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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

MSc Thesis Submission & Defense

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

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

Initial Thesis Submission

Formal MSc 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 thesis content is that although FGS regulations do not require that the content of an MSc thesis be publishable in a scientific journal, the expectation of the Department of Physics and Astronomy is that all MSc projects should have the goal of a publishable final result. Given the short time frame of an MSc, it is sometimes the case that the goal of a publishable result is not achieved, but we expect most of our MSc theses to be publishable, and the final defense process tends to go much more smoothly when this is the case.

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/she 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 one month 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 5 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 MSc Defense

The MSc defense is somewhat similar in structure to the Annual supervisory committee meetings, only much more formalized and expanded. The defense lasts no more than 2 hours, with an examining committee consisting of:

  • A neutral chair
  • The supervisor
  • A minimum of two departmental faculty members (the supervisory committee members)
  • An internal-external examiner

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 completed 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, signed the necessary forms, and the supervisor or committee is satisfied that all required revisions have been satisfactorily completed, 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 and the final thesis is uploaded to the Vault.  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 outcome determined by the thesis result.

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 uploading your thesis to the Vault, 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:

Octavia Book Bindery
1040 – 8th Ave SW
Calgary AB T2P 1J2
Telephone (587) 700 - 6575

For help with expense claims, please visit the Integrated Service Centre (ISC):

Integrated Service Centre (ISC)

MLT 107 (Ground Floor) Main Campus


Telephone: (403) 220-5611   Email:

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