Western Graduate & Postdoctoral  Studies

8. Thesis

The following details the regulations surrounding the process of producing, submitting, examining and publishing graduate theses at Western.  For an overview of processes, services and support relating to theses please visit the Current Students section "Thesis" for more information. 

A thesis (or dissertation) is a formal statement of the theory, source materials, methodology, and findings of a student's major research project. It must be a complete and sufficient document that does not require subsidiary information to substantiate its findings. The examination of the thesis exposes the student's work to scholarly criticism.

To fulfill the degree requirement, the thesis and the candidate's oral examination must be assessed and approved by a Thesis Examination Board and meet SGPS requirements for thesis content.

For each student writing a thesis, programs are required to establish a formal Thesis Supervisory Committee for all thesis-based Masters and PhD students consisting of a supervisor and at least one other person. For information on SGPS Membership, please consult SGPS Membership.

8.1.1 - Doctoral Programs

Every candidate for the Doctoral degree must complete a thesis. The thesis must indicate in what respects the investigation has increased knowledge of the subject. A candidate may not submit a thesis that has been previously accepted for a degree, but may, with the permission of the Graduate Program, incorporate material included in a previous thesis.

Doctoral candidates must present a Public Lecture on their thesis research. (SGPS has allowed certain programs to waive this requirement.) The Public Lecture allows the candidate to present his/her research projects to a Western University community of scholars in an open forum.

8.1.2 - Master's Programs

Programs may require a thesis or make a thesis optional.

Each Graduate Program specifies student milestones for satisfactory progress towards the completion of all degree requirements. All non-thesis degree requirements must be completed before the student and/or Graduate Chair can submit a proposal for the Thesis Examination Board to SGPS.

The work must comprise a coherent account of a unified research project rather than a collection of loosely connected studies. It must have an acceptable form for its discipline and display a thorough knowledge of and scholarly approach to the subject.

Before beginning to write, each student, in consultation with his/her Supervisory Committee and Graduate Program, should decide on the best format in which to present the work.

Formatting

8.3.1 - Format Specifications

SGPS accepts theses in either monograph or integrated-article format:

  • The monograph format organizes chapters around a central problem.
  • In the integrated-article format, the chapters treat discrete but related problems. The work must have connecting materials to provide logical bridges between the different chapters, thereby achieving an integration of information.  Chapters may include published articles, submitted articles, and unpublished work in a publication format. Although SGPS allows co-authorship of chapter materials, the candidate must be the principal author and have had a major role in the preparation and writing of the manuscripts. Publication or acceptance for publication of research results before presentation of the thesis in no way supersedes the University's evaluation and judgment of the work during the thesis examination process.
  • In the case of co-authored papers (chapters), the student must include a statement of authorship for each paper included in the thesis, indicating the nature and extent of contributions by others.
Monograph
  • Title Page (provided by Scholarship@Western upon upload)
  • Abstract and Keywords
  • Co-Authorship (where applicable)
  • Epigraph (optional)
  • Dedication (optional)
  • Acknowledgments (where applicable)
  • Table of Contents
  • List of Tables (where applicable)
  • List of Figures (where applicable)
  • List of Plates (where applicable)
  • List of Appendices (where applicable)
  • List of Abbreviations, Symbols, Nomenclature (where applicable)
  • Preface (where applicable)
  • Body of Thesis divided into various chapters and must contain:
    - Introduction
    - Literature Review (where applicable)
    - Middle sections/chapters
    - Summary, and Conclusions
    - Bibliography
    - Appendices (copyright releases and ethics approval should be included where applicable)
    - Curriculum Vitae
Integrated-Article
  • Title Page (provided by Scholarship@Western upon upload)
  • Abstract and Keywords
  • Co-Authorship (where applicable)
  • Epigraph (optional)
  • Dedication (optional)
  • Acknowledgments (where applicable)
  • Table of Contents
  • List of Tables (where applicable)
  • List of Figures (where applicable)
  • List of Plates (where applicable)
  • List of Appendices (where applicable)
  • List of Abbreviations, Symbols, Nomenclature (where applicable)
  • Preface (where applicable)
  • Body of Thesis:
    - Introductory chapter to the entire thesis with its own bibliography
    - Literature Review (where applicable)
    - Middle chapters. Each is presented in an integrated-article format without an abstract, but with its own bibliography.
    - Final chapter (general discussion and conclusions) to relate the separate studies to each other and to a relevant discipline or field of study. This section has its own bibliography.
  • Appendices:
    - This section to contain details of methodology, tabulated data, and other pertinent data not provided in detail in previous chapters. Ethics Approval (where applicable) and copyright releases from publications must be included here.
  • Curriculum Vitae 
    Note: The bibliographies for each of the individual chapters should be in a consistent format throughout the thesis regardless of the citation formats of the journals in which the article has appeared or will appear. Tables and figures should appear in the text where they would be for publication.

8.3.1.1 - Length

Programs may have regulations that limit length. Students should contact their program for these regulations.

8.3.1.2 - Copyrighted Material and Permissions

The candidate must ensure that the work does not contain a substantial amount of copyrighted material. Under the Copyright Act, the "fair use" provision allows the quotation of a reasonable extract of someone else's work, if properly cited. For more extensive quotation, the candidate must obtain written permission from the copyright holder(s) and include this permission in the thesis.

If the candidate wishes the work to include text that he/she has already published as a journal article or book chapter, he/she must obtain permission from the publisher and include this permission in the appendices. This is of utmost importance if the integrated-article format is used. Any chapters that have been published, accepted for publication, or submitted for publication must carry the following footnote: A version of this chapter has been published/accepted for publication/submitted for publication (Cite the reference).

8.3.1.3 - Confidentiality Agreement

If the candidate feels that the nature of the information contained in the work must remain confidential (e.g., concerns pending patents etc.) for a specified period of time, a confidentiality agreement is required. See Sections 8.4.3 and 8.5.3: The Candidate Submits the Thesis for Examination.

8.3.1.4 - Titling

An effective title makes the thesis accessible to other scholars. The title must provide an accurate description of the thesis content. Library catalogues and online bibliographic databases use words in the title as a way to retrieve a thesis. Thus, if possible, the title should include key words that link the thesis to literature on its topic. Use word substitutes for formulas, symbols, superscripts, subscripts, Greek letters, and so on.

8.3.1.5 - Title Page

The title page contains the copyright notice and information to identify the thesis in catalogues and bibliographies.  A title page is generated and attached to the front of a thesis after it is uploaded to Scholarship@Western.

8.3.1.6 - Certificate of Examination

The signed Certificate of Examination will be retained in the student's file within the School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies.

  • Doctoral (provided at examination)
  • Master's (alter/remove supervisor designations as appropriate)

8.3.1.7 - Abstract and Keywords

The abstract (page-numbered ii) provides a succinct summary of the work. To satisfy the requirements of the National Library and University Microfilms International, the abstract must be no longer than 350 words for a Doctoral thesis and 150 words for a Master's thesis.

The abstract must give enough information about the thesis to allow a potential reader to decide whether or not to consult the complete work. The candidate must ensure that the abstract refers to all the elements that would make the thesis worth consulting. The abstract should include important place names and proper nouns because these can be significant key words for electronic retrieval. It should not include graphs, charts, illustrations or tables. The expected content of an abstract varies among disciplines, but all abstracts can be expected to include the following:

  • a statement of the research problem or question
  • an indication of the research method(s) used or theoretical orientation taken
  • findings or major discoveries made
  • conclusions and significance.

The abstract should have the same line spacing as the text of the body of the thesis.

Keywords: At the end of the Abstract should appear a list of keywords. Librarians use these keywords when assigning subject headings and index terms as part of the Cataloguing Record. The candidate, as the person most familiar with the research and its significance, selects the terms that help other scholars get access to his/her work. For example, the following keywords could be used for a thesis studying fuzzy relational modeling:

Keywords: fuzzy relational modeling, fuzzy simulation, fuzzy c-Means, Centre of Gravity, Centre of Area, Weighted Average of Cluster Centres, Polyline algorithm. 

The following could be used to describe a thesis entitled "The Other of Grammatology: Lacan, Derrida, Kristeva," which studies the relationship between psychoanalysis, deconstruction, and feminism as they relate to linguistic representations: Keywords: Psychoanalysis, Deconstruction, Freud, Derrida, Kristeva, Lacan, Feminism, Reference.

8.3.1.8 - The Co-Authorship Statement (where applicable)

In the case where a thesis includes papers co-authored by the candidate and others, the thesis must state explicitly who contributed to such work and the nature and extent of this contribution. The Supervisor(s) must attest to the accuracy of such statements about co-authorship at the Thesis Examination.

8.3.1.9 - Acknowledgments (where applicable)

The acknowledgments note help received from the Supervisor(s), staff, co-authors and co-researchers, fellow students, technicians or others in the collection of materials or data, the design and construction of apparatus, the analysis of data, and the writing of the thesis.

8.3.1.10 - Table of Contents

The table of contents provides a listing of the main elements in the thesis. In the rare case where the thesis requires more than one volume, each volume must have its own table of contents.

8.3.1.11 - Ethics Approval (where applicable)

If the thesis has involved the use of animal or human subjects, the candidate must provide evidence of the necessary ethics approval from the appropriate committee, such as a copy of the UWO ethics approval form in an appendix.

For more information on research involving humans consult the Office of Research Ethics website (http://www.uwo.ca/research/ethics/). For information on the use of animals consult the Animal Care and Veterinary Service website (http://www.uwo.ca/animal/website/index.htm).

8.3.1.12 - Appendices (where applicable)

The purpose of an appendix is to include in the thesis supporting material that is not an essential part of the text itself. For example, in a thesis that involves a survey, letters of information to subjects, questionnaires, or other research instruments may appear in an appendix. In a thesis that analyzes a rare or inaccessible text, that text may be included in an appendix. An appendix also may include raw data on which analysis has been performed, either in print or disk format.

8.3.1.13 - Curriculum Vitae

The vita should be a brief document and include only public information: name, post-secondary education and degrees, awards, related work experience, and relevant publications. It is not intended to be a job resumé. The Vita is the last page(s) of the thesis.

Sample: [PDF

8.3.1.14 - Electronic Thesis and Dissertation (ETD)

Candidates must present their work in an acceptable file format type.  These acceptable types are:

  • Portable Document Format (.pdf)
  • Word Document (.doc)
  • Rich Text Format (.rtf)

Note: candidates are encouraged to use the Portable Document Format (.pdf) as all documents received through the Scholarship@Western Electronic Thesis and Dissertation repository are automatically converted to .pdf. Using the .pdf format allows the candidate to verify the appearance and organization of the document as it will be presented to the examiners.

8.3.1.15 - Supplementary Content in the ETD

Candidates who would like to include supplementary multimedia to accompany their work may do so in the Supplementary Content section of the submission process.  These files may have any format type, however, candidates should be aware that the content should be in a universally accessible format – this is required in order to ensure that examiners will be able to access the material.

Style

8.3.2.1 - Style for headings, subheadings, references, figures, tables, spelling, punctuation, and bibliographic citations

The candidate must follow a standard style manual that has the approval of his/her Graduate Program, so that the form and location of notes and the presentation of references/bibliographies is consistent throughout the thesis and conforms to a style appropriate to the discipline.

8.3.2.2 - Typescript and point size

The style of font, font size, footnote/reference method, pagination, margins, and any other aspects of production are to be consistent throughout the thesis.  For the text, type smaller than 12 point must not be used, but a smaller point size, not less than 9, is acceptable for footnotes, graphs, formulas, and appendices. 

8.3.2.3 - Line spacing

All textual material (including the abstract, acknowledgments, and other preliminary material) must have 1.5 - 2 spaces between lines. The only exceptions to this requirement are references, bibliographies, and indented long quotations, which may be single-spaced.

8.3.2.4 - Margins

Due to the requirements of binding and microfiching, the candidate must observe the following specifications for margins on all copies. Leave a margin of at least 38 mm (1.5 inches) from the left-hand edge of the paper. Leave a margin of at least 25 mm (1 inch) from the top, bottom and right edges. These margins apply equally to all illustrative material: diagrams, maps, photographs, charts, tables etc. (except as noted in section 3.2.5).

8.3.2.5 - Illustrative material

Illustrative material must appear in the text, not at the end of chapters. All illustrative material, from ink drawings to printed maps, charts and graphs to photographs must be readable. Annotate appropriately coloured charts, figures, graphs or maps, since the colours will reproduce in indistinguishable shades of grey on microfiche. When photographs are incorporated into the thesis, they should be high-contrast colour or black-and-white prints. Explanations or captions of figures and tables may appear beneath the figures and tables to which they refer or they may face them.

Pagination

8.3.3 - Page Numbering

With the exception of the title page (provided by Scholarship@Western after upload), each page in the work must be numbered. The following system is to be used:

  • The pages of preliminary material (acknowledgment, table of contents, etc.) must be numbered with small Roman numerals (i, ii, iii) placed in the centre of the page, not less than 12.5 mm (.5 inch) from the bottom edge.
  • The body of the thesis, starting with the first page of the Introduction or Chapter One as page 1, must be numbered with Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3) placed in the upper righthand corner, not less than 12.5 mm (.5 inch) from each edge to avoid being cut off during the binding of paper copies.
  • For page numbering of illustrative material see Section 8.3.2.5 Illustrative Material.

Normally the entire process, from the Graduate Chair's request for a Thesis Examination to the placement of the candidate's name on the convocation list, requires approximately eight weeks. For an overview of submission dates, please visit Thesis Timelines.

8.4.1 - The Program Requests a Thesis Examination

When the thesis is thought to meet recognized scholarly standards for the discipline and degree and is ready for examination, the Graduate Chair arranges a Thesis Examination by setting a proposed date, and obtaining provisional consent from the potential members of the Thesis Examination Board. (The thesis Supervisor(s), Supervisory committee or the candidate alone may also initiate this process.) He/she must then submit for approval the Examination Board to SGPS, using the Doctoral Thesis Examination Request Form at least seven working weeks before the proposed date, and, where applicable, set a date and time for the Public Lecture.

8.4.1.1 - Remote Examinations

All examiner participation assumes in-person attendance unless a request for remote examination is made.  Graduate programs may elect the option of remote examination (when one examiner, normally the external, is not present in person) upon approval of the candidate, remote participant and graduate chair.  If two or more members of the committee cannot be present in person, then the examination is rescheduled, unless approval of the Vice-Provost (SGPS) is given due to extenuating circumstances.  Priority should be given to technologies which support video as well as audio.

Programs that choose to host a remote examination assume the following responsibilities: 

  • Ensuring that requests and approvals for remote examination are made in a timely manner
  • Ensuring remote attendance at public lectures (wherever possible)
  • Hosting a conferencing solution in an appropriate environment that adequately supports the needs of the candidate and examiners.  This includes:
    • Providing a dedicated support resource to the conference to ensure the best possible experience for all participants during the examination
    • Ensuring that a backup technology exists in the event that the primary solution fails
    • Ensuring that a list of questions from the remote examiner has been obtained in advance of the examination date and are available to the Chair of the examination (this serves as back-up in cases where the connection to the remote examiner is lost)
  • Testing the remote connection with the examiner in advance of the examination

Examiners that wish to attend the examination remotely assume the following responsibilities:

  • Submitting intention to attend exam remotely prior to agreeing to serve as examiner
  • Testing the remote connection (all equipment and backups) with the host in advance of the examination
  • Submitting questions to the program and SGPS at least 48 hours in advance of the examination

During the thesis exam, the Chair of the examination is responsible for assuring the following requirements and procedures are satisfied:

  • All participants must be able to communicate effectively with each other at all times
  • If the primary method of communication is unable to function effectively the examination Chair must determine when it is appropriate to use the pre-arranged backup technology or the submitted questions
  • At the beginning the of the examination, the Chair must inform the candidate and all members of the committee of the potential for suspending the exam should technical problems interfere with the integrity of the examination (until the technical problems have been resolved)
  • The Chair of the examination must suspend the examination if technical problems interfere with the integrity of the examination and backup options are unavailable
  • The Chair of the examination must guarantee the standards of the examination have been met and the requirements have been satisfied

8.4.2 - SGPS Approves the Thesis Examination Board and Thesis Examination (and Public Lecture, If Applicable)

SGPS approves the Thesis Examination Board provided by the candidate’s program. Doctoral candidates must submit the thesis six weeks before the approved date for the Thesis Examination. This ensures adequate time for:

  • Providing access to the thesis for the Examiners
  • Examiners to read the thesis and prepare their reports
  • Examiners to submit reports to SGPS

Candidates are required to present a Public Lecture on their thesis research, normally within twenty-four hours before the Thesis Examination. The Graduate program sets the time and place for the lecture. SGPS announces the public lecture on its website.   The lecture is open to all members of the community. The Examiners should normally attend the Public Lecture and Thesis Examination.

Doctoral Only - Effective May 2012, public lectures are mandatory for all programs.

The Thesis Examination and Public Lecture may be postponed or cancelled if any step in the examination process is not completed on schedule (e.g. the candidate fails to submit the Thesis for Examination on schedule, or the Examiners fail to submit evaluations on time).

Note: The thesis defense is normally a closed event unless the student and program, by mutual agreement, request that the defense is open to the university community (e.g. faculty, academic colleagues, students).

8.4.2.1 - The Thesis Examination Board

Doctoral Thesis Examination Board Roles
Chair:

The Chair is a non-voting member of the Thesis Examination Board. As the Vice-Provosts’ (Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies) representative, the Chair presides over the thesis examination and provides leadership to ensure that the established procedures are followed. It is not appropriate for the Chair to ask the Candidate Thesis related questions during the examination period.

Chair Duties:

  • Determines when a quorum exists
  • Opens and closes the examination proceedings
  • Sets the order of questioners and the length of their question periods
  • Monitors the length and conduct of the candidate's presentation
  • If the External Examiner is not present, ensures that questions raised in the External Examiner's report are put to the candidate
  • If requested by the Vice-Provost (Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies), where the External Examiner has submitted a negative report but is not present, provides copies of the External Examiner's report to the Examiners to assist in their deliberations
  • Intervenes if questioning becomes inappropriate
  • Deals with behaviour that interferes with the proper conduct of the examination
  • Moderates in camera discussion on the merits of the thesis, the candidate's oral presentation and responses to questions, the External Examiner's report, and other relevant matters
  • Calls for a vote and recommendation
  • Recalls the candidate and advises him/her of the recommendations that are to be made to the Vice-Provost (Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies)
  • Prepares a report to the Vice-Provost (Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies) of the Examiners' assessment of the thesis and the candidate's oral performance

Chair Qualifications:

  • Must have appropriate SGPS membership
  • The Chair must not be a member of the candidate's program or the Supervisor's home program

Note: If, at the conclusion of the defense, the candidate’s supervisor, the Chair or any member of the examining committee expresses the view that there is a prima facie case for alleging that a material portion of the thesis has been plagiarized, or that there is other evidence of academic misconduct, the Chair shall withhold his/her signature from the examination certificate and submit the matter (together with any supporting materials) to SGPS for investigation. Where this occurs, the Chair shall, without informing the candidate of the identity of the person making the relevant allegation, inform the candidate that an allegation of academic misconduct has been made. The Chair shall also inform the candidate that an investigation into the matter will be conducted

Two Program Examiners
  • Attend the Thesis Examination and participate in the questioning of the candidate, evaluating the thesis and the candidate's responses at the oral defense
  • Cast a vote in the final determination of the acceptability of the thesis and oral defense

Regulations:

  • Must have appropriate SGPS membership
  • Must attend the Public Lecture
  • No more than one Program Examiner may be from the candidate's Thesis Supervisory Committee
  • Must not have had significant involvement in the development of the thesis nor interest in the outcome
University Examiner
  • The University Examiner brings to the thesis examination insights from outside the candidate's discipline
  • He/she must have knowledge in the general field of the thesis, but need not be an expert on the thesis topic
  • Attend the Thesis Examination and participate in the questioning of the candidate, evaluating both the thesis and the candidate's responses at the oral defense
  • Cast a vote in the final determination of the acceptability of the thesis and oral defense

Regulations:

  • Must have appropriate SGPS membership
  • He/she must not be a member of the candidate's Thesis Supervisory Committee or a member of the Supervisor's home program
  • Where the program unit is a Faculty, the University Examiner must not be from the candidate's or Supervisor's home Department
  • Where the University Examiner is from a unit that does not have a Graduate program, or from outside the University, the Graduate Chair of the candidate's program must nominate him/her for non-core limited membership in SGPS
External Examiner
  • Have an established reputation in the special field of the thesis
  • Be able to judge whether the thesis would be acceptable at another distinguished university
  • Attends the Public Lecture and Thesis Examination in person (participation by videoconference or teleconference is also permitted), and participate in the questioning of the candidate, evaluating both the thesis and the candidate's responses at the oral defense
  • Casts a vote in the final determination of the acceptability of the thesis and oral defense

Regulations:

  • Is normally a faculty member from another university
  • Must not be associated or affiliated with UWO
  • Must be at arm's-length (see below)

Arm's-Length of Examiners

Examiners must be seen to be able to examine the student and the thesis at arm's-length, free of substantial conflict of interest from any source. The test of whether or not a conflict of interest might exist is whether a reasonable outside person could consider a situation to exist that could give rise to an apprehension of bias. Co-authors or collaborators of any component of the thesis may not serve as Examiners.

Relationships that might appear to have a conflict of interest include:

  • The involvement of an Examiner with the candidate or Supervisor in a personal capacity, such as:
    • A spouse or partner
    • A close family member
    • A business partner
    • Having previous, current, or future negotiations relating to employment
  • This list, while not exhaustive, illustrates the nature of potential conflicts to be avoided. The candidate's program must take reasonable steps to avoid recommending an Examiner whose relationship with the candidate or Supervisor could be seen as jeopardizing an impartial judgment on the thesis.  Best practices include reviewing the potential examiner’s CV; having the grad committee members review the list of names nominated as examiners; conducting a literature search on potential examiner’s publications.   It is recommended that supervisors and programs avoid multiple use of the same examiners.
  • A faculty member asked to examine a thesis should declare possible sources of conflict.  

8.4.3 - The Candidate Submits the Thesis for Examination

No later than six weeks before the date of the Thesis Examination, the Doctoral candidate submits a copy of their work for preliminary examination.  This is done through digital submission via the Scholarship@Western Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository.

In those cases where the student chooses to submit a Thesis for Examination without the approval of the Supervisor(s), the Supervisor(s) must state on the Doctoral Thesis Examination Request Form why his/her approval is withheld. The Graduate Chair signs the form and provides the candidate with a copy of the Supervisor's stated reasons for withholding approval.

Once the thesis has been officially submitted for examination, it cannot be withdrawn except with the permission of the Vice-Provost (Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies).

8.4.3.1 - The Candidate Submits the Thesis for Examination without the Approval of the Supervisor

In those cases where the student chooses to submit a thesis for examination without the approval of the Supervisor(s), the following processes are followed:

The student notifies the Graduate Chair and the Supervisor.  The Graduate Chair discusses with the Supervisor their reasons for not approving submission of the thesis.

If the reason concerns academic integrity, then the appropriate procedures are followed according to University policy (www.grad.uwo.ca/current_students/regulations/8.html)

If the reason concerns intellectual property, then the appropriate procedures are followed according to University policy (hwww.uwo.ca/research/services/resources/policies/intellectual_property.html)

If the reason concerns quality, the supervisor must articulate to the student and Graduate Chair (or designate) the quality concerns and the Graduate Chair discusses with the student her/his reasons for wanting to go forward without Supervisor approval and apprises the student of other options. She/he clarifies with the student (and the Supervisor) that going to defense without supervisor signature means that the Supervisor does not view the thesis as ready for examination. It is explained that the examiners will know that the Supervisor has not signed off.  The student is then informed of the elevated risk of failure that is introduced when a student goes to defense without Supervisor approval.  The Graduate Chair (or designate) ensures that the supervisory committee member(s) have also been consulted.

If the student still chooses to submit without supervisor approval:

  • The Graduate Chair (or designate) takes on the role of the Supervisor in this process, oversees the student's progression, and attends the exam in place of the supervisor.

This involves making the necessary arrangements for the defense to occur, inviting the examiners, and completing the Doctoral Thesis Examination Request Form

  • No later than six weeks before the date of the Thesis Examination, the Doctoral candidate submits a copy of their work for preliminary examination.  This is done through digital submission via the Scholarship@Western Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository.
  • The Graduate Chair (or designate) attends the thesis examination and oversees the process (including all supervisory responsibilities).
  • The Supervisor does not attend the thesis examination or the public lecture. The integrity of the process requires that a strict arms-length relationship between the External Examiner, the candidate, the Supervisor and the other members of the Examining Committee be maintained throughout the pre-exam period.  The content or quality of the work must not be discussed among these people until the oral examination itself is underway.
  • Upon completion of the oral defense, and after the student has left the room, the Thesis Examination Board is reminded that the student has submitted without the approval of the Supervisor.  The Examination Chair reminds the committee to assess the oral examination and written thesis based on academic merit.
  • The Supervisor has the right to not be recognized as the Supervisor on the published thesis. 

8.4.3.2 - Confidentiality Agreement

If the candidate feels a confidentiality agreement is required, the candidate must ensure that each Examiner's signed agreement is delivered to the School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies along with the Doctoral Thesis Examination Request Form. The School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies will ensure the Chair of the Thesis Examination has signed an agreement prior to the Thesis Examination.

8.4.3.3 - Delay of Publication

Note: please see section 8.4.6 for important information regarding the electronic publication of theses.

If you need to delay publication of your thesis or dissertation, you can indicate an automatic “delay of publication”, for up to two years, on your work.  This option will block your work from public access after your successful examination and final submission. This process is available as part of the Scholarship@Western Electronic Thesis and Dissertation submission process. When the “delay of publication” expires, the author can be granted a one-year extension through a written request to the Thesis Coordinator. 

Exceptionally, a candidate may request a six-year delay of publication by contacting an Associate Vice-Provost within the School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies.  This request requires the approval of the Policy, Regulations and Graduate Program Membership Committee of the Graduate Education Council. 

8.4.4 - The Examination of the Thesis and the Candidate

 The Tasks of the Examiners are to:

  • Determine if the thesis and the candidate meet recognized scholarly standards for the degree
  • Appraise the thesis for content - its underlying assumptions, methodology, findings, and scholarly significance of the findings. This should include evaluation of the thesis in terms of its organization, presentation of graphs, tables, and illustrative materials, and its use of accepted conventions for addressing the scholarly literature
  • Evaluate the candidate's skill and knowledge in responding to questions and defending the thesis
  • Ensure authenticity of authorship

SGPS distributes to the Examiners an electronic package via e-mail consisting of:

  • A formal electronic invitation to examine the thesis and the candidate
  • The date, time and location of the examination
  • Instructions on how to access the Scholarship@Western ETD repository
  • The Thesis, in PDF format available through the Scholarship@Western ETD repository
  • The option to request the thesis in a paper format through Graphic Services
  • Pertinent excerpts from the Thesis Regulation Guide
  • The secure Thesis Examiner Report available through the Scholarship@Western ETD repository
  • For the External Examiner, please visit External Examiners for appropriate forms and information.

The Examiners do their work in a two-stage process.

8.4.4.1 - Stage One: The Preliminary (or Pre-Examination) Evaluation of the Thesis

Each Examiner must independently and without consultation, decide whether the thesis meets the scholarly standards for the discipline and degree.

There are 2 possible outcomes that the examiners may consider:

  1. Acceptable to go to defense with revisions
    • Acceptable with Revisions: A work that requires some revisions may be judged acceptable. Revisions include limited typographical or grammatical errors; errors in calculation, labels for tables, nomenclature, and bibliographic form; and the need for clarification of content.
  1. Unacceptable to go forward to defense
    • Unacceptable: A thesis judged unacceptable may contain, for example, faulty conceptualization, inappropriate or faulty use of research methodology, misinterpretation or misuse of data, neglect of relevant material, illogical argument, unfounded conclusions, seriously flawed writing and presentation, and failure to engage the scholarly context.

The completed examiner reports are confidential to the Vice-Provost (Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies). The External Examiner completes the External Examiner's Report. SGPS must receive the completed forms from all the Examiners at least five working days before the date scheduled for the candidate's Thesis Examination. All examiner evaluations are shared with the Supervisor after the examination.

If the Written Thesis is Judged Acceptable

A majority of the Examiners must judge that the thesis is acceptable to allow Stage Two: The Thesis Examination to proceed. An Examiner's preliminary judgment of acceptability is provisional. It does not preclude the Examiner changing his/her judgment to finding the thesis unacceptable at the Thesis Examination.

If the Thesis Content and Thesis Form is Judged Unacceptable

If there is not a majority of Examiners who judge the written thesis to be acceptable, SGPS cancels the Thesis Examination, and the Vice-Provost (Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies) appoints a Re-Submission Hearing Committee which reviews the case and decides whether or not to allow the candidate to prepare a revised version of the thesis for examination and, if so, the time limit for doing so.

  • Where the Re-Submission Hearing Committee* agrees that the candidate should be given the opportunity to revise the thesis to bring it to the acceptable scholarly standard for examination, the committee first establishes a new Thesis Examination date, no earlier than twelve weeks after the date of the originally scheduled examination. Normally the same Examiners assess the re-submitted thesis. The Chair of the committee provides the Graduate Chair, Supervisor(s), and student written notification of the decision and the changes suggested by the committee.
    *The Re-Submission Hearing Committee is chaired by an Associate Vice-Provost (Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies)  and includes the two Program Examiners, University examiner (the External Examiner's presence is waived), the Supervisor, the Graduate Chair of the program concerned. Note: The candidate does not attend the committee meeting.
  • The Examination must then proceed as listed in Section 4.1 The Program Requests a Thesis Examination above for the re-submitted thesis.
  • Whether or not the re-submitted thesis is found acceptable, the candidate proceeds to Stage Two: The Thesis Examination.

8.4.4.2 - Stage Two: The Thesis Examination

The Chair presides over the Thesis Examination:

  • To open proceedings, the Chair introduces all present.
    • The candidate, the Supervisor(s), the Program Examiners, and the University Examiner must attend the Thesis Examination
    • SGPS prefers that the External Examiner attend, however, the Vice-Provost (Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies) may waive the presence of the External Examiner.  If unable to attend, the External Examiner must submit questions to be put to the candidate by the other Examiners.  Alternatively, the External Examiner may allow the other Examiners access to his/her report immediately before the Thesis Examination so that they can question the candidate on the issues it raises.
    • Any member of SGPS may attend as a visitor by having a written request to attend approved by the Vice-Provost (Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies)
    • The Chair will refuse attendance to all others
  • Examiners are asked to refrain from using electronic devices (cell phones) during the examination (unless in emergencies)
  • The Chair then asks the candidate (and visitors) to leave the room so that the Examiners can decide on the following points:
    • The order in which Examiners are to question the candidate;
    • The number of rounds of questioning desired (usually two);
    • The time limit for each of the Examiners' questioning periods (typically 15-20 minutes in the first round and 5-10 minutes in the second round);
    • Who is to ask the questions submitted by the External Examiner if he/she is not present;
  • The Chair gives to each Examiner a Doctoral Thesis Examination Evaluation form (to be completed when the questioning of the candidate is over and the candidate has left the room). The Chair advises the Examiners that their evaluations on the acceptability of the written thesis should be made independent of the assessment made in Stage One: The Preliminary Evaluation of the Thesis.
  • The Chair invites the candidate (and visitors) back into the room.

The Examination Begins

  • The Chair explains to the candidate the sequence of events (e.g. two rounds of questioning, the order of questioning). 
  • Where the candidate's program does not provide for a public lecture, the candidate may briefly discuss the thesis (10-15 minutes is appropriate). 
  • The Examiners question the candidate in the agreed-upon order, with the Chair holding them to the agreed-upon time limit. The Supervisor(s) may not question the candidate. 
  • When the questioning has finished, the Chair asks the candidate and visitors, but not the Supervisor(s), to leave the room.

The Thesis Examination Board Deliberates and Renders a Decision

  • The Chair invites the Supervisor(s) to comment on the candidate, the thesis, and aspects of the oral defense.
    • In rare cases where the thesis has been submitted without the Supervisor(s)'s approval, the Chair informs the Examiners of the Supervisor(s)'s written reasons for withholding approval, before inviting the Supervisor(s) to speak. 
  • At the Chair's invitation, the Examiners alone discuss the thesis and the oral defense. 
  • The Chair instructs the Examiners once again about the difference between acceptable and unacceptable and answers any questions about the difference between the recommendation. (See Section 8.4.4.1 Stage One: The Preliminary Evaluation of the Thesis)
  • The Examiners vote on the acceptability of the thesis and the oral defense by completing their Doctoral Thesis Examination Evaluation form. In cases where the External Examiner is not physically present, the Chair speaks to her/him privately and fills out the Evaluation form as directed.
  • These forms are confidential, only to be seen and recorded by the Chair.  For the oral defense, the Examiners must determine if the candidate's responses to questions and general level of scholarly knowledge meet the standard for the Doctoral degree and are consistent with the contents of the thesis.  The Examiners must decide whether the written thesis and oral defense were acceptable or unacceptable.
  • There are 2 possible outcomes to the Examination that the examiners may consider:
    • Acceptable with/without revisions
      • Examples of acceptable with revisions may include limited typographical or grammatical errors; errors in calculation, labels for tables, nomenclature, and bibliographic form; the need for clarification of content in order to meet requisite scholarly standards. Examples may include some additions, deletions or editing of text; further analysis or discussion of some piece of data. Normally, candidates have up to 6 weeks to submit the final thesis after examination.
    • Unacceptable
      • A thesis judged unacceptable may contain, for example, faulty conceptualization, inappropriate or faulty use of research methodology, misinterpretation or misuse of data, neglect of relevant material, illogical argument, unfounded conclusions, seriously flawed writing and presentation, and failure to engage the scholarly context.
  • The Chair collects the completed forms and tallies the results. 
  • The Chair announces the results of the vote on the acceptability of the written thesis and of the oral defense and asks if further discussion is needed. In rare instances, the Chair may allow Examiners to change their votes. 
  • If a majority of the Examiners find that the thesis content and the oral defense are acceptable, the candidate passes the Thesis Examination. The Examiners' approval may be conditional on the candidate successfully completing revisions to the thesis content. 
  • If the examiners' decisions are equally split (2/2) between acceptable and unacceptable on any one of the thesis content and/or the oral defense, then the vote is weighted in favour of the external examiner’s decision. 
  • The Chair pronounces the Thesis Examination Board's decision.

When the Thesis Examination is Successful

  • On the "Doctoral Thesis Examination - Chair Report," the Chair:
    • Reports the Thesis Examination Board's decision for the Thesis Examination.
    • With the assistance of the Examiners, lists the revisions, if any, required by a majority of the Examiners.
    • Dates and signs the Chair's Report.
  • In the case that no revisions are required, the Chair, the Examiners, and the Supervisor(s) sign the Certificate of Examination. In the case that revisions are required, the Chair, with the help of the committee, determines who will withhold her/his signature(s) until the required revisions have been made. 
  • The Chair communicates the positive decision to the candidate. (See Communicating the Decision to the Candidate.)

When the Thesis Examination is Unsuccessful

The Chair completes the "Doctoral Thesis Examination - Chair Report." In consultation with the Examiners, the Chair states (on the Chair report) why the thesis and/or the oral defense was unacceptable.

If the Thesis Examination failed because the thesis content was unacceptable, the Vice-Provost (Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies) refers the case to a Re-Submission Hearing Committee.

  • Where the Re-Submission Hearing Committee agrees that the candidate should be given the opportunity to revise the thesis to bring it to the acceptable scholarly standard for examination, the committee first establishes a new Thesis Examination date, no earlier than twelve weeks after the date of the originally scheduled examination. Normally the same Examiners assess the re-submitted thesis. The Chair of the committee provides the Graduate Chair, Supervisor(s), and student written notification of the decision and the changes suggested by the committee.
  • The Examination must then proceed as listed in Section 4.1 The Program Requests a Thesis Examination for the re-submitted thesis.
  • Whether or not the re-submitted thesis is found acceptable, the candidate proceeds to Stage Two: The Thesis Examination.

If the Thesis Examination failed solely because of an unacceptable oral defense, the Vice-Provost (Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies) refers the case to a Re-Examination Hearing Committee.

  • Where the Re-Examination Hearing Committee* decides that a second Thesis Examination is appropriate, it should be held, preferably with the same Thesis Examination Board, within a time period determined by the committee. The Chair of the committee provides the Graduate Chair, Supervisor(s), and student written notification of the decision.
    * The Re-Examination Hearing Committee is chaired by an Associate Vice-Provost (Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies) and includes the two Program Examiners, University Examiner (the External Examiner's presence is waived), the Supervisor, and the Graduate Chair of the program concerned. Note: The candidate does not attend the committee meeting.

If the candidate has already been through a Re-Submission Hearing Committee or a Re-Examination Hearing Committee (following Stage Two: The Thesis Examination), then the Thesis Examination Board's decision is final. The candidate has no further opportunity for resubmission and/or re-examination. However, if a candidate has been through a Re-Submission Hearing Committee following Stage One: The Preliminary (or Pre-Examination) Evaluation of the Thesis, then the Vice-Provost (Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies) refers the case to a second and final Re-Submission Hearing Committee.

Communicating the Decision to the Candidate

When the Chair and the Examiners have completed the documentation, the Chair invites only the candidate back into the room and informs him/her of the result.

  • Following a positive decision that is subject to revisions, the Supervisor(s) must meet with the candidate, to ensure that he/she understands the revisions required by the Thesis Examination Board.

Following the Examination

The Chair of the examination returns all forms to the School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies.

8.4.5 - Final Submission of the Thesis

When the candidate has completed any changes recommended by the Thesis Examination Board the candidate must submit the final copy of their work via digital submission through the Scholarship@Western Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository.

The candidate accesses their original submission within the repository and submits a revised copy of their work.

Candidates are required to submit the following to the School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies before publication can occur: 

  • A National Library Non-Exclusive License (scanned copies is acceptable)
  • The signed Certificate of Examination (scanned copies is acceptable)

Once the thesis is published, the candidate has officially completed the thesis requirement for their degree. Subject to approval by the University Senate, the candidate's name is placed on the convocation list. Should a thesis writing candidate require proof of completion of all degree requirements he/she should contact the Thesis Coordinator.  

8.4.6 - Publishing of the Thesis

A thesis is a research document. It is a record of the research that the student conducted while completing a graduate degree. Given the research and education mandate of Canada's publicly funded universities, it is expected that the results of this research will be made publicly available.

For those theses that are submitted through the Scholarship@Western ETD Repository, the University requires that successful graduate theses be made available through the Western Library’s Scholarship@Western program. The thesis will be published electronically at the conclusion of the degree process and will be available globally via the World Wide Web.

At the same time, the University recognizes that the student is the author of the thesis, and retains copyright and control interests in the material.

Note: Students should be conscious of the implications of electronic publication in the digital context: material is accessible to any interested party, academic and non-academic. The thesis should also be understood to be permanently available – once published electronically, it can be withdrawn from Scholarship@Western, but digital copies will inevitably persist. Students engaging in thesis preparation and research should be mindful of electronic publication and availability as an endpoint of their research. Supervisors, equally, have a responsibility to be acquainted with the implications of electronic publication and advise their students accordingly.

In certain cases, a “delay of publication” may be appropriate. See section 8.4.3.2 above.

The candidate is asked to permit the release of the thesis to be used for research by signing the "National Library Non-Exclusive License" to allow the non-exclusive right to reproduce or loan copies of the thesis in microform, paper, or electronic formats. The term "non-exclusive license" means that the author retains the copyright of the thesis and can seek other forms of publication.  

Upon final approved submission, the work is published to the Scholarship@Western ETD repository, pending any requests for a delay of publication.  This repository is publicly accessible, permitting free access to the work.  The repository transmits regular reports via e-mail to the author on how often the work is accessed.

8.4.7 - Archiving of the Thesis

Western preserves all doctoral theses in microform images within microfiche flat sheets formatting.  These archival copies are stored within Western Libraries.  Other format versions of the thesis (e.g. paper, digital) may also be retained.

Normally the entire process, from the Graduate Chair's request for a Thesis Examination to the placement of the candidate's name on the convocation list, requires approximately five weeks. For an overview of submission dates, please visit Thesis Timelines.

8.5.1 - The Program Requests a Thesis Examination

When the thesis is thought to meet recognized scholarly standards for the discipline and degree and is ready for examination, the Graduate Chair arranges a Thesis Examination by setting a proposed date and obtaining provisional consent from the potential members of the Thesis Examination Board. (The thesis Supervisor(s), Supervisory committee or the candidate alone may also initiate this process.) He/she must then submit for approval the Examination Board to SGPS, using the Master's Thesis Examination Request Form at least four working weeks before the proposed date.

8.5.1.1 - Remote Examinations

All examiner participation assumes in-person attendance unless a request for remote examination is made.  Graduate programs may elect the option of remote examination (when one examiner is not present in person) upon approval of the candidate, remote participant and graduate chair.  If two or more members of the committee cannot be present in person, then the examination is rescheduled, unless approval of the Vice-Provost (SGPS) is given due to extenuating circumstances.  Priority should be given to technologies which support video as well as audio.

Programs that choose to host a remote examination assume the following responsibilities: 

  • Ensuring that requests and approvals for remote examination are made in a timely manner
  • Hosting a conferencing solution in an appropriate environment that adequately supports the needs of the candidate and examiners.  This includes:
    • Providing a dedicated support resource to the conference to ensure the best possible experience for all participants during the examination
    • Ensuring that a backup technology exists in the event that the primary solution fails
    • Ensuring that a list of questions from the remote examiner has been obtained in advance of the examination date and are available to the Chair of the examination (this serves as back-up in cases where the connection to the remote examiner is lost)
  • Testing the remote connection with the examiner in advance of the examination

Examiners that wish to attend the examination remotely assume the following responsibilities:

  • Submitting intention to attend exam remotely prior to agreeing to serve as examiner
  • Testing the remote connection (all equipment and backups) with the host in advance of the examination
  • Submitting questions to the program and SGPS at least 48 hours in advance of the examination

During the thesis exam, the Chair of the examination is responsible for assuring the following requirements and procedures are satisfied:

  • All participants must be able to communicate effectively with each other at all times
  • If the primary method of communication is unable to function effectively the examination Chair must determine when it is appropriate to use the pre-arranged backup technology or the submitted questions
  • At the beginning the of the examination, the Chair must inform the candidate and all members of the committee of the potential for suspending the exam should technical problems interfere with the integrity of the examination (until the technical problems have been resolved)
  • The Chair of the examination must suspend the examination if technical problems interfere with the integrity of the examination and backup options are unavailable
  • The Chair of the examination must guarantee the standards of the examination have been met and the requirements have been satisfied

8.5.2 - SGPS Approves the Thesis Examination Board and the Graduate Program Arranges for the Thesis Examination

SGPS approves the Thesis Examination Board and the date of the examination. The date and time of the examination will be confirmed within the formal invitation from SGPS. Master's candidates must submit the thesis three working weeks before the approved date for the Thesis Examination. This ensures adequate time for:

  • Providing access to the thesis for the Examiners
  • Examiners to read the thesis and prepare their reports
  • Examiners to submit reports to SGPS

The Thesis Examination may be postponed or cancelled if any step in the examination process is not completed on schedule (e.g. the candidate fails to submit the Thesis for Examination on schedule, or the Examiners fail to submit evaluations on time).

Note: The thesis defense is normally a closed event unless the student and program, by mutual agreement, request that the defense is open to the university community (e.g. faculty, academic colleagues, students).

8.5.2.1 - The Thesis Examination Board

Master's Thesis Examination Board Chair
Chair

The Chair is a non-voting member of the Thesis Examination Board. As the Vice-Provosts’ (Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies) representative, the Chair presides over the thesis examination and provides leadership to ensure that the established procedures are followed. It is not appropriate for the Chair to ask the Candidate Thesis related questions during the examination period.

Chair Duties:

  • Determines when a quorum exists
  • Opens and closes the examination proceedings
  • Sets the order of questioners and the length of their question periods
  • Monitors the length and conduct of the candidate's presentation
  • Intervenes if questioning becomes inappropriate
  • Deals with behaviour that interferes with the proper conduct of the examination
  • Moderates in-camera discussion on the merits of the thesis, the candidate's oral presentation and responses to questions, and other relevant matters
  • Calls for a vote and recommendation
  • Recalls the candidate and advises him/her of the recommendations that are to be made to the Vice-Provost (Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies)
  • Prepares a report to the Vice-Provost (Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies) of the Examiners’ assessment of the thesis and the candidate’s oral performance
Chair Qualifications:
  • Must have appropriate SGPS membership

Note: If, at the conclusion of the defense, the candidate's supervisor, the Chair or any member of the examining committee expresses the view that there is a prima facie case for alleging that a material portion of the thesis has been plagiarized, or that there is other evidence of academic misconduct, the Chair shall withhold his/her signature from the examination certificate and submit the matter (together with any supporting materials) to SGPS for investigation. Where this occurs, the Chair shall, without informing the candidate of the identity of the person making the relevant allegation, inform the candidate that an allegation of academic misconduct has been made. The Chair shall also inform the candidate that an investigation into the matter will be conducted.

Two Program Examiners Role:
  • Attend the Thesis Examination and participate in the questioning of the candidate, evaluating the thesis and the candidate's responses at the oral defense
  • Cast a vote in the final determination of the acceptability of the thesis and oral defense
Regulations:
  • Must have appropriate SGPS membership
  • No more than one Program Examiner may be from the candidate's Thesis Supervisory Committee
  • Must not have had significant involvement in the development of the thesis nor interest in the outcome
University Examiner Role:
  • The University Examiner brings to the thesis examination insights from outside the candidate's discipline
  • He/she must have knowledge in the general field of the thesis, but need not be an expert on the thesis topic
  • Attend the Thesis Examination and participate in the questioning of the candidate, evaluating both the thesis and the candidate's responses at the oral defense
  • Cast a vote in the final determination of the acceptability of the thesis and oral defense
Regulations:
  • Must have appropriate SGPS membership
  • He/she must not be a member of the candidate's Thesis Supervisory Committee, or a member of the Supervisor's home program
  • Where the program unit is a Faculty, the University Examiner must not be from the candidate's or Supervisor's home Department
  • Where the University Examiner is from a unit that does not have a Graduate program, or from outside the University, the Graduate Chair of the candidate's program must nominate him/her for non-core limited membership in SGPS

Arm's-Length of Examiners

Examiners must be seen to be able to examine the student and the thesis at arm's length, free of substantial conflict of interest from any source. The test of whether or not a conflict of interest might exist is whether a reasonable outside person could consider a situation to exist that could give rise to an apprehension of bias.

Co-authors or collaborators of any component of the thesis may not serve as Examiners.

Relationships that might appear to have a conflict of interest include:

  • The involvement of an Examiner with the candidate or Supervisor in a personal capacity, such as:
    • A spouse or partner 
    • A close family member
    • A business partner
    • Having previous, current, or future negotiations relating to employment

This list, while not exhaustive, illustrates the nature of potential conflicts to be avoided. The candidate's program must take reasonable steps to avoid recommending an Examiner whose relationship with the candidate or Supervisor could be seen as jeopardizing an impartial judgment on the thesis. A faculty member asked to examine a thesis should declare possible sources of conflict.

8.5.3 - The Candidate Submits the Thesis for Examination

No later than three weeks before the date of the Thesis Examination, the Master's candidate submits a final draft of the thesis for preliminary examination. This is done through digital submission via the Scholarship@Western Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository:

  • In addition to the thesis, the candidate must ensure the following completed documents are forwarded to the School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies:
    • Master's Thesis Examination Board
    • Master's Thesis Supervisor Approval

In those rare cases when the student chooses to submit a Thesis for Examination without the approval of the Supervisor(s), the Supervisor(s) must state on the Mastér's Thesis Examination Request Form why his/her approval is withheld. The Graduate Chair signs the form and provides the candidate with a copy of the Supervisor(s)'s stated reasons for withholding approval.

Once the thesis has been officially submitted for examination, it cannot be withdrawn except with the permission of the Vice-Provost (Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies).

8.5.3.1 - The Candidate Submits the Thesis for Examination without the Approval of the Supervisor

In those cases where the student chooses to submit a Thesis for Examination without the approval of the Supervisor(s), the following processes are followed:

The student notifies the Graduate Chair and the Supervisor.  The Graduate Chair discusses with the Supervisor their reasons for not approving submission of the thesis.

If the reason concerns academic integrity, then the appropriate procedures are followed according to University policy (hwww.grad.uwo.ca/current_students/regulations/8.html)

If the reason concerns intellectual property, then the appropriate procedures are followed according to University policy (www.uwo.ca/research/services/resources/policies/intellectual_property.html)

If the reason concerns quality, the supervisor must articulate to the student and Graduate Chair (or designate) the quality concerns and the Graduate Chair discusses with the student her/his reasons for wanting to go forward without Supervisor approval and apprises the student of other options. She/he clarifies with the student (and the Supervisor) that going to defense without supervisor signature means that the Supervisor does not view the thesis as ready for examination. It is explained that the examiners will know that the Supervisor has not signed off.  The student is then informed of the elevated risk of failure that is introduced when a student goes to defense without Supervisor approval.  The Graduate Chair (or designate) ensures that the supervisory committee member(s) have also been consulted.

If the student still chooses to submit without supervisor approval:

  • The Graduate Chair (or designate) takes on the role of the Supervisor in this process and oversees the student's progression.

This involves making the necessary arrangements for the defense to occur, completing the Master's Thesis Examination Request Form, inviting the examiners, and completing the Thesis Examining Board Form. 

  • No later than six weeks before the date of the Thesis Examination, the Doctoral candidate submits a copy of their work for preliminary examination.  This is done through digital submission via the Scholarship@Western Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository.
  • The Graduate Chair (or designate) attends the thesis examination and oversees the process (including all supervisor responsibilities).
  • The Supervisor does not attend the thesis examination or the public lecture. The integrity of the process requires that a strict arms-length relationship between the External Examiner, the candidate, the Supervisor and the other members of the Examining Committee be maintained throughout the pre-exam period.  The content or quality of the work must not be discussed among these people until the oral examination itself is underway.
  • Upon completion of the oral defense, and after the student has left the room, the Thesis Examination Board is reminded that the student has submitted without the approval of the Supervisor.  The Examination Chair reminds the committee to assess the oral examination and written thesis based on academic merit.
  • The Supervisor has the right to not be recognized as the Supervisor on the published thesis. 

8.5.3.2 - Confidentiality Agreement

If the candidate feels a confidentiality agreement is required, the candidate must ensure that each Examiner's signed agreement is delivered to the School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies along with the Master's Thesis Examination Request Form. The Graduate Program will ensure the Chair of the Thesis Examination has signed an agreement prior to the Thesis Examination.

8.5.3.3 - Delay of Publication

Note: please see section 8.5.6 for important information regarding the electronic publication of theses.

If you need to delay publication of your thesis or dissertation, you can indicate an automatic “delay of publication”, for up to two years, on your work.  This option will block your work from public access after your successful examination and final submission. This process is available as part of the Scholarship@Western Electronic Thesis and Dissertation submission process. When the “delay of publication” expires, the author can be granted a one-year extension through a written request to the Thesis Coordinator. 

Exceptionally, a candidate may request a six-year delay of publication by contacting an Associate Vice-Provost within the School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies. This request requires the approval of the Policy, Regulations and Graduate Program Membership Committee of the Graduate Education Council.

8.5.4 - The Examination of the Thesis and the Candidate

The Tasks of the Examiners are to:

  • Determine if the thesis and the candidate meet recognized scholarly standards for the degree
  • Appraise the thesis for content - its underlying assumptions, methodology, findings, and scholarly significance of the findings. This should include evaluation of the thesis in terms of its organization, presentation of graphs, tables, and illustrative materials, and its use of accepted conventions for addressing the scholarly literature
  • Evaluate the candidate's skill and knowledge in responding to questions and defending the thesis
  • Ensure authenticity of authorship

SGPS distributes to the Examiners an electronic package via e-mail consisting of:

  • A formal invitation to examine the thesis and the candidate
  • The date, time and location of the examination
  • Instructions on how to access the Scholarship@Western ETD repository
  • The thesis, in .PDF format available through the Scholarship@Western ETD repository
  • The option to request the thesis in a paper format through Graphic Services
  • Pertinent excerpts from the Thesis Regulation Guide
  • The secure Thesis Examiner Report available through the Scholarship@Western ETD repository

The Examiners do their work in a two-stage process.

8.5.4.1 - Stage One: The Preliminary (or Pre-Examination) Evaluation of the Thesis

Each Examiner must independently and without consultation, decide whether the thesis meets the scholarly standards for the discipline and degree.

There are two possible outcomes that the examiners may consider:

  1. Acceptable to go to defense with revisions
    • Acceptable with Revisions: A work that requires some revisions may be judged acceptable. Revisions include limited typographical or grammatical errors; errors in calculation, labels for tables, nomenclature, and bibliographic form; and the need for clarification of content.
  1. Unacceptable to go forward to defense
    • Unacceptable: A thesis judged unacceptable may contain, for example, faulty conceptualization, inappropriate or faulty use of research methodology, misinterpretation or misuse of data, neglect of relevant material, illogical argument, unfounded conclusions, seriously flawed writing and presentation, and failure to engage the scholarly context.

The completed examiner reports are confidential to the Vice-Provost (Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies). SGPS must receive the completed forms from all the Examiners at least five working days before the date scheduled for the candidate's Thesis Examination. All examiner evaluations are shared with the Supervisor after the examination.

If the Written Thesis is Judged Acceptable 

A majority of the Examiners must judge that thesis content is acceptable to allow Stage Two: The Thesis Examination to proceed. An examiner's preliminary judgment of acceptability is provisional. It does not preclude the examiner changing his/her judgment to finding the thesis unacceptable at the Thesis Examination. 

  • For those reports collected via the ETD repository, SGPS will forward the preliminary decision to the candidate, examiners, supervisor(s), graduate chair and graduate assistant.

If the Written Thesis is Judged Unacceptable

If there is not a majority of Examiners who judge the written thesis to be acceptable, the Program cancels the Thesis Examination, and the Graduate Chair of the Program concerned [Modified Sept. 29, 2004] appoints a Re-Submission Hearing Committee* which reviews the case and decides whether or not to allow the candidate to prepare a revised version of the thesis for examination and, if so, the time limit for doing so.

* The Re-Submission Hearing Committee is chaired by the Graduate Chair of the program concerned and includes the three Examiners, the Supervisor, and others specified in the procedures of the program concerned. Note: The candidate does not attend the committee meeting.

  • Where the Re-Submission Hearing Committee agrees that the candidate should be given the opportunity to revise the thesis to bring it to the acceptable scholarly standard for examination, the committee first establishes a new Thesis Examination date, no earlier than six weeks after the date of the originally scheduled examination. Normally the same Examiners assess the re-submitted thesis. The Chair of the committee provides the Supervisor(s) and student written notification of the decision and the changes suggested by the committee.
  • The Examination must then proceed as listed in Section 8.5.1 - The Program Requests a Thesis Examination for the re-submitted thesis.
  • Whether or not the re-submitted thesis is found acceptable, the candidate proceeds to Stage Two: The Thesis Examination.

8.5.4.2 - Stage Two: The Thesis Examination

Who attends the Master's Thesis Examination

  • The candidate, the Supervisor(s), the Program Examiners, and the University Examiner must attend the Thesis Examination
  • Any member of SGPS may attend as a visitor by having a written request approved by the Vice-Provost (Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies) seven days before the examination date
  • The chair will refuse attendance to all others

The Chair presides over the Thesis Examination

  • To open proceedings, the Chair introduces all present.
  • Examiners are asked to refrain from using electronic devices (cell phones) during the examination (unless in emergencies)
  • The Chair then asks the candidate and visitors to leave the room so that the Examiners can decide on the following points:
    • the order in which Examiners are to question the candidate
    • the number of rounds of questioning desired (usually two)
    • the time limit for each of the Examiners' questioning periods (typically 15-20 minutes in the first round and 5-10 minutes in the second round);
  • The Chair gives to each examiner a "Master's Thesis Examination Evaluation Form" (to be completed when the questioning of the candidate is over and the candidate has left the room). The Chair advises the Examiners that their evaluations on the acceptability of the thesis content should be made independent of the assessment made in Stage One: The Preliminary Evaluation of the Thesis.
  • The Chair invites the candidate and visitors back into the room.

The Examination Begins

  • The Chair explains to the candidate the sequence of events (e.g. two rounds of questioning, the order of questioning).
  • The Examiners question the candidate in the agreed-upon order, with the Chair holding them to the agreed-upon time limit. The Supervisor(s) may not question the candidate.
  • When the questioning has finished, the Chair asks the candidate and visitors, but not the Supervisor(s), to leave the room.

The Thesis Examination Board Deliberates and Renders a Decision

  • The Chair invites the Supervisor(s) to comment on the candidate, the thesis, and aspects of the oral defense.
    • In rare cases where the thesis has been submitted without the Supervisor(s)'s approval, the Chair informs the Examiners of the Supervisor(s)'s written reasons for withholding approval, before inviting the Supervisor(s) to speak.
  • At the Chair's invitation, the Examiners alone discuss the thesis and the oral defense.
  • The Chair instructs the Examiners once again about the difference between acceptable, acceptable with revisions and unacceptable and answers any questions about the difference between the recommendation. (See Section 8.5.4.1 Stage One: The Preliminary Evaluation of the Thesis)
  • The Examiners vote on the acceptability of the thesis and the oral defense by completing their "Master's Thesis Examination Evaluation Form." These forms are confidential, only to be seen and recorded by the Chair.

The Examiners must decide whether the thesis content and oral defense were acceptable or unacceptable. For thesis content, they must find the thesis:

  • acceptable with/without revisions
    • Examples of revisions may include limited typographical or grammatical errors; errors in calculation, labels for tables, nomenclature, and bibliographic form; the need for clarification of content in order to meet requisite scholarly standards. Examples may also include some additions, deletions or editing of text; further analysis or discussion of some piece of data. Normally, candidates have up to 6 weeks to submit the final thesis after examination.
  • unacceptable
    • A thesis judged unacceptable may contain, for example, faulty conceptualization, inappropriate or faulty use of research methodology, misinterpretation or misuse of data, neglect of relevant material, illogical argument, unfounded conclusions, seriously flawed writing and presentation, and failure to engage the scholarly context.

For the oral defense, the Examiners must determine if the candidate's responses to questions and general level of scholarly knowledge meet the standard for the Master's degree and are consistent with the contents of the thesis.

  • The Chair collects the completed forms and tallies the results.
  • The Chair announces the results of the vote on the acceptability of the content of the thesis and of the oral defense and asks if further discussion is needed. In rare instances, the Chair may allow Examiners to change their votes.
  • The Chair pronounces the Thesis Examination Board's decision.
  • If a majority of the Examiners find that each of the thesis content and the oral defense are acceptable, the candidate passes the Thesis Examination. The Examiners' approval may be conditional on the candidate successfully completing revisions to the thesis content.

When the Thesis Examination is Successful

  • On the "Master's Thesis Examination - Chair Report" the Chair:
    • Reports the Thesis Examination Board's decision for the Thesis Examination.
    • With the assistance of the Examiners, lists the revisions, if any, required by a majority of Examiners. 
    • Dates and signs both pages of the Chair's Report.
  • In the case that no revisions are required, the Chair, the Examiners, and the Supervisor(s) sign the Certificate of Examination. In the case that revisions are required, the Chair, with the help of the committee, determines who will withhold her/his signature(s) until the required revisions have been made. 
  • The Chair communicates the positive decision to the candidate. (See Communicating the Decision to the Candidate.)

When the Thesis Examination is Unsuccessful

  • The Chair completes the "Master's Thesis Examination - Chair Report." In consultation with the Examiners, the Chair states why the thesis and/or the oral defense was unacceptable
  • If the Thesis Examination failed because the thesis content was unacceptable, the Vice-Provost (Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies) refers the case to a Re-Submission Hearing Committee.
  • Where the Re-Submission Hearing Committee agrees that the candidate should be given the opportunity to revise the thesis to bring it to the acceptable scholarly standard for examination, the committee first establishes a new Thesis Examination date, no earlier than twelve weeks after the date of the originally scheduled examination. Normally the same Examiners assess the re-submitted thesis. The Chair of the committee provides the Graduate Chair, Supervisor(s), and student written notification of the decision and the changes suggested by the committee
  • The Examination must then proceed as listed in Section 5.1 The Program Requests a Thesis Examination for the re-submitted thesis
  • Whether or not the re-submitted thesis is found acceptable, the candidate proceeds to Stage Two: The Thesis Examination

If the Thesis Examination failed solely because of an unacceptable oral defense, the Vice-Provost (Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies) refers the case to a Re-Examination Hearing Committee:

  • Where the Re-Examination Hearing Committee* decides that a second Thesis Examination is appropriate, it should be held, preferably with the same Thesis Examination Board, within a time period determined by the committee. The Chair of the committee provides the Graduate Chair, Supervisor(s), and student written notification of the decision
  • *Re-Examination Hearing Committee is chaired by the Graduate Chair of the program concerned and includes the three Examiners, the supervisor, and others specified in the procedures of the program concerned. Note: The candidate does not attend the committee meeting

If the candidate has already been through a Re-Submission Hearing Committee or a Re-Examination Hearing Committee (following Stage Two: The Thesis Examination), then the Thesis Examination Board's decision is final. The candidate has no further opportunity for resubmission and/or re-examination. However, if a candidate has been through a Re-Submission Hearing Committee following Stage One: The Preliminary (or Pre-Examination) Evaluation of the Thesis, then the Vice-Provost (Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies) refers the case to a second and final Re-Submission Hearing Committee.

Communicating the Decision to the Candidate

When the Chair and the Examiners have completed the documentation, the Chair invites only the candidate back into the room and informs him/her of the result.

  • Following a positive decision that is subject to revisions, the Supervisor(s) must meet with the candidate, to ensure that he/she understands the revisions required by the Thesis Examination Board

Following the Examination

The Chair of the examination returns all forms to the graduate program office.

8.5.5 - Final Submission of the Thesis

When the candidate has completed any changes recommended by the Thesis Examination Board the candidate must submit the final copy of their work via digital submission through the Scholarship@Western Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository:

The candidate accesses their original submission within the repository and submits a revised copy of their work.

Candidates are required to submit the following to the School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies before publication can occur:

  • The signed Certificate of Examination (scanned copy is acceptable)

Once the thesis is published, the candidate has officially completed the thesis requirement for their degree. Subject to approval by the University Senate, the candidate's name is placed on the convocation list. Should a thesis writing candidate require proof of completion of all degree requirements he/she should contact the Thesis Coordinator.  

8.5.6 - Publication of the Thesis

A thesis is a research document. It is a record of the research that the student conducted while completing a graduate degree. Given the research and education mandate of Canada's publicly funded universities, it is expected that the results of this research will be made publicly available.

For those theses that are submitted through the Scholarship@Western ETD Repository, the University requires that successful graduate theses be made available through the Western Library’s Scholarship@Western program. The thesis will be published electronically at the conclusion of the degree process, and will be available globally via the World Wide Web.

At the same time, the University recognizes that the student is the author of the thesis, and retains copyright and control interests in the material.

Note: Students should be conscious of the implications of electronic publication in the digital context: material is accessible to any interested party, academic and non-academic. The record should also be understood to be permanently available – once published electronically, it can be withdrawn from Scholarship@Western, but digital copies will inevitably persist. Students engaging in thesis preparation and research should be mindful of electronic publication and availability as an endpoint of their research. Supervisors, equally, have a responsibility to be acquainted with the implications of electronic publication, and advise their students accordingly.

In certain cases, a “delay of publication” may be appropriate. See section 8.5.3.2 above.

The candidate is asked to permit the release of the thesis to be used for research and also to agree to allow the non-exclusive right to reproduce or loan copies of the thesis in micro-form, paper, or electronic formats. The term "non-exclusive license" means that the author retains the copyright of the thesis and can seek other forms of publication. 

Upon final approved submission, the work is published to the Scholarship@Western ETD repository, pending any requests for a delay of publication.  This repository is publicly accessible, permitting free access to the work.  The repository transmits regular reports via e-mail to the author on how often the work is accessed.