Guidelines and regulations for students in Animal Science

General Admission Standards
Supervision of Students
Progress Tracking
Research Ethics/Use of Animals
Department's Commitment
Obligations of the Student
Duration of Program

Teaching Assistantships
Vacations and Benefits
Course Requirements (including the PhD Comprehensive)
Guidelines for an MSc (Appl) report
Guidelines for an MSc Thesis
Guidelines for a PhD Thesis

Graduate Program Director

General admission standards

MSc program

Admission for graduate study [MSc (Thesis) and MSc (Applied)] requires a Cumulative Grade Point Average (CGPA) of 3.2 out of 4.0 during the last four semesters of a completed undergraduate program. Students with a CGPA of 3.2 or more, but lacking specific undergraduate courses may be admitted to a Qualifying Program. Applicants who, in the opinion of the Graduate Program Director (GPD), do not meet the Departmental admission standards may be advised to enter a Qualifying Program to improve their academic standing. Mature students who do not meet the above admission criteria are also encouraged to apply and their background experience will be considered (See Admissions Section of the Graduate Calendar). Guidelines for the Qualifying Program are indicated below.

PhD program

Candidates holding an MSc (Thesis) degree (or its equivalent) from McGill University or other recognized university can be admitted to PhD 2 to pursue studies in the same discipline. Candidates holding an MSc (Thesis) degree in a discipline of Animal Science other than the area intended for the PhD degree, can be admitted at the level of PhD 1 to allow time for re-orientation to the new discipline. Candidates holding an MSc (Non-thesis) degree either from McGill University or other institutions are not normally admissible to the PhD program.

Qualifying program and language requirements

Those students who meet the academic requirement, but whose background is inappropriate for direct admission to the regular graduate program (MSc or PhD) may be required to register as a qualifying student. No student will be accepted into the Regular or Qualifying Graduate Program unless a staff member has agreed to serve as the student's supervisor. Admission to the graduate programs generally depends upon the student's obtaining financial support. In the case of foreign students, proof of such support must be provided as part of the application. ( See Guidelines).

Students enrolled in the Department, who wish to pursue graduate studies part-time and/or conduct part of their research at another institution (e.g. a Federal or Provincial Research Station), will be considered individually. Students registered in a Graduate Faculty at another university are welcome in the Department for a semester or a year of study. Such students will be required to register in the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies as "Visiting Students".

Applicants who are not Canadian citizens, and whose mother tongue is not English, must successfully complete an English Language Proficiency and have their results submitted as part of their application. Successful completion of the language test is required before being allowed to register as a Regular Graduate Student. Requests for exemption from the exam will be considered if proficiency in English can be demonstrated. The GPD may request that a student complete a Graduate Record Examination(s) (GRE), prior to acceptance, if transcripts cannot be assessed with accuracy.

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Supervision of graduate students

Each graduate student registered in the Department shall have a Supervisor. The supervisor shall ensure proper development and execution of the project, and shall be of assistance to the student in his/her selection of courses and in all matters pertaining to the student's program. Each student shall have an advisory committee of at least three staff members, one of whom shall be the supervisor, and one other member of the Department. The committee must be approved by the Department Chair or GPD, based on a recommendation of the student's supervisor who will have consulted with the student. In the case of MSc (Applied), the coordinator of the program shall be a member of the advisory committee.

The Advisory Committee will be responsible for evaluating (and signing) the annual progress reports. It is the Supervisor’s duty (in consultation with the Student) to constitute the Advisory Committee which (in the case of PhD Students) must be established before the Comprehensive can be taken. In the event that the Supervisor has not assigned two (or more) members to the student’s advisory committee at the time of the first progress report, the Departmental Graduate Program Director and the Departmental Chair (in that order) will form the remainder of the official committee until such time as the final committee is established. PhD Students without an official Advisory Committee may not register to take their Comprehensive Exam (ANSC 701). In addition, all students (MSc or PhD) without an official Advisory Committee are not eligible for internal awards and scholarships.

Advisory committee members will have the opportunity to provide input regarding project and/or thesis preparation. In consultation with the supervisor, the student or any member of the advisory committee may arrange for a meeting at any time. Committee members who are absent for an extended period of time should be replaced.

In the case of a disagreement between the student and his/her supervisor regarding his/her Graduate Program, the advisory committee will be charged to resolve the problem. If the problem is not resolved, it will then be brought to the GPD who will make a recommendation to the Department Chair. The Chair will then either decide on the matter or take it to the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies for advisement.

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Progress Tracking

It is the responsibility of each student and his/her supervisor (equally) to submit annual (September to May or January to December) progress reports. These are necessary to document progress (or lack thereof), and will be filed with the Graduate Secretary as part of the student’s official file. Failure to submit will be recorded as an unsatisfactory report. Students with an unsatisfactory report are not eligible for internal awards and scholarships. In addition, those holding internal funding at that time may lose it. Students and Supervisors are reminded that two unsatisfactory reports in a row will result in a request for the student to withdraw from the program.

Students obtaining a first unsatisfactory progress report will be placed on probation with or without continuation of financial support at the discretion of the supervisor. When a student receives an unsatisfactory report and is placed on probation, the advisory committee in consultation with the GPD will recommend to the student a course of action to obtain a satisfactory report. A subsequent positive evaluation puts the student back in good standing whereas an unsatisfactory report will require the student to withdraw from the program.

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Research Ethics and Use of Animals for Research

If the research for the thesis involved human participants, animal subjects, biohazards, and/or radioactive materials, the appropriate compliance certificates must be included as an appendix to the thesis.

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Department's commitment to the student

When a student is accepted for graduate studies in the Department of Animal Science, the Department recognizes its commitment to provide facilities and supervision for the student to enable completion of his/her program, under the regulations set by the University and Department. This commitment is conditional on the student's maintaining his/her satisfactory academic performance, and fulfilling other obligations.

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Obligations of the student

The student is expected to display a norm of professional activity and to abide by the regulations of the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies. In addition to making Departmental seminar presentations, each student is expected to present his/her research proposal to staff and graduate students with common research interests.

Students are expected to maintain a presence in the Department, as defined by their respective advisory committees. The reference to Department here includes not only the central area of the Macdonald-Stewart Building but wherever the research and/or course work may require him/her to be.

It should be pointed out that, in most cases, the research project being conducted by a student is supported largely by a grant awarded to the student's supervisor and the University. In cases where financial support for a project provided by the supervisor includes all or a substantial part of an assistantship, the student is expected to carry a regular workload of research and course work, and to provide assistance to his/her supervisor of up to 10 hours per week; this assistance would be related to other research projects of the student's supervisor. All students, regardless of their source of financial support, are encouraged to become as familiar as possible with all research activities in the Department and particularly those of their supervisor.

(See Handbook of Students Rights and Responsibilities).
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Duration of graduate program

Successful completion of an MSc degree in this Department generally takes 2 years. It takes approximately 3 years past MSc to complete a PhD It should also be noted that Departmental assistantships, University scholarships and scholarships from outside sources normally limit their financial support to 2 years for an MSc candidate and 3 years for a PhD candidate.

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Teaching assistantships

As a matter of policy, the Department recognizes that participation in teaching is a valuable part of a graduate student's program and students will be given the opportunity to assist with teaching. Demonstrator funds will be available if a major teaching commitment is requested of the student. A major commitment is defined as participation in more than four hours of lecture and/or two hours of laboratory sessions per semester. Students who are requested to mark quizzes and/or exams will also be paid from demonstrator funds.

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Under the guidance of their supervisors, and in addition to publications in scientific journals, students are expected to write and publish at least one popular article during their graduate studies in the Department. Publication in the farm press or the Departmental Research Reports is acceptable for popular articles. Presentation of research results at scientific meetings is expected. As a minimum, it is expected that the draft(s) of a paper(s) for publication will be presented to the student's supervisor before the student leaves the Department.

To protect students and staff, copies of all original research data will be given by the student to the thesis supervisor as the data are collected. It should be recognized that McGill and its staff members are legally responsible to funding agencies for ethical conduct of research, and the completion and publication of research findings.

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Vacation and benefits

Vacations for graduate students are to be arranged with and approved by the student's supervisor; a total of 3 weeks per year is a guideline. Vacations must be arranged so as not to interfere with the student's research, requirements of the student's supervisor or the student's teaching obligations to the Department.

Since full-time students do not contribute to the McGill benefits plan, no maternity or sick leave is guaranteed by the University. Cases of absence due to illness must be reported to the student's supervisor. If a student is absent due to prolonged illness, consideration for continued financial support would be given on an individual basis by the student's supervisor and the Department Chair.

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Course requirements

In addition to the general requirements set out by the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, the following Departmental requirements (which include the completion of an acceptable thesis [project report in the case of MSc (Applied)] based on the candidate's research) have been established.

MSc (Applied)

The requirements for this program are 15 credits for the project (ANSC-643, 644, 645, 646, 647)) and 30 credits of coursework, of which 12 credits must be in Animal Science and the remaining 18 credits can be selected from a recommended list. Please see the curriculum for the exact details.

MSc (Thesis)

The student is required to take a minimum of six credits of coursework, to register for four MSc thesis research courses (36 credits) and to present three 1-credit seminars at the post-graduate level. All students are required to regularly attend a seminar series. The specific courses and course load must be approved by the student's advisory committee. In all cases, a minimum of 45 credits is required for the completion of a degree.

Candidates may enroll in undergraduate level courses upon recommendation of their supervisor; however undergraduate courses will not count for credit towards their program requirements. The failure policy applies (except for language requirement courses only). The result earned may be included in the student's CGPA calculation.

NOTE: Exceptional MSc students may be considered for PhD 1 status after one full year of study in the Department. The decision is made by the GPD upon a unanimous written recommendation from the student's advisory committee.

PhD Degree

Candidates are normally required to have an MSc degree in an area related to the chosen field of specialization for the PhD program. The course work required will depend on the academic background of the individual student and must be approved by the student's advisory committee.

Since the PhD degree is primarily a research degree, the amount of course work required may be less than that required for the MSc degree. This is particularly true for students entering at the level of PhD 2, after completing an MSc in the same area. Such course work shall include two seminar courses at the graduate level and the PhD Comprehensive Examination (ANSC 701), which should normally be completed before the end of the 3rd semester (summer semester excluded). Any student who is not ready within the suggested time-frame must be proactive in requesting an extension him/herself. This extension must be requested no later than during the second semester (unless for medical reasons), and will be considered by the student’s Advisory Committee.


PhD Comprehensive Examination (ANSC 701)

The PhD Comprehensive Examining Committee will comprise at least five individuals (including Advisory-committee members) who will examine the student in any area related to his/her discipline of study. At least one examiner must be from outside the Department of Animal Science. The comprehensive examination will test the student's overall knowledge, his/her ability to reason and see the “big picture, and his/her overall suitability to proceed with a PhD program. The examining committee will normally be chaired by the Graduate Program Director or the departmental Chair or designate.

A Research Proposal should be submitted to the Examining Committee before the scheduled oral examination takes place (the interval should be reasonable so as to allow committee members time to read it, and can be decided by the Supervisor). This Proposal should have:

  1. a comprehensive literature review that, depending on the field in question, could potentially be submitted to a journal as a review article; and
  2. should outline the general lines of the proposed methodology (level of detail would be determined, based on how close the student is to beginning the actual research).

  3. The Comprehensive Exam should normally take place no later than the beginning of the 3rd semester of study.

For the Oral Exam itself, the student may, in consultation with the Examining Committee, give a short presentation that highlights the main aspects of the written Research Proposal.

The Department strongly recommends that the Examining Committee keep in mind that the main objective of this process is to judge whether or not the Candidate is of sufficient quality and maturity to enter into the doctoral program. To this end, it is recommended that:

  • one round of questioning concentrate on the broad aspects of the field with questions that focus on the Candidate’s critical thinking and ability to respond to queries that may be outside of the proposed field but nevertheless pertinent to a presumptive future academic; and
  • another round of questioning that concentrates on the proposed area of research, including the validity of the research question, the proposed methodology, and contributions to the body of knowledge.


  1. The Examining Committee will award a Pass/Fail for the course (ANSC 701), taking into account the written Research Proposal and the Candidate’s performance at the Oral Examination.
  2. The Examining Committee should also use this opportunity to assess the feasibility of the proposed studies, necessary resources, and a reasonable time to completion.


Students are expected to pass all courses at the level for which they were registered. Should a student fail a course, the GPD would consider a recommendation by the student's advisory committee that the student be permitted to write a supplemental examination if available in the department in which the course was taken, or to repeat the course. The course of action must be decided within 1 month of the date of the original failure. Such a recommendation would be considered only once during the entire period that a student is studying for his/her degree. If the student fails the supplemental examination, or a second course during his/her program, he/she will automatically be required to withdraw, as no further recommendations will be considered. This pertains to all courses required for the degree.

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Guidelines for an MSc (Appl) report

The written project should contain a clear introduction to the problem in question, the objectives of the work followed by a description of the activities performed and a discussion of the findings. The conclusion should contain recommendations to follow and the potential impact of the work done.

The evaluation of the written project should be done by a committee comprising all members of the advisory committee.

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Guidelines concerning a Master's thesis

Different universities and different disciplines may accord different status to the thesis as part of the requirements for the MSc degree. We offer the following guidance for theses in the Department of Animal Science of McGill University.


The Master's thesis should be comparable to the substance of a full-length article in a refereed journal, but of more detail and greater length. The thesis should deal with a well-defined problem, contain a sufficient review of previous work, offer sufficient analysis of data and draw logical conclusions which should be shown in the context of the original problem. The manuscript should consist of 80 to 100 pages including tables and bibliography, but may vary in length depending upon subject matter. The manuscript must be organized and the material presented according to McGill's Thesis Preparation and Submission Guidelines

With respect to references, abbreviations, tables, etc., the format must be consistent with a scientific journal dealing with the student's discipline. Students should refer to the Council of Biology Editors' Style Manual and authors must be referred to by name in the text rather than by a number. The student should consult McGill's Thesis Preparation and Submission Guidelines.


The purpose of the Master's thesis is to demonstrate that the student can, with Faculty supervision and assistance, design and execute an experiment(s). It is not expected that it should necessarily demonstrate originality of concept or of conclusions; rather, the originality may be in the area of application of existing methods or theories, or in a comparison of existing methods or theories.

Thesis Evaluation

A draft of the thesis is to be read by all members of the advisory committee within a one-month period, and comments and suggestions returned to the student. The student is required to present a seminar on his or her thesis results preior to the submission of the final edition of the thesis; the seminar shall not exceed 40 minutes of presentation, with an additional 10 minutes for questions by the audience. After the audience is dismissed the advisory committee (including the internal examiner) may question the student on the thesis and will give the student an evaluation to be placed in the student's file.

Thesis Submission Procedure

The final draft of the thesis is evaluated by the Supervisor, the Internal Examiner and the External Examiner who may be from McGill but outside the Department. Normally, the Internal Examiner is approved by the Department Chair (or delegate). The External Examiner(s) is chosen by the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies from a list of names of qualified people provided by the supervisor and approved by the Department Chair (or delegate). The student shall be informed of the names prior to their submission.

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Guidelines concerning a Doctor of Philosophy thesis

The requirements of the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies are outlined in the publication entitled General Information, Faculty Regulations and Research Guidelines.

The completion of a thesis which displays original scholarship expressed in satisfactory literary form and which is a distinct contribution to knowledge is required. Before submission to External Reviewers, the thesis shall be reviewed by all members of the Advisory Committee.

Thesis evaluation

The PhD thesis is evaluated similarly to the MSc thesis in that approval is required by Internal and External Examiners. In addition, the thesis is examined by a committee of not less than five and not more than seven members, exclusive of the Pro-Dean. At least two of the committee members should be from outside of the Department of Animal Science. The Department Chair (or delegate) and Thesis Supervisor are usually members of the committee.

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Graduate Program Director

roger.cue [at] (R. Cue)

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