Preparing to Defend


The oral defence should not be scheduled until all Advisory Committee members have formally agreed the thesis is ready for examination. 

  • All defence arrangements (time, date, location) are made by the academic unit.
  • Care must be taken in proposing the names of external examiners to ensure the absence of conflict of interest, either personal or professional in nature.
  • For Master’s defences, the academic unit provides all materials to the External Examiner. For Ph.D. defences, the CGPS Program Advisor forwards the thesis and any necessary documentation to the External Examiner. 
  • At least three weeks (for Master's) and four weeks (for Ph.D) must be allowed between the time that the External Examiner receives the thesis and the date of the defence. This time is necessary in order to give examiners the opportunity to examine the thesis carefully. It is advisable to allow for more than the minimum required times listed above. 
  • It is the responsibility of the Department Head or Graduate Chair to inform the student in a timely way of all department requirements surrounding the Oral Defence (for example, that a public seminar be given).

It is the responsibility of the research supervisor to provide advice and support to the student in preparing for the Oral Defence.

Responsibility of the Student

It is the student's responsibility to ensure all requirements of the Program of Studies have been completed, registration is current, outstanding fees are paid, and University deadlines are respected in view of any particular convocation.

It is the responsibility of the student to prepare an oral statement on the nature and the importance of the research project presented in the thesis.  This statement should not be a mere reiteration or repetition of the thesis or the thesis abstract.  It should be about 10-15 minutes in length and should, in no case, exceed 20 minutes.  In cases where candidates are required to give a public seminar, the requirement for the oral statement may be waived at the discretion of the department or college.

It is the responsibility of a student who has a disability that could interfere with their ability to respond to questioning at an oral defence, to contact Access and Equity Services (AES) to schedule an Accommodation Planning Committee meeting in sufficient time prior to the defence to ensure appropriate accommodations can be made.

Dissertation Summary

A Dissertation Summary is required by the College of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies from Ph.D. students at least seven (7) days prior to the defence. 

  • It is to be a maximum of four (4) pages in length.
  • The date on the front page should reflect the name of the term in which you will be defending. Fall (Sep-Dec), Winter (Jan-Apr), or Spring (May-Aug) are the options. 
  • The left-hand column for the Chair of the defence (first person listed under Examining Committee) should be left blank.  The right-hand column should read "Dean/Associate Dean/Dean's Designate, Chair, College of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies". The name of the Chair will be filled in by the CGPS Office once appointed.
  • The abstract section (2nd page) should not exceed 350 words, excluding the title. 
  • Publications listed in the final section may only be those which have been published or accepted for publication.  Students may also include their Master's thesis.

 The CGPS Office will arrange for its distribution at the thesis defence.

Defending the Thesis

The Oral Examination

What to expect

The Chair of the defence will invite the student to make a brief oral presentation, highlighting the major issues dealt with in the thesis, the conclusions which have been reached, and the significance of the findings. This presentation should last 10-15 minutes; it must not be more than 20 minutes and should be much shorter if the student has already given a public seminar on research results attended by the Examining Committee.

With certain restrictions to be determined by the department, the defence may be open to the public. At the conclusion of the examination, any individuals who are not members of the Examining Committee will be asked to leave.

All members of the Examining Committee are expected to ask relevant and probing questions on the methodology/contents of the thesis, and/or on the research field. Candidates should respond to questions directly, in a manner which is informed by the contents of the methodology and contents of the thesis, and as concisely as is appropriate to the question. They should not hesitate to make clarification should they have the impression that the questions asked derive from misconceptions about the research material or the literature.

At the conclusion of the examination, the student will be asked to leave the room in order to allow the Examining Committee to deliberate.

How students are judged

Students are judged on their ability to speak in an informed way about their research and to respond clearly and cogently to questions on the thesis (results and methodology) and on the thesis topic (knowledge of the academic field and related literature). Standards prevailing will be those of the discipline and the College of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies.

The student will pass the Oral Examination if a majority of all members of the Examining Committee (including the research supervisor and the person chairing) vote in favour of acceptance.

An abstention is counted as a negative vote. If, however, the favourable majority does not include the External Examiner, the Dean shall refer the case, along with the External Examiner's written report, to the Graduate Academic Affairs Committee for advice and recommendation concerning action to be taken.

It may frequently happen that one or more examiner is named to withhold approval signature until certain revisions, corrections, or modifications are made. It is the responsibility of the student to make these changes. It is the responsibility of the research supervisor to provide advice and support during the revision process and to ensure that the person(s) who have withheld their signature are shown the revised copy of the thesis and asked to give approval on behalf of the Examining Committee.

Following the Defence

Electronic Submission of the Thesis (ETD)

Candidates for Master’s and Ph.D. degrees, who have successfully completed their thesis oral examination and made all the revisions and corrections required by the Examining Committee, must submit the final approved version to the ETD site. Master’s project-based students may upload the complete and approved project paper, although this is not a degree requirement.