Defences and Qualifying Exams

For thesis students, defending your thesis and completing your qualifying exam (for Ph.D. students) are integral parts of your degree. Coursework MSc students do not defend a thesis, but instead, write a Major Research Paper that's graded by their advisor and an advisory committee member (go to our Courses page for a grading rubric).

Your qualifying exam should occur in or by the 5th semester of your Ph.D. For this, you have four examiners: two from your committee, and two UoGuelph faculty who are not on your committee. Together these cover one major topic and two minor topics. Because it can be challenging to find a time and date to suit all four examiners, a chair, the student and their advisor, the oral exam should be organized well in advance: at least 2-3 months ahead of time, especially if written material has to be completed first. For more details on the process and the standards we expect, see our Qualifying Exams page. Before the exam, your advisor may use this rubric to give you feedback; the advisor's grading rubric may also be used by the QE committee in their deliberations.

In preparing for your defence, you and your advisor will need to plan carefully so that you have time to analyze and write, to revise after comments from your advisor and advisory committee, and to book your ideal set of examiners along with a suitable room. There are separate deadlines for M.Sc. candidates and Ph.D. candidates when it comes to your defenses, and you need to work around these carefully so that you can graduate in your intended semester (especially if you want to avoid paying additional fees). In a nutshell, if you're an M.Sc. student, your external examiner must have a copy of your final thesis at least two weeks before your defence date (the Office of Graduate Studies provides good information on a sensible M.Sc. Defence Timeline here), while if you're a Ph.D. student, the external examiner needs your final thesis at least four weeks before your defence date (the Office of Graduate Studies provides good information on a sensible Ph.D. Defence Timeline here). For details of the defence itself, please see our Defences page. Once the defence is done, and the defended thesis approved after your corrections, you must deposit it in the library (a process Wendy can help you with too). And once it is there, you are officially 'done'!