Thesis requirements

Students have the option of completing a major research paper (MRP) or a thesis for their final project. The process for completing a thesis is outlined below. 

Choosing a Supervisor

Students are required to submit their Thesis Supervisor Form (Word) by October 10. If you have any problems accessing this form, contact the Graduate Program Coordinator.

Students are encouraged to meet informally with faculty members early in their first term to discuss possible topics for their Thesis. Getting early feedback from potential supervisors can help you get a clearer sense of what your research project will entail and possible topics you would like to explore. A listing of faculty, and their areas of research, can be found on the Department faculty listing webpage.

In addition to a supervisor, you will need a second reader and their signature to complete the form.

Thesis degree requirements

A student must achieve an overall average of 80% in their first term courses in order to be permitted to follow the Thesis option.


  • All students are required to take 3 courses in the Fall term (PSCI 600 plus 2 PSCI electives).
  • Students must complete the equivalent of 4 one-term graduate level Political Science courses (0.50 unit weight), including PSCI 600 Theories and Methods of Political Analysis
  • The overall average achieved in the 4 credit courses should be at least 70%.
  • Reading courses may supplement regular offerings in the program, although it is understood that they will be approved at the discretion of the Department. Students will normally be permitted to take one reading course as part of their degree.

Link(s) to courses


Milestones are non-course degree requirements (such as the academic integrity workshop, co-op work term report, master’s research paper, etc.) that must be met in order for a student to graduate. Students can keep track of their milestone progress by viewing their unofficial transcript in Quest.

  • Graduate Academic Integrity Module (Graduate AIM)
  • Master’s Seminar
    • Students are required to participate in a Master’s Seminar (also referred to as a Methods Workshop) in the Winter term: they will present their in-progress Thesis/MRP work, receive and provide feedback to fellow students.
  • Master’s Thesis Proposal (not recorded in Quest)
    • 6-10 pages, double spaced
    • Students are also required to submit a timeline for the submission of their rough drafts (individual chapters and/or the entire paper) and their final paper. This should be done in consultation with your supervisor. The final copy of your research proposal should be signed by your supervisor.
  • Master’s Thesis Proposal defence (not recorded in Quest)
    • Students doing a Thesis will be required to defend their Thesis Proposal by the end of their first term before an examining committee consisting of the Graduate Chair (or designate), the prospective supervisor, and the prospective co-supervisor (second reader).
  • Master’s Thesis and Thesis defence
    • The Thesis is the equivalent of 4 one-term courses (0.50 unit weight), and therefore should occupy roughly half of the students allotted time of graduate studies.
    • Students must submit and defend a Thesis embodying the results of original research. The written Thesis document should be 80-100 double spaced pages in length.

Students can change from the Thesis option to the MRP option.

Thesis formatting and submission

Formatting of Thesis

Students must review Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs thesis regulations for proper formatting. Theses formatted incorrectly will not be accepted.

Front matter

Roman numerals should be used for the Front Matter content.

Front matter content Page Number Notes
Title Page i - page number should not be displayed see example below
Author’s Declaration ii see wording below
Abstract iii none
Acknowledgements iv none
Dedication v optional
Table of Contents vi see details below
List of Figures vii if applicable
List of Tables viii if applicable
List of Illustrations ix if applicable
List of Abbreviations x if applicable

Table of Contents

Everything after the Table of Contents page needs to be listed on the Table of Contents. The Introduction begins on page 1 (bottom centre pagination).

Title page must read as follows:

Title of thesis


Full name of author (name must appear as it does on Quest)

A Thesis

presented to the University of Waterloo

in fulfilment of the

Thesis requirement for the degree of

Master of Arts


Political Science

Please note text should be centred on your page.

Author’s Declaration must read as follows:

I hereby declare that I am the sole author of this Thesis. This is a true copy of the Thesis, including any required final revisions, as accepted by my examiners.

I understand that my Thesis may be made electronically available to the public.

How to finish on time

Once a supervisor and second reader are chosen and approved, the student should send biweekly reports to their supervisor. These will help identify problems early on. Talking to your supervisor regularly and agreeing on a firm timeline to submit drafts, and work around conferences, will also help prevent last minute scrambling and possibly missing term or convocation deadlines.

Guidelines for completing by the end of the third term

  • July 4 – a complete draft of the Thesis is submitted to the supervisor
  • July 18 – a final draft of the Thesis is submitted to the supervisor and second reader
  • July 25 – the supervisor informs the Graduate Coordinator that they wish to hold a defence on August 15 (this provides the minimum of 15 business days’ notice required to schedule a defence)
  • August 15 – Thesis defence takes place and Thesis is accepted
  • August 22 – all corrections are made and approved, Thesis is submitted to UWSpace, and all signed convocation paperwork is submitted.

*NOTE: The above timeline is a guideline only. Please discuss dates with your supervisor to set an appropriate completion timetable that works for you.

Thesis defence

Upon completion, the second reader provides the main supervisor with a written assessment of the Thesis. When both agree the Thesis is acceptable, the Graduate Chair or supervisor will appoint an examination committee. Please note that a minimum of 15 business days’ notice is required for a defence to be scheduled.

Composition of the Graduate Examination Committee:

  • Composed of four faculty members, including the Graduate Chair (who acts as the Committee Chair)
  • The main supervisor should be from the Political Science Department (a co-supervisor or second reader can be from another department)
  • One member must be someone who is not on the supervisory committee. This "external" member may be selected from either within or outside the department.

Thesis defences are open and advertised to the Department broadly. Faculty, staff, and students may attend the examination. If the protection of intellectual property is sought by the filing of a patent application, the student and supervisor(s) may request a closed thesis examination and/or a restriction on the circulation of the thesis as outlined in Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs thesis regulations.

Any Faculty attendee of the defence may question the candidate and may, upon request, read the Thesis and submit a report, oral or written, to the Graduate Chair. General conclusions of the report will be given to the examination committee and considered in its final judgement, unless classified as a closed/confidential Thesis.

The thesis examination

  1. Examination opens with a short presentation (oral and/or with electronic slides) by the student (15-20 minutes maximum) describing the problem that was chosen and how the Thesis contributes to knowledge in the field.
  2. Each member of the committee will then have the opportunity to question the candidate both on the opening statement and on the Thesis itself (15-20 minutes each).
  3. At the Committee Chair's discretion, other members of the audience are given the opportunity to question the candidate at the end.
  4. The examinee (and guests) must then exit the room and leave the committee to deliberate and reach a final ruling.


After the examination a ruling is made by the Examination Committee. The two possible rulings are: Accepted or Not Accepted.

In order for an Accepted ruling to be applied, the committee must agree that the candidate has demonstrated knowledge and understanding of the topic chosen. An Accepted ruling may still be achieved even if individual committee members express minor reservations.

If major revisions are required and if the committee agrees the candidate has not demonstrated knowledge and understanding of the topic chosen, a ruling of Not Accepted may be applied.

Final submission

After a successful thesis defence, and once final revisions have been made, students will upload their thesis to UWSpace. Theses submitted electronically will be indexed by the Library and the National Library, and will be accessible electronically.

Instructions for submission can be found on Graduate Studies and Posdoctoral Affairs thesis submission webpage.


Students may choose to have any personal copies of the approved thesis bound privately or through the services provided by W Print at the University of Waterloo.