7. The Final Thesis Examination

The examination committee will review the thesis and conduct an oral examination designed to test the student's knowledge of the thesis subject and of related fields.

The thesis 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 thesis. To be eligible to graduate, the student must receive a Pass on both the thesis and the oral examination.

The supervisor shall chair the thesis oral examination. The chair is responsible for ensuring that the examination proceeds according to the FGS Guidelines & Procedures for Oral Examinations.

7.1 Attendance of Examination Committee Members at the Oral Thesis Examination

It is essential that all members of the examination committee participate in the examination for which the committee is charged. If the FGS has advanced notification that the supervisor or an examiner cannot attend the examination, the following can occur:

  • the examination may be postponed and re-scheduled;
  • the missing committee member may submit questions to the chair, who will read the questions at the examination; or,
  • the committee member may be replaced.

In cases of emergency, where there is little or no notice of the absence of a committee member (i.e., sudden illness), the situation will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis by the supervisor and/or FGS.

7.2 Visitors at the Examination

Normally, the oral thesis examination “open”, enabling faculty members and students to attend. The student completes the 7 - Announcement of the Final Thesis Oral Examination form which details the student’s educational and scholarly accomplishments.

The FGS will prepare a formal announcement that is placed on the FGS and the student’s program website. Guests may register with FGS to attend the oral examination. This is normally done approximately one week in advance of the oral examination.

There may be a case in which the oral examination may be closed, for example, when the results of the thesis must be kept confidential for a certain length of time, such as a patent pending. In such cases, the examination committee and graduate program designate shall recommend such action to the FGS. If approved, it will be closed to all but the examination committee and the Dean of FGS.

7.3 Adjudication of Final Thesis by Examination Committee

The decision of the examination committee will be based both on the a) written thesis and b) student’s ability to defend it. The examiners will consider the merits of the oral examination and the written thesis (see Figure 2) they will also determine the nature of and procedures for approval of any revisions that will be required prior to submission to FGS. All examination committee members must sign the Master's Thesis and Oral Examination Final Report indicating their decision.

The decision shall be that of the majority, with the external committee member having decision-making authority equal to the rest of the examination committee members. If a decision cannot be reached, the supervisor shall record the recommendation of each committee member in the report form. This is submitted to the FGS who will lead a discussion on an appropriate course of action.

Depending upon the reason for the Fail in the oral examination or the thesis, the committee may recommend to the FGS that the student be allowed a second attempt on the oral examination or resubmit the thesis. If the FGS agrees with this recommendation, at the second attempt the examination committee must select one of two adjudication categories, Pass or Fail. Students will not be allowed to resubmit their thesis at the second attempt. Any student who is granted permission for a second attempt and receives a Fail on either the final thesis or the oral examination must withdraw from the program and will receive a Fail on their transcript.

The supervisor, who is the chair, is responsible for procuring signatures from all examination committee members at the time of the examination, or as soon as possible after the examination. All committee members must sign the Master's Thesis and Oral Examination Final Report, indicating their decision regarding the thesis and oral examination.

7.3.1 Adjudication Categories and Procedures of the Thesis

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 and Oral Examination Final Report. The supervisor sends the form to FGS.
  • The FGS will provide the student with the instructions for submission into the DTheses repository and application for graduation.

Pass, subject to minor revisions

Minor copy-editing revisions may be needed. The supervisor must approve the revisions before the student can submit their thesis into the DTheses repository and apply to graduate.

Procedure

  • Since these are very minor revisions/modifications, the supervisor may decide to withhold only their signature until the revisions/modifications have been made. The nature of the changes and the withholding of the signature are to be included in the report.
  • The student has 3 months within which to complete the revisions. When the supervisor has approved the revisions, they are to inform FGS.
  • The FGS will then provide the student with instructions for submission into the DTheses repository and application for graduation.

Pass, subject to major revisions

The revisions to the thesis are sufficiently substantial (e.g., major reworking of one section, or the committee is not satisfied with the general presentation of the thesis). Approval of changes will involve the supervisor as well as committee members.

Procedure

  • The supervisor (chair) must specify in writing to the student, with as much precision as possible, the nature of the deficiencies and, in the case of revisions, the extent of the revisions required. It must be made clear to the student what will be required to obtain a Pass.
  • The nature of the supervision and assistance the student may expect from the committee members in making the necessary revisions should be specified.
  • It is expected that the student will make the changes in time to submit the thesis to the FGS on or before a deadline set by the examination committee during the oral examination deliberations. The maximum length of time to make the revisions is three months.
  • It is the responsibility of the supervisor to ensure the necessary revisions/changes have occurred before the student receives a Pass.
  • The Master's Thesis and Oral Examination Final Report should be submitted to the FGS, indicating the Pass subject to revisions, reasons for this adjudication, and recommendations regarding further action.
  • When the revisions have been approved by the supervisor and/or committee, the supervisor notifies FGS that the thesis now receives a Pass.
  • The FGS will then provide the student with instructions for submission into the DTheses repository and application for graduation.

Fail

The thesis is unacceptable. It does not meet the standards of a Master’s thesis. There may evidence of academic misconduct, such as plagiarism.

Procedure

  • The supervisor 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 business days. The nature of the deficiencies must be specified with as much precision as possible in the written report.
  • The Master's Thesis and Oral Examination Final Report is to be completed by the supervisor and 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 examination committee before acting upon the committee's recommendation.
  • A Fail will appear on the transcript if FGS agrees with the decision of the committee.

7.3.2 Adjudication Categories and Procedures for the Oral Examination

Students must pass an oral examination about the thesis and matters relating thereto.

Pass

The presentation accurately described the research, and the student was able to accurately and articulately answer the questions.

Procedure

  • If a Pass is received on both the thesis and oral examination, all committee members indicate their decision on the MMaster's Thesis and Oral Examination Final Report. The supervisor sends the form to FGS.
  • The FGS will provide the student with the instructions for submission into the DTheses repository and application for graduation.

Fail

The presentation of the research was poor with inadequate description of the study. The student answered the questions poorly, indicating a lack of knowledge in the research they conducted.

Procedure

  • The supervisor, in the presence of the examination 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 and Oral Examination Final 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 and Oral Examination Final Report is completed by the committee and submitted to FGS, outlining the outcome of the oral examination and tentative plans for a second attempt.