Academic Regulation II-7 - Theses

7.1. Definitions

In these regulations: 
•    “jury” means the examiners assigned to evaluate a thesis;
•    “thesis supervisor(s)” means the supervisor or the co-supervisors of a thesis;
•    “thesis” means an original work produced by a student as part of a current program of studies at the University of Ottawa.

7.2. General requirements

7.2.1 Master’s thesis

A master’s thesis must demonstrate that the student has the ability to produce scholarly work and is familiar with the main scholarly works in the subject-area of the thesis.

7.2.2 Doctoral thesis

A doctoral thesis must contribute to the advancement of knowledge in a given field of study and embody the results of original and rigorous investigation and analysis by the student. It must also be of publishable quality.

7.2.3 Thesis defence

To meet the requirements of a master’s or doctoral program, the thesis must not only meet the criteria stated in this regulation, but must also be successfully defended in person before a jury.

7.3. Thesis format

7.3.1 General format

A thesis must assume one of the following formats: 

a) a monograph, or

b) a thesis in the form of one or more articles prepared for publication in peer-reviewed journals.

The same ethical and quality standards apply to all theses, regardless of the format they assume.

7.3.1.1 Monograph

In a monograph, the student presents a proposal or “thesis” as well as related research findings. The student draws on existing research, which may be supported or refuted.

The monograph includes:

  1. a preface that specifies the approvals obtained to conduct the research, clearly identifies the student’s contribution and distinguishes it from those of collaborators, co-authors or other researchers, if any;
  2. an abstract;
  3. a general introduction;
  4. the main body of the text, which can be divided into sections;
  5. a conclusion;
  6. a bibliography.

7.3.1.2 Thesis by articles

A thesis by articles consists of one or more articles written by the student for publication in peer-reviewed journals. All articles comprising the thesis must be written while the student is enrolled in the program in which the thesis is being submitted. 

The academic unit offering the program decides on the minimum number of articles required for this thesis format. 

A thesis by articles must include:

a) a preface that specifies the approvals obtained to conduct the research, clearly identifies the student’s contribution and distinguishes it from those of collaborators, co-authors or other researchers, if any;

b) an abstract;

c) a general introduction that outlines the thesis topic and explains how the articles comprising the main body of the text address the topic;

d) a general discussion and a conclusion (unless otherwise specified in regulations specific to the program) that synthesizes the points addressed in the articles and provides a general summary and overall analysis; and

e) any other content deemed appropriate by the academic unit responsible for the student’s program (e.g., a comprehensive literature review).

7.3.2 Program-specific requirements

Each graduate program is responsible for establishing regulations that govern the specific format, the nature of the publications relied upon, and the content of various parts of the thesis, according to scholarly expectations in the discipline. These regulations must be consistent with University regulations and must be approved by the academic unit offering the program.

Before beginning research on the thesis, the student must check with the program and the thesis supervisor to confirm which thesis format will be acceptable.

7.4 Topic Selection

7.4.1 Research topic

The research topic, including the major themes to be covered and the research topic itself, must be selected in consultation with the student’s thesis supervisor(s).

7.4.2 Registration requirements and deadlines

Master’s students must submit their research topic before the end of the second semester of enrolment in the program. Doctoral students must submit their research topic before the end of the third semester of enrolment in the pro

 

7.5. Thesis proposal

If required by the program, students must submit an official thesis proposal for approval, before beginning their research. Each program is responsible for establishing regulations governing the content of the thesis proposal and determining how and when students shall submit their proposal for formal approval.

7.6. Research ethics and integrity

7.6.1 Before a student begins certain research projects in connection with the thesis, the thesis supervisor(s) must ensure that the student is aware of required approvals (e.g., by the University Ethics Committee (UEC), the Animal Care Committee, the Office of Risk Management, or the Laboratory Safety Committee), and how to obtain such approvals. The preface of a thesis submitted for evaluation must specify which approvals were obtained and evidence of such approvals must be included in an appendix. If the necessary approvals have not been obtained, the thesis will not be accepted for evaluation or defense.

7.6.2 The student must satisfy the University’s ethical research standards at all times while enrolled in the program and when preparing, writing and defending the thesis. These requirements also apply to any oral presentations of research conducted for the thesis, any results of the research, and any publication stemming from the thesis.

7.6.3 As the author of the thesis, the student is responsible for the accuracy of the content of the thesis and must ensure that all sources, including Internet sources, are meticulously identified and cited in accordance with the standards applicable to the student’s discipline.

7.6.4 Any contribution by any collaborators must be described in detail in the preface to the thesis; the student’s contribution must also be clearly distinguished from that of any other contributors.

7.6.5 Works subject to copyright, such as published articles, cannot be used in a thesis without permission from the copyright holder(s) and, in the case of published articles, permission from all co-authors and the publisher. The student is responsible for obtaining all necessary copyright permissions.

7.6.6 When it is suspected that the thesis does not meet the University’s ethics standards for research, the dean (or delegate) of the faculty (or equivalent) offering the program must be notified. The dean (or delegate) will conduct a preliminary inquiry and, if pursuant thereto it is believed that an ethical standard may have been breached, the dean will notify the Office of Research Ethics and Integrity. This Office will act on this notification in accordance with applicable University procedures.

7.7. Academic fraud

7.7.1 Before submitting a thesis for evaluation, the student must sign the appropriate form to certify that the thesis complies with all regulations governing academic fraud.

7.7.2 If, during evaluation of the thesis, one or more examiners discover what they believe may be academic fraud, they must notify the dean (or delegate) of the faculty (or equivalent) offering the program in accordance with the University’s academic regulation on academic fraud. If the dean (or delegate) feels that there are reasonable and probable grounds to believe that the allegation of academic fraud is founded, the evaluation will be halted and the office responsible for organizing the evaluation and thesis defence will notify the student, the thesis supervisor(s), and the examiners.

7.7.3 If the allegation is deemed not to be founded, evaluation of the thesis will resume with the same jury.

7.7.4 If the allegation is deemed to be founded, a sanction will be imposed in accordance with the academic regulation on academic fraud. The examiners, the thesis supervisor(s) and the student will be notified of the outcome, including the sanction if one is imposed. If the evaluation resumes, the jury will remain the same.

7.8. Confidential thesis

7.8.1 In exceptional circumstances, the student and the thesis supervisor(s) may ask the faculty (or equivalent) offering the program to consider the thesis, including its evaluation and defence, as confidential. This request must be submitted before the thesis is submitted for evaluation, and must explain, in writing, why and for how long the thesis and its defence should remain confidential. The dean (or delegate) of the faculty (or equivalent) will decide whether or not to grant this request.

7.8.2 Examiners of a confidential thesis must sign a confidentiality agreement before evaluation of the thesis may begin. Any information divulged during the thesis evaluation and defense, be it in oral, written, graphic, photographic, recorded, prototype, sample or any other format, shall remain confidential for a period from six months to five years, as determined by the dean (or delegate). The thesis defence will be confidential and closed to the public.

7.8.3 When the student’s research is covered by a research contract that includes a confidentiality clause, the student and the thesis supervisor(s) must contact the University of Ottawa Innovation Support Services before beginning the research to ensure that the confidentiality clause complies with University guidelines. If it does, the thesis will remain confidential for a period consistent with the requirements of the contract and University guidelines.

7.8.4 A request for an embargo on access to a confidential thesis must be made when the student submits the final version of the thesis electronically, following the thesis defence, in accordance with this regulation.

7.9. Submitting the thesis for evaluation

7.9.1 Before submitting the thesis for evaluation, the student must complete all other program requirements.

7.9.2 The student must write the thesis and submit the completed document in accordance with University regulations and the regulations of the student’s graduate program. The student is responsible for ensuring that the thesis meets the standards set by the University of Ottawa.

7.9.3 When the thesis is submitted for evaluation, the thesis supervisor(s) must certify that they have examined the thesis, that it is ready to be sent to a jury for evaluation, and that the student has obtained all necessary approvals. For a doctoral thesis, the “List of Examiners for the Evaluation of the Thesis” form must be filled out and duly signed one month before the thesis is submitted.

7.9.4 A thesis will not be considered officially submitted for evaluation until all of the following documents have been submitted to the office responsible for organizing the evaluation and defence: a) the number of paper copies required, including a copy for the chair of the defence b) the thesis in electronic format, and c) the “List of Examiners for the Evaluation of the Thesis” form.

7.9.5 The student must enrol in the term in which the thesis is officially submitted for evaluation. However, the student will not be be enrolled during the evaluation period unless the student otherwise informs the faculty (or equivalent) offering the program.

7.9.6 Once the thesis has been submitted for evaluation, the student and the thesis supervisor(s) may not communicate with the examiners about the thesis evaluation until the thesis has been defended.

7.10.Thesis Evaluation

7.10.1 Evaluation steps

7.10.1.1 There are three steps in the evaluation of a thesis: a) the written evaluation, b) the oral defence and, c) the final submission. A failing grade, namely NS (unsatisfactory) or EIN (incomplete), may be assigned to each of these steps. 

7.10.1.2 If two grades of NS or EIN are assigned during the evaluation process, the student will be withdrawn from the program. The student will not be withdrawn from the program if only one mark of NS or EIN is assigned during the thesis evaluation.

7.10.2 Jury

7.10.2.1 Master’s thesis

7.10.2.1.1 A master’s thesis will be evaluated by, and then defended in person before, a jury of at least two, and no more than four, examiners.

7.10.2.1.2 When a student is currently, or is expected to be hired as, a regular, full-time employee (whether as a manager, support staff or faculty member) of the University of Ottawa, Saint Paul University, an academic unit at Carleton University participating in a joint graduate program, or any other affiliated institution, a potential conflict of interest exists. In such cases, the individual responsible for the program must notify the dean (or delegate) of the faculty (or equivalent) that offers the program of the student’s employment status. The dean (or delegate) is responsible for determining whether a conflict of interest exists. If so, the jury shall comprise two external examiners who meet the criteria specified in this regulation.

7.10.2.1.3 Master’s thesis examiners are appointed by the dean (or delegate) of the student’s faculty (or equivalent). The person responsible for the program must ensure that potential examiners meet all University requirements and have agreed to evaluate the thesis and attend the oral defence in person. If the thesis supervisor(s) are invited to submit a list of potential examiners, the supervisor(s) must ensure that these individuals meet these requirements.

7.10.2.2 Doctoral thesis

7.10.2.2.1 A doctoral thesis will be evaluated by, and then defended in person before, a jury of no less than four, and no more than seven, examiners of whom at least one will be an external examiner who meets the requirements specified in this regulation.

7.10.2.2.2 When a student is currently, or is expected to be hired as, a regular, full-time employee (whether as a manager, support staff or faculty member) of the University of Ottawa, Saint Paul University,  an academic unit at Carleton University participating in a joint graduate program, or any other affiliated program, a potential conflict of interest exists. In such cases, the individual responsible for the program must notify the dean of the faculty (or equivalent) that offers the program of the student’s employment status. The dean (or delegate) is responsible for determining whether a conflict of interest exists. If so, the jury shall comprise four external examiners that meet the requirements specified in this regulation.

7.10.2.2.3 The examiners are appointed by the dean (or delegate) of the student’s faculty (or equivalent). The person responsible for the program must ensure that potential examiners meet all University requirements and agree to evaluate the thesis and attend the oral defence in person. If the thesis supervisor(s) are invited to submit a list of potential examiners, the supervisor(s) must ensure that these individuals meet these requirements.

7.10.2.2.4 The academic unit must receive the list of recommended examiners at least one month before the thesis is submitted for evaluation.

7.10.2.3 Internal examiners

7.10.2.3.1 In general, all internal examiners, whether for master’s or doctoral theses, must be authorized to supervise theses at the University of Ottawa. However, a program may propose an examiner that is not authorized to supervise a thesis if such an examiner’s qualifications are equivalent to those required of thesis supervisors and the proposed examiner agrees to provide a written evaluation report and attend the oral defence in person. The dean (or delegate) of the faculty (or equivalent) offering the program must approve this proposed examiner. The academic unit concerned must cover the costs incurred by this examiner.

7.10.2.3.2 In the case of joint programs with Carleton University, the internal members of the jury may include members of the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Affairs of Carleton University. For all doctoral theses in such programs, the jury must include an internal examiner from Carleton University. For master’s theses in these programs, the inclusion of an internal examiner from Carleton University is optional but is strongly preferred.

7.10.2.4 External examiners

7.10.2.4.1 External examiners must be from outside the University; more specifically, they cannot be regular or adjunct professors from the University of Ottawa, Saint Paul University, joint Ottawa-Carleton institutes or other affiliated institutions. An external examiner cannot fulfill this role more than once a year for the entire University.

7.10.2.4.2 Those responsible for the student’s program must take steps to avoid recommending an external examiner whose relationship with the student or with the thesis supervisor(s) could jeopardize the impartiality of the evaluation of the thesis. The external examiners proposed must be at arms-length from the student and the thesis supervisor(s), and be in a position to examine the thesis independently and without any conflict of interest or reasonable apprehension of bias.
The following situations illustrate potential conflicts of interest:

  • a personal or family link between the proposed external examiner and the thesis supervisor(s) or student
  • a work-related link between the proposed external examiner and the thesis supervisor(s) or student 
  • there is a formal link between the proposed external examiner’s university or home organization and the thesis supervisor(s) or student
  • the proposed external examiner is a former thesis supervisor, research supervisor or graduate student of one of the thesis supervisors, or of the student
  • the proposed external examiner is, or was within the past six years, from the same university, organization or department, or belongs, or formerly belonged within the past six years, to the same research unit as the thesis director or student;
  • the proposed external examiner has collaborated on the same research grant or has co-authored a publication with the student 
  • the proposed external examiner has collaborated on the same research grant or has co-authored a publication with the thesis supervisor(s) sometime within the past six years
  • the proposed external examiner is an industry or government representative who, within the past six years, has participated directly in collaborative activities with the thesis supervisor(s) or the student.

7.10.2.4.3 Those who propose an external examiner confirm that, to the best of their knowledge, no conflict of interest exists or could be perceived to exist. If the thesis supervisor(s) are invited to submit a list of potential external examiners, they must ensure that the individuals they propose are acceptable in this regard.

7.10.2.4.4 The dean (or delegate) of the faculty (or equivalent) offering the program reserves the right to refuse external examiners for reasons linked to possible or perceived conflicts of interest, or where these examiners are not deemed to be qualified or have the professional experience required to evaluate the thesis.

7.10.3 Procedures for written evaluation

7.10.3.1 Evaluation reports

Each examiner must submit a detailed, written evaluation report. All these reports, including the name of each examiner, will be sent to the student, to the thesis supervisor(s) and to the other examiners, including the chair of the jury, before the thesis defence. 

The examiners’ reports must contain enough detail to enable the student to prepare for the defence. Reports must clearly indicate whether the examiner feels that the thesis is ready to be defended. If an examiner’s report does not contain sufficient detail, the dean (or delegate) of the faculty (or equivalent) may ask that the report be rewritten.

If reports are not received before the deadlines set by the office responsible for the thesis defence, the defence may be postponed.
Examiners may write their reports in the official language of their choice. 

7.10.3.2 Integrity of the written evaluation 

Examiners must evaluate the thesis independently and, during the evaluation process, must not contact other examiners, the thesis supervisor or the student to discuss the thesis evaluation before they submit their report to the office organising the evaluation and defence. The dean (or delegate) of the faculty (or equivalent) may replace one or more examiners if the dean believes that the integrity of the written evaluation process has 
 

7.11 Thesis Defense


7.11.1 Deferral of defence or withdrawal from the program

7.11.1.1 Once the thesis evaluation reports have been received, the student may defend the thesis. However, the student may decide, in consultation with the thesis supervisor(s), to amend the thesis before defending it. 

7.11.1.2 Within five working days of receiving the evaluation reports, the student must confirm in writing whether he or she wishes to (a) defend the thesis, (b) amend the thesis before defending it, or (c) withdraw from the program. 

7.11.1.3 A decision to withdraw from the program or amend the thesis will be noted as a failure (NS or unsatisfactory) on the student’s transcript. Students who decide to amend the thesis must submit their amended thesis to the same jury within three consecutive terms, during which the student must be enrolled. The revisions to the original document must be clearly identified. The evaluators will evaluate the amended thesis. The procedures and verdicts that apply to a second defence, as described in this regulation, will apply to the amended thesis.

If the amended thesis is not submitted before the established deadline, a second NS will be noted on the student’s transcript and the student’s file will be closed. 

7.11.2 The thesis defence

7.11.2.1 Participation in the thesis defence

7.11.2.1.1 The dean (or delegate) of the student’s faculty (or equivalent) will name the chair of the jury, who must be authorized to supervise theses. The thesis defence may not be chaired by the thesis supervisor or one of the examiners.

7.11.2.1.2 Before the defence, the chair will receive a file containing all the evaluation reports and any other documents pertaining to the defence.

7.11.2.1.3 All the examiners and the student must attend the defence in person. In exceptional cases, the dean (or delegate) may allow an examiner to participate in the defence remotely. 

7.11.2.1.4 Thesis supervisor(s) participate in the defence, but they are not examiners and do not vote. A thesis defence may take place in the absence of the thesis supervisor(s) provided that the student has consented to this absence in writing. In the absence of the thesis supervisor(s), another representative from the student’s graduate program, as assigned by the program director or the director of the student’s academic unit, will act as thesis supervisor during the thesis defence.

7.11.2.1.5 The thesis defence is open to the public, except in the case of a confidential thesis.

7.11.2.1.6 Any filming or recording of the thesis defence is prohibited.

7.11.3. Procedure during the thesis defence

7.11.3.1 At the beginning of the defense, the chair of the jury asks all those present, except for the examiners and the thesis supervisor(s), to leave the room in order to: a) discuss any problems stemming from the examiners’ evaluation reports, b) explain the procedure to be followed, and c) determine the order in which each examiner will ask questions of the student, and how much time will be granted to each examiner. 

7.11.3.2 The chair of the jury then asks the student to present the thesis topic. 

7.11.3.3 The chair then invites the examiners (in the order previously set) to ask the student questions about the thesis.

7.11.3.4 Thesis supervisor(s) cannot intervene while the examiners are questioning the student; the supervisor(s) will be allowed to comment or ask questions at the end of the question period. 

7.11.3.5 At the end of the thesis defence, the chair asks all those present, except for the examiners and the thesis supervisor(s), to leave the room. The examiners deliberate and decide on a verdict in accordance with this regulation. The thesis supervisor(s) participate in these discussions, but cannot vote.

7.11.3.6 The chair then records the verdict on the appropriate form and, if necessary, states the nature and scope of any corrections or revisions necessary in the space reserved for comments (or separately). The chair also specifies who will be responsible for verifying that the revisions and corrections are satisfactory.

7.11.3.7 Once the verdict has been decided but before the thesis supervisor(s) return(s), the chair will ask the examiners if they are prepared to recommend the thesis for an award.

7.11.3.8 The chair of the jury invites the student and the thesis supervisor(s), and any other people present, to return to the room and then immediately informs the student of the verdict.

7.11.4 Thesis defence verdicts

7.11.4.1 Unanimous verdict

If possible, the examiners will render one of the following three unanimous verdicts:

Verdict 1. The thesis meets the requirements for the degree but minor corrections may be required. The thesis supervisor(s) or other individuals named by the jury will ensure that all the corrections required by the jury are made.

Verdict 2. The thesis meets the requirements for the degree, but major corrections/revisions are required. The jury, in consultation with the thesis supervisor(s) must decide whether these revisions and corrections must be verified by the thesis supervisor(s) alone or by the thesis supervisor(s) and one or more examiners. 

Verdict 3. The thesis DOES NOT meet the requirements for the degree. The thesis must be amended and the evaluation process and defence before the same jury must be repeated. Verdict 3 is equivalent to a failure and will appear on the student’s transcript as a grade of NS (unsatisfactory). 

7.11.4.2  Split verdict

If the examiners cannot come to a unanimous decision, the following procedure shall be followed:
a) the chair of the jury will note each examiner’s verdict or, if requested by an examiner, a secret vote will be held;
b) if two or more examiners render Verdict 3, the chair will record Verdict 3 as the final decision;
c) in any other case, the chair will record Verdict 2 as the final decision and the jury, in consultation with the thesis supervisor(s) will decide what changes must be made to the thesis and who will be responsible for approving these changes.

7.11.4.3 Deadlines to submit major revisions and corrections

7.11.4.3.1 Verdict 2

7.11.4.3.1.1 The student must make the required revisions and corrections and submit the final version of the thesis within 120 days of the date of the thesis defence. The student must be enrolled for one term during this 120-day period.

7.11.4.3.1.2 If the student amends the thesis and these revisions are approved within 30 days, the student’s tuition for this period will be reimbursed. 

7.11.4.3.1.3 If the student does not submit the final version of the thesis within 120 days of the date of the thesis defence, the student’s transcript will reflect a grade of EIN (incomplete).

7.11.4.3.1.4 The student may request an extension of the 120-day period from the student’s faculty (or equivalent). This request must be submitted at least twenty (20) days before the deadline. The maximum extension period will be three consecutive terms following the date of the thesis defence. A grade of EIN (incomplete) will appear on the student’s transcript even if the extension is granted. The student must be enrolled in every term during the extension and must make satisfactory progress during each term. If the student fails to submit the thesis by the extended deadline, or the student fails to enrol, a second failing grade for the thesis (NS) will appear on the student’s transcript and the file will be closed.

7.11.4.3.2 Verdict 3

In the case of Verdict 3, the student must submit an amended thesis for evaluation within three consecutive terms of the original thesis defence. The student must be enrolled during these terms and must make satisfactory progress during each term. If the student fails to submit the amended thesis by the deadline, or the student fails to enrol, a second failing grade for the thesis (NS) will appear on the student’s transcript and the student’s file will be closed.

 

7.12. Second thesis defence, or defence of an amended thesis

7.12.1 The same jury will evaluate the amended thesis and hear its defence. The procedure to organize the re-evaluation and second defence is the same as the procedure that applies to the first defence. 

7.12.2 The possible verdicts that apply to a defence following the evaluation of the amended thesis are the same as those that apply to a second defence.

7.12.3 The possible verdicts for a second defence, or a defence following the evaluation of an amended thesis, are: 

Verdict 1. The thesis meets all the requirements of the degree, but minor corrections may be required. The thesis supervisor(s) will ensure that all corrections required by the jury are made. 

Verdict 2. The thesis meets the requirements of the degree, but major corrections/revisions are required. The jury, in consultation with the thesis supervisor(s), must decide who will ensure that the corrections and revisions are made, namely either the thesis supervisor(s) OR the thesis supervisor(s) and one or more examiners. 

Verdict 3. The thesis DOES NOT meet the requirements of the degree. Verdict 3 following a second thesis defence, or a defence of the thesis after revision of the thesis, is considered a failure (graded NS). The student is automatically withdrawn from the program and the student file is closed. 

7.12.4 In the case of verdicts 1 or 2 after a second thesis defence or after evaluation of the amended thesis, if the student does not submit the final version of the thesis within 120 days, a second thesis failure will be assigned and the student’s file will be closed. 

7.12.5 If the student decides not to proceed to a second thesis defence or a defence of the amended thesis, the student’s transcript will record a second failing grade (NS) and the student’s file will be closed.

7.13. Embargo on thesis publication

7.13.1 The University of Ottawa promotes the public and free distribution of research, including successfully defended theses. 

7.13.2 A student may request an embargo on public access to a thesis in certain circumstances, such as where publication of the thesis carries a significant risk of harm to individuals, when a patent is pending or when a delay is required for publication of the thesis. A request for an embargo must be completed, sent to and approved by the faculty (or equivalent) before the student submits the final electronic version of the thesis to uO Research. An embargo on thesis publication cannot be requested after the thesis has been submitted and approved online. 

7.13.3 In the case of confidential theses in accordance with this regulation, the student must request an embargo on access to the thesis for the period of time specified in the confidentiality agreement. 

7.13.4 An embargo is for a precise and limited time period, be it a year, two years or five years. Any request for a five-year embargo must be clearly substantiated and will only be approved in exceptional circumstances.

 

7.14. Final submission of the thesis after a successful defence

7.14.1 Once the student has successfully defended the thesis and made any necessary corrections, the student must submit the final version of the thesis electronically to uO Research, the University of Ottawa’s institutional repository.  Once the thesis is submitted to uO Research, it becomes freely available online although the student retains the copyright to it. 

7.14.2 No student may be recommended for graduation until an acceptable final version of the thesis has been submitted electronically to uO Research and approved by the student’s faculty.

7.15. Appeals

The jury’s decisions are final. The dean (or delegate) of the faculty (or equivalent) offering the program will only hear appeals on procedural grounds.

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