8.7 Thesis-based Master's Program Supervision and Examinations
Master’s Supervisory Committee
Master’s candidates must have a supervisor (see “Appointment of a Supervisor”). It is not an FGSR requirement to have a supervisory committee; however some departments may require them.
Master's Examining Committee Composition
Before nominating the supervisor or examining committee, ensure that eligibility criteria, conflict of interest, and teleconferencing guidelines have been met.
Minimum three faculty member examiners:
- At least one from outside the department (see “Internal/External Examiners”).
- Roles of the three faculty members can be in almost any combination. Examples: co-supervisors; a co-supervisor who is also the internal-external; supervisor from outside the department.
- Must be chaired by a faculty member from inside the department
- All members must attend the examination, which includes members participating through teleconferencing (see “Attendance at Examinations”).
It is the responsibility of the supervisor to ensure that:
- proper arrangements are made for the candidate's examination
- the exam is scheduled and held in accordance with FGSR regulations
- the candidate is not required to make these arrangements
In the absence of the supervisor, these responsibilities shall be carried out by the graduate coordinator or designate. It is the responsibility of the department to keep committee members informed of meetings of the committee and details of examinations.
Master's Time Lines and Approval of the Final Oral Examining Committee
At least three weeks prior to the final oral examination, it is the responsibility of the department to:
- recommend names of all members of the final oral examining committee and forward them to the FGSR for approval on a Notice and Approval of a Master’s Final Oral Examining Committee form. The form is available at www.gradstudies.ualberta.ca (Exams & Convocation).
- notify the examiners of the examination date
- supply examiners with a copy of the thesis so that they may have adequate time to appraise the thesis
Changing a Final Examining Committee
The department recommends revisions to the final examining committee by completing a Notice and Approval of a Master’s Final Oral Examining Committee form and submitting it to the FGSR.
The committee will review the thesis and conduct an oral examination designed to test the candidate's knowledge of the thesis subject and of related fields. The language used to conduct the final oral examination shall be English. However, the committee may petition the Dean, FGSR, and on receiving written approval, may conduct the examination in a language other than English.
Attendance at a Master’s examination
Except for the Dean, FGSR (or Vice-Dean or Associate Dean or pro dean), who may participate fully in the examination, persons other than the examiners may attend only with the approval of the Dean, FGSR, or the chair of the committee. Visitors may not participate in the committee's discussion concerning its decision on the student's performance and must withdraw before such discussion commences (see “Attendance at Examinations” and “Attendance of Pro Dean at Examinations”).
Decision of the Master's Final Examination Committee
The decision of the examining committee will be based both on the content of the thesis and on the candidate's ability to defend it.
Normally, if all but one member of the committee agree on a decision, the decision shall be that of the majority. The dissenting committee member does not have to sign. If two or more dissenting votes are recorded, the department will refer the matter to the Vice-Dean, FGSR, who will determine an appropriate course of action.
One of the following outcomes of the final oral examination is appropriate:
- Pass subject to revisions
There is no provision for a final oral examination to be "passed subject to major revisions".
Pass: If the student passes the examination, the department shall complete a Thesis Approval/Program Completion form and submit it to the FGSR. The form is available on the FGSR website at www.gradstudies.ualberta.ca (Exams & Convocation).
Pass subject to revisions: The student has satisfactorily defended the thesis but the revisions to the thesis are sufficiently minor that it will not require a reconvening of the examining committee. The department shall complete a Thesis Approval/Program Completion form and submit it to the FGSR indicating "pass subject to revisions". It is expected that the student will make the changes in time to submit the thesis to the FGSR on or before the deadline for the next convocation. These changes should be checked and approved by the committee chair or supervisor, who does not sign until the required changes are satisfactorily completed. Other committee members may also wish to withhold their signature until they can verify that their required revisions have been made to their satisfaction.
Adjourned: The final oral examination should be adjourned in the following situations:
- The revisions to the thesis are sufficiently substantial (if further research or experimentation or major reworking of sections are required, or if the committee is not satisfied with the general presentation of the thesis) that it will require a reconvening of the examining committee. The committee should not propose that the candidate has passed, rather the committee shall adjourn the examination.
- The committee is dissatisfied with the candidate's oral presentation and defence of the thesis, even if the thesis itself is acceptable with or without minor revisions.
- Compelling, extraordinary circumstances such as a sudden medical emergency during the examination.
If the examination is adjourned, the committee should:
- Specify in writing to the student, with as much precision as possible, the nature of the deficiencies and, in the case of revisions to the thesis, the extent of the revisions required. Where the oral defence is unsatisfactory, it may be necessary to arrange some discussion periods with the candidate prior to reconvening the examination.
- Decide upon a date to reconvene. If the date of the reconvened oral examination depends upon the completion of a research task or a series of discussions, it should be made clear which committee members will decide on the appropriate date to reconvene. The final date set for reconvening shall be no later than six months from the date of the examination. A final decision of the examining committee must be made within six months of the initial examination. (FGSR Council, 1988/04/15)
- Make it clear to the student what will be required by way of approval before the examination is reconvened (eg, approval of the committee chair or supervisor, approval of the entire committee, or of select members of the committee).
- Specify the supervision and assistance the student may expect from the committee members in meeting the necessary revisions.
- Advise the Vice-Dean, FGSR in writing of the adjournment and the conditions.
- When the date is set for the adjourned final oral examination, the department will notify the FGSR. Normally the Dean, Vice-Dean, Associate Dean or Pro Dean attends the examination.
Fail: If the final examination committee agrees that the student has failed, the committee chair shall provide the reasons for this recommendation and the department's recommendation for the student's program in writing to the Vice-Dean, FGSR and to the student. The Vice-Dean, FGSR will arrange to meet with the candidate and with department representatives before acting upon any department recommendation. A decision of the FGSR which affects a student's academic standing (ie, required to withdraw) is appealable.
Signatures on the Master's Thesis
Note: In March 2009, the FGSR implemented a new Thesis Approval/Program Completion form, replacing signature pages in the thesis. The same guidelines below apply.
Many departments adhere to the following guidelines in having members of the examining committee sign the thesis signature page:
Pass: Thesis is approved as is. Examining committee members sign the signature page immediately. (If one of the examiners fails the student but the student passes, that examiner does not have to sign the thesis.)
Pass subject to revisions: Members wishing to do so may sign immediately. The committee chair or supervisor withholds signature until the thesis is amended satisfactorily and all other committee members have signed. If problems arise in the amendment process, the chair or supervisor may wish to solicit opinions from the other committee members.
Adjourned: No member of the committee signs the signature page.
Fail: No member of the committee signs the signature page.
In cases where the Chair is not a member of the examining committee, the Chair’s name does not appear on the thesis signature page, nor does the Chair sign it.
Time Limit for Submission of Theses to FGSR
Following completion of the final oral examination at which the thesis is passed or passed subject to revisions, the candidate shall make the appropriate revisions where necessary and submit the approved thesis to the FGSR within six months of the date of the final oral examination. Departments may impose earlier deadlines for submitting revisions.
If the thesis is not submitted to the FGSR within the six-month time limit, the candidate will be considered to have withdrawn from the program. After this time, the candidate must apply and be re-admitted to the FGSR and register again before the thesis can be accepted.
If the final oral examination is adjourned, the six-month time limit will take effect from the date of completion of the examination where the thesis was passed with or without revisions.
(FGSR Council, 1988/04/15)
In order to convocate, students must submit their thesis to the FGSR for approval before the deadline dates set out in the Academic Schedule of the Calendar. Students must also ensure that they are registered in Thesis in their last registration prior to convocation (see "Thesis Requirements").