Modern Languages and Cultural Studies

General Exam Procedures

MA-course Completion
MA-thesis Defense
PhD Defense Timeline
PhD External Examiner Guidelines and Procedures

MA (course-based) Completion

Description coming shortly

Pre-2016 MA (course-based) Completion

The capstone project for a course-based MA should be approximately 40-50 pages. Once your supervisor has approved your project, you must provide it to a second reader (chosen in consultation with your supervisor). Please allow at least four weeks for your second reader to evaluate your work. If you are trying to finish in time for a registration or convocation deadline, ensure you plan ahead with your readers to allow for vacation time or busy periods. Do not provide them with your paper last minute. You should be distributing your paper at least six weeks before any deadline, to allow for evaluation and processing of paperwork by the Graduate Advisor.

Once both your supervisor and reader have approved your work, they will need to sign an MA-c Completion form. Once completed, it is sent to the Graduate Advisor for processing. At the same time, please log into Bear Tracks and apply for convocation. FGSR will not be able to process your program completion until this step is taken. Once your forms are submitted to FGSR, please allow 1-2 weeks of processing time.

Your capstone project itself does not need to be submitted to the department or to FGSR, as these are no longer stored.

MA (thesis-based) Defense

The MA thesis should be approximately 100 pages in length and conform to the formatting standards set by FGSR described here.

Examiners required for defense

  • Non-examining chair
  • Supervisor
  • Two examiners, at least one of whom is arm's length

Definition of arm's length for MA: an arm's length examiner is an individual who is not a member of the supervisory committee; not connected with the thesis research in a significant way; not associated with the student outside normal contact in courses or other non-thesis activities; not a close collaborator of the supervisor. An arm's length examiner may be from the same department.

Timeline

Four weeks prior to the exam: student distributes copies of the thesis to all examining members.

At least three weeks prior to the exam: supervisor communicates exam information to the Graduate Advisor. This should include the date, time, preferred room, list of examining members, and information about any members who may be videoconferencing.

One week prior to the exam: Graduate Advisor provides the chair with exam procedures (if required) and the Thesis Approval to be signed at the exam.

If the exam is a pass (this includes minor revisions such as typos), all committee members will sign the Thesis Approval form and the chair of the exam will return it to the Graduate Advisor.

In the case of a pass subject to revisions, all members sign except the supervisor, who will sign once revisions are complete. The chair of the examining committee must provide in writing, within five working days of the examination, to the Dean, FGSR, the graduate coordinator and the student:

  • the reasons for this outcome
  • the details of the required revisions
  • the approval mechanism for meeting the requirement for revisions (eg. approval of the examining committee chair or supervisor, or approval of the entire examining committee, or select members of the committee)
  • the supervision and assistance the student can expect to receive from committee members.

The student must make the revisions within six months of the date of the examination. Once the revisions are approved, the Thesis Approval Form is submitted to FGSR.

If the exam is adjourned or failed, no members should sign the Thesis Approval form and should consult with the Graduate Advisor.

The Graduate Advisor will submit this paperwork to FGSR for processing. Please allow 1-2 weeks before you attempt to upload your thesis online.

Doctoral (PhD) Defense

The PhD thesis should be approximately 200 pages in length and conform to the formatting standards set by FGSR described here.

Examiners required for defense

  • Non-examining chair
  • Supervisor
  • Supervisory Committee Members
  • 2 arm's length examiners
  • 1 external examiner from outside the University of Alberta

Definition of arm's length: an arm's length examiner is an individual who is not a member of the supervisory committee; not connected with the thesis research in a significant way; not associated with the student outside normal contact in courses or other non-thesis activities; not a close collaborator of the supervisor. An arm's length examiner may be from the same department and may serve as the arm's length examiner for both the candidacy exam and the final defense.

Timeline

1. Set up the external examiner (2-3 months ahead)

At least two to three months (and up to a year) ahead of the predicted completion of the dissertation, an external examiner should be selected. Please do not leave this to the last minute and request a rush, as there is ample time to do this in advance. The external examiner is selected by the supervisor, who will initiate contact and establish interest. If the examiner is agreeable to participate, the supervisor must send his or her contact information to the Associate Chair, Graduate. The supervisor must have no further contact with the examiner from this point. 

There are two options for external participation: reader or examiner. An external reader will not attend or participate in the exam day. They will review the dissertation thoroughly and submit a written report to the Associate Chair, Graduate a week before the exam. This will include a vote (acceptable with no or minor revisions, unacceptable without major revisions) and a list of questions and corrections. These questions will be presented at the defense by the exam chair, and the vote will be counted. An external examiner will participate in the exam either in person or by videoconference. This examiner must still submit a letter to the Associate Chair one week ahead of the exam, with a vote on the dissertation's suitability for defense.

Approval of the external examiner is granted by the Associate Dean of Graduate Studies in the Faculty of Arts. The guidelines for selection are as follows.

The External:

  • Must be a recognized authority in the specific field of research of the student's thesis.
  • Must be experienced in evaluating doctoral area work. Externals are expected to have supervised students at the doctoral level and to have served on doctoral examining committees. The department must present a justification for any external who does not meet this criteria.
  • Must be in a position to review this thesis objectively and to provide a critical analysis of the work and the presentation. Thus, the external should not have an association with the student, the supervisor, or the department within the last six years. Under normal circumstances, the same person will not be used as an external at the University of Alberta if that external has served in the same capacity in the same department at this University within the preceding two years; this does not preclude an external serving in another department.

2. Approve the dissertation for defense

All members of the supervisory committee must agree that the dissertation is suitable and ready for defense. They can do so by emailing their approval to the Graduate Advisor.

3. Distribute the dissertation to external (five to six weeks ahead)

The external must have at least four weeks to read the dissertation, and ideally more. The student must provide both an electronic and paper copy of the dissertation to the Graduate Advisor, who will handle its distribution. Ensure you book an exam date that allows sufficient time for both delivery and reading (five to six weeks).

4. Distribute the dissertation to the exam committee (four weeks ahead)

The student is responsible for delivering the dissertation either electronically or on paper to all other members of the exam committee. Please ensure this is done at least four weeks prior to the exam date.

5. Set an exam date (at least 3 weeks ahead)

The supervisor must communicate exam details to the Graduate Advisor, including date, time, preferred room, videoconferencing requirements, and a list of all examining members. 

6. External review (one week ahead)

The external will submit a written review to the Associate Chair, Graduate. Copies will be given to the exam chair to be used in the defense. The chair will also be provided copies for the student and supervisor, to be given to them after the completion of the exam. The chair will also be provided with the Thesis Approval form.

7. Exam day

If the exam is a pass (this includes minor revisions such as typos), all committee members will sign the Thesis Approval form and the chair of the exam will return it to the Graduate Advisor.

In the case of a pass subject to revisions all members sign except the supervisor, who will sign once revisions are complete. The chair of the examining committee must provide in writing, within five working days of the examination, to the Dean, FGSR, the graduate coordinator and the student:

  • the reasons for this outcome
  • the details of the required revisions
  • the approval mechanism for meeting the requirement for revisions (eg. approval of the examining committee chair or supervisor, or approval of the entire examining committee, or select members of the committee)
  • the supervision and assistance the student can expect to receive from committee members.

The student must make the revisions within six months of the date of the examination. Once the revisions are approved, the Thesis Approval Form is submitted to FGSR.

If the exam is adjourned or failed, no members should sign the Thesis Approval form and should consult with the Graduate Advisor.

The Graduate Advisor will submit this paperwork to FGSR for processing. Please allow 1-2 weeks before you attempt to upload your thesis online.