Completing your Degree

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Have you completed all the course requirements?

You will want to have completed all your program requirements when it comes time to initiate your PhD defense. From section 4.3 Thesis in the graduate calendar: "Please note that thesis defences may not be initiated until all other degree requirements, including comprehensive examinations, have been completed."

Thus, ideally, you will have completed all your Course Requirements BEFORE the beginning of the last term in which you will be initiating your PhD defense. Occasionally, a student will be registered in a required course in the same term that they are initiating their PhD defense. As long as the student is enrolled in the course in the term in which they initiate, missing the grade would not prevent the student from initiating a PhD defense. However, when it comes time to clear the student to graduate they won’t be cleared if the grade is still missing.

  • Note that for RCT stream students, you will be registered in PSYCH 761 (Clinical Internship) in your final year. This is a full-year course spanning the fall, winter, and summer terms of your final year. This course is a requirement of your program, thus section 4.3 in the Graduate Calendar applies. You will not be able to initiate your PhD defense until the summer term of that year.

Think about your Plan of Study early and make sure you complete all requirements in good time.

Very Important: Check the status of your transcripts in lots of time before your defense! If there are any errors, talk to Emily Thomas (PNB Graduate Administrative Assistant) ASAP. We cannot change transcripts from within the department, all changes must be submitted with proper paperwork to School of Graduate Studies. This can take time. Our program is too large for us to be able to monitor individual student transcripts; it is your responsibility to bring any errors to us in time for corrections to be made through SGS. Incorrect transcripts can delay completion of your degree.

Permission to Write

Once students have completed all course work, passed their comprehensive exams (in the case of PhD thesis), and collected all their thesis data, with approval of their supervisory committee they may be awarded permission to write. This is not a necessary requirement of the program, but provides the student with a formal document of approval from the committee that no additional data are needed to write the dissertation.

Planning your Defense

Apologies for the use of both spellings on this site: "defense" and "defence".

Instructions for both Masters and PhD thesis and defense preparation is provided on the School of Graduate Studies (SGS) website in a set of tabs and documents:

This document will guide you through the appropriate formatting required to successfully submit your thesis for upload by McMaster University Libraries to MacSPHERE:

Remote Defenses

Remote defenses during the coronavirus pandemic have been going very well. There are some guidelines for PhD defenses provided by the School of Graduate Studies (these can be adopted for Masters defenses):

  • The PhD Defence Chair Package is distributed by SGS to PhD Defence Chairs, along with the relevant forms, prior to the defence:
  • The Chair Procedure Guidelines for Online Defences was approved by SGS in May 2020:
  • Also provided are a few scenarios you might encounter during an online defence (e.g. an examining member loses internet) and what to do:

A new accelerated PhD Defense process

(instructions for supervisors and administrators)

A new accelerated PhD Defense process has been introduced by Graduate Studies in an effort to align McMaster University with the defence practices of other U15 universities and to provide a more agile process for students and their supervisors.
The accelerated process can speed up the time between initiating the defense and defending. However, the time between initiating and submitting the thesis is max two weeks regardless of using the traditional or accelerated submission process. The time from initiating to defense is 2 + 6 weeks if using the traditional method and 2 + x weeks if using the accelerated process (where x depends on the time it takes for the supervisor to arrange the external, find a defense date, etc).
Good advise for scheduling with the accelerated process is to work backwards from your defense date. Work with your supervisor to schedule something like the following (imagining a defense date of August 17th, as an example):
  • Initiate PhD Defense – July 6
  • 1-2 weeks Approvals from Committee members and department on External Nominee - July 6 - 20
  • Thesis sent to External – July 20
  • External Examiner needs 2-3 weeks to read the thesis and submit the report – July 20 - Aug 10
  • External Examiner Report due at least one week before the defense – Aug 10
  • PhD Defense Date – August 17
  • Upload final thesis to MacSphere well before the deadline (it takes time to process them all so if there is an urgent need to clear (e.g. for a job) position, you can request it via email to and use URGENT CTG in the title). Make sure to schedule your defense date so that you have enough time to complete edits and upload to MacSphere before the deadline (refer to Sessional Dates in the Graduate Calendar).
Note also that the blackout period for defenses in August (refer to the Sessional Dates in the Graduate Calendar) does not apply for the accelerated defense process.

This is a new set of instructions shared by School of Graduate Studies for the accelerated PhD Defense process:

This flowchart helps conceptualize the path to the defense (I think we could improve this flowchart, if anyone wants to volunteer for that, let me know):

The Masters defense is organized within the department

Please read the following guidelines for the Master's thesis and defense process:
  1. Make sure you initiate the intent to initiate a defense on Mosaic. This is very important because it gets you into the SGS computer system.
  2. Completing your Master's degree - Thesis on the School of Graduate Studies pages
  3. Section 3.3 in the Graduate Calendar (2021-2022)

Masters Defense Chair: It is the department's responsibility to find a chair/external examiner for the defense. We ask that supervisors help with this task. This means that students should ask their supervisors to find a chair.

The following forms (SGS and PNB) should be brought to the defense.
  1. Final thesis submission sheet (Master's defense SGS form)
  2. Master's defense PNB form
  3. McMaster University Licence form

Masters Defense External Examiner:

  1. This can be the chair or someone else inside or outside of the department. The main thing is that is not someone who is on the committee. We ask that supervisors help with this task. This means that students should ask their supervisors to find your external if the chair does not agree to be the external.

How much time do they need to read my thesis?

You should discuss this with your committee and find something reasonable.

Note for students who are promoted to PhD but wish to defend a Masters along the way:

You may proceed with PhD studies but also concurrently work to finish and defend your Masters degree, however, you must complete ALL Masters requirements no later than 4 months after the effective date of proceeding with PhD studies. This effective date for proceeding with PhD studies is usually September 1st (for most promoted students), in which case all Masters degree requirements must be completed before end of December. Take into account that your supervisory committee might be away during the December break, and plan to complete all requirements well before the end of December.

The School of Graduate Studies has prepared a letter for external examiners of PhD defenses that addresses potential COVID-related delays.

  • SGS will include [this letter as part of the regular package sent to all external examiners of PhD defenses.
  • Students who have been affected by COVID-related delays can also explain, within the thesis itself, how COVID-related restrictions affected particular chapters. A good place for this might be at the beginning of the data chapter, along with other information such as the student's own contributions to multi-author published or submitted work.

NEW: Urkund thesis scanning requirement

By January 1, 2021 (now postponed to May 2021 soft roll out and October 2021 deadline), students and supervisors will be required to run all Masters and PhD theses through Urkund, a plagiarism checking software tool that McMaster has adopted campus-wide. Urkund is still in Beta testing at McMaster until mid-fall 2020. The School of Graduate Studies will send us more information soon.
Please read section #2.8 of the 2020-2021 Graduate Calendar for a few more details.
  • The relevant paragraph in the calendar is: "Prior to the thesis defence and, in the case of a doctoral thesis, before sending out the draft to the external examiner, the entire document must be reviewed for its originality using the University’s paid subscription to Urkund. The program/supervisor will review the originality report generated by Urkund and either recommend changes to the document or approve it for the defence. A thesis may not be seen by the thesis examining committee (including the external reviewer in the case of a doctoral thesis) until the Urkund generated report was reviewed and approved by the supervisor or the program, unless authorized by the Associate Dean of Graduate Studies."

Faculty, are you chairing a defense?

These instructions are included in the PhD defense chair's package, and can be useful for both PhD and masters defense chairs. See above topics for guidelines for online defenses during COVID.