Thesis defence & submission information

campus in the spring

Instructions for arranging your thesis defence

  1. In collaboration with your supervisor and graduate coordinator set your thesis defence date. Keep in mind that statutory holidays and days that the university is closed for business cannot be booked for a defence. Defences can be scheduled no earlier than 8:30 a.m. and no later than 3:00 p.m.

  2. Your department coordinator will arrange to have the Appointment of MSc or PhD Thesis Examination Committee Form completed when the supervisor and student are ready to appoint the Thesis Examination Committee and the date, time and location of the defence have been arranged.

  3. This form is to be received by the Faculty of Science Graduate Dissertation Coordinator at least three weeks prior for MSc or six weeks prior for PhD to the defence date.

  4. Once this form has been received by the Faculty of Science Graduate Dissertation Coordinator a chairperson will be arranged either by Science (MSC) or GSPA (PhD).

Submitting your thesis

MSc students: required to submit an electronic version of their thesis (pdf), in final format, to the Faculty of Science via the Thesis Submission Form, linked below, by noon at least 15 business days prior to the chosen defence date. Earlier submission is preferred. Submissions received later than this may require the defence to be rescheduled. Please reach out to Science Dissertations with any questions regarding the deadline to submit your thesis.

PhD students: required to submit an electronic version of their thesis (pdf), in final format, to the Faculty of Science via the Thesis Submission Form, linked below, by noon at least 30 business days prior to the chosen defence date. Earlier submission is preferred. Submissions received later than 6 weeks prior to the arranged defence date may require the defence to be rescheduled. Please reach out to Science Dissertations with any questions regarding the deadline to submit your thesis.

Please Note: In order to have the correct permissions to submit via the web form you must be signed in and authenticated via your Microsoft 365 account.

Note: The defence is not formally set until the Appointment of MSc or PhD Thesis Examination Committee Form is received and the student has submitted their thesis to the Faculty of Science.

Blackout dates and holidays

There is a blackout period for defences in the Fall, Winter and Spring terms. There will be no MSc or PhD thesis defences during this period unless special arrangements have been made in advance with the Science Dissertations Coordinator. UW Space final uploads are acceptable. Please contact to determine your thesis submission deadline if your display period overlaps a blackout period or university holiday.

The blackout period is necessary and is supported by the Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs as a result of limited faculty member availability to attend and to 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 Faculty of Science Dissertation Coordinator. All requests to hold an examination during the blackout period must be submitted to Science Dissertations and need to be approved by the Associate Dean of Science Graduate Studies before they can be scheduled. Requests should come in well in advance in order to allow adequate time to approve and make special arrangements.

Blackout dates and holidays:

  • 2024 University Closures/Holidays
  • Winter 2024: Monday, April 22, 2024 – Friday, April 26, 2024 (inclusive)
  • Spring 2024: Monday, August 19, 2024 – Wednesday, September 4, 2024 (inclusive)
  • Fall 2024: Monday, December 16, 2024 – Friday, January 3, 2025 (inclusive)

Regular university business days during the blackout periods count toward the display period but holidays (university closures) DO NOT count.

Thesis Examination Without Public Disclosure (Closed Defence)

At times, graduate students may wish to protect their research results, particularly when they contain material of commercial or marketable value, or when restricted by a publication agreement. It is expected that 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 (for example in the form of filing a patent application). 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. 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 the terms of that agreement. In these cases:

  1. The graduate student and supervisor(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, Graduate Studies.
  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, Graduate Studies by emailing the Thesis Dissertation Coordinator, The request should include an explanation about the rationale for the request, such as protecting intellectual property and/or patents pending. This ensures that committee members are aware of the requirements for non-disclosure before examination of the thesis.
  3. Examining Committee members, including the external examiner, will be asked by Science Dissertations 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; however this will result in the requirement to resign from the committee. Any member who refuses to sign the agreement will not be permitted to view the thesis and/or attend the defence.
  4. All parties should recognize that the time required to secure this agreement from all Examining Committee members may result in a longer period between submission and defence of the thesis, unless this consent is obtained in advance of the thesis submission.
  5. The thesis will be displayed but with the requirement that a Confidential Information Thesis Non-Disclosure Agreement Form be signed by anyone wishing to review the thesis.
  6. The examination, including any oral presentation associated with the examination, will be open only to members of the university community who agree to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) under these terms. All audience members are required to sign an NDA in order to attend the oral presentation and following discussion. The Thesis Dissertation Coordinator will prepare and manage these agreements.
  7. The requirements for non-disclosure will expire once the thesis is published in UWSpace. In most cases, student will request a one-year restriction on the circulation of the thesis in UWSpace. Any extension to that time period must be approved by the Associate Vice-President, Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs.

Failure to follow these guidelines in their entirety will result in the normal practice of public disclosure and circulation of the thesis.

Thesis restrictions (embargoes)

Since the University of Waterloo is a publicly funded institution, the University has a mandate to disseminate research. Occasionally, a student may wish or require that their thesis circulation be restricted for a period of time, as required by a publisher or due to a patent submission.

The University will not consent to any restrictions being placed upon the circulation or availability of a thesis following its deposit to UWSpace, unless a student's interests (e.g., patent rights) would be jeopardized by publication.

In the case where a student's interests would be jeopardized by publication:

  • The publication of the thesis within UWSpace can be delayed for a period of four months, one year, or two years from the date of UWSpace approval. These restrictions should be discussed and agreed upon between the student and supervisor(s) at the time of defence. The student must select the appropriate restriction option from the drop-down list located under the "Restriction Terms" title on the Describe Item page in the UWSpace submission interface. The restriction start date is always the date the thesis is archived to UWSpace.
  • Any request for extension to an approved restriction must be submitted using the Request to Restrict Circulation of Thesis Form found on the Graduate Studies forms website, and must be received in Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs at least two months before the date of release. If no further extension is requested or approved, the thesis will be released in UWSpace.

Useful Sites and Resources: