You will want to start with finding details on the research interests of professors on the websites of faculties, schools and institutes.
Find a thesis supervisor
A professor must be authorized by a Faculty to supervise theses.
You will want to start with finding details on the research interests of professors on the websites of faculties, schools and institutes. A professor must be authorized by a Faculty to supervise theses.
Before thinking about a supervisor, students should make sure they are committing to the area of study that most interests them. They should ask themselves whether they are enthusiastic enough about a topic area to sustain this enthusiasm over the period of time it will take to prepare the thesis. Speaking to students and professors who do research in the proposed area of study will help clarify the students thoughts. The students should make sure they are well-informed before they approach any potential supervisors.
Some academic units assign an interim supervisor to all students who do not have a definite thesis supervisor and topic at the time of admission. The interim supervisor helps acquaint a student with the research interests of professors in the academic unit and also helps identify the most suitable thesis supervisor.
A professor is not obligated to take on a student if he or she feels the match-up would not be a good one, or if the professor lacks lab space, time or funding.
A student may have more than one supervisor. When mention is made of the thesis supervisor, it is implicit that there may be a co-supervisor.
From theuoZoneApplication tab, click Candidate Center to create a service request and appoint a thesis supervisor.
Before a student begins researching and writing a thesis, the supervisor and the student should have a detailed discussion of expectations and requirements. Below are examples of general and specific issues to be discussed during the preliminary meetings with the potential supervisor.
As soon as possible, the student should obtain ethics approvals or any other required approvals to conduct research. The student should discuss with the thesis supervisor and visit the Office of Research Ethics and Integrity Website.
The student and the supervisor should plan to meet regularly whether or not the student has any finished work to show to the supervisor.
If it is a major meeting, the student should draw up and deliver to the supervisor an agenda beforehand. If the meeting is to discuss text that has already been written, the student must send the draft well in advance of the meeting.
After the meeting, and based on this agenda, the student prepares a brief report on what was discussed and decided, and shares this report with the supervisor.
It is important to be productive at these major meetings, but it is also crucial to just keep in touch.
Components of a typical agenda
a summary of the purpose of the meeting
a review of what was discussed at the previous meeting and what has been accomplished to date
a discussion and clarification of the current topics, ideas and issues
next steps as a result of this discussion
agree with a date for the next meeting
All along during the thesis preparation process, a student will receive feedback and should expect to do revisions. Revising a thesis based on feedback from the thesis supervisor, advisory committee and from the examiners is an important part of the thesis preparation process.
Part of the advancement of knowledge that preparing a thesis fosters involves engaging in dialogue and learning from these discussions, learning how to communicate clearly, and responding appropriately to suggestions for improvement
Already a student?
It’s possible for you to view a list of professors authorized to supervise theses by connecting to Canadidate Centre (uoZone).
A joint management with a teacher in another discipline may be considered if the research project of a student is favoured. If so, the student, with help if needed from the interim advisor, should investigate the possibilities. Some professors are allowed to supervise graduate students in more than one academic unit.
A doctoral student may prepare a thesis under the joint supervision of a professor at the University of Ottawa and a professor at another university. This student would obtain a degree from both institutions. The thesis evaluation and defence process follows the procedures of the student’s home university, but the student spends a minimum of one year of study at the partner university.
In many academic units, a thesis committee is assembled as soon as a student finds a thesis supervisor. Please note that not all academic units have thesis committees, the students must check on the protocol in their own academic unit.
Constitution of the committee
How the thesis committee is formed varies from academic unit to academic unit. The thesis supervisor plays the biggest role by approaching colleagues who have the expertise and inviting them to join the committee.
A thesis committee is made up of:
the thesis supervisor, and
usually at least two other professors.
The thesis supervisor is usually the chair of the thesis committee.
Role of the committee
The roles and responsibilities of thesis committees vary, but members of a thesis committee should do the following: provide guidance to the student on thesis planning, research and writing; be available to discuss ideas or for consultation on any other matter related to the thesis; and, if this is the practice within the discipline, evaluate the thesis after submission.
Thesis committees meet according to a schedule set either by the academic unit or by the committee itself. Meetings usually take place every 6 or 12 months and the student is usually responsible for initiating them. When concerns about the progress of the research arise, the supervisor and/or academic unit may require meetings at more frequent intervals.
Some supervisors and students have contracts or agreements to formalize the expectations and delineate the responsibilities in the preparation of a thesis.
These agreements set out the expectations of the student and supervisor in relation to many of the issues covered in this Website section and help avoid conflict and misunderstandings.
A student should not make assumptions about who will do what in the research and who gets credit for any new discoveries or inventions. A supervisor should not assume the supervised student is aware of any assumptions the supervisor has or any authorship or credit protocols that may exist in the area of research.
Professors who use contracts do so because they have found such agreements are a good tool for helping students achieve their goals and finish their theses. However, while a written agreement can be very useful, one of the keys to a successful supervisor–student relationship is good communication and mutual trust. Both sides need to foster and build on that.
Sometimes a potential supervisor is approached by a student looking for a thesis supervisor and both the student and professor agree it would be a good match, but the professor is going on an academic leave partway through the period in which the student will be preparing this thesis and won’t be back until the student is almost done writing. In this situation, if the student and professor agree that supervision would still be possible, the supervisor would have to keep in touch with the student during the study period. The supervisor might also be able to arrange for a colleague to supervise the student during the leave period. Or perhaps joint supervision would be a solution.
A supervisor who is going to be away for a month or even a couple of weeks while supervising a student’s thesis should let the student know well in advance. The same goes for the student. The student should discuss this with the thesis supervisor well ahead of time. In case of illness, the student should let the supervisor know the expected timeline for recovery.
If the student is planning to suspend work on the thesis for a term or more, for whatever reason, the student needs to apply for and receive approval for a leave of absence. Please note that absence has an impact on eligibility for funding.
As a student, the development of professional skills—for example, communicating appropriately in writing and in person, responding promptly to e-mails, coming prepared to meetings, following up after meetings, respecting deadlines, tracking changes to the text so that it is easy for the supervisor to review each draft after revisions—is important in the preparation of the thesis. Some faculties offer courses in professional skills.
If the student feels aspects of the supervisor’s behavior are unprofessional, he or she should consult the graduate program director or the chair of the academic unit.
As for changing supervisors partway through a thesis, this is not recommended. Keep in mind that as long as the thesis is logical and the conclusions drawn from the data are valid, the student and the supervisor do not need to be in total agreement on methodology, analysis or interpretation.
The thesis committee may be able to fill in whatever gaps the student perceives in the relationship with the supervisor. If the research goes off in an unexpected direction, one that is not very familiar to the thesis supervisor, the student could see what opportunities are available and what guidelines the academic unit has for this situation. The student could consider joint supervision as an alternative to finding a new supervisor.
If the student has explored all other options and still wish to change supervisors, he or she should talk to the graduate program director. If the supervisor happens to be the graduate program director, the student should talk to the chair of the academic unit. If the student remains uncertain or dissatisfied, he or she should talk to the vice-dean graduate studies of his/her home faculty. Beyond that, the student can talk to the university ombudsperson. The student can request that the exchanges with any or all of these individuals (directors, vice-dean, ombudsperson) remain confidential.
The student should be sure to explore options carefully before withdrawing from the supervisory arrangement—a student who terminates the relationship with a supervisor before finding another supervisor may have difficulty securing another supervisor and compromise the thesis project.