Click to expand for Regulations Concerning Thesis and Oral Defence Outcomes

Regulations Concerning Theses

Thesis Regulations

A thesis is a scholarly work requiring discussion of methodology, conclusions, and significance of the research beyond what might be expected for manuscripts for publication. A thesis must be written in English or French; exceptions are only allowed for specific language units. The University requires that all theses conform to the general requirements for master’s and doctoral theses.

Thesis Submission (Initial and Final Thesis Submission)

Theses may be submitted at any time during the year. However, for each of the three annual dates for conferring degrees/convocation, there are deadlines for initial submission (when the thesis is sent out to examiners for evaluation) and for the final thesis submission: April 15, August 15, and December 15. Please note that some units enforce earlier submission deadlines than those listed by Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, so it is important that students verify these dates with their unit.

A thesis is a public document and once the final thesis has been submitted for the degree, it exists in the public domain in the eScholarship database. To temporarily withhold (embargo) a thesis, please consult the GPS website.

Master's Thesis Examiner

For a master’s thesis, the examiner must be a scholar of established reputation and competence in the field of the thesis research. The examiner may be from inside or outside the University. Units may nominate a member from within the unit, as long as there is no conflict of interest with the student.

Doctoral Thesis External Examiner

The doctoral external examiner must be a scholar of established reputation and competence in the field of the thesis research. They must be from outside the University and must hold a doctorate or equivalent. The external examiner must be at arm’s length from the candidate and have no other conflict of interest.

Doctoral Thesis Internal Examiner

The doctoral internal examiner is expected to be knowledgeable in the area and topic of the thesis, though not necessarily to the same extent as the external examiner. The internal examiner also ensures that the written thesis meets the standards of McGill University. Normally, the internal examiner is a McGill faculty member (but not the supervisor) affiliated with the student's Unit, but they may also be nominated from other units at McGill.

Conflict of Interest

A nominated examiner must be without conflict of interest to evaluate the thesis. A conflict of interest can be perceived to prejudice the examiner’s evaluation of the thesis. Any contact with examiners by the supervisor or student after the nomination process constitutes a conflict of interest and the examination process will be cancelled.

Thesis Examination

If one or both examiners determine that the thesis does not meet the requirements for the degree (i.e., an outcome of not passed is designated on the examination report) the student has the option to revise and resubmit the failed thesis. Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies must be notified within six weeks if the student decides to revise and resubmit. When the examiner's report is received by the Thesis Office, the student's transcript will indicate "Thesis Requires Revision". If the revised thesis is subsequently not passed, the thesis will be considered failed and the student will be withdrawn from the University.

If the student does not contact Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies requesting to revise and resubmit the thesis within the designated six-week time period or, once approved to revise the thesis, does not submit the revised thesis by the one-year deadline, the thesis will be deemed to have failed and the student will be withdrawn from the University. Their transcript will indicate "Thesis Revision - Not Passed".

If a thesis has not been passed and the student feels that this judgment is based on bias, error, or serious misrepresentation on the part of the examiner(s), the student may submit a written request for a new examiner for the thesis to the Dean of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, documenting the bias, error, or serious misrepresentation. This request must be made within six weeks of the notification that the thesis has not passed, and may be accompanied by a letter of support from the supervisor and/or unit.

Doctoral Oral Defence

The objectives of the oral defence are to ensure that:
  1. the thesis meets the academic standards necessary for the Ph.D. degree; and
  2. the Ph.D. candidate can effectively present and defend the thesis at a level of knowledge and understanding that is commensurate with that of the Ph.D. degree.
The unit is responsible for confirming the defence date and notifying Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies at least four weeks prior to the defence date.

The oral defence committee consists of five or seven voting members, including the Academic Unit representative (chair or delegate), supervisor(s), the internal thesis examiner, other member of the unit, and the external member (external to the unit). The defence committee is designed to ensure that a majority of members have not been closely involved with the thesis research and to have an odd number of members to avoid a tie in case of a vote. The Pro-Dean is a non-voting committee member appointed by Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies to facilitate the examination.

Oral Defence Outcomes

There are four possible outcomes of an oral defence: a "Passed" outcome and three "Not Passed" outcomes.


  • If the committee feels that the thesis and the responses to questions raised in the defence meet appropriate academic standards for the granting of the Ph.D. degree, the student will be judged to have passed the defence.
  • If the committee determines that minor revisions (i.e., stylistic or editorial changes) are necessary for the thesis to fulfill the academic standards necessary for partial fulfilment of the Ph.D. degree, the Pro-Dean must delegate one member of the committee, usually the supervisor, to ensure that the student carries out the required changes.


If the committee determines that the thesis or oral defence does not meet appropriate academic standards for the Ph.D. degree and would require, for example, major revisions to the text and/or additional study, it must then decide between the following three "Not Passed" outcomes:

  • Thesis not passed: The oral defence is satisfactory but the thesis does not meet Ph.D. degree standards. If this is the first "Not Passed" outcome, the student is allowed to submit a revised version of the thesis within six (6) months to the oral defence committee who will then evaluate the revised thesis without another oral defence.
  • Oral defence not passed: The thesis is satisfactory but the oral defence does not meet Ph.D. degree standards. If this is the first "Not Passed" outcome, the student is allowed to conduct another oral defence within six (6) months without the submission of a revised thesis.
  • Thesis and oral defence not passed: Both the thesis and oral defence do not meet Ph.D. degree standards. If this is the first "Not Passed" outcome, the student is allowed to submit a revised version of the thesis within six (6) months to the oral defence committee, who will then evaluate the revised thesis and conduct another oral defence.
Note: If the student has a previous "Not Passed" decision on an initial thesis or Oral Defence, a second "Not Passed" decision will result in withdrawal from the University.
Taken from Programs, Courses and University Regulations 2024-2025 (last updated Mar. 29, 2023).
Thesis submission

Students are required to submit a thesis meeting all of the guidelines for submission, as determined by the Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies Office.

The Initial Thesis Submission and Final Thesis Submission must be uploaded to the myThesis platform

Helpful Links:

Oral Defence

Ph.D. candidates are required to present an oral defence according to the following guidelines.

Once the thesis is sent to the examiners, the department receives a notice that indicates the earliest date when the defence may be scheduled (i.e., two weeks after the reports are due, and usually 6-7 weeks after initial thesis submission). This date is tentative, requiring timely return of reports by the examiners which cannot be guaranteed. Both examiner reports must indicate a passing grade in order for the defence to proceed.

GPS requires a minimum of four weeks’ notice for the defence. If the four weeks’ notice requirement is not respected, the oral defence may have to be rescheduled.

Please take note of the following:

  • Both the internal and external examiners must pass the thesis before it can proceed to the oral defence.
  • GPS will send copies of the examiners' reports to all members of the Oral Defence Committee and to the Graduate Program Coordinator one week prior to the defence date. The student does not see the reports until after the oral defence.
  • The student will be given copies of the examiner reports and all available annotated copies of the thesis (if applicable) at the conclusion of the defence.
  • The student must make any corrections and/or revisions (where required) in consultation with the supervisor, or another individual designated by the Oral Defence Committee, before final submission of the thesis on Minerva.
  • Please refer to the information about oral defence outcomes (and the associated timelines for corrections to the thesis).

Helpful Links:

    Graduation FAQs

    Do I need to apply to graduate?

    Thesis students are not required to apply for graduation. GPS applies for graduation on behalf of thesis students when they submit their initial thesis.

    What if I want to graduate in a specific term?

    Those who wish to graduate in a particular term should make sure that they know—and meet—the associated deadlines for degree milestones.

    What is the difference between Graduation vs. Convocation?

    Graduation is the term used to acknowledge that you have completed your degree requirements and have been approved by Senate to graduate. Convocation is the ceremony where the Chancellor or his delegate confers the degree. Learn more about Convocation

    When will my degree be granted?

    Graduation Approval Query

    As a graduating student, you can view the status of your graduation record on Minerva during the Faculty review and approval process (go to Student Records > Graduation Approval Query). The Graduation Approval Query form becomes available to graduating students in early January for Fall term graduation, in early April for Winter term graduation and in early September for Summer term graduation.

    If you meet all requirements for graduation, your graduation record will indicate Faculty Approved on the Graduation Approval Query, and your transcript on Minerva will display the Degree Granted notation after the approval of degrees by University Senate and according to this schedule:

    • Late February, for Fall term graduation (Courses completed by the end of December, Convocation in Spring)
    • Late May, for Winter term graduation (Courses completed by the end of April, Convocation in Spring)
    • Late October, for Summer term graduation (Courses completed by the end of August, Convocation in Fall)

    See for information regarding convocation ceremonies.

    Note for Medicine and Dentistry: The Application for Graduation is available on Minerva when you register for your final year (e.g., U3 or U4), except if you are in the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences or Faculty of Dental Medicine and Oral Health Sciences, where you are automatically flagged for graduation in your final year.
    Taken from Programs, Courses and University Regulations 2024-2025 (last updated Mar. 15, 2024).


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