Non-Thesis Projects

Biostatistics M.Sc. Non-thesis Project Guidelines

Upadated 17 November, 2015

Students in the non-thesis program complete 42 credits of coursework and carry out a 6-credit project. A non-thesis project differs from a thesis primarily in length, structure or form, not in quality and rigor. A non-thesis project may take one of several forms and should reflect the effort commensurate with the 6 hours of graduate course work credited to it. In general, it must be no longer than 40 double-spaced pages and include a description of the significance and relevance of the project along with a bibliography and literature review. The written material must be clear and focused and the methods, including data analyses, should be well-justified and carried out rigorously. Projects might include, but are not limited to, a “stand-alone” research project; the pilot work for a bigger research project, including simulations; a systematic literature review of a statistical topic; etc. In general, the paper should centre on some meaningful methodological question or concern, and may involve empirical data analysis but in general should not be limited to this. Empirical data analysis should serve as an example or illustration of the methodological issue, not the entire project.

Non-thesis projects involving human participants, animal subjects, microorganisms, living cells, biohazards, and/or radioactive materials, shall include the appropriate compliance certification. Supervisors may add students directly to their existing approved IRB protocols. IRB approval (or a waiver from a McGill IRB committee) is required for graduation.

Students will need to identify (and have approved) a project supervisor by February 15 (Supervisor Nomination form) and a project proposal no later than May 15 of their first year of study. A student’s supervisor will be primarily responsible for guiding the project design and execution and for ensuring that deadlines are met.  Completed progress and tracking forms are also required to demonstrate satisfactory progress in the M.Sc. program (click here for details). Students should also be aware that M.Sc. non-thesis program students are required to pay for courses taken in the summer term.

The project proposal should describe the work the student plans to undertake. The student should outline the basic objectives, questions, problems and/or topics s/he wants to address, as well as describe what will be done to address them (data, methods, etc.).  The proposal should be approved by the student’s supervisor and the Program Director by 15 May of Year 1. Students should be careful to plan a project that is in accord with the 6 academic credits given to this work. 

To avoid fees for an additional semester, final projects are due no later than 15 March of the M.Sc. non-thesis Year 2, so that the reports may be evaluated during the spring term. Students should submit a pdf copy of their project to the Student Affairs Office at gradcoord1.eboh [at] (subject: Biostatistics%20Non-Thesis%20Project) and should state on the cover page: “Report of project carried out as a requirement of the M.Sc. Non-Thesis Program in Biostatistics, Department of Epidemiology, Biostatistics, and Occupational Health, McGill University”. They must also apply to graduate by the deadline posted on the GPS webpage.  Final reports will be read and graded by the supervisor(s) and one other departmental person, most likely the M.Sc. Program Adviser or Director if that person has not been involved in supervision of the student. Final reports will be graded in the same manner as regular term papers for a course, and given a pass/fail grade. Revisions may be required before a pass can be given. In cases of failures, students will have to resubmit the paper before August 15th of their second M.Sc. non-thesis year. The revision will be evaluated by the original reviewers. M.Sc. non-thesis students must also inform the Registrar's Office of their intention to graduate during the final year of their program (by mid-March in their second year).

A public presentation of the M.Sc. non-thesis work (at a scientific conference or at a seminar at McGill or elsewhere) is recommended for all M.Sc. non-thesis students.

Project in Occupational Health, Hygiene or Safety

Updated 27 February, 2014

Course Number: OCCH 699 (001 on campus) (088 distance education) 15 credits

Course Instructor: Dr. Claire Infante-Rivard


At the end of the project, the student should have carried out one of the following studies:

1. Assemble and review the relevant literature, collect, organize and present data relevant to a problem in occupational or environmental health, hygiene or safety; propose adequate solutions to problems encountered as an occupational or environmental health professional.

2. Assemble and review the relevant literature; carry out an original analysis on a specific question using existing databases; discuss results.

3. Carry out an exhaustive and scholarly literature review on a specific topic relevant to occupational or environmental health.

4. Develop a health and/or safety program for a specific industrial environment or community.

Students carrying out a survey or doing an analysis using a database should report this together with the literature review in a form that would be acceptable as a report to a company, a regulatory agency or a paper for a peer-reviewed journal.

The report (main body of text) will be between a maximum of 20 and 30 pages, double-spaced.

A literature review or a description of a program can be presented in a slightly more extended format. Using appendices and tables is strongly recommended, leaving the main text short enough.


Students are encouraged to approach professors and workplaces and to propose an idea for a project. It is also possible that projects will be proposed coming from the industry or professors.

If preliminary talks are productive and a project seems feasible, the next step is to write a one page summary of it (including objectives and general method) and submit it in an email to the course instructor (claire.infante-rivard [at] If this seems acceptable, the course instructor will identify a potential supervisor. The student will be advised when this person has accepted.

From there on, the student will work under the full responsibility of the supervisor.


1. Overall Project Process: This is assigned to the course instructor. However, the course instructor is not responsible for the individual projects, the student progress, or the relationship between supervisor and student.

2. Supervisors: The course instructor will assign each student an academic staff member of the department who will act as a project supervisor. The project supervisor will be responsible for guiding the student in the preparation of his/her report. The supervisor may request assistance in giving advice to students from persons knowledgeable in the relevant field of study, but who are not on the staff of the department. Such persons are termed project advisors. The project supervisor or the project advisor should communicate with the student regularly to assess progress.

3. How students will be introduced to what the project is: Usually in the Winter semester, there will be an on-site presentation by the course instructor to explain the features of the project. In addition, all registered students will receive a copy of the present document describing the nature and marking of the project, as well as administrative details.

4. Project evaluation: Once the supervisor is satisfied that the student has prepared a report of as high quality as his/her abilities permit, and that meets the standards of the department,  the student will send a pdf as well as a Word copy to the course instructor and copy the supervisor.

A copy will be sent by the course instructor to a reviewer, either from within the Department and who is not the project supervisor (internal) or from outside the Department (external) but who usually has a level of familiarity with the department and the nature of the project course (for example having been a student who graduated from the department).

Selection of the reviewers will be conducted as follows. The supervisor, in consultation with the student, will suggest 2 potential reviewers from within the department or from outside. The supervisor will submit the list to the course instructor, including full contact information for the reviewers. The course instructor is likely to select the reviewer among the list, but these names are only suggestions, therefore another reviewer not on the list may be contacted by the instructor. If the course instructor needs additional suggestions for potential reviewers (e.g., none of the reviewers are available), supervisors will be notified. Additional names will be provided by the supervisor after consultation with the student.

5. Marking of the report by reviewers:

Reviewers will be asked to mark the report as follows:

1. Acceptable as it stands

2. Acceptable with minor amendments to meet comments from reviewers

3. Acceptable with more substantial amendments to meet comments of reviewers

4. Acceptable only if large parts of report were completely re-written as indicated by comments and to be re-evaluated after revision

5. Totally unacceptable and beyond reasonable revision

In addition, in a separate document, the reviewer will provide a list of comments that justify the assigned mark.

Reviewers can remain anonymous; their name will be revealed to the student only if they give their consent on the evaluation form. Reviewers will be asked to submit their comments by email to the course instructor who will keep a copy, and send a copy to the supervisor. It is the supervisor's responsibility to relay the comments to the student as well as to ensure the respect of the reviewers' choice of anonymity.

6. Promotion of the student based on the above marks:

1. Acceptable as it stands

If the reviewer judges the project acceptable as it stands, the student shall be promoted.

2. Acceptable with minor amendments to meet comments from reviewer. The student shall be promoted after these amendments have been made.

3. Acceptable with more substantial amendments to meet comments of reviewer

If the reviewer judges that the project would be acceptable after amendments, but does not specify that it should be re-evaluated other than by the supervisor, the student shall be promoted when the supervisor decides that acceptable amendments have been made. This should be done within the time limitation period (see item # 10 below) or in a period that does not exceed 3 months after notification of the mark to the student.

4. Acceptable only if large parts of report were completely re-written as indicated by

reviewer’ comments and to be re-evaluated after revision

A mark of 4 will call on a second independent review. If the second reviewer also gives a mark of 4 (or 5),  the student will not be promoted and must proceed with the rewriting of the project. This will be considered a first failure and the student will be so notified in writing by the Department. The amended version will normally be sent to the same reviewer(s). Under special circumstances and by agreement between the supervisor and the project course instructor, the project may be sent to two new reviewers.

A second revision is allowed only once. If the second revision yields an evaluation of 4 or more, this will be considered a second failure and an F mark will be reported to Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies (GPS). In keeping with the GPS failure policy, the student will be asked to withdraw from the program. The timeline for resubmission is normally 4 months.

If one reviewer marked the report 4 and the other marked it from 1 to 3, the supervisor and the course instructor will establish the nature of the additional work needed. This will not be considered a failure but will imply that a substantial amount of work is needed to bring the project to a pass mark. That the amendments will be carried out will be determined by the supervisor with the course instructor.

5. Totally unacceptable and beyond reasonable revision

The same procedure will apply in the case here as for a mark of 4 by the first reviewer.

If both reviewers give a mark of 5 this will be considered a failure and the student will be so notified in writing by the Department.

- If the student does not have a prior course failure on record, this will be considered a first failure, and a revision will be allowed.  However, if the revised paper yields a 4 or more, this will be considered a second failure and an F mark will be reported to Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies (GPS). In keeping with the GPS failure policy, the student will be asked to withdraw from the program. The timeline for resubmission is normally 4 months.

- If a student has a prior course failure on record, this will be considered a second failure and in keeping with the GPS failure policy, the student will be asked to withdraw from the program.

7. Submitting published papers:
Students may submit a paper of which they are first author as meeting the requirement of the M.Sc (A) project provided that they submit with it a letter signed by the co-authors, specifying their own contribution. If the committee judges that the student played a prominent role in the work, and the paper has been accepted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal, the paper is accepted as meeting the requirements for the M.Sc (A). If it is not so accepted, it should be evaluated in the usual way. If a paper has been submitted to a journal but the review paper is a long process, and the student wishes not to wait for the verdict, he/she can include the paper as “submitted” (with proof) in the report, and add a chapter to complement the paper with additional details much as in a thesis with papers. The work for the paper must have been completed while the student was registered for the M.Sc (A) degree.   

8. Registration: the project is registered with GPS via Minerva. The student can register full-times at 15 credits in one term or as part-time in two terms at 7.5 credits per term. The student must remain registered during all the time it takes to complete the project. Additional sessions may be required depending on evaluation received. According to University regulations, all students must register (and pay fees) annually up to and including the term in which they expect to graduate. Outstanding tuition fees must be paid before graduation.

9. Timetable: This is a 15-credit project that will require enough time to come to maturity. Under most circumstances, the project is carried out after all courses have been successfully completed.  For local students for example, this brings them to the summer session. We expect that to carry out a good quality project, most students will need at least the summer period and more likely will be working into the fall term. In addition students must realize that due to summer holidays, delays are to be expected in the evaluation by internal as well as external reviewers. All reviewers are asked to submit their evaluation within 4 weeks but it is difficult to respect this deadline in the summer time.

10. Time limitations set by Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies
Candidates for Master's degrees must complete the degree within three years of initial registration. If the degree is pursued on a less than full-time basis, it must be completed within five years of initial registration.

11. Final submission Once the supervisor approves the project as final (after reviews and amendments), the student will send an email with a pdf copy indicating in the subject line “Final Project” The email should be sent to the Course Instructor (claire.infante-rivard [at]  and copy the Supervisor and Student Affairs Coordinator (gradcoord1.eboh [at]

The Student Affairs Coordinator will then submit a Pass grade on Minerva. The pdf format will be kept at the Department and a copy printed for consultation by students registered in the program.

12. Submission dates of projects for review (after approval by supervisor) to graduate in the Fall, Winter or Spring terms. These are suggested dates and do not guarantee graduation as it will depend on the reviews and corrections and when the final version, approved by the supervisor, is submitted to the course instructor.

  • July 15 for Fall graduation
  • November 1 for Winter graduation
  • March 1 for Spring graduation

***Students and supervisors should be aware that the evaluation process for the Winter and Spring graduation will usually take 8-10 weeks between initial and final project submissions.  Therefore it is not advised to contact the SAO or the course instructor about the process before that amount of time has elapsed. Please note for the Fall graduation the process can take longer due to the holiday season.

Fees are required during the evaluation process because the student has to be registered. Students are sometimes concerned that they are paying for nothing during that period. While usually no lectures are taken by the students during this period, a number of people from the university are working towards determining the eligibility to graduate, clearly justifying the academic fees.

13. Apply to graduate

The student must apply to graduate via Minerva, please see for information.

Deadlines to apply are available at

It is the student’s responsibility to adhere to these deadlines as late applications will not be accepted


1. The project may be written in either English or French.

2. The project should be typed double spaced in font # 12, one sided, on 8 1/2 x 11 inch paper.

3. The first page should be a title page, laid out as in this example.

4. References from articles should be cited according to the following: names (up to 6 authors and the remaining listed as “et al.”); full title of the article; abbreviated title of the journal (see

MEDLINE); year of publication followed by; (e.g., 2010;); volume followed by :(e.g., 2010;23:); and pages (e.g., 234-8 or 236-42). References should be cited according to a recognized format, as found in published journals. However, there are many journal styles even within the same domain. Therefore, we strongly recommend the style used by the American Journal of Epidemiology, which is universally known as the Vancouver style format, and widely adopted in the biomedical literature.

5. The report should normally have sections under the headings listed in "Structure of the report" (see next section below):

6. The complete report should not normally be longer than 50 pages including references and appendices, and the main body of text should normally be between 20 and 30 pages.

PROJECTS SUBMITTED EXCEEDING THESE LIMITS WILL NOT BE SENT FOR EVALUATION. (In exceptional cases where more space is absolutely essential, a case for this must be made in a letter accompanying the report, countersigned by the student's supervisor).


(except for a research proposal; in this case the course supervisor will advise)


Table of contents


Introduction: statement of the problem (what are you studying and why) and main aspects of the question that are known and unknown from previous work.

A literature review that is more exhaustive than in a published article and therefore more like in a thesis) should be included

Objectives of the project described in measurable term

Detailed Methods to achieve these objectives, including statistical analysis

Results: state the findings without interpretation

Discussion: comment on the results using the literature, reports, or any other credible sources.

Recommendations can be made here


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