Link to the University of Waterloo home page Advanced Search or
Fall 2016
The Graduate Calendar

Calendar - General Information & Regulations

Theses & Convocation

Guidelines For Thesis Examination Without Public Disclosure
Printable Version Printable Version

Central to the University of Waterloo’s mission is the creation and dissemination of knowledge. As new scholars, graduate students are expected to disclose and defend publicly their research results to ensure review from their peers and acceptance and inclusion of their findings into open scholarly discourse. At times, the scholarly contributions of graduate students contain research results of commercial or marketable value. It is normal in these cases for protection of the intellectual property to be sought, which precludes public disclosure prior to the filing of a patent application. It is expected in the vast majority of these cases that protection of the intellectual property will be obtained in a timely manner, well before the preparation and examination of the student’s thesis. In those rare cases where such protection is not obtained in advance, it may be necessary to restrict the disclosure of thesis results from the public arena. The guidelines below should be applied to these rare cases – failure to follow these guidelines in their entirety will result in the normal practice of public disclosure and circulation of the thesis

  1. The graduate student and thesis advisor(s) must begin the process to restrict disclosure of the thesis results as early as possible to ensure timely completion of the thesis examination. Normally, this recommendation to restrict disclosure will be forthcoming from the supervisor and, where appropriate, the advisory committee to the Faculty Associate Dean of Graduate Studies, as soon as it is apparent that intellectual property of some value has been developed and the graduate student and thesis advisor(s) need to seek patent protection before it is disclosed in a public arena. In cases where private companies or other supporting organizations are involved in the research through a research contract or agreement, this request may be required by its terms.
  2. Any request for a closed thesis examination must be forthcoming, at the latest, one week prior to the submission of the thesis to the Faculty Associate Dean for Graduate Studies for the examination committee, by completing a Request to Restrict Circulation of Thesis Form. It should be made to the Associate Provost, Graduate Studies and must have the recommendation of the Faculty Associate Dean for Graduate Studies. This ensures that committee members are aware of the requirements for non-disclosure before examination of the thesis, and restricts any public display period to a form appropriate for these circumstances.
  3. Committee members, including the external examiner in the case of doctoral theses, will be asked by the University of Waterloo to sign a Confidential Information Thesis Non-Disclosure Agreement Form regarding the contents of the thesis before examining the thesis. Potential committee members have the right to refuse to sign the agreement, which will be taken as a resignation from the committee. Alternate members will be asked then to participate in their place. Any member who refuses to sign the University agreement will not be permitted to view the thesis and/or attend the defence.
  4. The consent of the External Examiner to sign the non-disclosure agreement with the University of Waterloo must be obtained before the doctoral thesis is sent to her/him for examination. All parties should recognize that this will require a longer period between submission and defence of the doctoral thesis, probably on the order of an additional two weeks, unless this consent is obtained in advance of the thesis submission.
  5. The thesis will be displayed but with the requirement that a non-disclosure agreement be signed by anyone wishing to review the thesis. In these instances, it is the graduate student and/or thesis advisor(s), or sponsoring organization(s) of a research contract or agreement, and specifically not the University of Waterloo, 1) to whom an agreement of non-disclosure is being made, and 2) whose responsibility it is to prepare and manage these agreements. The non-disclosure agreement attached as Appendix 2 may be used as a template for such purposes.
  6. The examination, including any oral presentation associated with the examination such as a doctoral thesis defence, will be open only to members of the University community who agree to sign a non-disclosure agreement under the same terms as Section 5 (above).
  7. The requirements for non-disclosure by the committee members as requested by the University of Waterloo will expire after one year from the date of the original thesis submission date, unless the graduate student and/or supervisor(s) have obtained the consent of all non-disclosing parties to extend the term of the agreement beyond that time period. It is anticipated that any intellectual property protection will at the very least be filed within that one-year time frame, or the property no longer holds the commercial value originally assumed. Any non-disclosure agreements involving other individuals will be subject to the terms of expiry detailed in those agreements. For the purposes of this document, intellectual property protection will be taken to mean a patent filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.