8 Graduate Student Supervision

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​​​​​​​​​​​8.1 Thesis Topic and Supervision​​

A thesis is a piece of scholarly writing. ​In those degree programs for which a thesis is part of the requirements, the work upon which the thesis is based must be conducted under the direction of one or more members of the faculty of the School of Graduate Studies.

A student must choose a thesis topic for which the graduate unit in which he or she is registered is able to provide adequate supervision.

A student's choice of thesis topic, as well as his or her choice of supervisor from among the graduate faculty members available in the graduate unit and supervisory committee, is subject to the approval of the graduate unit in which the student is registered.

​​​​​​​​​​​8.2 Doctoral Supervision​

While the special, collaborative relationship between student and supervisor serves as a foundation for graduate education, particularly at the doctoral level, the primary responsibility for graduate programs and their supervision rests with the graduate unit. The Chair of the graduate unit has the principal obligation and authority for exercising these responsibilities, in accordance with the Constitution of the School of Graduate Studies, and, therefore, for implementing the academic and procedural standards established in the School of Graduate Studies.

Although this calendar outlines procedures to be followed in the supervision of doctoral students, it is clear that these have general applicability for all graduate students to some degree. It is essential that students have access to information relevant to their graduate program of studies, in all domains.

Thus, each graduate unit will provide students with documentation that provides details of all procedures involved with graduate training, a list of members of the graduate faculty with relevant information concerning their participation, fields of expertise and supervision, and access to the document Graduate Supervision: Guidelines for Students, Faculty, and Administrators​ (PDF).

In addition, updated statements must be made available to students on a regular basis. These will include the availability of financial assistance, and relevant information to affected students about the expected absences of their supervisor(s) and/or advisor(s).

Any doctoral student who believes that his or her graduate unit is not following the supervision guidelines may inform his or her Coordinator of Graduate Studies or the Vice-Dean, Students, of the School of Graduate Studies.

The academic experience is greatly enhanced if members of the academic faculty, in addition to the direct supervisor, are readily and formally available for consultation and discussion with the graduate student. Therefore, an individual thesis supervisory committee or, as an alternative, an area supervisory committee, should be struck as early as possible for each graduate student, and certainly from the commencement of thesis supervision.

The graduate unit is responsible for adopting a procedure for monitoring the progress of doctoral students registered in its programs. Consistent with the document Graduate Supervision: Guidelines for Students, Faculty, and Administrators​ (PDF), the procedure must contain, at minimum, a supervisory committee that:

  1. consists of the supervisor, chosen from among the graduate faculty members of the graduate unit in which the student is registered, and at least two graduate faculty members;

  2. meets with the student at least once per year to assess the student's progress in the program and to provide advice on future work; and

  3. submits a report detailing its observations of the student's progress and its recommendations.

Further, the student must be given the opportunity to respond to the supervisory committee's report and recommendations and to append a response to the committee's report. Copies of the report must be given to the student and filed with the graduate unit.

​​​​​​​​​​​8.3 Doctoral Final Oral Examination

All doctoral students must defend a thesis at a Final Oral Examination organized by the graduate unit with the cooperation of the School of Graduate Studies, as follows:

  1. The candidate shall defend the thesis at a Final Oral Examination organized by the graduate unit with the cooperation of SGS. The process of scheduling the examination, allowing time for professional appraisal, can be expected to take at least eight weeks at the best of times, and candidates should discuss the timing with the graduate administration of their unit. Candidates should also ascertain whether their unit imposes regulations over and above the minimal conditions required by SGS.

  2. ​The graduate unit will notify SGS eight weeks prior to the examination when the thesis is ready to go forward for examination. In the absence of any particular local procedure, the candidate's supervising committee will advise SGS that the thesis is ready to proceed. In rare cases, a thesis may proceed to examination without the approval of the supervising committee; candidates who wish to proceed without such approval should contact the SGS Vice-Dean, Programs.

  3. ​The thesis will be sent to an appraiser external to the University of Toronto, appointed by SGS on the recommendation of the graduate unit. (The supervisor of the thesis will propose a list of three or more names of possible external appraisers to the Graduate Coordinator or Chair, who will choose one and send the recommendation to SGS for approval. The graduate unit will certify that the external appraiser has an arm's-length relationship to the candidate and supervisor.) The external appraiser must be a recognized expert on the subject of the thesis and must be external to the University as well as to its affiliated teaching hospitals and research institutes. Such an individual must be an associate or full professor at the home institution or, if the individual comes from outside the academic sector, must possess the qualifications to be appointed to an academic position at this level. Arrangements with external appraisers are the responsibility of the graduate unit. In particular, the graduate unit must allow the external appraiser sufficient time to act. The graduate unit must have a copy of the thesis delivered to the appraiser at least six weeks, and preferably longer, in advance of the examination date. Appraisals must be submitted to SGS at least two weeks in advance of the examination date; if they are not, the examination may have to be rescheduled. The graduate unit must also ensure that copies of the thesis are made available to all other voting members of the examination committee at least four weeks in advance of the examination date.

  4. An examination committee, appointed by SGS on the recommendation of the graduate unit, will conduct the Final Oral Examination. The examination committee must include at least four, but no more than six, voting members: one to three of the voting members will have served on the candidate's supervisory committee, and at least two voting members will not have been closely involved in the supervision of the thesis. Eligible for inclusion in the latter group are the external appraiser (in person or by audio connection), members of the graduate faculty of the candidate's graduate unit, and members of the graduate faculty of other departments, centres, or institutes of the University. The examination committee may include, in addition, up to two non-voting members, who will be members of the graduate faculty of the candidate's graduate unit or members of the graduate faculty of another graduate unit of the University. A quorum is four voting members, two of whom must not have been closely involved in the supervision of the thesis. Graduate units must ascertain in advance the willingness of the persons named to act. The SGS Vice-Dean, Programs, may modify the composition of the examination committee to fit exceptional circumstances.

  5. SGS will appoint a non-voting chair to the examination committee. The chair will be a full member or member emeritus of the graduate faculty, holding no appointment to the graduate faculty of the candidate's graduate unit.

  6. The graduate unit is responsible for scheduling the examination, booking a room, and making appropriate technical arrangements.

  7. The graduate unit must submit to SGS, via ROSI, a Certificate of Completion together with the nomination form con- firming completion of all other academic requirements, such as language and field requirements; an abstract of the thesis not longer than 350 words; and a copy of the examination program.

  8. The graduate unit will send a copy of the external appraisal of the thesis to SGS as soon as it is received. The graduate unit is responsible for the distribution of copies of the external appraisal to the candidate (two weeks before the examination) and members of the examination committee. It should not be distributed beyond that group and the relevant administrative officers before the examination. The candidate is to be instructed not to communicate with the external appraiser/examiner until the examination is under way.

  9. Members of the graduate faculty are entitled to attend the examination, and with the permission of the Chair, they may ask questions of the candidate, but they must withdraw before the committee's discussion and vote. A qualified observer may attend, subject to the same restrictions, if the graduate unit has received approval for such attendance in writing beforehand from the SGS Vice-Dean, Programs. Otherwise, the examination is closed to the public. The vote at the examination takes into account both the thesis and the oral defence itself.

  10. The examination committee represents the SGS Graduate Education Council and through it the University. It is therefore responsible for the standard of the doctoral degree in this University. Graduate unit examinations held immediately in advance of the final oral must not therefore interfere with attendance at, or thoroughness of, the final examination. The committee must evaluate the external appraisal of the thesis, which is to be considered only as an individual opinion to be employed as the committee sees fit. It must examine the candidate on the content and implications of the thesis. Where someone other than the candidate is a co-author of any portion of the thesis, the examination committee must be satisfied that the candidate's personal contribution to the thesis is sufficient to fulfil the requirements of the doctoral degree. In addition to determining the adequacy of the thesis, the committee must satisfy itself that the thesis document meets the proper standards of scholarship. The committee possesses the full authority of the School of Graduate Studies with respect to the examination.

  11. A quorum for the final examination is four voting members, two of whom must not have been closely involved in the thesis, plus the examination committee chair, who has no vote. Voting shall be by signed ballot, and the names of the examiners and their respective votes shall be read to the examination committee by the Chair. If a quorum is not present, the Chair may delay the examination to obtain a quorum or may postpone the examination to another date.

  12. The candidate passes on the first examination:
    a. ​if the decision is unanimous;
    b. or ​if there is not more than one negative vote or abstention.

    ​If there is more than one negative vote or abstention, adjournment is mandatory. In the event of adjournment, the examination committee must provide the candidate, as soon as possible, with a written statement that indicates the reasons for adjournment and the committee's requirements for the reconvened oral examination. In addition, the examination committee must decide the approximate date of the reconvened examination. The time between the adjourned examination and the reconvened examination should be as short as circumstances will permit and in no case shall exceed one year.

    At the reconvened examination, no new committee members shall be added, except for necessary replacements. It is the obligation of the examiners to attend the reconvened examination.

    The candidate passes on the reconvened examination:
    a. if the decision is unanimous;
    b. or if there is not more than one negative vote or abstention.

    No further adjournment will be allowed. If a candidate is not recommended for the degree by the committee in charge of the second examination, the candidate is ineligible for further doctoral candidacy at the University. The examination committee must provide the candidate, as soon as possible, with a written statement that explains clearly and directly why the examiners found the candidate's performance unsatisfactory on the written and/ or oral components of the examination, as may be relevant.

  13. If minor corrections in style are a condition of acceptance of the thesis, the candidate must complete the corrections within one month of the date of the examination, and the supervisor will inform the candidate of the necessary corrections. The supervisor must notify the School of Graduate Studies directly in writing that the required corrections have been made by the candidate, with a copy of the correspondence sent to the Graduate Coordinator of the graduate unit, before the candidate is recommended for the degree.

  14. If minor modifications are a condition of acceptance of the thesis, the Chair of the examination committee will appoint a subcommittee of the examination committee (to be approved by the examination committee) to supervise the proposed modifications. One member of the subcommittee is designated by the Chair, with the approval of the examination committee, as the convenor. The convenor will be responsible for the preparation of a statement detailing the modifications required. Modifications must be completed within three months of the date of the oral examination. The members of the subcommittee will report on the acceptability of the completed modifications to the convenor. If all members of the subcommittee approve the completed modification, the candidate will be passed without the necessity of reconvening the examination committee. The convenor of the subcommittee must certify in writing to the School of Graduate Studies, within three months of the original examination, that the modifications have or have not been satisfactorily completed. If one or more members of the subcommittee do not approve the completed modifications, the Final Oral Examination must be reconvened within a year of the date of the original examination.
    The examination committee must decide the nature of minor modifications, but it is intended that minor modi​fications should be more than corrections in style and less than major changes in the thesis. A typical example of minor modifications might be clarification of textual material or qualification of research findings and conclusions.

  15. ​​The format of the submitted thesis must comply with the School of Graduate Studies guidelines.

  16. SGS requires that every doctoral thesis be published substantially as it is accepted. It is the intention of the University of Toronto that there be no restriction on the distribution and publication of theses. However, in exceptional cases, the author, in consultation with the thesis supervisor and with the approval of the Chair of the graduate unit, shall have the right to postpone distribution and publication for a period up to two years from the date of acceptance of the thesis. In exceptional circumstances and on written petition to the Dean of the School of Graduate Studies, the period might be extended, but in no case for more than five years from the date of acceptance of the thesis unless approved by the SGS Graduate Education Council.

For further details, students should consult the Producing Your Thesis section of the SGS website.

​​​​​​​​​​​8.4 Submission of Theses​

One electronic copy of the final approved version of the defended thesis (master's or doctoral) must be submitted to SGS through the digital research repository for the University of Toronto community (www.etdadmin.com/toronto).

All theses will be submitted to the national thesis program at Library and Archives Canada, and theses will be made publicly available on the Theses Canada Portal. This program makes theses available to ProQuest, which in turn makes theses available for purchase on its ProQuest Dissertations and Theses Database and includes the catalogue records in its bibliographic services.

It is the intention of the University of Toronto that there will be no restriction on the distribution and publication of theses. The preservation and public dissemination of original dissertation research is a principle to which the University, as a publicly funded institute of higher education, is strongly committed. Unrestricted release of theses means permanent worldwide access through the Internet. Students retain copyright on the thesis as the thesis author.

However, in exceptional cases, the author, in consultation with the thesis supervisor and with the approval of the Chair of the graduate unit, shall have the right to postpone distribution and publication for a period of up to two years from the date of acceptance of the thesis. In exceptional circumstances, and on written petition to the Dean of the School of Graduate Studies, the period might be extended, but in no case for more than five years from the date of acceptance of the thesis, unless approved by the Graduate Education Council.

Students must agree to the Library and Archives Canada Theses Non-exclusive License when making an electronic submission; any necessary copyright permissions will be uploaded to the digital research repository at this time.​

Specific formatting guidelines must be followed so that theses conform to the requirements of SGS and for the publication of the thesis. Theses that do not conform to these formatting guidelines will not be accepted. For more information about required fees, forms, copyright, thesis formatting, and other related matters, visit the Producing Your Thesis section of the SGS website.

​​​​​​​​​​​8.4.1 Doctoral Thesis​

Prior to the Final Oral Examination, required copies of the doctoral thesis must be submitted by the candidate to the graduate unit. The candidate should consult the Graduate Coordinator regarding requirements and deadlines for submission of material.​

The graduate unit is responsible for ensuring that one copy of the thesis is brought to the Final Oral Examination.

Following successful completion of the Final Oral Examination, an electronic copy of the final approved version of the thesis and the required form(s) must be submitted to SGS (see section 8.4 Submission of Theses).

Confirmation in writing that any corrections or modifications deemed necessary after the defence must also be received by SGS (see General Regulations section 8.3 Doctoral Final Oral Examination).

Thesis submission represents the request for graduation. A bound printed copy of the doctoral thesis in its final form may be required by the candidate's graduate unit. Candidates should consult their unit to determine the format, number, and distribution of such copies.

​​​​​​​​​​​8.4.2 Master's Thesis

Students should consult their graduate unit for additional local format requirements, submission deadlines, and procedures concerning master's theses.

An electronic copy of the thesis must be submitted to the School of Graduate Studies only after the thesis has been successfully defended and any final corrections have been made. The School of Graduate Studies also requires a copy of the letter from the student's supervisor confirm​ing completion of any required corrections.

Students may also be required to submit a bound copy or copies of the thesis to the relevant graduate unit.​​​​