In this section: Thesis criteria and deadlines.  For writing tips, visit Student Resources.

Thesis Criteria

The M.A. thesis demonstrates familiarity with previous work in the field and the ability to carry out research and organize results. It must be written in good literate style.

  • An exhaustive review of work in the particular field is not required, nor is original scholarship necessarily expected.

Length: Typically between 80-100 pages (excluding musical examples and other illustrations). It cannot exceed 150 pages in total, including all preliminary pages.

Thesis Evaluation Criteria

  1. Grasp of subject, powers of criticism and awareness of previous work.
  2. Resourcefulness, alertness to significance of findings.
  3. Diligence, care, technical skill in research.
  4. Organization of findings.
  5. Quality of presentation (coherence, lucidity, grammar, style, freedom from typographical errors).

Format of Thesis Proposal

A complete thesis proposal consists of the following elements:

  • Summary, defining and situating topic, explaining: rationale based on literature review; purpose, research questions or hypothesis; methodology; expected results; expected contributions/implications for the field (8-12 double-spaced pages of text)
  • Bibliography (2-3 pages)
  • Completed PDF icon M.A./M.Mus. Thesis Proposal Form including confirmation of REB Ethics Submission/Approval if required.

Thesis Proposal Deadline

  • After the draft proposal has received preliminary approval by the candidate’s Supervisor, the Supervisor will distribute it to all faculty members in the Music Education Area.
  • Within one week, any feedback and suggestions should be directed to both the candidate’s Supervisor and to the Music Education Area Chair. The candidate may be required to revise the proposal based on this feedback.
  • Once the candidate’s supervisor and the Music Education Area Chair are satisfied that important points of feedback have been addressed, the supervisor will schedule an oral presentation.

Proposal Presentation

The Oral Presentation Committee will consist of three members:

  • the candidate’s supervisor
  • the co-supervisor or second reader
  • a third committee member from outside the Music Education Area, who will serve as Committee Chair

If the co-supervisor or second reader is from outside the Music Education Area, then the Committee Chair may be from within the area.
All three committee members must be present for the presentation either in person or via teleconference.

The presentation will include the following components:

  • a brief presentation by the candidate providing an overview of the topic (between 15–20 minutes)

  • a brief period in which the candidate will respond to questions from the faculty (approximately 15-20 minutes)

Candidates are advised to respect the 15-20 minute maximum for the brief presentation.
Since all committee members will have read the submitted proposal in advance of the defense, the presentation should be used as an opportunity to go into greater detail, to provide additional context, and/or to discuss an example that demonstrates the proposed methodology.

Evaluation of the Oral Presentation

The Oral Presentation Committee will deliberate to reach a consensus on one of the following three outcomes:

  • Pass (with no revisions): indicates that the proposal and the proposal form may be forwarded to the Graduate Studies Office by the Area Chair. The Music Education Area Chair will sign the proposal form to indicate that the oral presentation has been successfully passed.
  • Provisional Pass (with minor revisions): indicates that the candidate must revise the proposal based on feedback provided by the committee.
    • The final proposal will be approved by both the candidate’s Supervisor and by the Committee Chair.
      Once approved, the final proposal and the proposal form may be forwarded to the Graduate Studies Office.
      The Music Education Area Chair will sign the proposal form to indicate that the oral presentation has been successfully passed.
  • Fail: indicates that major revisions are needed and that a new proposal presentation must be scheduled.

Thesis Submission Timeline

Graduation date Initial submission Thesis evaluation semester Final submission deadline
May/June December 15 Winter April 15
Fall (October, November) April 15 Summer August 15
Winter (no convocation) August 15 Fall  December 15

Initial Submission Steps

  • At least one month before initial submission:

Students must submit their “Intent to Submit Thesis” through myThesis.

You will be asked to provide your thesis title, abstract, length of thesis and date of submission.
You will also be asked to nominate examiners (please discuss the examiners with your supervisor(s) prior to submitting the names). Once this is submitted, the request will be sent to your supervisor(s) and Associate Dean of Graduate Studies in Music for approval. Then an invitation to the examiner will be sent through myThesis for the examiner to accept or decline. This whole approval process must be completed prior to your submission date.

Master’s students can access myThesis through the GPS website Detailed guidelines and an instructional video are available on this page.

Verify MyProgress to ensure that all components of the program are complete or components of the program are marked as “Complete” or “In Progress”.

  • Day of submission before noon (earlier, if possible):

Submit your thesis through the submission page on myThesis on the date submitted in your “Intent to Submit Thesis” form. Your supervisor(s) and Associate Dean of Graduate Studies in Music will be advised of your submission and they will be asked to approve it.

Final Submission Steps

  1. Review the examiner's comments with your supervisor and make revisions if required. Consult the Associate Dean (Graduate Studies in music) and the GPS website if the thesis has not been passed.
  2. Submit online as per instructions by the date in the above table.
  3. Notify your supervisor that this has been completed.  Your supervisor will review and issue the final confirmation.
  4. Check out the convocation website for further details, and prepare to celebrate!

Colleagues' Tips for Surviving the Thesis Journey

  1. Begin talking about your thesis or paper topics as early as the first semester and develop a schedule for developing the idea and completing the research with your supervisor. For helpful hints on how to develop the schedule as you define your topic, visit the Graduate Supervision website.
  2. Begin using a software tool  such as endnotes or Zotero at the beginning of your research process.
  3. Take time for fun, nourishment and living life—each day, each week, each month!
  4. Assemble all software packages that your work will require at the outset (statistical or other analytical tools, notational, word processing, bibliography, illustration tools, etc.). Write a short “test” document and apply the McGill software package formatting to understand style implications and any potential challenges for your work (margins, fonts, headings, etc.). Visit the Graduate Studies website for troubleshooting tips.
  5. Review the Schulich School of Music Style Guide pertaining to style manuals and music. Keep a file tracking the style choices you make from the very beginning.
  6. Attend a concert, a movie, or some other live cultural event at least once a week.
  7. Collect written permission to use materials as soon as possible and track the progress of this process by assembling musical examples, illustrations, photographs, etc. in a separate folder.
  8. Use the talents of others to format musical examples as a major time-saver and to facilitate proof-reading.
  9. Attend the thesis defenses and lecture-recitals of your colleagues – enjoy in particular the wine!
  10. Share the results of your work in a variety of formal and informal settings. The more people you share with, academic and non-academic, musical, non-musical, the clearer the expression becomes!  You can find tips on the Graduate Supervision website.
  11. Draw on the resources of the whole Schulich School of Music Team, Library, and beyond.
  12. For other helpful hints, go to the Graduate Supervision website. Know that usually you are not the most effective proof-reader, that it takes much longer than you ever imagined and that, at least once, the computer, the electricity, the plumbing or some other critical disaster will occur at the most inopportune moment.

Other Resources

Tools for writing and research (including the Schulich School of Music style sheet)

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