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.


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

To help you narrow down the list of possible supervisors, you are encouraged to contact the professors within the various areas of faculty research that interest you. You can also network with the faculty members, program advisors and other students. If you wish to be supervised by an Associate Member, you can contact the Student Services Office for assistance.

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.

As of Fall 2019, students and supervisors are required to sign a Letter Of Understanding (LOU). This LOU is designed to promote dialogue between the supervisor(s) and the graduate student to define their expectations and to increase awareness of the rights and responsibilities governing the training program and the student-supervisor relationship. The aim is to avoid problems and to achieve a positive and mutually beneficial experience. It is due at the same time as the Thesis Supervisor Nomination form.

Issues to Be Discussed With your 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.

Each MSc student must have a minimum of 2 McGill faculty on her/his thesis supervisory committee: 1 EBOH (approved) supervisor + 1 other McGill faculty member (preferably from EBOH). Other faculty or experts (as a co-supervisor or as a member of the committee) may be added, as needed, to provide sufficient supervision to the student. Student and supervisor should discuss the composition of the committee as early as possible in the development of the thesis research. If the composition of the thesis supervisory committee changes over time, the Student Affairs Office should be informed so that the student's file can be updated accordingly.

For the Ph.D. it may be larger, depending on how inter-disciplinary the topic 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)

See for further information.


Please review the following sections of the McGill website:


In accordance with university guidelines (Policy on the Ethical Conduct of Research Involving Human Subjects), all research involving human subjects requires ethics approval.

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.

In addition, you must complete 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 and submission deadlines can be obtained from the Thesis section of the Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies (GPS) website.

MSc Epidemiology Thesis Program Guidelines

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


MSc Thesis students must notify GPS of their intent to submit their initial thesis at least 8 weeks before their expected date of submission using the myThesis form available here. Before completing this form, please refer to the guidelines below.

EXTERNAL EXAMINER – submit four names in a ranked order

The external examiner must be a scholar of established reputation and competence but not necessarily in the precise field of the thesis research. The choice of an external examiner is normally from within the University and may be within or outside the department. Where it is not possible to nominate external examiners from within McGill, an external examiner from outside the university may be nominated. The Program Committee designate will validate the appropriateness of the proposed choices.

In addition to completing their Intent to Submit Thesis page on myThesis, students in the EBOH department must also e-mail justification for each proposed examiner to the Student Affairs Office (SAO) at gradcoord2.eboh [at]

In order to minimize any real or perceived conflicts of interest, the Department will contact the external examiner once approved to secure his/her commitment to evaluate the thesis. The student or supervisor should NOT contact any of the proposed external examiners.


External examiners must be perceived to be able to examine the student and the thesis at arm's length, free of conflict of interest from any source. The test of whether or not a conflict of interest might exist is whether a reasonable outside person could consider that an apprehension of bias exists. The candidate's unit must take reasonable steps to avoid recommending an examiner whose relationship with the candidate, the supervisor, or their research could be seen as jeopardizing an impartial judgment on the thesis. Any individual asked to examine a thesis must declare possible sources of conflict. The following checklist, while not exhaustive, itemizes situations that could represent conflict of interest, and thus need to be declared and generally avoided. It is the responsibility of the supervisor to ensure there are no conflicts of interest.

An answer of YES to any question would normally exclude this individual as an examiner. Address any queries to the Thesis Office.

  • Have you co-authored or otherwise carried out research in collaboration with the student or the supervisor (within the last five years)?
  • Do you knowingly have a financial interest in an entity that could benefit from the thesis research?
  • Have you previously read the thesis, or parts of it, or evaluated the student's thesis research (e.g., as an advisor, as a supervisory committee member, evaluator for progress tracking)?
  • Have you previously examined or been examined by the student's supervisor (within the last five years), e.g., the former student or former supervisor of the student's supervisor?
  • Have you engaged in (or intend to engage in) discussions/negotiations with student or supervisor relating to future employment or supervision?
  • Do you have a personal or financial relationship to the student or the supervisor?
  • Relationships that might appear to have a conflict of interest include:
    • A past or present spouse or partner
    • A close family member
    • A past or present business partner
  • Have you engaged in other activities that could be interpreted as conflict of interest?


A Nomination of Internal/External Examiners Worksheet must be completed by PhD students no later than two months before intended submission of thesis and be submitted along with a copy of the thesis abstract to Gradcoord2.eboh [at] (Katherine Hayden) of the Students Affairs Office (SAO). A designated member of the departmental degree program committee will select examiner(s) as required. 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.

The worksheet is available here; the supervisor and student must complete it together.


Thesis writing workshop for students. Held 5 November, 2020.




Back to top