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Rothney Astrophysical Observatory

Fac. of Science IT Support

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Department of Physics and Astronomy

Science B 605
University of Calgary
2500 University Dr NW
Calgary, AB T2N 1N4 Canada
Tel: (403) 220-5385

Gerri Evans

Graduate Application Enquiries
Tel: (403) 220-3618

Tracy Korsgaard

Graduate Program Coordinator
Tel: (403) 220-3617

PhD Thesis Submission & Defense

Scheduling a PHD Thesis Oral Examination - Regulations PRIOR to September 1, 2014

Scheduling a PHD Thesis Oral Examination - Regulations effective September 1, 2014

Initial Thesis Submission

Formal PhD Defense

Final Thesis Submission

As you approach the completion of your research project(s), you need to start thinking about writing, submission, and defense of your thesis. Your first step should always be to sit down with your supervisor to discuss whether or not you are ready to write-up your thesis, and the content of the thesis. You and your supervisor may choose to have a final supervisory committee meeting to approve the content and writing of the thesis.

One final note about your preparation for writing the thesis is that although there is no regulation requiring you to publish your thesis material in a scientific journal before defense, it is highly recommended that you have at least part of the material published in advance. This is because the regulations do require that a PhD thesis contains novel and publishable results. The examination committee is mandated to confirm that the material is publishable before passing the candidate, and the easiest way for you to be able to demonstrate this is to point at your publications. If you have not yet published the material, then you will have to proove to the committee that it will be accepted for publication in the future.

Once agreement has been reached that the thesis is ready to be written up, it is now up to the candidate to actually write the thesis. The supervisor will provide advice and feedback, and he can read over the chapters as they are written, but the candidate must actually write the thesis. FGS guidelines do not control the content or order of presentation of the material; however, they strongly control the style of the thesis (e.g. page layout, figure captioning, tables of contents, figures, and tables, footnoting and endnoting, etc.). If you are using LaTEX to write your thesis the U. of C. thesis style-file can be downloaded, which will ensure that your thesis meets guidelines. However, LaTEX is not required so you can choose to write up using another program, but you will have to consult the style guidelines to ensure that your formatting follows all regulations. As you approach completion of your thesis, approximately two months before your planned defense date, you need to start the formal thesis submission and defense process.

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Initial Thesis Submission

When you are ready to start the submission process your supervisor should contact the Graduate Program Coodinator, Tracy Korsgaard, in Science B 605 or download the check-list of steps required to prepare to defend your thesis (see links at the top of the page).

No less than seven weeks before your proposed defense date your supervisor must finalize the external examiner (external to the university) for your defense. At this time your supervisor  must submit to the department the name, affiliation, birthdate, mailing address, and current CV of the examiner. This information will be passed on to the Faculty of Graduate Studies for their approval. Remember externals must have no involvement in your research project.

No less than five weeks before your proposed Defense date, your supervisor must submit to the department the proposed defense date, time, and location; the name of the internal-external examiner and the full title of the thesis.

Faculty of Graduate Studies policy is that the thesis should be delivered to the examining committee no less than three weeks before the exam date. The student delivers copies of the thesis to each of the exam committee members on or before this date. These copies can be submitted in paper form or emailed.  Please check with your committee as to how they would prefer to read your theis.  Please remember that the thesis must follow all style guidelines, including single-sided printing, at this stage.

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Formal PhD Defense

The PhD defense is somewhat similar in structure to the Candidacy Exam, only even more formalized and expanded. The defense lasts no more than 2 hours, with an examining committee consisting of:

  • The Supervisor
  • Supervisory Committee Members
  • Internal External Examiner.  Often one of the same examiners who filled this role in the Candidacy Exam.
  • External Examiner - a scientist from another institution who is an expert in your field of study but has played no role in your particular research project and is not a collaborator of you or your supervisor.

At present, all PHAS final defense exams are open except for the deliberations.  At the appointed time, the exam will commence with the candidate being asked to leave the room. This is not a reason for concern, but normal procedure. The committee is simply reviewing the candidate's file and discussing administrative matters, and the chair is collecting the completed "report on the written thesis" forms from the committee members. The candidate is then invited back into the room and usually asked to give a 15 to 20 minute presentation on their research. It is permitted for the candidate to choose not to give this presentation, but this is not normal practice in PHAS.

Following the presentation, the committee asks questions of the candidate. These questions will focus on the research project, although they will also deal with the physics underlying the research. Once all committee members have competed their questions the candidate is again asked to leave the room, while the committee determines the result of the exam, which is announced to the candidate, marking the conclusion of the examination.

The committee may pass the exam and thesis, with minor revisions to be dealt with by the supervisor and candidate, or they can require more major revisions that must be approved by the full committee. They can also fail the exam and/or the thesis, requiring a re-examination or re-submission within 6 months. In principle, an outright fail is also possible, but this is very rare.

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Final Thesis Submission

Once the examination committee has passed the candidate, signing the necessary forms, and the supervisor or committee is satisfied that all required revisions have been satisfactorily completed, and signed all the necessary forms then there is only one step left to complete, that is formal submission of the thesis. A degree is only considered complete once the Faculty of Graduate Studies has received all necessary paperwork, Thesis Approval Form and a copy of your theis is uploaded to the Vault (online theses repository).  Note that this must be completed by the relevant deadlines in September, January, and May to avoid being required to pay the fees for an additional term as well as the deadline imposed on the final result of your thesis.

All of the forms and requirements for paper and e-submission can be found on the Faculty of Graduate Studies Website.  Please visit the link below.

In addition to the unbound copy to FGS, the candidate is responsible for getting hard-bound copies made for the department, the Supervisor, and for him or herself. The department will pay the costs associated with the binding of these copies. Students will submit a personal expense claim for reimbursement.  If any additional copies are required, it is up to the supervisor and candidate to agree on who will pay the costs.

The hard-bound copies, as well as the unbound copy delivered to FGS, should be printed single-sided on bond paper in the department.   The actual binding can be done at Imagine Printing on campus. 

Once you have submitted the official copy of the thesis and sent the other copies out for binding, then, believe it or not, you have completed your degree and will convocate in the upcoming spring or fall ceremony. Congratulations, you are finished!

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