College of Arts and Science - where great minds meet Home http://www.usask.ca/

M.A. Thesis

The M.A. Thesis & Oral Defence

  • Goals for the Graduate Student
  • Choosing a thesis supervisor
  • The Thesis Proposal
  • Guidelines for thesis writer & supervisor
  • The role of the thesis supervisor
  • The responsibilities of the student
  • The Advisory Committee
  • The Thesis Defence
    • Thesis defence committee members & roles
    • Timeline, procedure & results

Goals for the graduate student

According to the College of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies Calendar, the M.A. student must demonstrate the ability to do independent research on a specific topic related to the wider discipline. The thesis will be between 75 and 95 pages. The finished document must conform to the requirements of the current edition of the MLA Handbook. It will also meet the specifications of the College of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies Guide for the Preparation of a Thesis.

To ensure the graduate student remains balanced in the planning and writing of the thesis, the French section offers the following recommendations:

  • Choose a subject that will hold your interest
  • Be ready to submit several drafts before a final version is approved by the advisory committee.

Choosing a thesis supervisor

Students are encouraged to approach a potential supervisor as soon as possible. Students who are beginning the second year of their program without a supervisor should meet with the French Graduate Committee for advice.

Writing the thesis proposal

A thesis proposal form must be filled out in consultation with the supervisor. When completed, this form will show the working title of the thesis, a brief statement of the research objectives, a statement of support from the supervisor, a detailed description of the project, and a working bibliography of primary and secondary sources important to the project. For the M.A., a 2-3 page proposal with a 1-2 page bibliography is adequate. The completed proposal must conform to the requirements of the current MLA Handbook. Students should submit the thesis proposal to the Chair of the French Graduate Committee by May 1 of the first year of studies (September 1 for those who begin studies in January). Students must submit the proposal as both a hard copy and an e-mail text to the French Graduate Chair.

The French Graduate Committee makes the decision to either approve the thesis proposal or request that revisions be made. Approval by the French Graduate Committee is an important stage of the process, in that it recognizes a clearly formulated proposal and thereby gives momentum to the writing of the thesis.

  1. Title: It should reflect the subject and its elements as clearly as possible: text, author, time period, place, genre, theory.
  2. Research objectives: The proposal should indicate what the writer hopes to achieve and offer a clear and concise description of the topic, with emphasis on one particular issue to be researched in this area.
  3. Description: The proposal should answer the following questions: "Why are you choosing to study these texts?" "What features of these texts will you investigate?" "What approach are you taking in this investigation?" A plan for the structure of the research work should be included.
  4. Bibliography: The bibliography should draw attention to those sources that are deemed essential, and therefore be selective, and not exhaustive.

Guidelines for the writer and supervisor of the thesis

The principal role of the supervisor is to guide the student to write the best possible thesis. In doing so, the supervisor should be a committed, accessible, stimulating, respectful guide as well as a consistent and rigorous evaluator. After all, the student's work must meet the standards of the university and the discipline. It is unusual, though not impossible, for a student to change supervisors during the program. Should a situation arise which may require a change in thesis supervision, the student, the supervisor or both should consult the French Graduate Chair.

The role of the thesis supervisor

  • to help select a thesis subject
  • to help develop and maintain a work schedule
  • to be either familiar with the specific area of research or willing to acquire that familiarity
  • to be available for consultation; depending on the student's stage of work, meetings may occur once a week, once a month, or once a term
  • to consult with the French Graduate Chair about the selection of the two examiners who will sit on the Advisory Committee and the external examiner for the thesis
  • to respond constructively to the student's drafts of the thesis
  • to consult with the student and the French Graduate Chair about continuity of supervision before leaving for extended periods
  • after approving the complete thesis, to give a finished copy to the French Graduate Chair to be passed on to the examiners; by announcing that the thesis is ready for examination, the supervisor does not commit the Department to accepting the thesis 
  • to advise the student about any changes to the thesis required by its examiners

The responsibilities of the student

  • to show commitment to reading the material required to carry out research pursuant to writing the thesis
  • to develop a work schedule and respect the appropriate time limits
  • to meet with the supervisor and advisory committee when requested and to report regularly on progress in research and writing
  • to maintain registration in the program and (for international students) to keep any necessary visas and immigration documents up to date
  • to maintain an available current address
  • to consider advice and criticism from the advisory committee seriously and respond to it constructively
  • to meet the requirements of the College of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies concerning deadlines and writing style
  • to recognize that the supervisor and advisory committee have other teaching, research, and administrative obligations which may take precedence over consultation on the thesis project
  • to be scrupulous in acknowledging sources of information

The advisory committee

Each graduate student is assigned an advisory committee, consisting of one member from the Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultural Studies, another member from the same department or another department of the University of Saskatchewan, and an external examiner. The student reports to the Advisory Committee about progress towards completion of the requirements of the program, and the committee responds by either indicating approval of this progress or suggesting ways to improve it.

The French Graduate Studies Committee serves as Advisory Committee for students whose thesis proposal has not yet been accepted.

The Advisory Committee normally meets with the student once a year (except where a defence is imminent) to discuss the year’s work and either approves the student’s progress or offers suggestions for improvement, or may recommend changes to the direction of thesis research. Before the meeting, the student must submit an annual report on progress in the program, both a paper copy and an e-mail text, to his/her supervisor, who then forwards it to the French Graduate Chair.

The French Graduate Chair reports annually to the College of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies about the progress of each student in the program. A report indicating unsatisfactory progress is referred for further action to the appropriate committee at the College.

The role of the advisory committee

  • to provide constructive criticism of the student's ideas as the program develops
  • to be reasonably accessible to the student for consultation
  • to comment on the student's annual progress report

Thesis defence

The three examiners and the French Graduate Chair or a representative of the French Graduate Committee participate in the thesis examination. The duties of the examiners are outlined here.

a. Examiners who are members of the Advisory Committee

These two examiners read the last version of the thesis submitted before the defence, paying attention to its quality of argument, structure, and readability. This reading takes at least three weeks. In a report written to the French Graduate Chair and copied to the student and supervisor, they state whether or not the thesis is ready for examination.

The student is free to proceed to the examination over the objections of these two examiners. In reporting that a thesis is ready for examination, the examiners do not commit the Department to accept it at the examination. If there are serious concerns about the acceptability of aspects of the thesis, the written report will indicate them.

b. External examiner

The external examiner represents the Dean of the College of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies. After the two examiners on the Advisory Committee have submitted their reports and the student has made any necessary revisions, the external examiner reads the thesis, observes the examination as it proceeds, participates in evaluating the thesis and the student's responses during the examination, and afterwards submits a form reporting to the Dean on these matters. The College of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies sends a form for this purpose to the external examiner. The external examiner examines the thesis with attention to the way it refers to the area of his or her own expertise, and considers the general persuasiveness of the thesis for an audience not familiar with the field or the discipline of French.

c. Thesis defence

Given the difficulty of scheduling thesis examinations between June 1 and August 31, students are advised to complete the thesis well before the deadlines. The time from submission to examination of an M.A. thesis is normally 6-8 weeks; during the summer, arrangements for the defence can take longer. A thesis examination is governed by the following regulations:

  • All faculty of the Department are invited to attend; the candidate may also request that the Department invite interested graduate students.
  • The French Graduate Chair or the Chair's designate will chair the examination.
  • The supervisor is neither an examiner nor the chair of the examination, but normally attends the examination and remains during the examining committee's deliberations.
  • At the outset of the examination, the candidate speaks for ten to fifteen minutes about the issues, approaches, conclusions, and significance of the thesis.
  • The examiners question the candidate for about twenty minutes each, and then have the opportunity for a second round of one or two further questions. Normally, the examination will not exceed two hours.
  • After the question period, everyone but the Chair and the examiners withdraws while the examiners deliberate their decision. That decision will be one of the following:
    1. Recommendation 1: thesis acceptable, with or without minor revisions (to be completed within two weeks); oral defence acceptable.
    2. Recommendation 2: thesis requires re-submission (within six weeks); underlying research judged to be sound, but thesis needs rewriting with addition of illustrative material or limited additional data; oral defence acceptable.
    3. Recommendation 3: thesis acceptable; oral defence unacceptable; second attempt at oral defence should be completed within three months of the date of the initial examination. Only one retake allowed.
    4. Recommendation 4: thesis unacceptable; oral examination re-take; thesis does not meet minimum standards, but committee believes that further research and/or revision may bring it to an acceptable standard or thesis defence is unacceptable but the committee agrees that the candidate has the potential, with additional preparation, to be able to successfully defend his/her work; re-submission of thesis is required as well as a second attempt at oral defence no sooner than six months and no later than twelve months after the original defence.
    5. Recommendation 5: clear fail; thesis does not meet minimum standards and committee considers that no reasonable amount of additional research or revision is likely to bring it to an acceptable standard or oral defence of thesis is completely unacceptable and committee agrees that the candidate does not have the potential to be able to successfully defend the work; committee recommends candidate be required to discontinue from the College of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies.

No later than one week after the examination, the examiners must give a written copy of any requirements they have for the thesis to the French Graduate Chair. The supervisor and the chair of the examination are responsible for seeing that the candidate carries out the changes, but the examiners retain the right to request that these be submitted for their approval. If the supervisor declines to see the changes carried out, the chair of the examination appoints one of the Department examiners to do so in the supervisor's place. All these things are to be agreed upon before the examination meeting ends. Candidates must supply two additional bound copies of their thesis to the Department, one for the supervisor, and the other for the Department library and an electronic copy to CGPS. Please consult the University of Saskatchewan Electronic Thesis Site for further details.