PhD Thesis Submission and Defence

Most of the regulations concerning the PhD thesis submission and defence are covered by the SGPS thesis regulations. The terms "thesis defence" and "thesis examination are used interchangeably here.

Q1: What is a second reader?

A1:  Somebody from the department - not your supervisor - who reads and provides written comment on a full draft of your thesis - 12-14 weeks prior to defence.

The second reader process is a Geography regulation.  The intent is to ensure and strengthen the quality of the thesis prior to submission for defence. The second reader may be a member of the thesis advisory committee and may serve on the examination committee. Members who serve on the examination committee may still review drafts of chapters at the discretion of the advisory committee. The second reader process can take up to two months depending on the scale of possible revisions; up to four weeks in the possession of the second reader, followed by several weeks of revisions by the candidate. Upon completion of the thesis review, the second reader must fill out the second reader form and submit to the Graduate Administrator.

Q2: What do I need to do first once my thesis is ready to submit? 

A2: Set a defence date - 10 weeks prior to defence.

In terms of the timeline approaching the defence, it is most useful to work backwards from a target thesis examination date. Keep in mind that you, in collaboration with your supervisor, need to initiate the process. You should have an abstract of the thesis ready at this time to send out to potential examiners. It is the supervisor's responsibility to contact potential examiners, not the students.  It is the Graduate Chair's responsibility to contact the External Examiner.

Q3: When do we form a thesis examination board?

A3: 8-9 weeks prior to defence

These details need to be finalized no later than seven weeks prior to the proposed defence date. Leave time to arrange the external examiner, in particular, and have an abstract of the thesis ready to provide potential examiners.  Once the examiners and date have been established, provide the information to the Graduate Administrator for completion of the Examination Request form.

Q4: When do I submit my thesis for the defence?

A4: 6 weeks prior to defence

See the thesis regulations section. Please notify the Graduate Administrator when you are ready to upload your thesis.

Q5: When will I know if the thesis is clear for oral defence?

A5: 5 days prior to defence

Five days prior to the defence each examining member of your thesis examination board (not your supervisor or the exam board chair) will complete and submit a preliminary thesis evaluation form provided by SGPS. Beware though that proceeding to oral defence does not mean you have already passed.  All evaluations are provisional and the evaluation of the written thesis form and content can be reversed based on the evaluation of the oral defence.

Q6: When is my public lecture?

A6: 60 minutes prior to the oral examination.

This helps create a seamless process and momentum.  Geography provides the regulations on the public lecture as follows: The lecture is expected to be about 45 minutes with an additional 10 minutes for questions.  The candidate should consult their supervisor about the form and content of the presentation, but emphasis should be placed on the contributions of the thesis.  The candidate and thesis examination committee then proceed to the oral thesis exam room.  

Q7: How much time do I need to make changes to my thesis?

A7: Theoretically, maximum six weeks after a successful defence.

The thesis guidelines state that to "pass with minor revisions" (a common scenario) you are able to complete the revisions and have the document submitted to SGPS within six weeks.  Allow time for approval by your thesis examination board (one member of the examination board [not the supervisor] withholds the final signature) and will approve the final edits once uploaded by the student.


Please contact the Graduate Administrator with any questions regarding the graduate program.
Phone: 519-661-2111, Ext. 85033;