Concordia University

Major Research Paper - Guidelines

We encourage students who plan to continue their graduate studies at the doctoral level to choose Option A and write a Major Research Paper (MRP). A research paper at a high level of scholarship will supply students with a strong writing sample to submit with PhD program applications, and, in addition perhaps, to submit for graduate and professional conferences or journals.

The following guidelines are meant to help graduate students in the process of writing and defending a Research Paper. The process requires that graduate students:

  • choose a supervisor, preferably as early in the course of graduate studies as possible. (Please note that our limited term and adjunct faculty can serve on MA defence committees or as advisers for MA research, but not as MA supervisors; supervision is limited to full time faculty.)
  • submit a supervisor-approved MRP proposal to the Graduate Program Director for further endorsement by the Graduate Studies Committee; and
  • write the MRP and pass an oral defence of the MRP before the examination committee appointed by the Graduate Studies Committee.


The MRP proposal must be handed in to the Graduate Program Director (GPD) by May 1st of the academic year during which the student entered, assuming the student started in the Fall (September admission). If a student started in the Winter term (January admission), the proposal is due by December 1st of the same calendar year in which the student began the graduate studies in philosophy at Concordia.

Prior to submission to the GPD, the research paper proposal must have been approved by the supervisor the student has chosen for the research paper project. The GPD will then circulate the proposal among the members of the Graduate Studies Committee (GSC) for their approval. The GSC reserves the right to reject the proposal, suggest changes to it, or to expand the bibliography.

A research paper proposal should be no more than 3000 words (around 4-6 pages single spaced). This 3000 word limit includes all footnotes/endnotes, but not the bibliography or title information.  The proposal is to be single spaced and submitted electronically, as an editable Word document, to facilitate review and comment by the committee.

The proposal should first offer the thesis statement the student wishes to defend, and indicate the main arguments in its favour (2 to 3 pages). As well, it should provide context for the paper and its thesis in relation to the bibliographical sources, and include, as needed and where appropriate, clarification of specialized technical terms for a general philosophical audience. It should then supply a breakdown of the projected sections and their content.

Both the proposal and the research paper itself should use gender-inclusive language.

For further details, read this guide for writing MRP proposals.  

Graduation application prior to defence

Please note also that students wishing to graduate must fill out, sign, and submit a graduation application. Generally, if you have completed all program requirements except for your research paper defence and final research paper submission, you must apply to graduate sometime in January for Spring graduation or in July for Fall graduation through their MyConcordia portal or in person at the Birks Student Service Centre. (for exact dates please refer to the current important dates.

Major research paper

The final version of the complete MRP must be submitted to the supervisor to arrange an oral defence. This may happen at any time during the year. (In this context, it may be advisable to recall that the total time limit for the completion of the MA program, including course work, is three years. However, the GSC considers the MA program in Option A, with MRP, to be complete-able in two years or less.)

Students wishing to graduate at a particular convocation must meet the following deadlines for research paper submission:

  • Fall Convocation: Traditionally in November
    1st submission prior to defence:  August 1
    Final submission after defence:  September 15

  • Spring Convocation: Traditionally in June
    1st submission prior to defence: March 1
    Final submission after defence: April 15

The version submitted after the defence (oral examination) must include all of the changes required by the examiners. The changes may be minor or major; major changes typically take at least several weeks to complete (for more on minor and major modifications, see below, Decision for Master’s Major Research Papers).

Concordia University’s Graduate Calendar describes the MRP in the following way: “A research paper is expected to consider all of the relevant scholarship pertaining to its argument and to make an original contribution to knowledge.” It is expected that MRP’s go through several stages of rewriting in light of comments from the supervisor.

The format of the research paper submitted for oral defence must follow these guidelines:

  • Use endnotes rather than footnotes. Endnotes should be gathered at the end of the document.
  • Citation style should follow the most recent edition of The Chicago Manual of Style.
  • Double-space all text, including indented citations, block quotations and endnotes.
  • The length of the paper should be between 30 and 40 pages, including endnotes and bibliography.
  • The font should be Times New Roman point 12.
  • All pages must be numbered and have margins of at least one inch on all sides.
  • Include a title page with title, author, month/year, and the following, centred statement: “A Major Research Paper in the Department of Philosophy, presented in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts (Philosophy) at Concordia University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada”. For the exact layout, students should turn to sample pages in the appendix of the Thesis Preparation Guide of the School of Graduate Studies, available here:
  • On a separate page, include an abstract that summarizes the main argument (max. 250 words)
  • The paper should be submitted as an attachment (MS Word or PDF) in an email to the GPD, chair of examining committee (if any), supervisor, and examiner(s). A paper copy should also be deposited with the Graduate Program Administrator (GPA), who will add the copy to the student’s file in the department.
  • All pages of the paper copy should be stapled together.

To save paper, the paper should be double-sided.

Oral examination of MRP

Students have the right to submit material for examination without approval of the principal supervisor or oral examination committee members. However, MRP’s are generally submitted for defence only after the principal supervisor has judged it ready for defence, and this is highly advisable.

When the MRP is ready for defence, the supervisor contacts the Graduate Program Director (GPD) to discuss the selection of a second examiner (also called second reader), and possibly a Chair of the examination. The examination committee is appointed by the Graduate Studies Committee of the Department of Philosophy, as represented by the GPD, in consultation with the student’s supervisor. The examination committee is not selected by the student, but students may suggest possible examiners to the supervisor and/or the GPD.

On most MRP defences (though not MA Thesis defences), the supervisor functions as the Chair of the examination. The examination Chair schedules the defence with the help of the Graduate Program Administrator (GPA), calls the examination proccedings to order, formally ends them, and reports results to the GPD and the GPA. The GPA prepares the paperwork for the examination (the Report from Master’s Examining Committee and the Graduate Activity Grade Report), and the supervisor (or the examination Chair, if different from the supervisor) takes these two forms to the examination and returns them to the GPA for further processing (obtaining of signatures and distribution to Dean of Graduate Studies and Office of the Registrar).

A third faculty member is required on examination committees in those cases in which two faculty members serve as co-supervisors. The third faculty member then serves as independent overseer of the examination.

The defence is in principle public, and is advertised by the Department, in particular among faculty and fellow graduate students. It usually lasts 90 to 120 minutes.

A defence begins with the MA student’s summary of the project, and an account of what motivated her or him to write it (7-10 minutes maximum). Then follow several rounds of questions (2-4 rounds are typical), with the second examiner beginning each round. An examination Chair who is not the supervisor may also ask questions during the defence, though she or he does not typically have her or his own round of questions. After the rounds, the Chair invites questions from the audience, if any.

When the examination Chair has closed questions, the examinee (and audience, if any) leaves the room so that the examiners debate the outcome. Typically, the deliberations begin by the second examiner suggesting an outcome.

After the deliberations, the examination Chair invites the examinee back in and informs her or him of the outcome.

Decision for Master's major research papers

The decision is reported on the Master’s Examining Committee Report, which is to be submitted to the Dean of Graduate Studies along with the Graduate Activity Grade Report. The Examining Committee can render one (1) of four (4) decisions, subject to a vote of majority by all members of the examination committee.

The MRP can be:

  1. Accepted as submitted which may include corrections that do not require the supervisor’s approval.
  2. Accepted with minor modifications, defined as corrections that can be made immediately and to the satisfaction of the supervisor.
  3. Accepted with major modifications. The Report from Master’s Examining Committee shall include a precise description of the modifications along with a date for their completion of no more than six months. The Examining Committee shall examine the modified MRP and, by majority vote, determine if the modifications specified in the Examining Committee Report have been completed to the Examining Committee’s satisfaction. If they have, the MRP may be accepted, and the supervisor will confirm the Examining Committee’s approval to the GPD and the GPA. It is not necessary for the Examining Committee to reconvene. If the Examining Committee is not satisfied that the specified modifications have been made, then the Examining Committee must reconvene to decide if the MRP is rejected or an additional period of modifications is to be granted. The Chair shall report in writing to the Dean of Graduate Studies the outcome of the Examining Committee meeting.
  4. Rejected. This notation is used for an MRP for which the Examining Committee is not prepared to request either minor or major modifications, i.e., where the work shows serious deficiency, or its validity is in question. Such an MRP may be re-submitted only once, in revised form. Such a resubmission can only be made six (6) months or more from the date of the original defence. Formal re-submission of an MRP follows the same procedure as an initial submission.

Decision impasse

If the Examining Committee is unable to reach a decision concerning the MRP at the time of the defence, it is the responsibility of the Chair of the defence proceedings (often the supervisor) to call a meeting of the Examining Committee with the GPD to determine the outcome. The student is not normally required to be present at the second meeting of the Examining Committee. If no agreement is forthcoming at this meeting, the GPD will call a new oral examination that the GPD will chair. At the request of the student, a third examiner may be added to the Examining Committee at the second defence.

Final submission

After the defence, the student makes the required modifications along with any required format changes for final submission. The MRP supervisor has the authority to grant approval when the required minor modifications have been made by the student. The MRP supervisor oversees required major modifications and insures that they are submitted to the entire Examination Committee for approval.

Once all modifications have been made to the satisfaction of the supervisor and/or the Examining Committee, the supervisor informs the GPD and the GPA, in writing, of this fact. The GPA then submits to the Dean of Graduate Studies the Graduate Activity Grade Report, signed by the supervisor, GPD, and Department Chair.

The student must deposit a paper copy of the final after-defence version of the MRP, with all required modifications, with the GPA of the Department. The GPA will add this copy, with copies of the Graduate Activity Grade Report and of the Report of the Master’s Examining Committee, to the student’s file. Research papers need not be handed in to the Thesis Office of the School of Graduate Studies.

Depositing the MRP in Spectrum

Students are expected to deposit the final digital submission of their MRP in Spectrum, Concordia University’s Research Repository, according to the guidelines and instructions for depositing Concordia Theses posted on the Spectrum web site.

The final version to be deposited in Spectrum must contain all revisions required by the Examining Committee. At the time of depositing the MRP into Spectrum, students are asked to acknowledge and agree to a non-exclusive license. Students may request a deferment on the publication of their MRP

Back to top

© Concordia University