PhD thesis procedures

General information

When the thesis is nearing completion both the student and supervisor must review the PhD thesis examination regulations. The supervisor(s) must ensure the External Examiner meets the requirements listed in the regulations. 

There are several resources available to students preparing their dissertation:

Selecting your defence date

When scheduling your defence, pay attention to deadlines found on the Graduate Studies Academic Calendar. In particular, check fee refund deadlines and convocation dates. Remember, you may need a month or more to finish revisions. Also pay attention to University closures, especially around holidays as these will add to MGO's processing time for your approvals and completion documents. 

Blackout dates and holidays

There are blackout periods for defences each term. PhD thesis defences may not be held during this period however UWSpace final uploads are acceptable. The blackout periods are as follows:

  • Fall 2022: Monday, December 12th, 2022- Monday, January 9th, 2023
  • Winter 2023: Monday, April 17th, 2023 - Monday, May 1st, 2023
  • Spring 2023: Monday, August 21st, 2023 - Monday, September 4th, 2023
  • Fall 2023: Monday, December 11th, 2023 - Monday, January 8th, 2024
  • Winter 2024: Monday, April 15th, 2024 - Monday, April 29th, 2024
  • Spring 2024: Monday, August 12th, 2024 - Monday, September 2nd, 2024
  • Holidays: Please refer to the Graduate Studies Academic Calendar for a table of holidays.

The blackout period is necessary and is supported by the Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs office as a result of limited faculty member availability to attend and chair examinations during this time period.

In exceptional cases where committee members and/or external examiners are available only during the blackout period and the examination is required to be completed by the end of the term, the supervisor must contact the Mathematics Graduate Office. All requests to hold an examination during the blackout period must be approved by the Associate Dean of Graduate Studies before they can be scheduled.

Defence format

In the Faculty of Mathematics there are currently three formats for conducting PhD defenses: in person, hybrid, or remote. Guidelines for hybrid and remote defences can be found on the GSPA participation through electronic media page.

Hybrid and remote defences conducted via a teleconferencing platform have different levels of technological support depending on the platform chosen:

  1. Microsoft Teams with the help of MFCF/CSCF
  2. Other platforms, like ZOOM or WebEx. In this case, it is the supervisor’s responsibility to set up a virtual meeting and invite all participants. If using an uncommon platform the supervisor must also ensure that the chair and all members of the committee, including the external examiner, are familiar with the platform and the procedure. Under no circumstances should the student create the virtual meeting. 

Many departments have a meeting owl that supervisors may book for hybrid defences. Please contact your graduate coordinator for additional information. 

Steps to completion

Please see below for a detailed overview of the steps to completion, including the responsibilites of the student, supervisor, and Math Grad Office. 

At least 7 weeks before the Oral Defence

  1. Student and supervisor(s) review the program guidelines to ensure that all degree requirements are met. The GSPA PhD Thesis Examination Regulations must also be reviewed by student and supervisor(s). The student should ensure the thesis conforms to the required guidelines.
  2. The supervisor(s) obtain pre-approval of the External Examiner (EE), ensuring all eligibility criteria has been met. Up to three EEs may be submitted for consideration using this form. Responses will be sent to the Graduate Chair/Officer and ADG for approval. Supervisors may not communicate with the EE until they have been approved by the ADG. Once approved the supervisor may contact the EE to confirm their participation and determine availbility for the defence date. No discussion of the student or thesis is permitted.
  3. Student and supervisor will select a time, date, and teleconferencing platform/location as required. For in person/hybrid defences, the supervisor books a room, confirms audio-visual equipment (if required), and informs the Graduate Coordinator. For remote/hybrid defences using a teleconferencing platform other than Teams, the supervisor must create the defence meeting. It is also the supervisor's responsibility to ensure all electronic equipment is functioning prior to the defence and have a back-up plan should the connection fail.
    • At no point should the student communicate with the EE before the defence. Once the date of the defence is set, all communication with the EE will go through the Math Graduate Office (MGO). If the EE is attending in person, the department/supervisor may communicate with the EE to make arrangements not related to the defence (e.g. organizing a research talk). There must be no discussion of the student or their thesis.
    • MGO sends EEs attending in person basic information on travel expenses, however EEs make their own travel arrangements. The department is responsible for reimbursing the EE according to Policy 31 and the Guidelines for Expenses. Please contact the unit finance officer for more details.
  4. Submit the Notice of PhD Thesis Submission for Display and Oral Defence form. The supervisor and student are to complete and submit form to their Graduate Coordinator with a copy of the approved EE request form and defence information.

At least 5 weeks prior to defence

  1. Student submits their thesis to their Examining Committee, their Graduate Coordinator, and MGO. At this time, MGO will formally contact the EE and provide them a copy of the thesis and defense information.

At least 4 weeks prior to defence

  1. Student submits Notice of Receipt of PhD Thesis (PDF) to MGO – After sending the committee their thesis, the student has the members sign the form. The EE does not sign. The student emails the completed form to MGO and CCs their department Graduate Coordinator. Once recieved, MGO will create an Announcement of Thesis submission. The thesis must be on display for a minimum of four weeks before the defence date.

At least 10 days prior to defence

  1. EE sends their report to MGO – The report will be sent to the supervisor, ADG, and the Grad Coordinator. The supervisor is to inform the candidate of any major criticism of the thesis but the report is not to be shown to the candidate.
  2. Committee Member Reports – If a committee member is unable to attend in person they may choose to provide a report on the thesis. This is optional but strongly recommended in case of technical difficulties preventing the member from participating fully.

One week prior to defence

For hybrid or remote defences only: MGO will require a copy of the student's presentation slides. The student/supervisor must also provide MGO with a phone number for each committee member so that they may be reached in the event of technical difficulties.

Day of defence

  1. Prepare the room for the defence – The student should arrive in their defence room 30-60 minutes before their scheduled defence to ensure that all the equipment they need is functional.

After the defence

  1. If you are not a Canadian citizen or Permanent Resident of Canada, you may not engage in employment with the University (TA or RA) past your degree completion date, unless;

    • you hold a valid work permit, or,
    • you have applied for a Post-Graduation Work Permit (PGWP).
      •  Review the information on PGWP for specifics on applying for a PGWP and your status in Canada during the application period. Supporting documentation (copy of work permit or proof of submission of PGWP) can be loaded directly into WorkDay (in Workday, click View All Apps, then click Personal Information and then Worker Documents. You will then be prompted to upload the document). Failure to maintain work authorization may result in jeopardizing your future immigration applications
  2. MGO will email the defence result to the students, the supervisor(s), and the Graduate Coordinator. This may take up to one week.
  3. Student makes the edits to their thesis within one month from their defence date. If more time is required MGO must be contacted for approval.
  4. Supervisor(s) confirm approval of changes made to thesis by emailing MGO (approval will also be required from committee members if indicated on the examination report). MGO will then prepare and submit the Doctoral Thesis Acceptance form to GSPA. Note, if the thesis title has changed and MGO is not informed the thesis may be rejected from UWSpace.
  5. Student submits thesis to UWSpace – The student uploads their thesis to UW Space after MGO has submitted the Doctoral Thesis Acceptance form to the GSPA. MGO will email the student confirming when they can take this step. The thesis must conform to the standards established by the University of Waterloo.
  6. Prepare to graduate.