Part 7: Examination and Assessment

Conducting the Thesis oral defence

Both the public presentation and the oral defence are open to other students, faculty members, and members of the community. Under extraordinary circumstances, a request for a closed Thesis oral defence may be made by the student or any member of the Supervisory Committee to the Dean of the School of Graduate Studies. A request for a closed Thesis oral defence is normally made in conjunction with the request for the Thesis oral defence.

The Thesis oral defence is two (2) hours in duration. The procedure for conducting the Thesis oral defence is as follows:

a)   Introduction

The Thesis Examination Committee Chair:

  • Welcomes all in attendance
  • States that this Thesis oral defence is a senior academic event in the School of Graduate Studies and is a formal examination before awarding the degree of Master of Science
  • Introduces the student
  • Asks the Thesis Examination Committee members to introduce themselves in this order: the External Examiner (if applicable), the members of the Supervisory Committee, and the supervisor(s)
  • States that all members of the Thesis Examination Committee have read the Thesis and submitted an assessment report on the Thesis
  • Invites the student to make their Thesis presentation

b)   Public presentation

The public presentation will be between 20 to 60 minutes in duration depending on the academic tradition of the area of study and is not part of the formal evaluation. The student summarizes the Thesis’ major objectives, content, results, and conclusions.

c)   Audience questions

Immediately following the presentation, the Chair invites questions from the audience. A short questioning period is permitted at the end of the public presentation for the audience to ask questions related to the presentation. During this questioning period, the members of the Thesis Examination Committee are not permitted to ask questions.

d)   Oral defence

NOTE:      The audience is not permitted to ask questions during the formal oral defence                  

In the event that the defence is closed, the Thesis Examination Chair requests that the audience leaves the examination room.

The Chair invites the Thesis Examination Committee to pose their questions. Before the questioning begins, the Chair outlines the procedure:

  • Each examiner will pose his or her questions, as desired.
  • The Chair invites questions from:
    1. The External Examiner, if applicable;
    2. The Internal Examiners; and
    3. The supervisor(s);
  • The Chair does not normally ask questions;
  • After one (1) initial round of questions, the examiners may ask additional questions in a second round, and so on. The Chair ensures that comments and discussion not directly related to the questions are saved for the post-defence meeting of the Thesis Examination Committee;
  • In the event that an examiner cannot attend, the Chair will pose a set of questions supplied by the missing examiner. Answers to these questions will be evaluated by the remaining examiners.

e)   Making a decision

After questioning has finished, the Chair excuses the student, asking him or her and the audience to leave the room so that the Thesis Examination Committee can meet in private. When the student has left both the oral and written (thesis) components of the Thesis oral defence are assessed:

The Chair outlines the two (2) options for the oral component of the Thesis oral defence for a decision:

  1. Pass
  2. Fail: Retake at a later date; the student may retake one (1) time.

The Chair asks an examiner to make a motion that the decision for the Oral Examination be: Pass or Fail.

The Chair asks for a vote on the motion. Discussion occurs on a decision, and the Chair endeavours to facilitate consensus but does not vote. Ideally the vote is unanimous, but the motion may pass with one (1) dissenting vote, provided this is not the vote of the External Examiner, or supervisor(s).

The Chair outlines the five (5) options for the thesis component for a decision:                               

  1. Pass: The Thesis is passed as submitted (i.e., no changes needed)
  2. Pass with Minor Revisions: The Thesis is passed on the condition that the student makes revisions to the satisfaction of the supervisor.
  3. Pass with Major Revisions: The Thesis requires substantial revisions and is passed on the condition that the student makes revisions to the satisfaction of the entire Thesis Examination Committee.
  4. Defer: The Thesis Examination Committee defers a decision until the student makes substantial changes to the Thesis. The student may be required to go through the Thesis oral defence process a second time.
  5. Fail: The Thesis is failed and the student may re-take the Thesis oral defence one (1) time.

Using the Assessment of Readiness to Defend forms as a guide, the Chair asks a committee member to make a motion that the decision for the written thesis component be: Pass, Pass with Minor Revisions, Pass with Major Revisions, Defer, or Fail.

The Chair asks for a vote on the motion. Discussion occurs on a decision, and the Chair endeavours to facilitate consensus but does not vote. Ideally the vote is unanimous, but the motion may pass with one (1) dissenting vote, provided this is not the vote of the External Examiner, supervisor(s).

The Thesis Examination Committee is required to reach a majority decision. If the vote results in a tie, the Chair calls for further discussion and holds a second vote, and so on until a decision is reached.

In the event that a failed Thesis oral defence represents the second attempt to defend the Thesis, the student must withdraw from the program, and the Thesis Examination Committee must provide a written justification for the decision to fail the Thesis oral defence.

When the decision has been made, the Thesis Examination Committee then discusses the nature of any required revisions to the Thesis and how the student will complete them.

Students have the right to appeal the decision to the Dean of the School of Graduate Studies. The decision of the Dean of the School of Graduate Studies is final.

f)    Informing the student

After the Thesis Examination Committee has made their decision and finished its discussion, the Chair:

  • Invites the student back into the room.
  • Informs the student of the Thesis Examination Committee’s decision.
  • If necessary, tells the student of the Thesis revisions required and the plan for the student to complete them.
  • Reminds the student that a PDF copy of the Thesis must be submitted via the e-thesis system after the completed revisions have been reviewed and approved by the supervisor(s) or Thesis Examination Committee members, if required.
  • If the student passes, congratulates the student, and thanks the Thesis Examination Committee members.
  • Adjourns the Thesis oral defence.