PhD Thesis Submission and Defence

Most of the regulations concerning the PhD thesis submission and defence are covered by the SGPS thesis regulations and the timelines.   The terms "thesis defence" and "thesis examination are used interchangeably here.

doctoral thesis timeline

Q1: What is a second reader?

A1:  Somebody from the department - not your supervisor - who reads and provides written comment on a full draft of your thesis - 12-14 weeks prior to defence.

The second reader process is a Geography regulation.  Since only one of the thesis advisory committee members may serve on the examination committee - it is common to use the advisory committee member who will not serve on the examination committee as the second reader.  The member who serves on the examination committee may still review drafts of chapters at the discretion of the advisory committee.  The second reader must fill out the second reader form. This process can take up to two months depending on the scale of possible revisions.

Q2: What do I need to do first once my thesis is ready to submit? 

A2: Set a defence date - 10 weeks prior to defence.

In terms of the timeline approaching the defence, it is most useful to work backwards from a target thesis examination date. Keep in mind that you, in collaboration with your supervisor, need to initiate the process.  You should have an abstract of the thesis ready at this time to send out to potential examiners.  You should also be very close to having approval from your supervisor to proceed to exam.

Q3: When do we form a thesis examination board?

A3: 8-9 weeks prior to defence

After a defence date or a list of possible defence dates is identified, the thesis examination board formation process should be initiated by the candidate and supervisor at least 8-9 weeks prior to the expected thesis examination date and needs to be finalized no later than 7 weeks prior to the examination date.  Leave time to arrange the external examiner in particular and have an abstract of the thesis ready to provide potential examiners.

Q4: When do I submit my thesis for the defence?

A4: 6 weeks prior to defence


Q5: When will I know if the thesis is clear for oral defence?

A5: 5 days prior to defence

Five days prior to the defence each examining member of your thesis examination board (not your supervisor or the exam board chair) will complete and submit a thesis evaluation form provided by SGPS something like this (a Masters version). Beware though that proceeding to oral defence does not mean you have already passed.  All evaluations are provisional and the evaluation of the written thesis form and content can be reversed based on the evaluation of the oral defence.

Q6: When is my public lecture?

A6: 90 minutes prior to the oral defence.

This helps create a seamless process and momentum.  Geography provides the regulations on the public lecture as follows.  The lecture is expected to be about 45 minutes with an additional 10 minutes for questions.  The candidate should consult their supervisor about the form and content of the presentation, but emphasis should be placed on the contributions of the thesis.  The candidate and thesis examination board then proceed to the closed-door oral thesis examination.  If the lecture and defence are in different venues, there will be a break of about 30 minutes between the two.  

Q7: How much time do I need to make changes to my thesis?

A7: Theoretically, maximum six weeks after a successful defence.

The thesis guidelines state that to "pass with minor revisions" (a common scenario) you are able to complete the revisions and have the document submitted to SGPS within six weeks.  Allow time for approval by your thesis examination board (usually the supervisor withholds the final signature on the certificate of examination form). Besides one copy of your thesis, you will need (completed):

  • one copy of the certificate of examination form


Please contact the Graduate Administrator with any questions regarding the graduate program.

Phone: 519-661-2111, Ext. 85033;