A thesis is the final report on a comprehensive research program that meets accepted scholarly criteria and is of a cohesive, unitary character. All written components of a thesis must meet the scholarly requirements of the research discipline and be formatted in accordance with the Thesis Preparation Guide.
If it is necessary to include non-text materials in a thesis, the content must conform to standard usage in the student’s field of research, and be in a format that allows for submission via Spectrum: Concordia University’s Research Repository.
The student’s supervisor shall fully inform the student of any and all contractual obligation(s), as they may pertain to the student, which may affect the public defence and/or publication of his/her thesis.
At Concordia, theses are normally written in English. However, a student who intends to submit their thesis in French must inform their supervisor when submitting the thesis topic for the supervisor’s approval. In the event that a student wishes to submit his/her thesis in a language other than English or French, where the program does not have prior approval, the thesis supervisor must make such a recommendation, with an appropriate justification, to the Graduate Studies Committee when the student’s thesis topic is submitted for approval. The decision of the Departmental Graduate Studies Committee on such a recommendation shall be communicated to the Thesis Office. Students in the Hispanic Studies MAprogram may write their thesis in Spanish.
A thesis written in a language other than English or French must include a comprehensive summary of its contents. This comprehensive summary/description must be written in English or French and appear after the abstract. The summary must be between 3-6 pages for master's and 10-20 pages for doctoral as appropriate. Students in the Hispanic Studies MAprogram may write their thesis in Spanish and must also include a summary in English or French.
Joint programs must adhere to the thesis requirements and guidelines at Concordia unless a formal agreement specifying alternate thesis requirement/guidelines has been signed by all institutional participants.
The Graduate Studies Committee of the student’s program, in consultation with his/her supervisor, appoints an Examining Committee. The Examining Committee consists of a minimum of two (2) members, including the supervisor(s). The student’s supervisor(s) must be a member of the Examining Committee. The Examining Committee must also include a member who is not in a supervisory relationship with the student. Co-author(s) of work included in the thesis cannot serve as an examiner for that thesis except for the supervisor(s). Following evaluation of the thesis, the Examining Committee will arrive at a decision to either Accept or Reject. When an Examining Committee composed of two faculty members renders a split decision, the Graduate Program Director (or Departmental Chair when appropriate) will adjudicate. Once the Examining Committee has arrived at a final decision, it is the responsibility of the Graduate Program to forward to the Thesis Office, generally within 3 weeks from the initial submission of the thesis, a completed Master’s Thesis Evaluation Report that reflects the final decision of the Examining Committee.
An oral defence of a Master’s thesis is not required by the School of Graduate Studies. Programs may elect to have an oral defence as a degree requirement (please see individual program entries in the Calendar).
In order to meet a particular graduation date, a candidate must submit their thesis to the Thesis Office at any time before the deadline specified on the Important Academic Dates webpage. It should be noted that some programs have established deadlines earlier than the Thesis Office deadline. The initial formal submission by the candidate of the thesis along with the completed and signed Doctoral Thesis Examining Committee Form to the Thesis Office begins the official examination process.
A thesis submitted to the Thesis Office must be ready for formal evaluation according to the requirements set out in the Thesis Preparation Guide. Written approval from the Dean of Graduate Studies or their delegate must be obtained should the candidate wish to deviate from the stated requirements.
The candidate’s supervisor must review the thesis before the initial formal submission to the Thesis Office. It is recommended that feedback also be obtained from the candidate’s Supervisory Committee (where applicable) prior to initial submission. If the candidate and the supervisor cannot reach an agreement on whether the thesis is ready for submission, the Graduate Program Director and the Dean of Graduate Studies or their delegate may be required to intervene. Although inadvisable, the candidate retains the right to defend their thesis without the supervisor’s approval.
The thesis supervisor is responsible for completion of the Doctoral Thesis Examining Committee Form in consultation with the student. The student then submits the completed form to the Graduate Program Director, accompanied by the External Examiner’s curriculum vitae. The Doctoral Thesis Examining Committee Form must list: (i) the Examining Committee Chair, (ii) all voting members of the Examining Committee (see “Examining Committee Composition”), (iii) the name and address (including e-mail address) of the External Examiner, and (iv) the proposed defence date as agreed upon by the Examining Committee. The Examining Committee composition should consider diversity and inclusivity among its members whenever possible. The defence date should be scheduled at least six weeks after the initial formal thesis submission to the Thesis Office. The Graduate Program Director approves the Examining Committee composition as recommended by the thesis supervisor by signing the Doctoral Thesis Examination Committee Form.
The School of Graduate Studies retains an electronic copy of the thesis, which is available (unless otherwise restricted) to any University member up to one week prior to the defence date.
The Examining Committee consists of five voting members and the Examining Committee Chair (non-voting). All Examining Committee members must hold a PhD or terminal degree recognized by the School of Graduate Studies. Under exceptional circumstances, a potential Examining Committee member who does not hold a PhD or terminal degree may be permitted, subject to approval by the Dean of Graduate Studies or their delegate. At least two voting members (i.e., the voting supervisor and one other examiner) must be Concordia faculty members or eligible faculty members from Joint Programs. Furthermore, no Examining Committee member should: (i) receive professional or personal benefit, financial or otherwise, from the candidate or the supervisor(s), (ii) be a relative of or have a close personal relationship with the candidate or the supervisor(s).
The Examining Committee consists of:
In situations involving co-supervisors, the co-supervisors will designate a voting member among themselves prior to the defence. In cases of an external co-supervisor (including cotutelles), the Concordia co-supervisor will be the voting member. This designation should be indicated on the Doctoral Thesis Examining Committee Form.
Examiners must be tenured or tenure-track faculty members from Concordia or from a University with a shared Joint Program. An examiner may be from another academic institution if the examiner is deemed to have appropriate expertise. These members may (but are not required to) be drawn from the candidate’s Supervisory Committee. Note that such examiners from other institutions do not replace the Arms-Length Examiners (4 & 5) (see below).
(4) Arms-length Examiner
Examiners must be tenured or tenure-track faculty members. To be considered at arms-length, an examiner must not: (i) have been a supervisor or a trainee of the supervisor or candidate, (ii) have collaborated, published or shared funding with the supervisor or candidate in the past six years, (iii) feel for any reason unable to provide an impartial evaluation of the thesis, (iv) be a member of the candidate’s Supervisory Committee (when applicable).
(5) External Examiner
An External Examiner for a doctoral defence must: (i) be a scholar with no affiliation with Concordia, and (ii) have demonstrated expertise in the thesis material and an international reputation. Furthermore, the External Examiner must have experience mentoring PhD or other terminal degree students and will have preferably graduated their own PhD or other terminal degree students. The External Examiner must be at arms-length (see above) from the candidate and the supervisor. In addition, the External Examiner must not have been employed at Concordia in the past six years. Under highly exceptional circumstances, and following approval by the Dean of Graduate Studies or their delegate, potential External Examiners who do not meet the above criteria will be permitted to serve in the role; in such cases, the Graduate Program Director must make a written request to the Dean of Graduate Studies with an accompanying justification.
Once an External Examiner has been approved, no communication about the thesis content is permitted between the External Examiner and the candidate or supervisor until the defence is over.
Examining Committee Chair
The thesis defence is chaired by the Dean of Graduate Studies or their delegate. This role is known as the Examining Committee Chair.
Examining committee members must transmit their completed Evaluation Forms to the Thesis Office at least one week prior to the defence. If the School of Graduate Studies has not received all Examiner Reports at least one week before the defence, the School may reschedule the defence at their discretion. The External Examiner must submit a written report to the Thesis Office along with their Evaluation Form. A completed Evaluation Form that contains at least one Unsatisfactory assessment of the evaluation criteria is considered a negative Examiner Report. The Thesis Office forwards Examining Committee evaluations to the supervisor in advance of the defence. These evaluations are not to be shared with the candidate prior to the defence unless they are negative, or as described in the two cases below:
(1)If the External Examiner indicates on their Evaluation Form that the defence should not proceed, then all examiner evaluations will be shared with the candidate and the defence will be rescheduled. A revised thesis is typically submitted to the Thesis Office no later than six months after the initial defence date. A new defence with the same Examining Committee composition will then be scheduled per usual. If the External Examiner’s evaluation of the resubmission once again indicates that the defence should not proceed, then the Dean of Graduate Studies will initiate an investigation to determine if bias has occurred (see section on Examining Committee Restructuring). If the process is found to be unbiased, a ‘REJECT’ notation will be assigned to the candidate’s record and they will be withdrawn from their program.
When a supervisory relationship cannot continue, candidates may request an administrative supervisor for the sole purpose of the defence. This request should be submitted to the Graduate Program Director, who will submit it to the Dean of Graduate Studies or their delegate along with their recommendation. Every effort should be made to avoid delaying the defence due to this supervisory change.
The Thesis Office publicly announces the upcoming defence. The thesis defence is an oral examination conducted by the Examining Committee Chair that is open to the public. In exceptional circumstances, the Dean of Graduate Studies may mandate that a defence be closed to the public. Contractual or legal obligations may necessitate that all attendees at a thesis defence sign a confidentiality agreement. The candidate delivers an oral presentation of the thesis with any aids necessary to an effective presentation. Normally, this presentation lasts 30-40 minutes. The candidate is then questioned on the thesis and oral presentation by the Examiners; the Examining Committee Chair moderates the question period. The External Examiner is the first to question the candidate, followed by the Arms-Length Examiner, the rest of the Examiners, and finally the supervisor. Questions on a thesis by members of the University, other than those on the Examining Committee, must be submitted in writing to the Dean of Graduate Studies or their delegate no later than seven days prior to the thesis defence date; the Examining Committee Chair will read these questions during the defence. The Examining Committee Chair adjourns the examination when the Examining Committee decides that further questioning is no longer needed.
The School of Graduate Studies requires in-person participation for all Examiners. Under extenuating circumstances any member of the Examining Committee or candidate may attend the defence remotely pending approval from the Dean of Graduate Studies or their delegate. Out-of-town Examiners can typically attend remotely in any circumstance without such approval. It is the supervisor’s responsibility to make appropriate videoconferencing arrangements if any participant of a doctoral defence has been approved to attend remotely. Only videoconferencing platforms licensed and supported by Concordia University may be used for a doctoral defence.
Any member of the Examining Committee (other than the External Examiner or the supervisor) who is unable to attend the doctoral defence in person or remotely must submit their evaluation, vote, and a list of questions to be asked on their behalf by the Examining Committee Chair to the Dean of Graduate Studies or their delegate at least one week before the defence. If the Examining Committee Chair is unexpectedly unable to attend on the day of the defence, either a replacement must be found or the defence must be rescheduled. The supervisor and External Examiner must be present at the defence; in their absence, the defence must be rescheduled. Should any member of the Examining Committee be unexpectedly unable to attend on the day of the defence without advance notice (as described above), the Examining Committee Chair must notify the Thesis Office, and the defence will be rescheduled. Exceptionally, and under extenuating circumstances, the defence may proceed if an Examiner (other than the External Examiner or the supervisor) who is absent on the day of defence without warning successfully provides their questions and vote to the Examining Committee Chair at any time prior to the defence.
The Examining Committee Chair presides over the Examining Committee during its deliberations in camera but takes no part in its decision. The Examining Committee’s decision is based on both the thesis and the candidate’s ability to defend it.
Members of the Examining Committee may not abstain from voting. The Examining Committee can render one of two decisions, subject to a majority vote:
External Examiner Veto: If the majority vote results in ‘Accepted’, the External Examiner may veto the overall committee decision to impose ‘Not Accepted’; in this case, the External Examiner’s decision will take precedence. In the event of an External Examiner veto, the External Examiner must write a reasoned report that details the revisions required for the thesis to be resubmitted for re-examination. This report should be sent to the Examining Committee Chair and the Thesis Office within seven days of the defence. The Examining Committee Chair will forward a copy of the report to the Dean of Graduate Studies upon receipt. An External Examiner’s veto on a re-defence will immediately initiate an investigation by the Dean of Graduate Studies to determine if bias has occurred (see section on Examining Committee Restructuring).
Upon conclusion of a defence (regardless of outcome), the Chair will forward all relevant documents to the Thesis Office. All Examiner evaluations will be provided to the candidate by the Thesis Office after the defence.
Under extraordinary circumstances, and following extensive consultation, the Dean of Graduate Studies reserves the right to nullify a defence. Nullification would typically occur prior to final submission of the thesis on Spectrum.
Should the candidate have reasoned grounds for changing membership of the Examining Committee, they must submit a written request outlining these reasons directly to the Graduate Program Director, who will forward their request along with a reasoned recommendation, to the Dean of Graduate Studies for their approval.
Restructuring of the Examining Committee may occur at the discretion of the Dean of Graduate Studies under the following highly exceptional circumstances if and only if biases have been detected in the following decisions: (1) The External Examiner indicates to the Thesis Office in advance that the defence should not proceed; (2) A candidate receives negative report(s) from the Thesis Office prior to the defence; (3) An External Examiner vetoes a post-examination decision of the Examining Committee; (4) A second ‘Not Accepted’ decision by the Examining Committee. In such cases, the Dean of Graduate Studies will consult with the Faculty Dean and other Faculty representatives, and subject matter experts as appropriate. Should the Dean of Graduate Studies determine that bias had occurred, the defence will be nullified and the process will start again with a new Examining Committee per usual.
Under extraordinary circumstances, the Dean of Graduate Studies reserves the right to demand restructuring of an Examining Committee without explicit request from the candidate.
The primary goal of Concordia University is the dissemination of knowledge. To achieve this goal, the university makes all theses available to the general public via Spectrum, the Library Repository. Spectrum is a widely indexed, searchable database and its contents are readily available to the public via the internet.
A student must submit the final version of the thesis electronically, using Spectrum. The final version of the thesis must include any required modifications requested by the Examining Committee and any revisions requested by the Thesis Office. The student is responsible for the final electronic submission of his/her thesis.
Upon final submission of his/her thesis, a student shall be deemed to have granted the University a non-exclusive, royalty-free license to reproduce, archive, preserve, conserve, communicate to the public by telecommunication or on the internet, loan, and distribute the thesis worldwide for non-commercial purposes, in any format. Please refer to the University’s Policy on Intellectual Property.
If there is a good reason for delaying public access to a thesis, an approved embargo may be placed on the publication of the thesis. The deferment is for up to two (2) years but under exceptional circumstances may be renewed. The abstract and bibliographic information is not embargoed and is therefore still available to the public. In the event of a deferment, it is understood that the University’s license to communicate, loan and/or distribute shall only take effect as of the expiry of the deferment period. Please refer to the University’s Policy on Intellectual Property.
Members of the Concordia community are users of copyrighted materials and, as such, are subject to copyright legislation. Compliance with the Copyright Act and the University’s Policy on Copyright Compliance is a student’s responsibility. Failure to comply with the Copyright Act is a violation of federal legislation and may result in legal repercussions and/or disciplinary or other action by the University. Beyond any legal responsibility, a student must consider his/her ethical obligations to respect intellectual property rights.
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