Before the dissertation is forwarded to the external examiner, the doctoral supervisory committee members shall declare in writing to the supervisor either:
It is important that this preliminary acceptance of the dissertation is conducted in order to protect and uphold the reputation of the program and the University, for excellence in graduate programs. It is also critical to ensure that the external examiner and other additional members of the committee are not asked to invest time reading a substandard document.
If the supervisor considers the dissertation ready for the examination committee, the “Preliminary Acceptance of Dissertation by Supervisory Committee” form must be completed by the supervisory committee indicating their opinion of the readiness of the thesis and the student to proceed to the final Oral Examination. This form must be completed and submitted eight (8) weeks prior to the anticipated date of the oral examination. At this time, the supervisor may also submit their recommendation for the examination committee to FGS using the form “Nominees for Dissertation External Examiner”.
The doctoral dissertation examination committee shall be composed of a maximum of five (5) examiners and will include:
The supervisor will recommend names of all members of the dissertation examination committee, and forward them to the FGS for approval, at least eight weeks before the proposed date of the oral examination, using the “Nominees for Dissertation External Examiner” form. Before proposing the dissertation examination committee, it is the supervisor’s responsibility to ensure that eligibility criteria are met and that the members are not in a position of conflict of interest.
At least eight weeks before the proposed date of the oral examination, the student’s supervisor, shall submit the names of two potential individuals for the role of external examiner to the FGS. The names, contact information and qualifications of the nominees are included on the form “Nominees for Dissertation External Examiner”.
A brief rationale in terms of the special field(s) of expertise and achievements of each individual must be provided. This may include a list of publications by the individual that have been of central importance or are closely related to the doctoral candidate’s research. The individuals whose names are submitted to the FGS should be individuals who are recognized authorities in the special field of research of the candidate’s dissertation, and who have had experience in supervising doctoral candidates.
The proposed external examiner must be in a position to review the dissertation objectively and to analyse critically the work and the presentation. It is therefore essential that the external examiner not have a current or previous association with the student, the supervisor, or the academic unit, that would impair the objectivity of this analysis. For example, a proposed examiner who has recently been associated with the candidate as a research collaborator or co-author would not be eligible. Also, a proposed external examiner must not have had recent association with the doctoral candidate’s supervisor (e.g., as a former student, supervisor, or close collaborator). Supervisors who have questions about the eligibility of a potential external examiner should contact the FGS to review the case before providing the FGS with names.
The FGS will select and invite the external examiner, after preliminary discussion with the individuals regarding their research area, availability, and interest in participating as an external examiner. When the FGS approves the external examiner, the FGS will issue a formal letter of confirmation to the external examiner specifying the responsibilities of the role.
The FGS will request that the external examiner provide a detailed report on the merits and deficiencies of the dissertation overall, and more specifically:
The external examiner will be asked to provide the report to the FGS within four to six weeks of receipt of the dissertation. There should be no contact between the External examiner and the supervisor, committee, or student regarding the dissertation, nor should arrangements be made related to the examination during this period.
It is expected that the external examiner will participate in-person or by teleconference in the dissertation oral examination, but, in exceptional circumstances, this may not be possible. In such cases, the neutral chair will present the external examiner’s report and questions to the candidate during the examination, and the committee will evaluate the candidate’s answers as part of the examination.
The FGS must approve any changes to the examination committee. A memo informing the FGS of the reasons for the changes and the details about the new examination committee member must be provided in writing. No changes shall be made in the examination committee after the dissertation is distributed by the FGS to the committee. In certain circumstances, if a committee member becomes unavailable to review the dissertation or attend the oral examination, discussions must occur between the FGS, the supervisor, and the candidate to arrive at the most suitable solution for both the candidate and the committee.
The candidate must submit to the FGS the dissertation in pdf format or provide sufficient paper copies, depending upon the preference of the examination committee members. The FGS will distribute the copies to each of the members of the examination committee excluding the supervisor, with instructions on the criteria for final review. The distribution must occur at least 6 to 8 weeks prior to the anticipated oral examination date. This means that the candidate must supply the FGS with the copies 5 working days prior to the distribution date. The examiners will be given four to six weeks to review the dissertation and provide their comments and adjudication decision. Both electronic and paper files must conform to the dissertation guidelines as set out in the “Format for Theses and Dissertations”.
Since this final period can become complex and timelines are critical to successful completion and convocation, a diagram illustrating the Overview of Doctoral Dissertation Final Oral Examination is available as Figure 3.
The recommendation of the majority of the examiners will determine whether the candidate proceeds to the oral examination. If a majority decision is not evident, the Dean of FGS will discuss the recommendations with the supervisor, and a course of action will be determined.
The dissertation is given preliminary approval. It may or may not need some revisions. However, the examiners consider the quality of the dissertation adequate and the dissertation indicates the candidate has sufficient knowledge in the research area to proceed to the oral examination.
The dissertation is unacceptable and needs major revisions. The candidate cannot proceed to the oral examination until the concerns are addressed.
Updated October 29 2014 by Student & Academic Services