Arrangements for PhD thesis oral examinations

See the PDF version of the UWaterloo PhD thesis exam guidelines.

This is a reminder of the procedures for arranging the doctoral examination in the Faculty of Environment. The regulations are in place but seem to be overlooked on occasion. When the procedures are not followed, the examination will be delayed, which could result in frustration and undue hardship for the student. The PhD examination is conducted according to the requirements of the University Senate Graduate and Research Council.

The Associate Dean, Graduate Studies, appoints the internal/external committee member, if this has not been already done, and the external examiner.

The following are the procedures for arranging the doctoral examination:

  1. The advisor must confirm that the student has met all University and Faculty of Environment requirements.
  2. Copies of the thesis should be submitted to the assistant to the Associate Dean, Graduate Studies (Environment 1 (EV1) room 335), for distribution to: the advisor(s), the committee members, and the external examiner; a display copy is also required. Please also send an electronic copy to Lori at, as committee members who are away prefer to receive an electronic copy rather than wait for one to be mailed.
  3. At the time copies of the thesis are submitted, the advisor should provide several possible examination dates (at least 5) agreeable to the committee and the student. The suggested dates should be within a 5-7 week period following the submission of the thesis. If this time requirement is not adhered to, the information will be returned and it will be necessary to select new examination dates.
  4. The advisor, in consultation with the committee, should provide a list of at least 5-6 names with accurate addresses and telephone numbers for the selection of the external examiner and 2 names for the internal/external, if this committee member has not already been chosen. Along with the list, there should be a brief biographical sketch for each of the possible external examiners. If the advisor will not be available for consultation during the scheduling of the examination, he/she should delegate a committee member to act on his/her behalf. Note: The advisor should not contact the persons on this list of potential external examiners, but may check their availability indirectly.
  5. The examination is normally scheduled within 5 to 7 weeks after the thesis has been submitted, if all the procedures are followed.
  6. When considering arrangements for the PhD examination, it should be kept in mind that external examiners are not always available during the summer months; therefore, it is more difficult to organize an examination for July and August.
  7. Committee members are expected to participate in the oral examination. In case of an emergency, questions may be asked by a substitute. It is the committee member's responsibility to prepare questions and identify a delegate who is acceptable to the department/school graduate officer or the Associate Dean, Graduate Studies. The Graduate Studies Office (GSO) must be notified of the delegate’s name in order to provide the chair with this information.
  8. Be sure to refer to the Graduate Studies Office thesis regulations for proper thesis formatting and post-defence electronic thesis submission instructions.
  9. Once your thesis has been defended and accepted, complete a program completion form, available on the Graduate Studies Forms web site and leave the completed form with your department graduate studies coordinator.

    For detailed information regarding the completion of PhD degree requirements, see the minimum requirements for the PhD degree on the UWaterloo Graduate Calendar.
  10. Defence process – from the University of Waterloo Guide for Chairing a PhD Thesis Examination:

    “Oral Presentation: The examination begins with an oral presentation of the thesis by the candidate using whatever aids are required to make an effective presentation. This presentation should be limited to no more than 30 minutes, with the focus being on the main contributions and conclusions of the scholarly work.

    Order of Questions: The presentation is followed by questioning. The Chair will give priority to questions from members of the Examining Board. Usually, the external examiner’s questions are presented first (by the Chair in the absence of the examiner), followed by those of the Board with those of the Supervisor(s) last. Members of the University who have previously submitted written criticisms may then address questions to the candidate, and subsequent questions may be allowed from the audience, if time permits.

    Use of cell phones, video cameras, etc.: Recording of the formal examination is not allowed, nor is the use of cell phones, blackberries, video cameras, cameras or tape recorders unless used for the purpose of the examination presentation.”

Additional details regarding the conduct of the defence can be obtained from requesting the Guide for Chairing a PhD Thesis Examination from the assistant to the Associate Dean Graduate Studies.