Completing your Degree

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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 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 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:

The Masters defense is organized within the department

Please read Completing your Master's degree - Thesis on the School of Graduate Studies pages.
Section 3.3 in the Graduate Calendar (2020-2021) provides guidelines for the Master's thesis and defense process.
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 in-person (pre-COVID) 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.
(COVID NOTE: if the defense is online, the chair will assist the candidate in completing these forms. Please see the guidelines at the top of this page for PhD Online Defences, which can be adapted for Masters Online Defences.)

NEW: Urkund thesis scanning requirement

By January 1, 2021, 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."

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. See above topics for guidelines for online defenses during COVID.