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The Chair’s Mandate

Acting on behalf of the Graduate Department of Public Health Sciences, the Chair of the Defense Committee is responsible for ensuring the proper conduct of the defense. The Chair does not participate directly in questioning the candidate during the defense. The Chair’s responsibilities are:

  1. to guarantee that the candidate is given reasonable opportunity to defend the thesis;
  2. to ensure that it is the candidate alone, and not the supervisor or any other member of the Committee, who defends the thesis; and
  3. to protect the candidate from harassment.

MSc Thesis Defense Committee

The MSc Thesis Defense Committee’s responsibilities are:

  1. To examine the candidate on the substance and implications of the thesis;
  2. To assess whether the thesis meets the proper standards of scholarship; and
    upon completion of the oral defense, to vote on whether the thesis and its defense are acceptable.

Composition of the Committee

The MSc Defense Committee consists of those members, approved by the Graduate Coordinator, and will normally include:

  • Supervisor
  • Member(s) of Thesis Committee
  • External Reviewer
  • Divisional Representative

Attendance at the MSc Defense

  1. In order for the defense to proceed, a quorum of four (members) must be present.
  2. In addition to appointed Members of the Committee, on the invitation of the Chair any Member of the Graduate Faculty may participate in the examination of the candidate, but have no vote.
  3. With the permission of the candidate, other observers (non-Graduate Faculty, qualified external guests and graduate students), may also participate in the examination.
  4. All non-Committee Members must leave the room once the candidate has completed the defense and before discussion about the defense begins.

Members of academic staff and graduate students are welcome to attend MSc Thesis Defenses.

Before the Defense

The candidate and observers are asked to leave the room while the procedures for the examination are reviewed.

  1. The Chair confirms that there is a quorum defense to proceed (see Attendance at the Defense above).
  2. The Chair confirms that each Member of the Committee has sufficient knowledge of the thesis to form a judgment as to its acceptability and hence that there will be no abstentions in voting on grounds of ignorance of the thesis’ contents.
  3. The Chair reminds the Committee that:
    1. the defense covers both the thesis and the oral defense;
    2. except for minor corrections (e.g., typographical errors), all other modifications that subsequently may be requested must be clearly raised in the questioning of the candidate, with these being subsequently specified in writing; and
    3. the study must be an independent piece of scholarship/research.  Where the study is part of a larger investigation, or where someone other than the candidate is a principal investigator or co-investigator of the study or co-author of any portion of the thesis, then the MSc Defense Committee must establish that the candidate’s personal contribution is sufficient to fulfill the requirements of the MSc degree.
  4. The Chair asks the External Examiner to summarize their assessment of the candidate’s thesis. Any of the other appointed examiners present may make an oral statement.

At the Defense

  1. The Chair admits the candidate who is invited to summarize the research and conclusions within twenty (20) minutes.
  2. The Chair then invites each Member of the Committee to ask questions of the candidate. If necessary, the Chair should intervene to preclude the examination from becoming an inquisition or unduly dominated by a Committee Member.
  3. The Chair may invite other Graduate Faculty present if they wish to question the candidate. All other observers may participate only with the candidate’s permission.
  4. The candidate is given the opportunity to make final remarks or address questions for clarification to the Members of the Committee.
  5. When there are no further questions, the Chair again asks the candidate and all non-committee members to leave the room.

Voting Procedure

  1. The Chair reminds Members of the Committee that:
    1. they should discuss the thesis and options before the vote is taken;
    2. the examination covers both the thesis and its oral defense; and
    3. the conclusion of their discussion will be followed by a vote to accept, or not to accept the thesis and its defense.
  2. The Chair reminds the Committee that more than one negative vote, and/or abstention, results in the thesis not being accepted and the defense is adjourned.
  3. The Chair reviews the terms on which the thesis may be accepted.
    1. As stands – the thesis is accepted in its present form.
    2. Minor corrections – involves typographical errors, errors in punctuation or problems in style. These alterations must be completed within one month (at least one week prior to the deadline for submitting a degree recommendation to the School of Graduate Studies).
    3. Minor modifications – more than changes in style and less than major changes in the thesis. A typical example of a minor modification is clarification sought concerning textual material or the qualification of research findings or conclusions. Minor modifications must be capable of completion within three months, preferably much sooner.
    4. Adjournment – entail substantial revisions in one or more of the conceptual rationale, design, documentation and conclusions of the research. A reconvened defense must be  held, within a year, with no changes to the Defense Committee.
  4. Following discussion of the defense, the Chair calls for votes on two motions regarding:
    1. Acceptance of thesis and oral defense. This vote is on whether the thesis and its defense are acceptable. More than one negative vote, and/or abstention, results in an adjournment of the defense.
    2. Level of acceptance of thesis. If the defense is accepted, then the Committee must also vote on whether the thesis is acceptable as stands, or requires corrections or modifications.
  5. The Chair completes the Chair’s Summary Form constituting an official result of the candidate’s defense.
  6. Notification of Candidate on the Vote:
    1. If the thesis and its defense are accepted, the Chair of the Defense Committee invites the supervisor to inform the candidate.
    2. If the thesis and/or defense are not accepted, the Chair of the Defense Committee, the supervisor should jointly advise the candidate.

Minor Corrections

Members of the Defense Committee will provide the candidate’s supervisor with a list of required corrections. When these have been made within the period specified, the supervisor will so inform the Graduate Office in a written note.

Minor Modifications

When minor modifications are required, the Chair appoints the supervisor, or a supervising Member, to oversee the modifications.

  1. The candidate’s supervisor will specify in writing the nature of the minor modifications required.
  2. The candidate must complete the minor modifications within three (3) months from the date of the defense.
  3. The appointed supervising Member must certify in writing, to the Graduate Office, that the required minor modifications have been completed.

Should the minor modifications not be satisfactorily completed within the permissible time frame, the Graduate Department must reconvene the defense within a year of the original defense.


  1. When major revisions are required, the Chair reminds the Committee that a reconvened examination must be held within one year. The Committee then decides on the approximate date, which should be as soon as circumstances permit.
  2. The Chair informs the Defense Committee that a written report must be prepared for the candidate, clearly setting out the reasons for adjournment and the Committee’s expectations for a reconvened defense. The drafting of this report shall be the responsibility of the candidate’s supervisor and should be made available to the candidate within one week.
  3. The candidate shall be advised in writing, by the Graduate Office, of the approximate date of the reconvened defense.

Reconvened Defense

At the reconvened defense, no new appointed Committee Members shall be added. It is the obligation of the original examiners to attend this defense.

The procedures set out in these guidelines for the conduct of the defense and voting are to be followed. The thesis, however, may only be accepted: (i) as stands; or (ii) subject to minor corrections. No further adjournment will be allowed. If unsuccessful, the candidate’s supervisor, on behalf of the Defense Committee, will draft a statement outlining the reasons for the outcome, and submit to the Graduate Office.

After the Defense

The Chair of the Defense Committee is responsible for seeing that the candidate’s file, including the Chair’s Summary form and the voting ballots, are immediately returned to the Graduate Office.

The Chair should also remind the candidate to report to the Graduate Office for follow up instructions concerning completion of degree requirements.