In most graduate programs, the student completes original scholarly research as part of the graduate program. The generation of new knowledge through scholarly research is one of a university's main functions in society. In most cases, the research is reported in a thesis which is presented and defended at the end of the program.
In some Master's programs, the research component is more limited in scope and the work constitutes a project or two extended essays, which are presented and examined, either through a formal defence or a review of the written work, at the end of the program. In some other Master's programs, a research component is contained in the course work and there is a final Field Examination based on the areas covered by the coursework.
Students have an obligation to make the results of their research accessible (above and beyond distribution of the thesis) to an appropriate audience through publication. The form of publication will vary according to the discipline and level of the program but may include books, journal articles and conference presentations.
In exceptional circumstances, the results of the research may be withheld temporarily because of pending patents or licences or because of financially sensitive information. In no case may the results be withheld indefinitely. Please see Graduate General Regulation 1.11.3 and University Policy R10.01: External Research Grants and Contracts, clauses 4.6-4.8.
Financial support for a student's research is usually provided by the student and/or by the Senior Supervisor, through research grants and contracts.
The major granting councils — the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) — encourage such use of grants received by faculty members under their research grants programs; both the costs of the research itself (e.g. equipment, supplies, travel) and research assistantships for the student may be supported. Faculty members are encouraged to apply to external funding agencies for grants to support their research and the research of students working under their supervision.
Some departments have modest programs of awards to support travel by graduate students to perform research and/or to attend conferences to report on their research.