Policies and Procedures

Supervisor-Student Responsibilities and Committee Meetings

Upon arriving at the University, students should meet with their supervisors as soon as possible to discuss their course selection, research program and the responsibilities of the supervisor and the student. We advise that you review the Supervision Guidelines of the School of Graduate Studies

Students enrolled in the PhD program MUST form a supervisory committee that meets at least once a year to review and discuss progress. New students are required to have their first committee meeting by the end of their first term. Failure to meet at least once a year could result in termination from the program. Supervisory committees are obligated to meet more frequently if a student is having difficulty with any aspect of their tenure within the Earth Sciences Department. The committee should consist of the supervisor plus two other members of the graduate faculty, chosen (with the supervisor’s advice) based on expertise relevant to the student’s research. The student is encouraged to be proactive in discussing the composition of a committee with the supervisor, and in scheduling an initial committee meeting during the first semester of enrolment.  At each meeting, the supervisory committee should:

  • Discuss research program
  • Discuss ongoing coursework
  • Prepare and sign minutes of the meeting on the FileGraduate Advisory Committee Meeting Form and submit a copy to the Graduate Administrator after the meeting

Thesis Proposal Defense

This formal examination should be held within 16 months of the first arrival of the student in the Department. The purpose of the examination is to ensure that the student candidate is qualified to advance and complete an independent research project in a timely fashion.

A written research proposal consisting of 15 to 20 pages (double-spaced, minimum 12-point font) must be prepared by the candidate. The page limit excludes the title page, table of contents, references and any appendices. This proposal must contain:

  • An abstract of no more than 250 words,
  • A clear statement of the research problem that leads to the motivation for the research,
  • A clear listing of aim(s) or goal(s), objectives and research questions and/or (preferably) hypothesis/hypotheses that will be tested,
  • A brief critical review of the directly relevant literature that indicates the gap to be filled by the proposed research,
  • An outline of the research method(s) to be used such as a description of measurements and observations to be made, model development and/or application, etc.,
  • A discussion of how the proposed methods will address the problem and/or research, and
  • A timetable of research activities through to completion (i.e., thesis defense)

The proposal document must be circulated to the examining committee at least one week before the examination. The Examination Committee shall consist of four to six voting members. The quorum is four voting members. The Committee must include: 

  • At least one member, but not more than three members, of the Candidate’s supervising committee,
  • At least two examiners who have not been closely involved in the supervision of the thesis. Those eligible include members of the faculty appointed to the Candidate’s graduate unit, and members of the faculty appointed to other graduate units of the University. These should be chosen by the supervisor in consultation with the student and the Associate Chair for Graduate Studies. One of these examiners (not the supervisor) serves as a chair of the examining committee and takes the minutes of the meeting,
  • The Examination Committee may also include up to two non-voting members.

The thesis proposal defense begins with a 20-minute oral presentation of the research proposal by the candidate, using visual aids where necessary. Questions from the examining committee follow, and may range over all the areas of specialization touched on explicitly or implicitly in the research proposal. Other students may attend the presentation with the permission of the candidate and examining committee, but the audience is generally excluded during the question period. Upon completion of questioning, the candidate must withdraw while the committee evaluates the candidate according to: 

  • The quality and defense of the written thesis proposal,
  • Depth and breadth of knowledge in the chosen area of study, including relevant basic science, 
  • The scientific merit of the research problem and level of innovation in approach to solving it,
  • The likelihood of achieving success in the research in a four-year period, and
  • Originality, creativity, and ability to make critical judgments on scientific matters.

The examining committee, following appropriate discussion, will vote for a pass or fail. If there is more than one negative vote and/or abstention, the examination constitutes a failure. The conditions of a fail must be communicated immediately and clearly in writing to the candidate. Candidates who fail are required to repeat the thesis proposal examination within six months; if they fail the second time, they must withdraw from the program.

Minutes of a thesis proposal examination and notification of the result must be written up by the chair of the examining committee on on the FileProposal Defense Form, circulated to all who attended the examination, and filed with the Graduate Administrator.

Thesis Preparation

A thesis may be prepared in one of two formats. The classic thesis consists of a final document that is complete and not in itself intended for publication. Styles and formats for such documents have evolved over the years, and the candidate should consult a recently completed thesis for guidance. While the imposition of page limits would be inappropriate, students are advised to be concise (e.g., not more than 150 pages exclusive of references and appendices). Large quantities of data should be included in appendices at the end of the thesis.

Normally in the department, the thesis consists of a series of papers either published or prepared for submission to journals for publication. The thesis starts with an introductory chapter that sets out the aim(s)/goal(s), objectives and research questions/hypotheses. This introductory chapter also will contain a brief literature survey that leads to understanding the research gaps addressed and/or motivation for the research. The introductory chapter must explain how the subsequent chapters relate to each other. This chapter may also contain information on the status of publication of the subsequent chapters. Where research is carried out as part of a team project, publications are commonly co-authored with other students and/or faculty advisers. If this is the case, the division of responsibilities in authorship must be carefully spelled out in the introductory chapter of the thesis. To gain the necessary credit for the doctoral degree, the candidate’s intellectual contribution to the papers must be significant.

Because of journal formatting requirements, this introductory chapter may repeat some information contained in subsequent chapters (e.g., provision of sample location information or experimental protocols). A final chapter must provide a synthesis or summary of all the work conducted. This chapter will discuss the overall significance of the research project and include directions or recommendations for further work. 
It is not a factor in the examination of the thesis whether or not one or more of the papers have been accepted for publication. If a paper has been published before submission of the thesis, please check with the journal to determine if written authorization from the copyright holder (normally the journal publisher) is required.

The thesis must start with an abstract, and will likely end with an appendix or appendices that may or may not be published as supplementary information such as maps, diagrams, and data. The School of Graduate Studies requires one copy in digital form of the final accepted thesis (see below). It is a courtesy to provide at least the supervisor with a copy of the thesis, though additional copies may also be prepared for members of the examining committee.

For more information, check Guidelines for Producing your Thesis in the section on Program Completion on the School of Graduate Studies web site.

Final Committee Meeting

Prior to the PhD thesis defense, the candidate must hold a final committee meeting in which the supervisory committee members are asked to agree whether the submitted thesis is defensible and the student is prepared for the defense.

Final Departmental Thesis Presentation

Graduating PhD students are expected to present their Doctoral research in a seminar to which members of the department and public are invited. The seminar will showcase the Doctoral candidate’s body of research in a 40-50 minute presentation - in a format that is intended to draw participation of all departmental members, family and friends - followed by a period for questions and answers. The presentation will typically occur during the designed time for departmental seminars (Thursday’s at noon). 

The presentation will normally take place within the month prior to the final defense. It will be publicized through the Department of Earth Science’s weekly newsletter and through notices in the department. Member's of the Final Oral Examination Committee can be invited to attended followed by the in camera examination for the candidate and examination committee. If this occurs, then the candidate can either delivera a short presentation or waive the right to present to the committee.  Participation in this final presentation is expected for all graduating Doctoral students; a student who chooses to opt out should contact the Associate Chair, Graduate.

Final Oral Defence (FOE) or Senate Defense

Upon submission of the final version of the thesis, the School of Graduate Studies requires at least eight weeks to arrange for a Senate defense. Requests to shorten this time are discouraged because they place an unreasonable workload upon the Graduate Administrator, the external appraiser, and the School of Graduate Studies. 

The PhD Senate examining committee must consist of four to six members of the School of Graduate Studies and must include at least two members outside of the supervisory committee. The School of Graduate Studies recommends including three non-supervisory members to ensure that the exam proceeds as scheduled. One of the non-supervisory members of the committee is the external examiner from another institution, typically an internationally acknowledged expert in the candidate’s field of specialization. This individual is also required to submit a written appraisal of the thesis for circulation to the candidate and examining committee two weeks prior to the PhD Senate defense. The external examiner usually attends the examination either in person or virtually, but may submit a list of questions if attendance is not possible. The School of Graduate Studies provides the examination chair who ensures that all regulations and procedures are correctly followed. Regulations and procedures for the conduct of the Senate defense are provided by the Graduate Administrator at the time of the examination.

Planning for the completion of a PhD must begin well in advance, given the existence of deadlines for completion of degree requirements for graduation and for the payment of additional fees.

The Candidate:

  1. Books the Rio Algom Room or another suitable room with the Graduate Administrator,
  2. Submits to the Administrator the abstract and the exact thesis title at least eight weeks before the defense,
  3. Sends the complete (unbound or electronic) thesis to the examining committee (but not the external appraiser) at least four weeks before the Senate defense,
  4. Following the successful defense and making all corrections, the candidate uploads the final, corrected thesis to T-Space

The Supervisor:

  1. At least ten weeks before the defense, submits the full CV of the proposed external appraiser to the Graduate Administrator, who will then submit for final approval to the School of Graduate Studies,
  2. At least eight weeks before the defense, notifies the Graduate Administrator of the membership of the Senate defense committee, and the date, time and place of the defense,
  3. Arranges for a digital copy of the final thesis to be sent to the external appraiser at least six weeks before the defense. If a hard copy is requested by the external appraiser, the Graduate Administrator will arrange to have it sent by courier.
  4. While the Department of Earth Sciences will reimburse the external appraiser up to $500 for his/her expenses, it is understood that anything over that initial $500 is paid by the supervisor.
  5. When the corrections are made to the thesis, the supervisor notifies the School of Graduate Studies and the Graduate Administrator that all corrections have been made.

The External Appraiser:

  1. Submits the formal external appraisal to the Graduate Administrator at least two weeks before the Senate defense.
  2. Submits an expense reimbursement form along with receipts to the Graduate Administrator. 

The Graduate Administrator:

  1. Submits the CV of the proposed external appraiser to SGS for final approval,
  2. Books the Senate defense on ACORN and informs SGS, who then puts out the call for an examination chair,
  3. Sends a formal letter of engagement, on behalf of the Chair, to the external appraiser, 
  4. When the external appraisal is submitted, sends a copy to the candidate, the Senate defense committee, and SGS,
  5. Prepares the exam file prior to the defense with the rules for the conduct of the defense, the abstract, the external appraisal, the chair’s summary, and voting ballots, which is given to the Chair at the time of the exam,
  6. A day before the examination,sends a reminder email to the exam committee,
  7. After the defense, processes the honorarium and expense reimbursement for the external appraiser

Full-time Studies, Residency and Employment

Students registered as full-time students in the Department of Earth Sciences must satisfy the government regulations for full-time graduate studies. Full-time students are not permitted to be away from the University for extended periods of time or to participate in a program offered by another university without the explicit permission of the Graduate Affairs Committee.

Some scholarships involve restrictions regarding additional work hours; students are responsible for determining the specific conditions of their scholarships. Any student who undertakes excessive extra paid employment, or who is absent from the University without receiving approval, will be considered to have lost good standing. This can jeopardize guaranteed funding eligibility, and in extreme cases may result in a recommendation to the School of Graduate Studies to terminate a student’s registration and candidacy.