Thesis Information


Developing a thesis proposal and then researching, writing, and submitting the thesis are challenging mandatory components of your PhD degree. In order to assist you in the successful completion of these tasks, the procedures and guidelines as required by the Institute of Islamic Studies and Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies (GPS) are presented below.

The overall process: A summary

The process of completing a thesis moves from selecting a topic in consultation with your supervisor(s) to then developing a suitable proposal, which in turn must be submitted to and approved by the Institute Faculty at one of the scheduled staff meetings during the academic year. Once approved, research and writing commences. When the final draft of the thesis is ready, the thesis is submitted to GPS, which forwards a copy to the External Examiner. Once the External Examiner has submitted his/her report with a ‘Pass’, the oral defense examination is organized by the Institute. Following the successful pass of the oral defense, the candidate is required to make any stylistic and/or other minor corrections indicated by the External’s report and the Oral Defense Committee for the final electronic submission.

The overall process: The details

  1. PhD Dissertation
  2. Thesis Proposal
  3. Language of the Thesis
  4. Preparation of the Thesis
  5. Initial Thesis Submission
  6. Oral Defense
  7. Final Submission
  8. Appeals

PhD Dissertation

Students must begin their dissertation research as early as possible. Having completed all the course and language requirements and passed the Comprehensive Examinations, the PhD candidate may proceed to the writing of the dissertation proposal. The PhD dissertation is expected to consist in original research that is based on the relevant primary and secondary sources.

The dissertation for the PhD must display original scholarship expressed in satisfactory literary form and must be a distinct contribution to knowledge. Its originality may lie in the discovery of new facts or the reaching of new conclusions by the exercise of independent critical power. Its content must reflect complete understanding and control of the subject based on the latest data, and must show skill in orderly exposition and ability to marshal and organize evidence and draw logical conclusions.

The average length of a doctoral dissertation accepted at the Institute is 250 double-spaced typewritten pages (inclusive of footnotes and appendices, but exclusive of bibliography). The length, however, may vary with the nature of the topic.

Thesis Proposal

The Institute of Islamic Studies maintains specific procedures for the development and submission of thesis proposals prior to research and writing. The thesis proposal should be defended no later than the end of the student’s third year of study.

The procedures involve the following:

1. Selection of topic

PhD students should begin considering possible thesis topics early in their programmes, in consultation with their supervisor(s). Ideas can be tested by writing papers in your courses to explore the potential of your topic(s). PhD students are expected to develop ideas during their course work and while preparing for their comprehensive examinations.

2. Writing a Thesis Proposal approved by your supervisor(s)

The purpose of your proposal is to demonstrate the viability of your research topic to the Faculty of the Institute. This entails developing (a) specific research question(s), along with the reasons and importance of the proposed research, suitable methodologies to answer your question(s), an outline and a detailed bibliography.

The dissertation proposal should state the title of the dissertation, the problem to be discussed, the value or importance of the problem and the method that will be used to bring the research to its logical conclusions. The proposal must also mention what materials will be used and whether they are available at McGill or elsewhere and are accessible to the student. A sample outline is provided below for your guidance, but please consult with your supervisor(s) as to the format they prefer.

Sample outline

  • Thesis Title
  • Thesis Question(s)
  • Reasons and Importance of the Research
  • Literature Survey
  • Historical Context/Introductory Material in support of thesis
  • Methodology
  • Outline
  • Bibliography

Format: The maximum length accepted is 6 pages, excluding bibliography. The proposal must be double spaced, with 1-inch margins, in size-12 font. In addition, all proposals must be typographically, grammatically and diacritically correct. Submissions that fail to comply with these requirements will be rejected.

Please keep in mind that many funding agencies require concise, well thought out research proposals, and that the writing of research proposals will therefore become an integral part of your academic career.

3. Completing the Thesis Proposal Form

In addition to your written Thesis Proposal, you need to complete the Thesis_Proposal_Form [PDF] in which you offer a timetable for the completion of your thesis.

4. Submission of the Thesis Proposal and the Thesis Proposal Form to the IIS office

Please ensure that your written Thesis Proposal and bibliography are completed properly, and that your Thesis Proposal Form is approved and signed. It is preferable to submit the documents electronically (PDF format) to the Student Affairs Coordinator one week prior to the monthly staff meeting. Late submissions will be held over for the next staff meeting. PDF icon IIS scheduled staff meetings 2019-2020

Students must report their progress to their supervisors in accordance with the schedule of work. Each student must report at least as follows: once before the staff meeting in mid-January, and once by mid-April before the final staff meeting at the end of the winter term in May.

5. Defense of Thesis Proposal at a Staff Meeting

Students must be present at the staff meeting when the proposal is discussed to defend their proposals. Once final approval is granted by the faculty, the student may proceed to work toward the completion of the dissertation.

6. Faculty approval of Thesis and Recommendation of the External Thesis Examiner

The Faculty will communicate approval of your thesis proposal in writing. You will then work closely with your supervisor on the completion of your thesis. When you have completed writing the thesis, you and your supervisor will decide on the name of one possible external examiner who is a specialist in your field and whose service as your thesis examiner would present no conflicts of interest.

Language of the Thesis

The doctoral dissertation may be submitted in either English or French. Grammatical correctness is requisite, and felicity of expression is among the criteria involved in judging the dissertation.

Preparation of the Thesis

All thesis submissions must adhere to the guidelines set by GPS. For more information, please consult the GPS Thesis Preparation and Submission Guidelines

Submission to Supervisor

Please be aware that Professors need a reasonable amount of time to read and provide comments on your thesis. This process of submission and feedback should be an on-going activity based on the thesis timeline that was agreed upon by you and your supervisor(s). If you fail to submit chapters or others sections of your thesis by the agreed upon timeline, he/she may not be able to ensure that your thesis can be submitted by a certain deadline. You must consult your supervisor well in advance about dates and availability.

Initial Thesis Submission

Once the thesis has been written, corrected by your supervisor, revised as appropriate and approved for submission, the candidate may submit the thesis to Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies by email. Please note:

1. Thesis submission deadlines:

Initial Submission Final Submission Additional Thesis Graduation
    Session Evaluation  
April 16- August 15 August 16-December 15 Summer Fall February
August 16- December 16 December 16- April 15 Fall Winter May
December 16- Apr 15 April 16- August 15 Winter Summer October


Initial and Final Submission in the same term

Additional Session

Thesis Evaluation


Apr 16 – Aug 15

Apr 16 – Aug 15




Aug 16 – Dec 15

Aug 16 – Dec 15




Dec 16 – Apr 15

Dec 16 – Apr 15




2. Accompanying document to be submitted with the copies of your thesis: Nomination of Examiners Form, completed and signed by the student, supervisor and the GPD. PhD candidates should email the form to the Student Affairs Coordinator for verification prior to submission to GPS, Thesis Section. The Student Affairs Coordinator could help you obtain the signatures on your Nomination of Examiners Form; please ensure the form is complete at least 48 hours in advance of the desired submission date. Please read carefully the instructions on the form and only capitalize proper nouns in your thesis title; also, in the section, The student certifies that:, only tick off the items that apply to your case; if you tick off all the items, you are supposed to provide them all with your thesis. 

See the Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies' webpage for the form and information.

If the research for the thesis involved human participants, you should have obatined Research Compliance Certificates from the Research Ethics Board. A copy of the certificates must be provided together with the Thesis forms.

3. PhD candidates submit their thesis and the form to the Thesis Office by email as instructed on this page Once submitted, the thesis is forwarded by the GPS to the external and internal examiners, who will in due course send a reader's report (approximately one month). Based on these reports, there may be additional corrections or changes to be made to the thesis before final submission.

Examination of the Thesis

Dissertations are read by an External Examiner and by an Internal Examiner.

Following discussions with the student, the supervisor will submit 2-3 names of possible external examiners for approval to the GPD and Director. Once approved by the GPD and Director, the supervisor will choose one of the approved externals and contact that external directly. If the GPD is the supervisor of the student, the final approval of the externals will be made by the Director; if the Director is the supervisor of the student, the final approval of the externals will be made by the GPD.

Following discussions with the student, the supervisor will submit the name of one internal examiner for approval to the GPD and Director. Once approved by both the GPD and Director, the supervisor will contact that examiner directly.

It is advisable that the process be initiated 2-3 weeks before the intended date of submission.


If a dissertation is judged unsatisfactory by either of the examiners, the staff of the Institute may in its discretion recommend either (1) that the dissertation be resubmitted with such changes as may have been indicated by the examiners, or (2) that the dissertation be sent to a special panel of outside referees for re-examination, if the decision is challenged, or (3) that a new thesis be submitted within three years. In any case, the recommendation must be approved by the Dean of GPS. If the dissertation has been passed by the External Examiner, a final oral examination is held on the subject of the dissertation and subjects intimately related to it.

Oral Defense

For more detailed information, please see the Oral Defense section of the left sidebar.

Final Submission

For the PhD thesis, once all corrections are completed based on the oral defense and the External and the Inetrnal Examiners' reports, you submit your final copy electronically on Minerva. For more information on this, see the GPS’ e-Thesis Instructions 

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