Vision Science Thesis Proposal Guidelines

I.  Thesis Proposal

As a graduate student in the School of Optometry, you are required to write and present a thesis proposal.  This requirement has been formalized as a milestone credit.

Both the PhD and MSc thesis proposals must be completed by the end of the third term of your graduate program if you are a full time student. Individuals who have accelerated from the Master’s program to the PhD program must present their thesis proposal by the end of their fourth term of enrollment in the Vision Science  Graduate  Program.  Part-time students  must  present  their  thesis proposal by the end of their sixth term.

Normally the PhD thesis proposal will be presented before the comprehensive examination, but the exact sequence is left up to the committee and yourself.

II. Evaluation of the Thesis Proposal

The purpose of the thesis proposal is to identify the scientific question(s) that will be  the  focus  of  your  graduate  research,  explain  why  the question(s)  are important, and describe how you will go about answering them. The Committee will take your written proposal, oral presentation, and your responses to all questions into account in reaching its decision. The Committee should receive the written proposal at least two weeks before the scheduled presentation.

The depth and sophistication of both knowledge and study design may differ between  MSc  and  PhD  proposals.    However,  both  should include  clearly identified questions, or hypotheses, and an explanation of how the questions will be addressed.   The Committee  will also  expect to  see  a  defined  time  line, showing the major milestones and planned completion dates for your project. Progress in your research to date is an additional consideration. The decision may be pass, fail, or deferred.

A failure requires withdrawal from the program. A deferred decision requires a written explanation by the Committee and a fixed date for a revised proposal and subsequent presentation.

III. Overview of the presentation.

The presentation will normally consist of a 20 minute oral overview followed by questions from your Committee.   At the presentation you should demonstrate that you have suitable knowledge of your field, grasp of the necessary methods, understand  the  scientific  context  of  the work,  and  have  a  credible  plan  for bringing the project to completion within the normal time limits for your program.

IV. Written Proposal Format

The completed thesis proposal should be no longer than 6 pages of text, not including figures and references. The text should be size 12 font with double- spacing and 1 inch page margins. References should be presented in the format typically  used  for  publication  in  scientific  journals  for that  area  of  research. Please see your supervisor for advice in preparing a relevant proposal for your graduate work.

A good model for the thesis proposal might include the following sections.

1.   Introduction and a concise literature review to show that you have the background knowledge to carry out your project and to provide a context for your hypotheses.

2.   Research progress to date.   A separate section to describe your own contributions to date is appropriate.

3.  Objectives of proposed research.  Include long- and short-term objectives and testable hypotheses.

4.   Proposed experiments (from “How to get and keep an NSERC research grant” by I.H. Witten and J.I. Glasgow of Queens University)

A majority of your proposal should be devoted to a careful description of your research objectives and the methodology by which these objectives will be achieved.  For the research plan, you should at least know how you are going to start out and have some ideas for future options.  Be prepared to describe alternative scenarios for the later stages, which hinge on how the early research turns out.  Be mindful of the need to evaluate your ideas, not just develop and implement  them.    If  successful,  what  will  be  the  effect  of  the  research? Remember that your methodology must include a clear description of your overall experimental design and some indication of the statistical methods you will undertake to analyze your date.

5.    Milestones/Timeline.    Provide  a  term-by-term  list  of  objectives for  your planned graduate program, including coursework, important goals for your experiments, data analysis and writing and defence of the thesis.

Each Committee member and the Vision Science Graduate Coordinator should receive a copy at least 2 weeks before your presentation.   The Graduate Coordinator will finalize the scheduling of your presentation.