X. Thesis Regulations - 10.5 Regulations for the Defence of a Doctoral Thesis

10.5 Regulations for the Defence of a Doctoral Thesis

All Doctoral theses must be examined in a public oral defence, to be conducted by an Examining Committee, recommended by the academic unit and approved by the Faculty of Graduate Studies. A candidate shall not be permitted to proceed with the oral defence and examination until all of the following requirements have been met: (i) all required coursework completed successfully; (ii) comprehensive examination passed; (iii) thesis title approved; (iv) Examining Committee established; (v) the style and format of the thesis meets the requirements of the University and appropriate copies of the thesis have been submitted as per regulations and deadlines in 10.6.1 below. Normally a candidate proceeds to oral defence with the approval of the Supervisor and Supervisory Committee. A candidate may proceed without the consent of the supervisor and committee, but a signed declaration included on the PhD Thesis Submission Form is required by the Faculty of Graduate Studies.

10.5.1 Doctoral Defence Procedures

  1. Appointment of External Examiner:
    On the Request to Arrange Oral Defence of a Doctoral Thesis form, the head of the academic unit (or Graduate Coordinator where appropriate) shall recommend to the Associate Dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies the name of the proposed External Examiner that was approved by the Supervisory Committee. Usually, the appointment of an External Examiner occurs three months before the anticipated date of defence. The person suggested should be an acknowledged expert in the field or discipline of the research being examined in the thesis, must not have been directly involved in the student’s research in any way, should possess a Doctoral degree or equivalent, and should have demonstrated experience of Doctoral supervision to degree completion and examination. Evidence of these qualifications must be explicit in the C.V. submitted for the proposed External Examiner. The choice of the External Examiner must be approved by the Faculty of Graduate Studies. If the first choice External Examiner is unacceptable to the Faculty of Graduate Studies or if that person is unavailable, the Faculty of Graduate Studies will contact the academic unit and request information for an alternate External Examiner. The Graduate Coordinator may then confirm the availability of the External Examiner and propose dates and times for the defence. Once the date and time have been confirmed by the academic unit then the formal invitation to the External Examiner is issued by the Faculty of Graduate Studies.
  2. Thesis Required for External Examiner: At least six weeks prior to the scheduled defence, the Candidate shall send a PDF copy of both the thesis and their current CV to the Faculty of Graduate Studies Office (thesis@dal.ca). The PhD Thesis Submission Form and PhD Examination Information Form with all signatures must be sent to the Faculty of Graduate Studies. FGS will send the thesis to the External Examiner once the PhD Thesis Submission Form has been received and the date and time of the defence has been determined. The candidate shall also send the abstract from their thesis for publication in a public notice of defence (the abstract must be submitted in Word compatible format to thesis@dal.ca). If the External Examiner requests a hard copy of the thesis, Faculty of Graduate Studies will send it via courier.
  3. Thesis Required by Committee and Academic Unit: The candidate will provide the thesis to the Examining Committee (excluding the External Examiner) and the graduate secretary for use by other interested faculty and students. Interdisciplinary PhD students must submit this final copy to the Director of the Interdisciplinary PhD program.
  4. No arrangements will be made for the oral examination until all these requirements are fulfilled. The examination will be held no earlier than four weeks after submission of the thesis, thereby allowing adequate time for the thesis to be read by the External Examiner.
  5. The Faculty of Graduate Studies will establish the place for the examination. Wherever possible the Coburg Board Room in the Mona Campbell building will be used.
  6. The Faculty of Graduate Studies will send a copy of the thesis to the External Examiner at least four weeks before the examination, with a request to submit the Examiner’s Report of the thesis no later than one week prior to the defence date.
  7. The External Examiner will submit by mail, fax, or email, a constructively critical and analytical report (the External Examiner’s Report) to the Faculty of Graduate Studies at least one week prior to the scheduled date of the defence. The Examiner’s Report must include a recommendation on whether or not the thesis should proceed to defence. Where the recommendation is not to proceed, the report should indicate what, if anything, would be required to make the thesis acceptable. Note that a decision to proceed to defence does not imply that the thesis is approved, only that it is acceptable for defence. The External Examiner and the Examining Committee will have questions that must be answered to their satisfaction, and a thesis can be rejected as a result of the defence. The Examiner’s Report must not be disclosed to the candidate or the Supervisory Committee prior to the defence. If participation by the External Examiner is not possible, the defence should be rescheduled.
  8. If the External Examiner does not recommend that the thesis proceeds to examination, then within 12 months, a revised thesis may be resubmitted and sent to either the original External Examiner or to a new External Examiner, as deemed appropriate by the Faculty of Graduate Studies. A doctoral thesis may be submitted to the Faculty of Graduate Studies for examination no more than twice.
  9. If the External Examiner recommends that the thesis proceed to defence, notice of the public defence of the thesis will be published and sent to all relevant academic units by the Faculty of Graduate Studies. All interested faculty, students, and members of the public will be welcome to attend the defence.
  10. Variation of the regulations outlined above may be permitted only with the written permission of the Faculty of Graduate Studies.

PhD Examination Committee Minimum Composition:

  Single Supervisor Co-supervised
Chair (independent) 1 (appointed by FGS) 1 (appointed by FGS)
External Examiner 1 (External to Dalhousie, appointed by FGS) 1 (External to Dalhousie, appointed by FGS)
Minimum Examiners 1 Supervisor with Regular FGS* Membership

1 Reader with Regular FGS Membership*

1 Reader with FGS Membership*
1 Co-supervisor with Regular FGS* Membership

1 Co-supervisor with FGS Membership*

1 Reader with Regular FGS Membership*

1 Reader with FGS Membership*
Departmental Representative 1 (Regular Membership) 1 (Regular Membership)
Minimum Total 6 7

* See Section I and Section 9.1 for further clarification. Regular members should constitute no less than 50% of the membership of a supervisory committee.

Voting: Neither the Chair nor the Departmental Representative may vote on the outcome. Only the External Examiner and examiners who hold Faculty of Graduate Studies membership may vote. They and the Departmental Representative will sign the PhD Thesis Approval Form.

10.5.2 Oral Examination

The oral examination of a doctoral thesis is the culmination of the candidate’s research program. It exposes the work to scholarly criticism and gives to the candidate the opportunity to defend the thesis in public. The roles of the committee members are as follows:

  1. Chair of the Defence: The Examination is chaired by a member of the Panel of PhD Defence Chairs.
  2. Examining Committee: The Examining Committee consists of the research supervisor or co-supervisors, at least two additional members, and the External Examiner who shall be from outside the University. A Departmental Representative (the chair of the academic unit or a designate) is included as a non-voting and non-examining member of the committee.
  3. The Departmental Representative attends the public and in camera sessions of the defence. The role of the Departmental Representative is to ensure the academic unit expectations are adhered to and reports such to the Defence Chair.
  4. Order of Examination Proceedings: a) the Chair of the Defence opens the proceeding with a brief description of the protocol; b) the candidate is questioned on the thesis following a summary presentation no longer than 20 minutes; c) the Chair will give priority to questions from the External Examiner and then from the other members of the Examining Committee in some pre-arranged order; d) the audience will then be invited to ask questions; e) the Chair adjourns the examination when the Examining Committee decides that further questioning is unnecessary, and the candidate and all members of the audience are required to leave the room; f) the Chair then presides over the Examining Committee during its deliberations in camera; g) following the in camera session, the candidate is invited back into the room and is informed of the decision of the committee; h) the Chair oversees the completion of the PhD Thesis Approval Form as appropriate and completes the Defence Report and returns it immediately to the Faculty of Graduate Studies Office.
  5. In camera Deliberations and Grading: The decision of the Examining Committee is based both on the thesis and on the candidate’s ability to defend it. The thesis is graded approved or rejected. A thesis can be a) accepted by the Examining Committee as submitted; b) accepted on condition that specific corrections with a clear timetable for completion normally within one month are made or c) rejected. The thesis can be rejected on grounds of form as well as content. If specific corrections are required, the thesis will be returned to the candidate with a time limit for the completion of all corrections, normally no more than one month. Specific corrections will usually be left to the satisfaction of the research supervisor.
  6. Proceedings in the Case of Rejection: If the thesis is rejected, the committee can recommend that the student be encouraged to re-submit a revised thesis. The revised thesis will be re-read by an Examining Committee, at least two of whose members were on the original committee. The thesis shall be submitted to an External Examiner who may be the original External Examiner if the Associate Dean of Graduate Studies considers this to be desirable. The candidate shall defend the thesis before an Examining Committee in the usual way. If the thesis is rejected again, there will be no third examination. Such a student will be academically dismissed without the possibility of reinstatement.
  7. Variation of the procedures stipulated above may be permitted only with the written permission of the Faculty of Graduate Studies.

Anomalies or deviations from the procedures or actions detailed above will be dealt with solely by the Dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies. The Dean(s) of the Faculty in which the student is enrolled cannot intercede in matters related to the defence of a thesis (Master's or PhD).