What are my responsibilities as a graduate studies supervisor?


  • Assist the student in choosing a thesis topic
  • Provide timely feedback and timely turn-around time on deliverables to students 
  • Work with the student to create a realistic research timeline
  • Meet on a regular basis with students
  • Show honesty and respect to all students    
More information can found here regarding supervisor responsibilities.  


What are my financial obligations for each student I supervise?

Currently, the Department of Family Medicine (DFM) requires a student to be matched with a supervisor in order to be admitted to one of our graduate programs. The department’s graduate program committee approved a Harmonized Stipend Policy in 2021, applicable to incoming recruits as of Fall 2022. For more information, please contact Graduateprograms.fammed [at] mcgill.ca or the current Graduate Program Directors.

What are my graduate student's responsibilities? 


  • Be prepared for all meetings
  • Respect timelines and submit work in the proper format
  • Be proactive and show initiative in his/her thesis topic, deliverables, and presentations
  • Advise you of problems as they arise
  • Know the rules of academic integrity     
More information can found here regarding supervisee responsibilities. 


Is there training available to know how to supervise students and to understand what my obligations are?

The Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies Office (GPSO) has several workshops per year to help individuals develop their supervising skills.  Information and materials on these services can be found at https://www.mcgill.ca/gps/staff/supervision.

Can students work as a research assistant if I am paying them a stipend?

Students are allowed to work for up to 10 hours per week on projects not related to their thesis.  This can be included in the stipend or paid additionally for different positions.  Please note:  this also includes partime jobs.  Students are not allowed to work more than 10 hours per week in any capacity.

Where can I find the forms for thesis committee meetings and other thesis information

This website is a great resource for all forms and documents for our current students, including everything thesis-related.

What is involved in supervising Postdoctoral Fellows?

Postdoctoral Fellows must be within five years of graduating with a Ph.D. or equivalent (including a recognized health professional degree plus a medical specialty) who are engaged in research at the invitation of and under the supervision of a member of McGill’s academic staff.  Anyone of our graduate supervisors with experience can supervise a postdoctoral fellow.   A letter of agreement must be completed between the supervisor and the Fellow.  The University has set the minimum salary for these positions at $30,000 per year.  The Graduate Programs Coordinator can help with the overall process and set up payments for all Fellows. There is no set time of the year for them to start the application procedure with the University (i.e. no set deadline).   For more information, you may refer to this website.

Who can be a supervisor?

Thesis supervisors must be chosen from full-time tenure-track or tenured academic staff or ranked contract academic staff who have research as part of their duties. Supervisors should have competence in the student’s proposed area of research. Emeritus Professors may not act as sole supervisors but may serve as co-supervisors. Adjunct Professors may not act as sole supervisors but may serve as co-supervisors, with the unit’s and GPS’s approval. If problems arise, the McGill supervisor will be held accountable to McGill policies and regulations. 

When do I need to strike the thesis committee? Who can be on it and how often should we meet?

Thesis committee meetings need to be held for new MSc students during the Winter Semester of their first year (at minimum) and newly developed thesis committees need to be solidified by August 31 of the first academic year for MSc students. The Composition of Thesis and Oral Committees form must be completed with all thesis committee members’ names and signatures. Any changes to the thesis committee membership have to be noted with a newly completed form. The timing after that is up to the student and supervisor, but we recommend once every three months until the MSc is submitted. Thesis committee members do not need to hold academic positions. They simply need to provide requisite experience for the thesis project and provide critical feedback.
For the PhD, the supervisor and three thesis committee members must be identified at the time of application. Committees can vary in size from a minimum of three for the MSc and four for the PhD. There is no maximum although groups over five tend to get unmanageable for the student.

How long should a thesis be and in what style should it be written?

There are no set minimum standards for an MSc thesis; however, we strongly recommend 100 pages as a minimum length for a traditional thesis. McGill sets the maximum length at 150 pages for the MSc (excluding figures and references). As for PhD theses, there is no page limit, but unnecessarily long theses are viewed negatively since one of the norms of academic scholarship is concision. The style of the references is up to the supervisor, as it will depend on the area of the thesis research. Typically, an MSc thesis would contain enough content for 1-2 publishable manuscripts. A PhD thesis would typically contain enough content for 3-5 manuscripts and be an original piece of scholarship.

How are the thesis examiner(s)chosen?

The supervisor is responsible for selecting the external examiner although we recommend doing this in conjunction with the student and thesis committee late in the last year of the training. Only one external examiner is needed for a MSc thesis and they should be contacted by the supervisor to ensure they are available and willing to provide a timely review of the thesis. The examiner cannot be a Department member and there must not have been any research collaborations between the supervisor(s), student and examiner (this does not apply to thesis committee members). The examiner is identified on the thesis submission form that the student is responsible for completing. 

As for a PhD thesis, an internal examiner and external examiner must be chosen.  The Doctoral External Examiner must be a scholar of established reputation and competence in the field of the thesis research. He/she must be from outside the University and normally must hold a doctorate or equivalent. The External Examiner must be at “arm’s length” and have no other conflict of interest (see conflict of interest checklist on the nomination of examiners and thesis submission form). 

The 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 serves to ensure that McGill norms are observed with respect to quality of the thesis. Normally, the Internal Examiner is a McGill faculty member (but not the Supervisor) affiliated with the Unit in which the thesis originates, but he/she may also be nominated from other Units at McGill. The Doctoral Internal Examiner need not satisfy the arm’s length conditions required of the External Examiner, but must not be in conflict of interest.  As such, a member of the student’s supervisory committee may be named as the Internal Examiner.  The Internal Examiner must attend the final oral thesis defence.


Are there any forms that I should be completing for my student?

The Research Objectives Report (Form 1) is due once at the beginning of each term (twice a year). This can be done within a thesis committee meeting or between the supervisor and student. This form establishes goals to be set each semester in regards to the thesis and the student's progress. The Course Tracking & Academic Activity Record (Form 2) is due once per academic year (Aug. 31 for First Year MSc Students). This must be completed with the thesis committee and minutes of the meeting (taken by the student) must be submitted with this form. All completed forms must be returned to the Graduate Programs Coordinator for signature by the Graduate Studies Director.

Who is the student advisor and what is his/her role?

Reporting to the Graduate Program Director and the Graduate Program Committee, the role of the Student Advisor is to provide graduate students with confidential, informal, independent, and neutral information, advice, and referrals. Students are encouraged to contact the Student Advisor at any time if they have particular concerns they wish to discuss. The Student Advisor form (Form 3) needs to be completed at each Student Advisor meeting and sent to the Graduate Programs Coordinator for the student’s dossier. These forms are completely confidential and will only be provided to the Director of the Graduate Programs or the department Chair with permission from the student and the Advisor. The current advisor is mark.yaffe [at] mcgill.ca (Dr. Mark Yaffe).

What do I do if a student wins an award or publishes an article?

Please notify us! We keep track of this for our program and we also like to celebrate their successes. Please also advise us of your students’ post-graduation plans or employment.

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