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So You're Writing A Masters Thesis (At the U of A)

posted Jul 20, 2008, 10:36 AM by Brian Tanner
This is a document I created in 2005 when I was putting my Masters together at the University of Alberta.  It might not be in great shape anymore, but I'll post it, and if its wrong, please let me know and I'll update it.

So, you’re writing a Masters thesis


I just spoke with Edith about the ins and outs about scheduling and organizing a Masters thesis defense.  Things are pretty straight-forward, but I wanted to write it all down in the hopes that it might save someone else some time.

Also, the most helpful URL I have for you is from the FGSR website, it has many details about the thesis and defense.

Finally, I’ve put this together for your benefit, but at the same time I take no responsibility for it. If I lied in here, or made a mistake, I will not be held responsible for the consequences.

Time Line

3.5-4 weeks

This is how long you need between finishing your thesis and having your defense.  It seems that this cannot be shortened, so if you want to defend at some particular time, make sure your thesis is *done* 4 weeks before that.

If you want to graduate in the fall (and/or start a Ph.D in September), then you can defend your thesis as late as mid-September.  You need to get your final, revised, thesis and all of the paperwork to FGSR NO LATER than October 3rd.  It is better to finish before the end of August.  If you can’t defend in August, your life is not over --> you CAN start your Ph.D courses in September and everything is fine as long as you make the October 3rd deadline.
What to do

  1. There is a form you need to get from Edith Drummond.  You need to fill this out and get it to her around the 4 week mark before your defense.  You’ll also need to supply Edith with an abstract when you submit this form.

  2. You need 3 committee members.  2 can be from within the department (at least 1 of these should be your supervisor), and 1 needs to be external to the department.  Must be from a different academic unit within the university. 

    Note: It is your supervisors responsibility to contact the committee members and schedule the defense.  You should discuss it first, but this is on them.  The reason (I’m led to believe by certain documents I read) is as follows: If someone makes a mistake and there is a problem with protocol, it should not be your fault, it should be your supervisor’s fault.

  3. Get your thesis to your committee 3 weeks before your defense.  This doesn’t have to be professionally bound or anything fancy; just get something that looks good to them 3 weeks before your defense, so they have adequate time to read it.

  4. You need to schedule a seminar.  This is a 1 hour talk, about a week before your defense.  It seems that there are no major constraints here, pick a time that works for you.  Get an electronic copy of your title and abstract to Karen at least a week before so she can announce it to the department.

  5. You need to schedule your defense.  Again, no major constraints.  As long as it works for you and your committee, things are fine.  It’s going to take a couple of hours, so don’t schedule it over lunch. The department will supply someone to chair the examination.

  6. Get an extra copy of your thesis to the chair a couple days before the defense so that the chair can look it over.

  7. Bring extra copies (5-8) of the signing sheet to your defense.  (I don’t know what the signing sheet is, but Edith told me this.)

That’s it.
If you have any questions, ask someone else and then tell me the answer and maybe I’ll keep this document up to date. :)