Are you ready? Learn about planning your defence.

Planning your Defence

Planning an MA or PhD thesis defence should begin at least 3 months before the anticipated defence date.

Examination procedures

The procedure and timelines differ for master's and doctoral examinations. Please ensure you are following the correct guide.


Declare your MA Capstone or Thesis topic:

MA Capstone Topic Declaration Form

PhD Thesis Topic Declaration Form

Upcoming Defences

Prior to the Defence

The Senior Supervisor is required to submit information regarding the examination committee well in advance of the defence (at least 8 weeks for PhDs and 6 weeks for MAs). The defence should be scheduled so there is enough time for revisions before the student submits the thesis to the library by the end-of-semester deposit deadline.

The Senior Supervisor is responsible for (1) consulting with the committee to confirm the thesis’s readiness for examination; (2) inviting the examiner(s) (for MA defences an examiner external to the supervisory committee and for PhDs, an internal-external and an examiner external to SFU); (3) confirms a chair for the defence,  (4) and confirming a date, time, and campus location for the defence that everyone can attend. This information must be submitted to the Graduate Coordinator along with external examiners’ CV. The Dean of Graduate Studies approves the external examiner. In addition, if a conference call or skype connection is required for one of the examiners, the Senior Supervisor needs inform the Graduate Coordinator who is responsible for making the necessary arrangements.

Under no circumstances should the student contact or correspond with the examiner(s) and thus the student may not arrange the defence details.

The student is responsible for submitting the following items to the Graduate Coordinator:

  1. Thesis Title
  2. Abstract and keywords
  3. Ethics approval document (if applicable)
  4. Examination copy of their thesis 

The title, abstract, and ethics approval should be submitted as early as possible (8 weeks prior to the defence is ideal). The thesis examination copy must be submitted a minimum of 6 weeks prior to the defence for PhD students and 4 weeks prior to the defence for MA students.

The Graduate Coordinator (1) books the defence room, (2) makes arrangements for any necessary technology (A/V, video conferencing, etc.), (3) gathers required signatures for and submits the Examination Committee Approval Form, PhD thesis, and the other required documents to the Dean’s Office, (4) advertises the defence publicly in the School and on the university website, and (6) delivers the forms for the defence to the chair of the defence.

The Graduate Coordinator distributes MA theses to the examining committee; the Dean of Graduate Studies Office distributes PhD theses to the examining committee.

After the Defence

Library thesis submission
The supervisor or chair delivers the signed defence documents to the Graduate Coordinator. The student is responsible for making any required revisions, which must be approved by the supervisor and in some cases, the entire examining committee. Once the revisions have been approved, the student obtains the defence documents from the Coordinator and then submits the thesis to the library. The student needs to use the library’s thesis formatting specifications and submission process, which are outlined here.

Project and Extended Essays Process

For MA Projects and MA Extended Essays an examination is also required. For MA projects where the student takes 4 courses, an examination by an external examiner is required (external to the supervisory committee). For MA students who produce two essays or a project where they take four courses plus an additional 4 credits, an examination by two readers is required. A Scheduling of Master's Degree Completion form should be completed and submitted to the Graduate Coordinator at least four weeks before the examination along with the project/essays and other necessary documentation. The Graduate Coordinator submits the scheduling form to the Dean of Graduate Studies Office.

The rest of the process, including applying to graduate and submitting the approved project and/or essays document to the Library is the same as for theses.

For additional information, please contact the School’s Graduate Program Coordinator at

Applying to Graduate

Students must also apply to graduate and confirm convocation attendance.

See the Office of Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Fellow’s policies and procedures on defences available here.