Thesis Examination Procedures

The procedure and timelines differ for master's and doctoral examinations. Please ensure you are following the correct guide. The guide below includes the steps and policies normally required as per the Graduate General Regulations. Exceptions to these for extenuating circumstances can be made by the senior supervisor or graduate chair to the Associate Dean, Academics in writing to defence@sfu.ca 

Additional steps (such as catering, preparation of paperwork) are set internal to the department.

Applicable to all examination types

  • A student must be registered in order to defend/graduate.
  • Remind the student to apply to graduate through SIMS.
    IMPORTANT:
    this deadline date is not the same as the library thesis submission deadline. Students can apply to graduate at any time in what is planned to be their final semester of graduate studies. It is a straightforward process to withdraw a student's application, but, more challenging to add them to the graduation list after the deadline.
  • If a student completes their degree requirements during the first calendar month of the semester, they may be eligible for an early completion refund. The student does not need to formally apply for this. More information can be found on here on Degree Completion.

Master's without an oral examination

Master's oral examination

Minimum Attendance

Minimum physical attendance criteria at a master's examination are in place to ensure that the student and the thesis will receive a fair and rigorous examination to the standards that academia in general and SFU in particular necessitate. These criteria require that:

  • the chair be present
  • the senior supervisor be present
  • the candidate be present
  • the examiner be present except in cases where the examiner is external to the university. If the examiner is external, DGS will allow him/her to attend through a remote connection.

In addition, DGS allows for no more than two committee member to come in via remote or acting in absentia.

Arrange the room booking

  • If using Burnaby’s Library thesis examination room fill out the webform (this should be done by the GPA, students do not have access)
  • Book AV if not using the thesis examination room

Prior to approval of examination date

  • Complete the Approval of Examining Committee for a Master's Student and submit it to DGS
    • PLEASE NOTE: this must be done by SFU staff or faculty, students should not be completing this form. Please speak to your GPA on the deadline.
  • The examination must be advertised publicly. At minimum the examination needs to be listed on the examination calendar. Alternative ways to advertise the examination:

Prior to the examination

  • If the student is requesting a postponement of the publication of their thesis, the Postponement of Publication Request Form should be submitted for approval to DGS before the date of the examination. Even when postponing publication, students must submit the thesis to the library by the library deadline date. It will, however, not be available to be publicly viewed. 
  • Arrange water to be available for the student during the examination (order catering if it is per your department standards)

After the examination

  • Recommendation for Award of Degree form to be submitted to DGS.
  • The student will need a signed approval page and thesis revision memo for their thesis upload on the library website.
  • The last day for library thesis submission is here. Student who do not meet this deadline must enroll in the following term.
  • Follow department standards regarding ordering final bound thesis. Binding can be done through the SFSS copy centre

Doctoral oral examination

Please note that no doctoral examinations may take place the first week of January.

Minimum Attendance

Minimum physical attendance criteria at an examination are in place to ensure that the student and the thesis will receive a fair and rigorous examination to the standards that academia in general and SFU in particular necessitate. These criteria require that:

  • the chair be present
  • the senior supervisor be present
  • the candidate be present
  • the internal examiner be present
GGR 1.9.5 allows for the external examiner coming in via remote or absentia. In addition, DGS allows for no more than one committee member coming in via remote or acting in absentia.

Internal Examiners

  • Internal examiners must be present at the examination and may not act as any other role in the examination (cannot be the defence chair or on the supervisory committee)
    • In rare cases the internal examiner may attend via tele/videoconferencing ONLY if the External examiner will be attending in person

External Examiners

DGS vets proposed external examiners against three criteria:

1.      The proposed external examiner should be a distinguished scholar with particular experience in the field of the thesis research. (GGR 1.9.5). S/he should be well published, have an academic posting, and be prominent in the field. His/Her CV should intersect significantly with the field of the thesis research.

2.      The proposed external examiner should be free from potential conflict of interest (GGR 1.9.5). For DGS, as well as the tri-council, conflict of interest is assessed for the possibility of both actual conflict and perceived conflict — in this case, between the senior supervisor (or the student) and the external examiner. As such, a conflict of interest will be declared if, in the past 6 years:

  • the senior supervisor (or the student) and the proposed external examiner have, or are in the midst of, published together;
  • the senior supervisor (or the student) and the proposed external examiner have jointly held, or are currently applying for, a research grant;
  • the senior supervisor (or the student) and the proposed external examiner have had a business relationship;
  • the senior supervisor (or the student) and the proposed external examiner have had a close personal relationship;
  • the proposed external examiner was the student of, or the senior supervisor of, the senior supervisor;
  • the proposed external examiner was a student, staff, administrator, or faculty member at SFU.

The proposed external examiner, if approved, will be asked to declare any such breaches of arm’s length policy.

3.      The proposed external examiner should have the specific experience of supervising a doctoral student through to completion. Such experience helps to ensure that proposed external examiners have a good understanding of what their role in the examination process is. DGS assumes that a proposed external examiner with a rank of Associate Professor (or its equivalent) has this experience. As such, if the proposed external examiner is an Assistant Professor, supervisory experience would need to be demonstrated.

See also: Best Practices for selecting an external examiner

Arrange the room booking

  • If using Burnaby’s Library thesis examiniation room fill out the webform (this should be done by the GPA, students do not have access)
  • Book AV if not using the thesis examination room

Prior to approval of examination date and committee

  • Complete the Approval of Examining Committee for a Doctoral Student and submit it to DGS with a two-page CV for the external examiner and the ethics approval (if needed). PLEASE NOTE: this must be done by SFU staff or faculty. Students should not be completing this form nor should they be contacting external examiners to schedule their examination. Students can check with their GPA for the departmental deadline.
  • The GPA will fill out the webform with verified email addresses of the committee and upload the thesis file
    • IMPORTANT: The thesis submitted through the webform is the version that will be distributed to the committee and external examiner. A new version will not be circulated unless extenuating circumstances as per a special request through DGS (typos and editorial changes do not qualify).
    • If the thesis is over 24 MB please do not use Dropbox etc. To meet SFU's FOIPOP requirements, we are not permitted to use external US-based services which store confidential student information on US servers. These include Dropbox, Google Docs Apple iCloud, Microsoft OneDrive, or YouSendIt, among others.
  • Please contact graduate studies at defence@sfu.ca if you need assistance

Thesis Distribution

  • The electronic thesis will be distributed in two separate emails by DGS after the examining committee has been approved

1) To the external examiner with additional instructions. The Grad Chair and Grad Program Assistant will be CCed on this email.
2) To the rest of the committee. The Grad Program Assistant will be CCed on this email.

  • The student commitee will not be included in any communication with the external examiner.  
  • If a committee member or external examiner requests a paper copy, it is the student's responsibility to provide a paper copy to the Grad Program Assistant. The Grad Program Assistant must provide it to the committee member or mail it. The student is not permitted to mail the thesis to an external examiner.

Pre-Defence Report

The pre-defence report is received by DGS typically 2 weeks prior to the examination. Once it has been approved, DGS will distribute it to the GPC and the GPA. It is the department's responsibility to distribute the report to the rest of the committee.

The pre-defence report is not to be shared with the student (prior or post defence). Editorial changes may be given to the student after the examination, but, permission is needed from the external if the pre-defence report is to be communicated after the oral examination.  

Please keep a copy of the pre-defence report in the student file as some awards require it as part of the application.

After thesis distribution, but before the examination

  • If the student is requesting a postponement of the publication of their thesis, the Postponement of Publication Request Form should be submitted for approval to DGS prior date of examination. Even when postponing publication the student must submit the thesis to the library by the library deadline date. It, however, will not be available to be publicly viewed. 

After the examination

  • Recommendation for Award of Degree form to be submitted to DGS.
  • The student will need a signed approval page and thesis revision memo for their thesis upload on the library website.
  • The last day for library thesis submission is here. Student who do not meet this deadline must enroll in the following term.
  • Follow department standards regarding ordering final bound thesis. Binding can be done through the SFSS copy centre.

Post Defence Report

An external examiner will be asked for a post-defence report by DGS if the examiner has identified the thesis as exceptional. Once DGS obtains the post-defence report please keep it on file for thesis or convocation awards.