Completing 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:
For example, you will find details such as the formatting required for a "sandwich" thesis at McMaster, the timeline for scheduling your thesis submission and defense, and the appropriate formatting required to successfully submit your thesis for upload by McMaster University Libraries to MacSPHERE. MacSPHERE allows your work to be available internationally and offers you statistics on how often your thesis is accessed. SGS also offers a link to Lehmann Bindery where you can submit an electronic copy, should you wish hard copies to be bound for your own use.
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 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).
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:
OLDER sources of information (for your interest if you want to look back, otherwise ignore these):
- Now that the new process has been programmed in the online system, this document (prepared September 2018) outlining the interim manual steps may not be necessary. We will keep it here for a while in case someone would like to refer back to it:
- I'm also keeping this older set of instructions for the online accelerated PhD Defense process (for supervisors) that was provided by our Associate Dean (Science), in case anyone wants to look back on it, but I think it is safe to say you can probably just use the newer one linked above:
The Master’s defense is organized within the department
- Section 3.3 in the Graduate Calendar (2018-2019) provides guidelines for the Master's thesis and defense process, including these requirements:
- "The thesis will be examined by a committee of not fewer than three members (including the supervisor and an examiner external to the supervisory committee)".
- "The time of the defence will be set by the department/program chair; normally this will be about two weeks after the completed thesis (as an electronic file; see section 2.8) has been submitted to the department for examination."
- It is the department's responsibility to find a chair and external examiner for the defense. We ask that supervisors help with this task.
- Note that in contrast to the PhD defense, there is some flexibility in whether the Master's defense is public. Discuss this option with your supervisor.
- The following forms (SGS and PNB) should be printed and brought to the defense:
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 (very rarely), 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.
Think about your Plan of Study early and make sure you complete all requirements in good time.
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.