MSc Thesis Defense Guidelines

The thesis defense for a Master’s degree is a public presentation of the candidate’s thesis, followed by questioning from the examiners.

The candidate’s MSc Supervisory Committee has to determine if the thesis is ready for the defense. The external examiner must approve and pass the MSc written thesis before the student proceeds to the oral MSc thesis defense.

It is the candidate’s responsibility to arrange the date, time and location of the defense. Once this has been done, please inform the SRS office at least three weeks in advance.

The Master’s Thesis Examining Committee  must include:

  • A minimum of two people; the thesis supervisor or designate and a person who was not involved in advising the student in his or her research.
  • The examining committee should include at least one member from another graduate program. (This means that one examining committee member should be external to the program but this individual does not have to be the external examiner. It could be a committee member.)

Procedures to be followed by the Chair (usually Supervisor) at the thesis defense:

  • Announce that the meeting has been called for the public examination of the candidate’s Master’s thesis.
  • Request the candidate to present a synopsis of the thesis. The candidate may speak from notes and use audio-visual equipment but must NOT read the synopsis. The presentation should be 20-30 minutes in length. It should not be interrupted by questions.
  • Ask each member of the Examination Committee, in turn, to question the candidate. The Research Supervisor should be called upon last. The Chair should exercise discretion in managing the question period.
  • Call for questions from the audience, if any.
  • Call for further questioning by the Committee, and, as Chair, ask the candidate to address and/or clarify any points that may not have been adequately covered in previous questioning (if necessary).
  • The candidate and those not on the Examination Committee leave the room and the Committee deliberates.
  • Call for a discussion. The Examination Committee is asked to make a recommendation with respect to the performance of the candidate at the defense and of the thesis itself.

    Evaluation criteria:

    Oral examination: Discuss the candidate’s performance in presenting the synopsis, in responding to questions, and in defending the work.

Thesis: Attempt to reach a consensus on an appropriate category for the thesis based on the following:

Category 1 : minor revision that is typographical or editorial in nature. Requires approval by supervisor only

Category 2 : Substantive revision affecting the content of the thesis. Requires approval by the supervisor and supervisory committee.

Category 3 : The thesis is unsatisfactory in its current form. Major rewriting and rethinking are required to produce a satisfactory thesis. Requires approval by the supervisor, supervisory committee and external examiner.


The Chair should compose a brief written report indicating the vote and the recommendation of the Examination Committee, with comments on any other matters related to the examination. This report should be submitted to the SRS office with copies sent to the other members of the Examination Committee.


The Chair should call the candidate and in the presence of the Examination Committee inform the candidate if they passed or failed.