Preparation of a Thesis

Theses components are highlighted in the section below. Students should also refer to the following Initial Thesis Submission Checklist (launched April 8th, 2022) at the early stages of their thesis writing to help guide their work.

Thesis Components

A thesis can be written and organized either in the traditional monograph style or the manuscript (article) based style. It cannot be a mixture of the two. Theses must conform to the requirements of Library and Archives Canada. These requirements are listed below. 

In either monograph or manuscript format, the thesis must contain methodology, results and scholarly discussion. It must also contain or conform to the following requirements:

1. Title page
  • The title of the thesis
  • The student’s name and Unit* followed by "McGill University, Montreal"
  • The month and year the thesis was submitted
  • The following statement: "A thesis submitted to McGill University in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the degree of....”
  • The universal copyright notice “©” followed by the student’s name and the year the thesis was submitted
  • Students can request permission to add the official McGill logo to their thesis cover page by submitting this webform
2. A detailed table of contents
 
3. A brief abstract in both English and French.

If the language of the thesis is neither English nor French (only allowed for specific language Units) then a third abstract in the language of the thesis is required.

4. Acknowledgements
  • Among other acknowledgements, the student is required to declare the extent to which assistance (paid or unpaid) has been given by members of staff, fellow students, research assistants, technicians, or others in the collection of materials and data, the design and construction of apparatus, the performance of experiments, the analysis of data, and the preparation of the thesis (including editorial help).
  • In addition, it is appropriate to recognize the supervision and advice given by the thesis supervisor(s) and advisors.
5. Contribution to original knowledge

A doctoral thesis must clearly state the elements of the thesis that are considered original scholarship and distinct contributions to knowledge.

6. Contribution of Authors
  • Contributions of the student to each chapter must be explicitly stated.
  • Contributions of any co-authors to each chapter must be explicitly stated. 
7. An introduction

Clearly state the rationale and objectives of the research.

8. A comprehensive review of the relevant literature

The comprehensive review of the literature must sufficiently demonstrate the student’s knowledge of and expertise in their research areas and should be broad enough to apply to each research question in the thesis. The review of the literature can additionally include various types of content, such as:

  • A review providing a reader who is relatively less familiar with the research topic (e.g., an internal/external member of an oral defence committee with adjacent but not direct expertise) an introduction to the general domain.
  • An explanation of the overall rationale for how and why the subsequent studies were conducted. For example, the literature underlying the research questions must be sufficiently discussed.
  • A review of fundamental theories underlying the subsequently presented work, or to explain why certain approaches were not taken in the study(ies) presented.

The literature review must be in line with disciplinary expectations. The review can be incorporated in the Introduction chapter, addressed in a standalone chapter, or distributed across multiple chapters.

9. Body of the thesis

In a traditional thesis, the body of the thesis should encompass sections on:

  • Methodology
  • Research findings

In a manuscript-based thesis:

  • Each chapter represents a full manuscript identical to the published or submitted version (except for font/size).
  • The chapter includes the full manuscript in its entirety (including the reference list and diagram/figure list).
  • Doctoral students must include the text of a minimum of two manuscripts published, submitted or to be submitted for publication.
  • Master’s students must include the text of one or more manuscripts published, submitted or to be submitted for publication.

Between manuscripts, students must include a bridging text of 1-3 pages to show how the manuscripts relate to each other and how they fit within the bigger picture.

10. A comprehensive scholarly discussion of all the findings

The discussion of findings must be in line with disciplinary expectations. A comprehensive discussion is expected to be a minimum of 10 pages, double-spaced for doctoral students and a minimum of 5 pages, double-spaced for Master’s students (including figures, images, and tables). It pertains to the entirety of a thesis. The discussion of findings should provide an final, overarching summary of study themes, limitations, and future directions.

In the case of a manuscript-based thesis, the comprehensive discussion should encompass all of the chapters of the thesis and should not be a repetition of the individual chapters. This section can be used to address issues not sufficiently covered in the preceding chapters or papers (e.g., critiques raised by reviewers that could not be incorporated into published works, or reintroducing discussion arguments removed from published papers upon reviewer request). This section can also be used to elaborate on the practical/applied aspects of published findings in a manner that is more accessible to less expert readers.

11. A final conclusion and summary

Clearly state how the objectives of the research were met and discuss implications of findings.

12. A thorough bibliography or reference list
 

Length

Normally, a Master’s thesis does not exceed 100 pages in length. GPS considers 150 pages to be the maximum (including title page, abstracts, table of contents, contribution of authors/preface, acknowledgements, bibliography/reference list, and appendices).

A Doctoral thesis must be as succinct as is consistent with the sound scholarly exposition of the subject under investigation and disciplinary norms. There is no page limit, but unnecessarily long theses are viewed negatively since one of the norms of academic scholarship is concision.

Appendices

Appendices are useful to present supplementary or raw data, details of methodology (particularly for manuscript-based theses), consent forms, or other information that would detract from the presentation of the research in the main body of the thesis, but would assist readers in their review. All material in appendices will be open to examination.

Thesis Format

Script and Page Format

A conventional font, size 12-point, 12 characters per inch must be used. Line spacing must be double or 1.5. Left and right hand margins should be 1 inch.

Pagination

Positioning of page numbers is optional. Pages with figures or illustrations may be numbered in sequence or left unnumbered. The chosen procedure must be used consistently throughout the thesis. Pagination must be carefully checked for correct sequence and completeness.

Footnotes, references and appendices
  • These should conform to a scholarly style appropriate to the discipline.
  • Footnotes may be placed at the bottom of the page or as endnotes at the end of each chapter.
  • Consistency of formatting for footnotes and references is required throughout the thesis.
    • Note: Handbooks such as the MLA or APA handbook may be consulted for formatting styles. These are available at the Reference desk of the McLennan Library.
Figures, illustrations, photographs and digital images
  • Figures, tables, graphs, etc., should be positioned according to the publication conventions of the discipline. Charts, graphs, maps, and tables that are larger than the standard page should be avoided unless absolutely necessary. Overlays must be meticulously positioned in the text.
  • Where graphs, illustrations, photographs, etc. fill an entire page, these pages can be numbered in sequence or left unnumbered (see Pagination above). Legends or captions accompanying such full-page graphics must be presented on a separate page.
Additional materials

Slides, tapes, etc. are to be avoided if possible and can be included only if the student authorizes the reproduction of the thesis without them.


*Unit refers to a department, a division, a school, an institute, or a Faculty/University-wide program.

Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 4.0 International LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 4.0 International License.
Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, McGill University.

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