3. Thesis Proposal

Each student is required to write a thesis proposal in their chosen field of study. The thesis proposal is developed under the mentorship of the supervisor and the supervisory committee. The thesis proposal should normally include the following information, but may not necessarily follow this format:

Significance of the research;
Background to the problem or issue under study;
A theory or theoretical support for the study;
Methodology;
Preliminary description of proposed analysis;
Ethical considerations (if applicable); and
References.

3.1 Preparation for Proposal Oral Examination

The student submits their proposal to the committee and conducts an oral presentation to the committee. At this time, the supervisor and the supervisory committee must formally approve the thesis proposal. The student conducts a formal presentation of the proposal to the committee within normally a closed session (no one besides the student, the supervisory committee, and a designate from the office of the FGS can be present).

The presentation is followed by an oral examination, in which the committee will ask questions related to the proposal, raise questions or issues the student may anticipate in conducting the research, and determine whether the student is adequately knowledgeable in the proposed research area to proceed with the thesis research. The conduct of the oral examination component must follow the Guidelines and Procedures for Oral Examinations for Master's Thesis Route and Doctoral Programs.

3.2 Adjudication of the Proposal and Oral Examination

The proposal and the oral examination are adjudicated at the same time; however, they are given different ratings. For example, the student may receive a Pass on the oral examination but may receive a Fail on the proposal. To proceed to Ethics (if applicable) or with their research, the student must receive a Pass on both the proposal and the oral examination.

The decision shall be that of the majority. If a decision cannot be reached, the supervisor’s report should record the recommendation of each committee member on the Master's Thesis Proposal Oral Examination Report. This is submitted to the FGS.

In the case where the examination committee recommends an adjournment, the student is given a second opportunity for the oral examination. At the second attempt, the oral examination and proposal must be rated as a Pass or Fail. Under extraordinary circumstances, the student may obtain an Adjournment on the second attempt.

If the recommendation is a Fail, consultation with the FGS will be required. Depending upon the reason for the Fail, the committee may recommend to FGS that the student be allowed a second attempt at the oral examination or proposal. If the FGS agrees with this recommendation, at the second attempt the examination committee must select one of two adjudication categories, Pass or Fail. Any student who receives a Fail at the second attempt is required to withdraw from the program with a Fail appearing on the transcript.

3.3 Adjudication Categories and Procedures for the Written Proposal

Pass

All committee members agree that no revisions are needed. The student receives a clear Pass.

Procedure:

  • All committee members indicate their decision on the Master's Thesis Proposal Oral Examination Report. The supervisor sends the form to FGS.
  • The student can proceed to submit their proposal to the Ethics Review Board (if applicable) and/or begin with their research if they have also received a pass on the oral examination.

Pass, subject to minor revisions

Minor copy-editing revisions may be needed. The student cannot proceed to Ethics approval (if needed) or with the research until the supervisor has approved the revisions. In some cases, the supervisor may want a committee member to also approve the revisions.

Procedure:

  • All committee members must indicate their decision on the Master's Thesis Proposal Oral Examination Report.
  • The supervisor must approve the revisions before the student can proceed for Ethics approval and with the research.
  • The supervisor sends the form to FGS.
  • FGS approves the Pass and the student can proceed.

Pass, subject to major revisions

The proposal requires substantial revisions. A reconvening of the committee is not normally required but may occur depending upon the preference of the committee members.

Normally, the committee members must review the revisions and determine whether the revisions are adequate and that the student can receive a Pass. The student cannot proceed to Ethics approval (if needed) or with the research until all committee members have approved the revisions.

Procedure:

  • Specify in writing to the student, with as much precision as possible, the nature of the deficiencies and the extent of the revisions required. It must be clear to the student what will be required to obtain a Pass.
  • Identify the mechanism for meeting the required revisions. For example, who will provide the final approval and by what date. The final date set for resubmission shall be no later than six months from the date of the initial examination.
  • Specify the supervision and assistance the student may expect from the committee members while performing the required revisions
  • The Master's Thesis Proposal Oral Examination Report should be submitted to the FGS, with the results of the adjudication, reasons for the resubmission, and recommendations for further action after the examination.
  • When the revisions have been approved, the Supervisor notifies FGS. FGS will then inform the necessary individuals, allowing the student to proceed with the REB application or their research.

Fail

The proposal is unacceptable; e.g., poorly written, does not adequately address the literature in the research area, contains other significant omissions, or displays evidence of academic misconduct, such as plagiarism.

Procedure:

  • The supervisor verbally provides the student with the reasons for the Fail immediately after deliberations.
  • The supervisor shall provide written reasons for the Fail to the student within two working days. The nature of the deficiencies must be specified with as much precision as possible in the written report.
  • Depending upon the reason for the Fail, the supervisor and committee may recommend to FGS that the student be allowed a final resubmission of the proposal. It must be made clear to the student what will be required to achieve a Pass, and any assistance the student may expect from the supervisor and committee members in performing the required revisions.
  • The Master's Thesis Proposal Oral Examination Report should be submitted to the FGS as soon as possible after the deliberations, containing the signatures of the members, the distribution of the votes, the reasons for the Fail, and recommendations for further action.
  • The Dean, FGS, may arrange to meet with the student and the committee before acting upon the committee’s recommendation.

3.4 Adjudication Categories and Procedures for the Oral Examination of the Proposal

Pass

The presentation accurately described the intended research. The student was able to accurately and articulately answer the committee’s questions.

Procedure

  • All committee members indicate their decision on the Master's Thesis Proposal Oral Examination Report. The supervisor sends the form to FGS.
  • The student can proceed to submit their proposal to the Ethics Review Board (if applicable) and/or begin with their research if they have also received a Pass on their proposal.

Fail

The presentation of the proposal was poor with inadequate description of the intended study; the questions were answered poorly; it did not appear that the student was well informed on the background to their study or the intended research approach.

Procedure

  • The supervisor, in the presence of the committee, must inform the student of this recommendation, with reasons, immediately after their deliberations.
  • The supervisor must provide the student with the reasons for the Fail in writing within two business days. The nature of the deficiencies must be specified with as much precision as possible.
  • Depending upon the reason for the Fail, the supervisor and committee may recommend to FGS that the student be allowed a second attempt on the oral presentation and examination. It must be made clear to the student what will be required to achieve a Pass before the oral examination is reconvened. Specify the supervision and assistance the student may expect from the committee members in performing the required revisions.
  • The Master's Thesis Proposal Oral Examination Report must be submitted to the FGS as soon as possible containing the signatures of the members, the distribution of the votes, the reasons for the Fail, and recommendations for further action.
  • The FGS may arrange to meet with the student and the examining committee before acting upon the committee’s recommendation.
  • A Fail will appear on the transcript, if FGS agrees with the committee’s decision regarding the Fail.

Adjournment

There may be unexpected or extenuating circumstances that cause the oral examination to be adjourned, such as severe anxiety, technology problems of 30 minutes or more, illness, or an absent committee member.

Procedure

  • The supervisor will confer with the student, the supervisory committee and FGS to determine an appropriate course of action.
  • The Master's Thesis Proposal Oral Examination Report should be completed by the committee and submitted to FGS, outlining the outcome of the oral examination and tentative plans for a second attempt.