can be both the most challenging, and the most rewarding aspect of graduate work. A thesis is a major original scholarly work that advances an idea or proposition. It documents the findings of the research, and it is to be discussed and defended under competent third party scrutiny. The word ‘thesis’ is used throughout this section to refer to both the master’s and doctoral level. The term ‘dissertation’ is not used to distinguish doctoral theses from master’s theses.

The first step in writing a thesis is to identify a research topic or area, and a thesis supervisor (and potentially a co-supervisor as well); many students will have done this before beginning their program. Most students work very closely with their supervisor throughout their program. You will also, with your supervisor, choose a thesis committee. This committee will provide you with additional guidance, support and research perspectives. See Before You Start.

Your supervisor and committee will guide you throughout your program. They will assist with selecting courses, choosing your research topic, writing of your thesis and, finally, defending your thesis. For information about selecting a supervisor and what expectation you should have of them see Graduate Supervision. There are also details about the composition of a Masters Committee and a PhD Committee.

We recommend that you read our information about writing a thesis before you start writing your thesis.

Once your thesis is completed you can start preparing for your defense. Make sure you read all the step needed in the pre-defense procedures. A defense is an oral examination of a student’s thesis by an examining committee. It occurs after the thesis is finished, but before it is submitted to the university. The purpose of the defense is to examine and evaluate the student’s understanding of the topic as demonstrated in the written thesis, and the responses to questions from the examining committee. Read Defense well before your thesis is completed (take careful note of the deadlines.

After the defense you will need to get your thesis bound and set to the library, see post-defense procedures for what you need to do.