General requirements for Master's and Doctoral theses

The following are general requirements for theses. Academic Units are encouraged to provide additional written guidance to students outlining expectations of the particular discipline. 

A thesis is a public document and once submitted for the degree, exists in the public domain unless the candidate and the thesis supervisor request to withhold a thesis from circulation temporarilyGraduate students have the right to use the data they have generated for their thesis. In case of a conflict, the student and thesis supervisor can make a request to Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies to temporarily withhold the thesis from circulation (up to one year). A thesis must be written in English or French, except for those submitted by students in language Units*. The University requires that all theses conform to the specifications for Master’s theses or Doctoral theses. Unless the Dean of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies has given her/his consent in advance, departures from these norms will render a thesis unacceptable to fulfill the requirements for the degree. 

Master’s Theses

  • A thesis for the Master's degree must show familiarity with previous work in the field and must demonstrate the ability to carry out research, organize results, and defend the approach and conclusions in a scholarly manner according to disciplinary norms.
  • An exhaustive review of work in the particular field of study is not necessarily required. Expectation for the level of original scholarship at the Master’s level varies with the discipline.
  • The thesis must be written in compliance with norms for academic and scholarly expression and for publication in the public domain (see section: withholding a thesis from circulation temporarily).

Doctoral Theses

  • A thesis for the Doctoral degree must constitute original scholarship and must be a distinct contribution to knowledge.
  • It must show familiarity with previous work in the field and must demonstrate ability to plan and carry out research, organize results, and defend the approach and conclusions in a scholarly manner.
  • The research presented must meet current standards of the discipline; as well, the thesis must clearly demonstrate how the research advances knowledge in the field.
  • Finally, the thesis must be written in compliance with norms for academic and scholarly expression and for publication in the public domain (see section: withholding a thesis from circulation temporarily).

The nature of academic research requires adherence to McGill’s policies on:

Research Ethics

Research involving human participants, animal subjects, micro-organisms, living cells, other biohazards, and/or radioactive materials must have had the appropriate compliance certification. Copies of any certificates of compliance must be retained by the supervisor and student in accordance with McGill’s policies on research ethics. Supervisors indicate on the Nomination of Examiners and Thesis Submission Form that the thesis research has complied with all ethical standards.  See the Ethics and Compliance webpage for further information about certification and training requirements. 

Intellectual Property

Any issues regarding intellectual property deriving from the research, leading up to the thesis, or in the completed thesis itself should conform to McGill’s policy on intellectual property. In addition:

  • Students, supervisors, and any other collaborators must have written intellectual property agreements regarding thesis research.
  • These agreements must be consistent with the requirements of thesis examination and availability in the public domain.
  • Students must be aware of any limitations or approvals required for publication of the research, including the examination and publication of a thesis.

Please Note: When previously published copyrighted material is presented in a thesis, the student must obtain signed permissions/waivers from the publisher(s). Permission must also be obtained from co-authors of manuscripts submitted or in preparation for inclusion in the thesis; an email to that effect should suffice. The individual contributions of the student and other authors must be stated explicitly in the “Preface” to the thesis. Copies of any certificates of compliance must be retained by the supervisor and student in accordance with McGill’s policy on intellectual property.  Supervisors indicate on the Nomination of Examiners and Thesis Submission Form that the thesis research has complied with all ethical standards.


*Units refers to a department or a school or an institute or a division, in the case of Experimental Medicine.