Department of Gender Studies

Department of Gender Studies
Department of Gender Studies

MA Thesis Program of Study (no longer offered)

The Gender Studies Department no longer admits students to complete an MA thesis. The department admitted its final new cohort of MA thesis students in 2016.

Students who wish to pursue advanced research are encouraged to consider applying to the Gender Studies PhD program.

Graduates of the Gender Studies MA program may be admitted to the Gender Studies PhD program with advanced standing. (See MA Program of Study and PhD Program of Study)

Link to One-Year MA

Click here for Two-Year Checklist

Beginning in 2016, the Gender Studies Department no longer accepts applications to complete a two-year MA with thesis. On occasion, at the discretion of the department, a student may be invited to complete a two-year MA with thesis; this decision will be made at the time of admission. The following regulations apply to MA students who were enrolled previously in the two-year MA thesis program, or who may be invited to complete a thesis in the future. 

Students admitted to the two-year MA with thesis complete four (3.0 credit) courses -- GNDS 801(3.0), GNDS 802 (3.0) and two electives -- during their first year of study. Afterwards, students enroll in GNDS 899(3.0) - Master’s Thesis Research until the completion of their MA.

Selection of Supervisor

The Gender Studies Graduate Committee generally identifies a preliminary academic advisor, or “First Term Advisor” at the application stage. With the Graduate Director, the First Term Advisor assists the student in planning the first semester of courses and investigating and deciding on a Supervisor.

During fall term, and continuing into winter term, students should approach one or more core faculty members to discuss their potential availability or interest to serve as Supervisor. Students must confirm their Supervisor early in winter semester, no later than Reading Week (mid-February).

All core faculty members in Gender Studies are eligible to supervise students. Co-supervision is possible in exceptional cases: i.e. if, in consultation with the Graduate Director, it is decided that the student’s MA project can be completed successfully only with two Supervisors.

Selection of Second Reader

Students should consult with their Supervisor to identify an appropriate Second Reader to join the Supervisory Committee. The Second Reader must be confirmed no later than April 30. 

Second Readers generally are drawn from core faculty in Gender Studies, but faculty from other departments who are cross-appointed in Gender Studies also may serve in this role.

  While the Supervisor oversees the project (research, writing) the minimum duties of the Second Reader are to

  • review at least one draft of the thesis proposal before it is approved (summer year 1/fall year 2), and
  • review at least one draft of the entire thesis prior to its defence (spring year 2).

Thesis Proposal

During the summer of the first year, a thesis proposal should be developed in stages through consultation with the Supervisory Committee members -- the Supervisor and Second Reader.

Initial ideas for the proposal may be developed in conversation with both members of the committee and with any other mentors of the student or project.

A first full draft of a proposal should be delivered to the Supervisor for review in early summer, and no later than July. The Supervisor may offer advice for revision; if so, a revised proposal should be returned to them promptly.

Once the student receives the Supervisor’s approval, a revised proposal should be emailed to the Second Reader (cc’ing the Supervisor) no later than August. The Second Reader may approve the draft as-is or may offer questions or advice for revision. If revisions are required, then a second revised proposal should be finished promptly and emailed to both the Supervisor and Second Reader. After consulting, the Supervisor Committee members may approve the proposal, at which point it can be delivered to the Graduate Director.

Final, approved proposals must be sent to the Graduate Director by the second week of September.

Proposal Contents

MA thesis proposals are roughly 8-10 pages of prose (double spaced) plus a bibliography of at least 15 sources.

The proposal should include the following elements:

  • briefly summarize the topic, research question, and goals and objectives of the thesis
  • examine the extant intellectual debates surrounding the research question
  • introduce and justify the methodology chosen to address the research question, and name any initial hypotheses
  • substantially discuss the analytical subject of the thesis and any original insights into the subject that the thesis may provide
  • briefly outline the titled chapters
  • briefly outline the work schedule.

If a thesis proposal is based on research with human subjects, a final version of an ethics application (approved, or under review) must be attached for the thesis proposal to be approved (see below).

Ethics Application

Thesis students who plan to conduct research with human subjects must take the non-credit CORE course on human research participant protection, and must prepare and submit a research ethics application during spring and summer of the first year.

CORE is a mandatory web-based tutorial for all graduate students conducting research on human subjects. It reviews familiarity with and practical application of Canada’s national standard of ethics for research (as outlined in the Tri-Council Policy Statement). See CORE tutorial on University Research Services website.

A formal application to conduct research on human subjects must be prepared according to the template provided by the Queen’s General Research Ethics Board (GREB). See the webpage on how to log in to the application form process.

After preparing the application, the student uploads it to for review via the ROMEO Researcher Portal, managed by the University Research Services. Study information about online management of ethics applications at Queen’s here.

A first draft of the application is reviewed first by the Department of Gender Studies Ethics Committee (Unit Ethics Review Board /Unit REB). Any revision requests returned by the Unit REB must be completed before the application will be forwarded to GREB.

After all requested revisions are complete and the application is approved by Gender Studies, the application is forwarded automatically to GREB for review. GREB also may return requests for revision. Only after all requested revisions have been completed and approved will students receive permission and authorization to begin conducting research.

Application Deadlines

The Gender Studies Unit REB requires a minimum of two weeks from first submission of an application to return comments. If the committee returns revision requests, these revisions must be completed, reviewed once again by the committee and approved before the application will be forwarded to GREB.

GREB reviews applications once per month. Applications submitted after the monthly deadline date for review are read only in the following month. Download the posted schedule of monthly GREB deadlines from the GREB website.

Carefully plan your application preparation and revision schedule. If you wish to start research by a certain date, remember that you may be asked by GREB to revise before receiving approval: this would require application to GREB no later than two GREB meeting dates prior to your preferred research start date. However, recalling that the application is forwarded to GREB only after receiving approval from the Unit REB, which also may request revisions, you should plan to upload your proposal for the first time no less than four, and preferably six or more weeks before the first GREB meeting when you want your work to be reviewed. In general, this means that the typical length of time from first uploading an ethics application to receiving ethic approval is three months.  While some projects are approved more quickly, others may take even longer to complete revision and resubmission: plan accordingly.

Graduate Symposium Presentation

Thesis students participate in the annual Gender Studies Graduate Symposium during fall of the second year. Students present a brief paper based on the approved thesis proposal to the Gender Studies community and participate in discussion about the project.

Presentation at the Graduate Symposium is a graduation requirement for thesis students.


The second year of study is dedicated to researching, writing and defending the thesis. Minimum standards for completed MA theses are:

  • a total of 75-100 pages, inclusive of all endnotes and bibliography.
  • formatted according to the guidelines of the School of Graduate Studies at Queen’s.
  • consistently sourced according to an academic citation style of the student’s choice (recommended: MLA, Chicago or APA).

Normally, a thesis is organized into a brief introduction, either two or three chapters of approximately 25-35 pages, and a brief conclusion.

Thesis students begin preliminary writing of the thesis during the first summer, and simultaneously prepare the proposal and (where needed) an ethics application. Students who receive ethics approval also may begin research at this time. 

Thesis students concentrate the fall and winter of the second year on researching and writing the thesis.

The first full draft of the thesis should be delivered to the Supervisor during either winter or spring of the second year. After receiving and completing all of the Supervisor’s advice for revision, the first full draft of the thesis should be delivered for review to the Second Reader in spring or early summer of the second year. After receiving and completing all of the Second Reader’s advice for revision and after receiving Supervisory support for this revised version, a defence date is set and a final version of the thesis is printed and delivered to the Examining Committee.

A thesis is only ready for defence once:

  • all revision requests from the Supervisor and Second Reader are completed and approved by both Supervisory Committee members; and,
  • the thesis meets all minimum standards for a thesis in the Department of Gender Studies (see above).

Before submitting a completed thesis, student should review the “Completing Your Degree” section of the SGS website, apply for graduation, and prepare all paperwork required to complete their defence.

Examining Committee

When the Supervisor and student decide that the thesis is close to being ready for defence, the Examining Committee is struck.

In addition to the Supervisor and Second Reader, the committee consists of an External Examiner from a department other than Gender Studies, and the Chair of the thesis defence (the Graduate Director or their delegate).

The External Examiner should be chosen by the student in consultation with the Supervisor. If the student has a working relationship with a potential examiner, the invitation to serve may come from the student. Otherwise, the student may recommend names to the Supervisor and the Supervisor will confirm their participation. External Examiners may be faculty from other departments who are cross-appointed with Gender Studies.

Normally, the Graduate Director will be the Chair of the Examining Committee, unless they are the Supervisor or Second Reader for the defending student, or they are absent on a research trip. If the Graduate Director is unavailable, a faculty member from within or outside the Gender

Studies Department can serve as Chair. While given a copy of the thesis, the Chair is not required to read it, although they may choose to do so. This member of the Examining Committee will coordinate required paperwork and host the defense.  

Thesis Defence

The thesis defence is an oral examination during which the student answers questions about the thesis from the members of the Examining Committee.

Normally, a thesis defence proceeds with introductions by the Chair, followed by private deliberation among the committee members about their comments on the thesis and whether it should move to defence (during which time the student leaves the room).

If the committee decides that the defence should move forward, the student returns to receive questions from committee members. The Chair has the option of opening the defence by asking the first question. Afterwards, or if the Chair declines this option, the External Examiner asks the first series of questions, and receives as much time for this as they wish. Afterwards, the Second Reader asks questions, and finally the Supervisor. A second round of questions then may follow, proceeding again from the most distant examiner to the closest.

After all rounds of questions are complete, the student leaves the room and the examining committee makes a decision about the thesis and the defense: Pass; Referred; or Fail. (See below for detailed descriptions of these three potential decisions.)

The student, Chair, and one additional member of the Examining Committee must be physically present at the defence. In extenuating circumstances (research travel, personal emergencies) examiners must make arrangements with the Graduate Director and Graduate Assistant to be present remotely (via Skype or conference call). Faculty who intend to participate remotely must indicate to the Supervisor, MA candidate, and defence Chair prior to or at the time of agreeing to the defence date. 

Defence Preparation Timeline

  • After the student delivers a final, fully-revised thesis formatted to SGS guidelines to the Supervisor and Second Reader, the thesis defence date may be selected. The date may be no less than two weeks (14 days) following the date of delivery of the final thesis.
  • The Supervisor ensures that the planned date is agreeable to all members of the Examining Committee (MA candidate, Chair, External Examiner, Second Reader, and Supervisor).
  • The student must print and deliver a paper copy of the thesis to each member of the Examining Committee, unless a committee member specifically requests receipt only of an electronic copy. The student is responsible for printing and delivering these copies no less than two weeks (14 days) prior to the intended defence date. If delivery of these copies is delayed, the defence date may be nullified and a new date must be set.
  • Once the thesis is delivered to each member of the Examining Committee, the Graduate Assistant secures a room for the defence, ensures that it is equipped with all necessary technology, and announces the planned date and location to all committee members and to the student.
  • After reading the thesis, if the committee members agree that it is ready to be defended, the defence date is retained. If after reading the thesis, any committee member believes the thesis is not ready, the defence date must be changed.
  • Students MUST complete and submit two copyright forms before the defense: (1) UMI Form for Humanities & Social Sciences; (2) Microfilming Permission Form (Library and Archives Canada). Find the forms here.
  • By the date of the Thesis Defence, the Graduate Assistant ensures that the Chair has all SGS forms in hand.
  • All Gender Studies MA defenses are closed unless accommodations are necessary.

After A Successful Defence

  • If the thesis is successfully defended (passed or referred), the Chair, student and Supervisor ensure that all relevant paperwork is completed according to SGS guidelines. This paperwork is submitted to the Graduate Assistant who submits it to the School of Graduate Studies.
  • All paper copies of the MA thesis are returned to the student at the end of the defense.
  • In order to complete degree requirements the student must submit one PDF copy of the thesis, revised as indicated by the Examining Committee and approved by the Supervisor, to the School of Graduate Studies via the "E-thesis" process.
  • The student can arrange with SGS to receive two complimentary hardbound copies of the thesis for themselves and their Supervisor. Additional bound copies can also be purchased.  

SGS Guidelines for Thesis Defence Decisions

A thesis is passed if it is acceptable in its present form or pending minor revisions. A thesis may be passed if no substantive changes are required. Changes in the form of corrections to include typographical or grammatical errors, minor modifications to the thesis, editorial revisions or the like, may be recommended with a thesis classified as passed. The Chair should indicate clearly whether or not some changes are required before final acceptance of the thesis by the School of Graduate Studies. A list of the required revisions must be provided by the Chair to the student and the supervisor and the completion of the revisions must be certified to the School of Graduate Studies by the thesis supervisor or other designated person.


A thesis is referred if it is not acceptable in its present form, but could be acceptable pending major revisions. A thesis will be referred if it requires substantive changes such as rewriting a chapter, reinterpretation of data, corrections to calculations or additional research in order to attain acceptable standards of coherence and integrity in argument and presentation. The Chair, in consultation with the committee, may decide to reconvene the examining committee and hold another oral exam.

The examining committee may also use the referred category if it determines that the oral examination itself, either separate from or in conjunction with the written thesis, is unsatisfactory. In such cases, a second oral examination must be held, and the committee must then return a decision of either "pass" or "failed".

  In all cases of referral, the nature of the revisions and/or additional work, and/or the holding of a second oral examination, must be specified in writing by the Chair to avoid dispute or ambiguity. When outlining the revisions and/or additional work required, the Chair must be as specific as possible. These comments will be passed on to the candidate by the School of Graduate Studies as conditions to be met for the thesis to be passed.

  Any outlined revisions must be certified by the Chair or delegate as having been completed satisfactorily. Usually, this certification is delegated to at least two members of the Committee. In all cases of referral, the examining committee remains in being until it has agreed that the thesis is either passed or failed. 

Notes on the "referred" category

  • If the committee returns two or more votes for referral it may hold another examination after the candidate has carried out further research and/or rewritten the thesis, but normally not more than one year later.
  • Candidates have up to twelve months to complete revisions to their thesis but should be encouraged to do so as soon as possible. In cases where the thesis has to be re-submitted to the examining committee, and/or a second oral examination has to be held, this has to be done no later than twelve months from the date of the first oral examination.
  •  A thesis that has been defended by oral examination can be submitted once more only in revised form. A candidate whose thesis does not satisfy the examining committee on the second submission will be failed (see Withdrawal on Academic Grounds).


A thesis is failed if it is unacceptable to the discipline even with substantive revisions. If the committee returns two or more votes showing failure, the committee will advise that the student be required to withdraw on academic grounds. The student will be notified of the result immediately by the Chair of the committee and the decision confirmed in writing by the School of Graduate Studies.

Two-Year (thesis) MA Progress Checklist

  1. Courses 
    • Year 1 - FALL
      1. GNDS 801 (3.0)
      2. GNDS 802 (3.0)
      3. Elective Course (3.0)
  • Year 1 - WINTER
    1. Elective Course (3.0)
    2. Elective Course (3.0)
    3. Elective Course (3.0)
  • Enroll in GNDS 899 (3.0) in all subsequent semesters of enrollment
  1. Supervision and Committee
    • Year 1 - FALL
      1. Contact and agree upon Supervisor
    • Year 1 - WINTER
      1. Contact and agree upon Second Reader
    • Year 2 - WINTER / SPRING
      1. Contact and agree upon External Examiner
  2. Thesis Proposal
    • Year 1 - SUMMER
      1. Develop proposal with Supervisor; revise as necessary
      2. Deliver proposal to Second Reader; revise as necessary
    • Year 2 - FALL 
      1. Submit final approved proposal to GNDS Graduate Office by the second week of September
      2. Present proposal at annual Graduate Research Symposium
  3. Ethics Approval 
    • Year 1 - FALL-WINTER
      1. Course on Research Ethics (CORE) 
    • Year 1 - SPRING-SUMMER
      1. Prepare ethics application for submission to Gender Studies Ethics Committee and, subsequently, to General Research Ethics Board (GREB)  
  4. Thesis
    • Year 1 - SPRING-SUMMER
      1.  Complete preliminary thesis research and writing
    • Year 2 - FALL-WINTER
      1. Write intensively in consultation with your Supervisor  
    • Year 2 - WINTER-SPRING
      1. Deliver a complete draft of thesis to the Supervisor for review
    • Year 2 - SPRING-SUMMER
      1. Deliver a revised draft of thesis to the Second Reader for review
    • Year 2 - SUMMER
      1. Confirm Examining Committee members
      2. Plan a defence date
      3. Deliver final thesis, approved by Supervisory Committee, to the Examining Committee
      4. MA defence