MA Thesis and Research Procedures

MA Research Supervision

As early as possible in their program of study, students should identify a faculty member from the department who is willing to act as their Research Supervisor and work with them to develop a thesis proposal. The Research Supervisor need not be the student’s program Advisor.

After the student has completed most of his/her coursework, and tentatively identified a research topic for the Thesis, the Research Supervisor and the student will establish a Thesis Research Committee. This Research Committee will supervise the student’s research and completion of the Thesis. The Research Committee is chaired by the Research Supervisor and consists of a least one other faculty member. A third faculty member joins the committee as an examiner just prior to the final oral examination. Under special circumstances approved by the Graduate Advisor and with permission of the Dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies, the Research Committee may include a person who is not a member of the UBC Faculty of Graduate Studies. See below for more details about the structure and function of the Research Committee.

MA Thesis

A major part of the MA student’s work will consist of a Thesis summarizing the results of original research. The MA Thesis is intended to serve as a vehicle for developing the student’s research and scholarly capability. Ideally, the Thesis involves the student in all the rigors of critical reading, evaluation and analysis of research and theoretical literature, problem definition, research design and analysis, and the written and oral presentation of findings and conclusions. The nature of research may be theoretical, empirical, historical, qualitative, ethnographic, or analytical, according to what is appropriate to the student’s area of study.

The Behavioral Sciences Review Committee of the University must approve the acceptability of all studies (including theses) that involve human subjects. This approval is required when any human being is subjected to experimental procedures or when an invasion of privacy may be involved (e.g., by examination of records, by interview, or by administration of a questionnaire). Information and all necessary forms for securing human subjects approval are available from the Office of Research Services (Ethics Division). Human Subjects (ethics) approval and approval of the Research Committee must be secured prior to embarking on a research project.
The completed Thesis is submitted to the University Library and must in all ways comply with the University requirements. Students are referred to the document, “Instructions for Preparation of Graduate Theses”, for details regarding thesis requirements, available from the Library, the Faculty of Graduate Studies, or online at: http://www.grad.ubc.ca/current-students/dissertation-thesis-preparation.

Thesis Development and Supervision

A designated Research or Thesis Supervisor and Research Committee will supervise development and completion of the MA Thesis. The procedures for formation, membership, and changes in the Research Committee are as follows:

Thesis or Research Supervisor

At least one faculty member, acting in the capacity of Thesis Supervisor will oversee the development and completion of the Thesis. The Thesis Supervisor must be a member of the Department, normally one affiliated with the student’s area of specialization, with relevant substantive knowledge in the student’s area of study. Frequently, the Advisor can serve as the Thesis Supervisor.
It is the responsibility of the student to approach relevant faculty members and discuss the possibility of service as Thesis Supervisor. Once a faculty member has agreed to serve as the student’s Thesis Supervisor, this agreement must be verified in writing to the Department Graduate Office in a memo, which is signed by the student, and the Thesis Supervisor. Identification of the Thesis Supervisor must also be indicated on the student’s Program of Graduate Studies (PGS).

It is important that the student identifies and consults with his/her Thesis Supervisor when he/she is prepared to begin to work on a Thesis, but prior to the development of a Thesis Proposal.

Research Committee

In consultation with the Thesis Supervisor, the student must also specify a Research Committee. This should be done as early as possible in the student’s program. Each student’s Research Committee consists of a minimum of one other faculty member (with a third person becoming involved at the time of the final oral examination). This person should be a faculty member with knowledge and expertise within the student’s chosen area of study and who can provide advice and assistance throughout the conduct of the Thesis project.

Normally, the Thesis Supervisor serves as Chair of the student’s Research Committee, but the Chair must be a member of the Department, and should be an individual with research and/or relevant substantive knowledge in the student’s program and Thesis area. This “expertise match” is an important part of the basis for successful completion of the degree, and neither students nor faculty should minimize its importance. Other members of the Research Committee should be selected to supplement the expertise and experience of the Chair. Although a full-time, senior member of faculty must chair each supervisory committee, the committee may include individuals who are not full-time faculty members. In particular, professors emeriti, honorary faculty, adjunct faculty and off-campus professionals who are academically qualified to advise graduate students may be members of the committee if approved by the Dean of Graduate Studies.

The student must notify the Department Graduate Office, usually by a memo to the Graduate Advisor, of the Research Committee membership. The membership of the Research Committee must also be noted on the student’s Program of Graduate Studies form. Students must also notify the Department Graduate Office regarding any changes that occur in the membership of his/her Research Committee, usually through a memo to the Graduate Advisor.

Much of the work of the Research Committee is typically accomplished by means of informal meetings between the candidate and members of his/her Research Committee. Other meetings or working sessions of the Research Committee may, of course, be held at the discretion of those involved.

Examination of the Thesis

Student performance on the MA Thesis is formally examined on two occasions: the defense of the proposal or Thesis Proposal Hearing and the Final Oral Examination or defense of the completed Thesis.

Thesis Proposal Hearing
Guidelines and procedures for the Thesis Proposal Hearing are described below.

  • The Thesis Proposal is viewed as a “Letter of Agreement” between the student and his/her Research Committee. As such, it is to be a written document containing a clear statement of the intended Thesis topic, justification of the intended topic by reference to and critical evaluation of related research and theory, and careful description of the procedures intended for use in the exposition of the Thesis project. Often, students choose to develop a proposal that will serve, with very little modification, as the initial three chapters of their Thesis, but this is not a formal requirement. The format of presentation of the proposal will vary, depending on the problem, the student’s style, and the character of the Research Committee, although proposals should follow APA (American Psychological Association) style.
  • A completed Thesis Proposal should be submitted to the student’s Thesis Committee at least 3 weeks prior to the Proposal Hearing. The proposal is then formally presented and defended at a meeting of the Research Committee to which others may be invited if the student and his/her Committee deem it desirable. The student defends his/her selection of a problem and his/her intended procedures for evaluating this problem empirically. The Proposal Hearing is as important as the ultimate defense of the Thesis itself. Collecting the Thesis data, or otherwise proceeding with subsequent steps in the production of a Thesis, is contingent upon the acceptance of the Thesis Proposal by the Research Committee. Thus, students must not proceed with their proposed research project until after their Thesis Proposal has been successfully defended and approved.
  • Normally, all other degree requirements must be completed prior to the Proposal Hearing.
  • The cover sheet of the Thesis Proposal should contain space for the signatures of the student and the Committee members, signifying that all parties concerned have agreed to the terms of reference for the Thesis as outlined in the Thesis Proposal. It is acknowledged here that changes (especially in the ‘Procedures’ aspect) often are introduced during the operational phases and thus the proposal is not binding in any strict sense. Signatures of the student and the Research Committee members, however, do indicate that all parties have agreed in good faith to the problem and the general procedures described in the Thesis Proposal. Any subsequent changes are to be negotiated as the need arises between the student and the Research Committee.
  • A copy of the signed proposal cover sheet is to be filed by the student in the student’s file in the Department Graduate Office following a successful Thesis Proposal Hearing.
  • Intervening work may be, and often is accomplished by means of informal meetings between the student and members of his/her Research Committee. Other meetings—work sessions—of the Research Committee may, of course, be held at the discretion of those involved.

Final Oral Examination

Prior to the presentation of the completed Thesis and the Final Oral Examination, the candidate’s Research Committee must be satisfied that the Thesis has been satisfactorily completed. At this time, the Research Committee selects an appropriate Departmental or extra-departmental examiner to serve on the thesis examining committee and determines a date for the Final Oral Examination. The Committee responsible for evaluating the thesis must include a minimum of two people: the thesis supervisor or designate, and a person who is not involved in advising the student in his or her research. The Final Oral Examination is an open examination and is advertised at least two weeks prior to the defense, at which time a copy of the Thesis is made available for review in the Department Graduate Office. At the Final Oral Examination, the candidate makes an oral presentation, normally of 20–30 minutes duration, often supplemented with audio-visual material, and responds to questions related to the topic. Following the Final Oral Examination, some revisions to the thesis may be required and in some cases the Thesis may need to be re-examined.

The guidelines and procedures for the Final Oral Examination are described below.

  • A student’s Thesis must be prepared according to the procedures and in the form described in the leaflet entitled, “Instructions for Preparation of Graduate Theses, and should also conform to APA (American Psychological Association) style requirements.
  • The Departmental or extra-departmental examiner should be from within the UBC academic community and will be appointed by the Research Supervisor to join the Examination Committee, based on recommendations from the candidate’s Research Committee. The examiner will be a selected for his/her general expertise in the area of the thesis topic and related areas.
  • The Thesis Supervisor arranges for a time and date for the Final Oral Examination through the Department Graduate Office. At this time and 2 weeks prior the proposed Final Oral examination the candidate must provide one copy of the Thesis as accepted by his/her committee the Department Graduate Office.
  • At least four weeks before the Final Oral Examination the candidate must supply enough copies of the approved form of the Thesis for delivery to each member of the candidate’s examination committee.
  • The candidate is to make arrangements for any audio-visual needs for the final oral at least one week before the Final Oral Defense.
  • The Final Oral Examination is open to all members of the University. Notice of the examination will be given in the form of a printed program announcing the title of the candidate’s thesis, date and place of the examination and the members of the Examination Committee. The Research Supervisor is to forward the program information to the Department Graduate Office at least two weeks prior to the defense.
  • The Examining Committee will consist of a quorum of the candidate’s Research Committee, including the Thesis supervisor, and the external examiner.
  • The candidate will be required to make a 20- to 30-minute oral presentation summarizing the research completed. Following the presentation, members of the Examination Committee may ask questions of the candidate with reference to the thesis or to areas related to the thesis topic. After completion of this questioning, the candidate and visitors will be asked to leave the examination room so that the Committee may decide upon acceptance and percentage grade to be assigned to the thesis. After deliberations are completed, the candidate will be invited to meet the committee.
  • The title page of an accepted thesis is to be signed by at least two members of the Examination Committee. In the instance of a pass with major or minor revision decisions, the signature of the Chairperson of the candidate’s Research Committee is withheld until final corrections are made. The Chairperson must also sign the abstract of the thesis.
  • Upon receipt of a copy of the signed Thesis by the Special Collections Division of the Library, the candidate will have completed all MA degree requirements. Copies of the Special Collections Division receipt and a copy of the approved thesis are to be filed, by the candidate, with Department Graduate Office.