Thesis Completion Guidelines

The following notes provide English program in-house guidance for supervisors and candidates concerning the final stages of thesis completion and the setting up of the exam board and the defence. Definitive regulations are posted by SGPS and they should also be consulted:

Please also see the Department of English's Thesis Regulations & Procedures:

1. Planning prior to submission of thesis draft to supervisor
In considering possibilities for a defence date, the candidate must plan well ahead to ensure that he or she has any necessary SGPS extensions in place, is in good standing with the University regarding fees and any other dues, has fulfilled the program's language requirements, can meet the SGPS deadlines for submission of thesis to SGPS, has allowed for the six weeks of reading time required for examiners, and (particularly in Summer Term) is taking account of faculty and staff vacation periods and other authorized leaves. It is wise to have made financial provision for payment of an extra term's tuition fees in case the defence has to be delayed for any reason. Please see the Section 4.04 d) of the Graduate Regulations on Thesis Defense Only status.

2. Submission of penultimate thesis draft to supervisor
The candidate submits a penultimate draft of the complete thesis to the supervisor. The draft must constitute one through-composed text (not, for instance, a set of discrete articles). All chapters, including introduction, conclusion, bibliography, notes, and any appendices, must be submitted at the same time (since the supervisor will want to check one section against another). A high standard of spell-checking and proof-reading should have been reached, so that the supervisor is not distracted by microscale errors. Similarly, bibliography format should conform with MLA requirements. If the draft does not meet the standards listed above it is not ready for this formal supervisor submission stage.

3. Supervisor reads thesis draft
The time needed by the supervisor for reading and reporting back should be negotiated in advance. The supervisor will need to be allowed several weeks at least, since this is a crucial stage in the proceedings. Special circumstances may call for longer. Supervisors should not be put under pressure to reduce or waive this reading time. Similar observations apply to other members of the supervisory board who have reading commitments.

4. Final revisions
The supervisor informs the candidate of any revisions that need to be made. All residual proof-reading and checking (e.g., of references) must be done as part of the revision, whether or not indicated by the supervisor.

5. Notification of graduate chair
If the supervisor is satisfied as to the overall quality of the thesis draft, he or she informs the graduate chair that the thesis is within two or three weeks of readiness for submission to SGPS and that carry-through to SGPS submission of thesis is guaranteed.

6. Preparation for final submission
The candidate should consult the SGPS webpage on Thesis Regulations for up-to-date format requirements. Copies of previous English program theses should not be used as templates, since format requirements may have changed. Where the SGPS instructions do not cover specific contingencies, MLA formatting and referencing guidelines should be followed instead. Where SGPS and MLA conflict, SGPS guidelines should be followed.

7. Candidate and supervisor role in setting up the examination board and defence date
Four examiners are needed: 1 external to the University, 1 within the University but external to the program, 2 internal to the program. Candidate and supervisor should discuss possible examiner nominees fully, reviewing the various options. Considerations are, for instance, a) their likely availability, b) the applicability of their teaching and research interests to the specific thesis project, c) their experience in the examiner role, d) their potential helpfulness for the candidate's career.

All nominee examiners must be "at arm's length" from the candidate. That means not being a relative or a friend, not having helped substantively with the thesis at any stage, not having collaborated with the candidate (e.g., on conference panels, editorship of journals or essay collections), and so forth. In case of the program examiners, these requirements apply less rigorously.

In addition, departmental and university examiners must have membership with SGPS in order to participate.

When these discussions have resulted in a consensus shortlist of prospective examiners, the supervisor passes the list on to the graduate chair. This list should include complete contact information, including e-addresses, telephone numbers, and links to the nominee's webpage, so as to expedite the correspondence between graduate chair and the nominees. In the English program it is the convention that the candidate and supervisor do not themselves issue the formal invitation to prospective examiners. That (as described below) is the role of the graduate chair, who in turns consults the Department chair on budgetary matters connected with the external examiner visit.

8. Graduate chair role in setting up the examination board and defence date
On receipt of the list of potential examiners, the graduate chair asks the supervisor whether all prospective examiners are "at arm's length" from the candidate. If satisfied on this score, the graduate chair contacts the prospective examiners. Although this process is prioritized over other graduate chair commitments and can sometimes be completed quite rapidly, equally (and unpredictably) it may well consume two or even three weeks. Nominees may have many commitments and be unable to respond immediately. Also, it can be difficult to find a date when all parties can attend defence. (It is the expectation, under SGPS regulations, that all examiners be present.) Candidates need to build this allowance into their time-line leading up to defence. Once all arrangements are made the graduate chair nominates the examination board to SGPS.

9. SGPS submission
Within the following week, and by the deadlines specified by SGPS (see SGPS thesis submission timelines), the candidate should submit thesis to SGPS (see Electronic Thesis and Dissertation - Overview). The supervisor approval form must be completed and submitted by the student in hard copy to the Thesis and Membership Coordinator at SGPS. In those rare and undesirable cases where the supervisor has declined to sign off but where the candidate wishes to go to examination regardless, the candidate should enquire with the graduate chair or graduate assistant as to the procedures for submitting on their own recognizance.

10. Commencement of examination
The thesis is dispatched to the examiners by the SGPS Thesis Coordinator. The Coordinator will also, in due course, inform the candidate officially as to date, time, and venue of the defence (though the first two items will have been unofficially communicated already by the graduate chair).

11. Guidance to candidate on defence
During the examiner reading time, the supervisor and the graduate chair will provide advice and guidance to the candidate on the standard protocols for the defence and how to prepare for it.