PhD thesis defence

PhD thesis defence committee

The committee must consist of the supervisor(s) and at least one other faculty member from School of Public Health Sciences (SPHS). The supervisor must be a regular member of the University faculty with ADDS status; or, when a supervisor has adjunct status or does not have ADDS status, another on-campus professor must serve as co-supervisor. Two other faculty members, one of whom may be external to SPHS or the Faculty of Health, may also participate in this committee. In any event, the thesis committee must have a minimum of the supervisor and two other faculty members or a maximum of two supervisors and three other faculty members. Students with two supervisors (‘co-supervisors’) should note that the co-supervisors count as one vote in thesis deliberations.

If a committee member does not have a regular appointment with the University of Waterloo, then they will need to have an adjunct appointment with SPHS to serve on a thesis committee. To obtain adjunct status, the supervisor must provide a written request to the school director, indicating the reason for requesting status, the contributions the adjunct candidate will make to the thesis committee composition/school, and append the adjunct candidate’s CV. These documents will be reviewed by the SPHS executive committee for approvals.

Please note, the associate dean, graduate studies must give permission for an adjunct faculty member who is on a PhD thesis committee to serve on the PhD examining committee, provided that the adjunct faculty member holds a PhD. The PhD examining committee, which reads the final version of the doctoral dissertation and attends the oral thesis defense, is composed of the thesis supervisor(s), other thesis committee members, an internal-external examiner, and an external examiner. No more than one adjunct faculty member (including professors emeriti) may serve on a PhD examining committee (as a thesis committee member or the internal-external examiner), with the exception of cotutelle student defences, which may involve the participation of more than one adjunct faculty member. The associate dean graduate studies must give permission for an adjunct faculty member to serve as the internal-external examiner.

PhD theses previously published by SPHS graduates are available online at UW Space.

PhD thesis defence procedure

The procedures for the final PhD dissertation defence are more rigorous and set by the University. As such, SPHS has no authority to waive these procedures. The PhD examination committee must be arranged at least eights weeks prior to the defence. It is the supervisor’s responsibility to submit the required documentation to the faculty graduate studies administrator to obtain examination committee approval, (the committee includes the external examiner as well as the internal/external member (usually, a UWaterloo faculty member from outside the school who is not on the thesis committee), and two members from SPHS as well as the supervisor/co-supervisors. A chair for the final PhD defence will be appointed by Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs. While students and their supervisor can discuss suitable experts in your field who may potentially serve as external examiners, the student is not to be in contact with the external examiner. In most circumstances, the PhD thesis supervisor will contact potential external examiners and internal/external examiners during the process of arranging the dissertation defence.

It is the student’s responsibility, however, to:

  1. Contact members of your thesis committee concerning possible dates for the final defence;
  2. Prepare a copy of the thesis abstract eight weeks prior to the defense to be submitted with the request for the external examiner.
  3. Book a room, in consultation with the graduate studies coordinator in the Dean’s Office (most PhD Defences are in BMH 3119 or EXP 1686) (note that PhD defenses may be held remotely);
  4. Provide electronic copies of the dissertation to all members of your thesis committee, including the appointed internal/external (as well as two additional copies to the graduate studies coordinator -- one for the public display and one for the external examiner) at least five weeks in advance of the scheduled PhD defence.

A number of policies exist regarding PhD Defences. Students are advised to read and become familiar with the PhD thesis examination regulations at least four months before they plan on holding their defense.