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Graduate Studies

Doctoral Degree

Your first step regarding any questions with respect to writing your thesis is to consult the School of Graduate Studies’ Guide for the Preparation of Doctoral and Masters Theses. All graduate theses must conform to the style and form requirements as detailed in the Guide.

Step 1. Write

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Please consult the Guide for the Preparation of Doctoral and Masters Theses for samples on how to format your thesis.

Download the guide via the Quick Links – right hand side of this web page.

Per the Guide for the Preparation of Theses: The text of the standard graduate thesis consists of the Introduction section or chapter, followed by several well-defined sections or chapters, which contain the research results, finishing with a Conclusion and Discussion section or chapter, or a summary statement of the results of the investigation. The List of References section (or bibliography) follows the text, and any appendices follow this.

Please consult the Guide for the Preparation of Theses for more detailed information on references and further resources that you can consult for referencing help.

If some of the research undertaken expressly for the degree has previously been published or prepared by the student as one or more journal articles, or parts of books, those items may be included within the thesis subject to the School of Graduate Studies’ regulations and to obtaining permission from the supervisory committee.

Please consult the Guide for the Preparation Theses for more detailed information on Sandwich Theses.

For your e-thesis to be published via MacSphere, the final version of your thesis should be named using the following file naming convention:


Effective December 1, 2023, all graduate students who initiate their defence on or after this date, are required to have their thesis run through McMaster’s plagiarism checking software, iThenticate.

iThenticate is a similarity detection tool meant to be used by researchers to check any original works that will be publicly released and who are concerned about potential plagiarism.

According to McMaster’s Research Plagiarism Checking Policy, it is expected that all graduate theses, shall be checked for plagiarism in compliance with this policy. Plagiarism checking is expected to occur prior to the coordination of the defence. PhD supervisors will be prompted to confirm this in the Admin Tools system once their students initiate their defence.

Your pre-defence thesis must be uploaded to iThenticate by your primary supervisor before you can initiate your PhD defence in Mosaic.

To protect graduate students’ privacy, only academic supervisors will have access to this software and will be responsible for uploading their student’s theses. It should not be used to check documents submitted to instructors as course assignments.

Step 2. Defend

Before initiating your defence, you should confirm with your supervisor and committee members that you are ready to initiate. Your supervisor must also run your pre-defence thesis through iThenticate before initiating. The defence process must be initiated electronically in Mosaic. The thesis defence is the final step in completing your degree.

The defence process must be initiated by the student electronically in Mosaic. Once you have logged into Mosaic, navigate to your Student Centre and click the  “My Academics” link.  Then click “Defend My Thesis” to initiate the process.

Please refer to the diagram and the appropriate sessional dates for more information on when to schedule your defence.


*Please note – PhD defences coordinated by the School of Graduate Studies cannot be scheduled during the following periods:

  • December 14 to January 8 inclusive
  • August 16 to August 20 inclusive

Defences scheduled by your supervisor, using the Accelerated Stream, are not affected by any exclusion periods.

See below for an accessible version of the Defence Process Diagram

Initiate Thesis Defence Process
Week 1: Committee members approval/external listing
Week 2: Candidate submits pre-defence thesis and submits suggested date for defence
Weeks 3 through 6: External examiner reads thesis
Week 7: Final report received from external
Week 8: Thesis defence
Submit Final Thesis

The PhD Final Oral Examination at McMaster University is an examination of a PhD candidate’s ability to defend publicly his/her written work. It takes the form of a brief statement by the candidate and questioning by the committee. The statement should take between 15 and 20 minutes to deliver. In preparing it, consider that you are speaking to an audience who has read your thesis. A simple summary is therefore neither necessary nor desirable. What you should endeavour to do is stress the main points of your contribution to the advancement of knowledge and technical difficulties, either of an experimental or theoretical nature, which you have overcome. Notes or other aids may be used, but the statement may not be read from a prepared script.

A PhD candidate should be able to

  • discuss the significance of their work,
  • explain at least some of its details, and
  • speculate about its implications.

For more detailed information on the defence procedures, please refer to the Guide for the Preparation of Theses.

It’s the examiners’ task to determine whether the student has met the university’s thesis requirement to present and successfully defend a thesis that embodies the results of original research and mature scholarship. The examiners represent Graduate Council and through Council, the Senate of the University, and are therefore responsible for the standard of the PhD at this university.

Questions having to do with the detailed content or the general argument of the thesis are relevant, as are questions regarding the relation between the matter of the thesis and the body of knowledge to which it contributes.

The committee of examiners, both of the written thesis and of the oral defence, will not likely all be expert in the candidate’s specialty, or even in their discipline. It is the particular responsibility of the external examiner and the supervisory committee to ensure that the thesis does indeed present an original and significant contribution to knowledge. Other examiners may reasonably be expected to exercise their judgment as members of the university faculty, keeping in mind the standards of excellence expected by the university of its PhD graduates.

For detailed guidelines about preparing and defending your thesis, download the Guide for the Preparation of Master’s and Doctoral Theses.

Step 3. Submit

Please note that your degree requirements are considered complete when one electronic copy of the thesis, revised as directed by your defence examining committee, is submitted to the School of Graduate Studies through the E-Thesis Submission module in MacSphere.

  • ONE electronic copy of the thesis, revised as recommended by the Thesis Examining Committee and approved by the Supervisor/Examining Committee
  • A standard 10-12 point font has been used
  • TOP and LEFT margins should be 3.8 cm, and RIGHT and BOTTOM margins should be 2.5 cm
  • Title page
  • Half-title page
  • Descriptive note
  • Abstract of 300 words or less
  • All preliminary pages are numbered in lower case Roman numerals
  • All pages must be numbered. The main body of the thesis, including text, bibliography and appendices, must be numbered continuously using Arabic numerals.

If you have not already done so, please submit the following forms to your department’s graduate administrator. They will submit them to the School of Graduate Studies on your behalf. Your final submission will not be considered complete without this documentation.

If you have completed all of the above requirements, you are ready to submit to your thesis.

  • Submit your electronic thesis to MacSphere. Please follow the link and click on ‘Sign on to my MacSphere’ to deposit your thesis. Ensure your thesis is uploaded as a pdf document. Any supporting material can be uploaded in various formats.
  • E-thesis file name conventions. For your e-thesis to be published via MacSphere, the final version of your thesis should be named using the following file naming convention:


  1. Go to MacSphere.
  2. On top/right corner click on Sign onto My MacSphere and log in with your MAC ID.
  3. Click on Start a New Submission.
  4. Select Collection: Open Access Dissertations and Theses, and click on Manual Submission to begin submitting your dissertation.
  5. Complete the submission screens as prompted. Once you click on I Grant The License, your dissertation will be submitted to Graduate Studies for processing.

Links to e-theses in MacSphere are available through a variety of tools. The contents of MacSphere are Google indexed, bringing McMaster scholarship to the attention of a broad range of users. Automated tools will continue to integrate e-theses with other print and electronic library resources in both the local catalogue and integrated catalogues, such as WorldCat.

Theses in physical formats have historically been low-use library materials, however digitized theses are receiving higher usage. Site statistics for theses currently available in McMaster’s MacSphere show several each month are downloaded more than 100 times and many others have multiple downloads.

Embargoed status is intended to protect rights for immediate commercial publication, to obtain a patent which may rise from the research, or as a result of any contract made with a third party. The student may request a postponement of digital publication for up to one year at the time of thesis submission to MacSphere – all such requests are automatically granted.

Students who would like to extend this initial period of postponement must apply to the thesis coordinator who will forward the request to the Vice-Provost and Dean of Graduate Studies for determination of whether further publication postponement is warranted. This request must include a full description of why the additional delay is requested and what steps have been taken to address the issues that required the initial delay. No delay of publication more than two years from the initial submission will be permitted.

Please note that you and your supervisor must both sign the delay of publication area on your Final Thesis Submission Sheet. For more information, consult the School of Graduate Studies Calendar.

If you choose to have your thesis bound, binding service is available through several online binding services.

Optional bound copies – Should the supervisor and/or department require one or more bound paper copies of your thesis, it is the student’s responsibility to obtain and distribute these bound copies.

Apart from these considerations, the general guidelines for thesis production should be followed.