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On this page: Overview | Getting Going | Thesis Supervisor | Thesis Supervisory Committee | Supervison | Expectations of Thesis Committee Members | Departmental Expectations | Conflict Resolution | Research Ethics | Research Involving Human Subjects | Thesis Format | Thesis Quality, Preparation, Submission & Timeline | Nomination of Internal/External Examiners: Worksheet


This page deals with the timeline for, planning of, work for, writing of, and deposition of your thesis or project. It describes what is expected of you, your supervisor and the other members of your thesis committee, and the procedures for “getting there.”


You are initially advised by the designated Program Advisor for all students in the program you are following. The advisor’s role is to provide guidance on your academic program and career planning, to mentor you, and to serve as your advocate when necessary. The relationship between the Program Advisor and the student can last for the student’s entire academic program although, once a supervisor has been approved, the supervisor normally takes on the primary mentorship role.

These terms of reference do not exclude the possibility of a student-supervisor match at admission, nor do they preclude the possibility of the academic Program Advisor becoming a student's supervisor.


M.Sc. students are expected to identify a supervisor by no later than 15 February of their first year of study.

It is recommended that Ph.D. students identify a supervisor by 15 May of their first year of study, but no later 15 May of their second year.

To help you narrow the list of possible supervisors, you are encouraged to speak with the contact persons for the various areas of faculty research that interest you, the faculty members they and the Program Advisor suggest, and other students.

Your thesis supervisor must be a McGill faculty member with an appointment in the Department of Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Occupational Health. Please refer to the forms tab of the Graduate Studies section of this website for the form used to notify department of proposed supervisor.

Issues to Be Discussed With Supervisor

These issues are to be discussed between the student and the supervisor at the earliest opportunity after admission to ensure timely progress through the degree program. Unresolved issues should be reviewed periodically and agreement achieved as soon as possible. It might be helpful to attach to this checklist detailed minutes of discussions held and decisions made, as appropriate.

  • Course plan: courses; credits by semester
  • Thesis timeline: dates for protocol; completion
  • Thesis format: classical or manuscript based
  • Authorship: number of expected papers; content, journals; first, senior, corresponding author; number of presentations, content, conference locations, costs
  • Thesis project: possible topics; primary or secondary data collection; holding rights & responsibilities
  • Members of supervisory committee: proposed; confirmed
  • Committee meetings: number and timing; by semester
  • Funding: personal, project
  • Ethics approval: timing
  • Office hours: hours, open door
  • Absences: sabbatical; holidays; conferences


You are required to have a Thesis Supervisory Committee. The membership and size are determined by the Supervisor and you, with the approval of your program Chair/Advisor. For the M.Sc., a committee of two (supervisor and one other) is common. For the Ph.D. it may be larger, depending on how inter-disciplinary the topic Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Occupational Health 2010-2011 Student Handbook Page 20 is, and what other expertise is needed. Committee members must hold a faculty or scientist appointment at a university or research institution. The committee should be struck at an early stage of thesis research and certainly no later than the end of the semester in which the topic has been defined.

Meetings with the entire thesis supervisory committee should be held as frequently as is necessary to ensure efficient progress of the thesis research, but at a minimum once per semester.


A Supervisor will:

  • help to define topic of dissertation;
  • help to assemble Supervisory Committee;
  • jointly with you, notify department in writing of topic and committee members;
  • help to define exact nature and scope of dissertation;
  • meet, or otherwise communicate, with you at least once a month;
  • provide timely feedback;
  • monitor deadlines;
  • be aware of, and co-ordinate (and resolve any conflicts in) any advice received by you when you meeting separately with other members of Supervisory Committee or with other consultants;
  • hold once-a-semester meeting of full Supervisory Committee;
  • when thesis is nearing completion, submit names of possible examiners to Department;
  • ensure that corrections/suggestions by examiners are carried out.


Thesis Committee Members will:

  • be a consultant to you and your supervisor;
  • (with other members of thesis committee) evaluate, and when satisfied, formally approve your research protocol;
  • attend once-a-semester meeting of full thesis committee and take active part in assessing progress and setting goals for you.


The department expects that you will:

  • follow the timelines set out for the program you are in, including submitting the required progress reports in accordance with established deadlines;
  • establish a thesis committee, and convene meetings of this committee on a regular basis, ensuring there is at least one full committee meeting per semester;
  • be a full time research student, and keep research moving forward in accordance with the timetable for completion of activities noted in the annual work plan you are to submit.


In a situation of conflict with you thesis supervisor, you should follow these steps one at a time and in the following order:

1. speak to your supervisor;
2. speak to your degree Program Advisor;
3. speak to your Graduate Studies Director;
4. speak to your Department Chair;
5. speak to the Ombudsperson;
6. speak to the Associate Dean (Graduate Studies).


Please review the following sections of the 2010/2011 Postdoctoral Studies: General Information, Regulations & Research Guidelines Calendar:

  • Chapter 13, Section 1: Policy on Research Ethics;
  • Chapter 13, Section 2: Regulations on Research Policy;
  • Chapter 13, Section 3: Policy on Student Involvement in Research.


Please review the following section of the 2010/2011 Postdoctoral Studies: General Information, Regulations & Research Guidelines Calendar:

  • Chapter 13, Section 4: Guidelines for Research Invloving Human Subjects.

In accordance with university guidelines (Policy on the Ethical Conduct of Research Involving Human Subjects), all research involving human subjects requires ethics approval. The approval [ form(s) or letter(s) ] granting this approval should be included in your thesis.

Even if your supervisor has already obtained IRB approval for the larger research study of which your thesis work forms just a part, the departments insists (partly since you defend the thesis as your work, party for training purposes) that you obtain IRB approval of the specific work you are doing, and include this specific approval [ form(s) or letter(s) ] (in addition to those for the broader project) in your own thesis.

The definition of "research involving human subjects" is broad. See Student Guide To Ethics Review For Research Involving Human Subjects. This document also describes research involving human subjects which does not require ethics review. If still in doubt, additional advice can be obtained from your Program Advisor.

Applications for ethics approval should be directed to the Faculty of Medicine Research Ethics Board (commonly referred to as the Institutional Review Board or IRB) or to one of the following Affiliated Hospital Research Ethics Boards: the McGill University Health Centre, the Douglas Hospital, the SMBD Jewish General Hospital or the St. Mary's Hospital Centre.

You and your supervisor should use the on-line interactive tutorial on research ethics released by the Interagency Advisory Panel on Research Ethics (PRE), a multidisciplinary body mandated by the three granting agencies to further develop the Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans (TCPS). This tutorial is a voluntary independent learning tool covering the first five chapters of the TCPS. It includes case studies, progress checks and a printable certificate of completion. The tutorial is the only one of its kind in Canada on research ethics involving humans and is offered in both French and English. It is intended for researchers, students, members of Research Ethics Boards, administrators, research participants and the general public.


The University guidelines can be obtained from the Thesis, e-Thesis, Non-thesis Information section of the Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies (GPS) website, entitled "Thesis Preparation and Submission Guidelines."

The department cautions those who choose the “manuscript based thesis” format to follow the guidelines carefully and to be sure that the "package" includes the abstract, full introduction , literature review and a final overall concluding chapter as required. The University has little control over how examiners interpret these guidelines.

In either format, the thesis must contain methodology, results and scholarly discussion, in accordance with disciplinary norms.


The primary responsibility for the quality of your thesis rests with your supervisor and committee.

Please refer to the Thesis, e-Thesis, Non-thesis Information section of the Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies (GPS) website for guidelines relating to thesis preparation, submission, examination, timeline and forms.


This worksheet must be completed no later than two months before intended submission of thesis and be submitted along with a copy of the thesis abstract to Gradcoord2 [dot] eboh [at] mcgill [dot] ca (Katherine Hayden) of the Students Affairs Office (SAO). A designated member of the departmental degree program committee will select 1 of the 2 internals and 3 of the 4 externals that you proposed. PLEASE DO NOT COMPLETE THE OFFICIAL FORM POSTED AT THE GPS WEBSITE UNTIL YOUR SELECTION OF NAMES HAS BEEN REVIEWED AND APPROVED BY THE DEPARTMENT. 

Both supervisor and student should work together in completing this worksheet.

MSc_Examiners_Worksheet [.docx]

PhD_Examiners_Worksheet [.docx]