Preparing for Your Oral Examination

Your oral thesis defense is a public presentation and discussion of the findings of your research, conducted before a committee of selected examiners. This significant event marks a culminating point in which the candidate defends the meaning and significance of their research and knowledge of the discipline to examiners, peers, colleagues, and the community. Normally, the oral thesis defence is open to attendance by all members of the Queen's community.

The master's thesis should demonstrate that the candidate is capable of original and independent work; that of a doctoral student must be original and be of such value as to merit publication.

The designated person in the student’s home department (the candidate, the supervisor, the graduate coordinator or graduate assistant) will schedule the Oral Thesis Examination by filling out the Oral Thesis Examination Form (Ph.D.; Master's). This form outlines the composition of the Thesis Examining Committee and the other details of the thesis examination.

For doctoral students, the completed and signed form must reach the School of Graduate Studies no later than 25 working days before the tentative examination date.

Master’s students must contact the Graduate Assistant or Graduate Coordinator in the Department for this deadline.

The candidate must submit one copy of the thesis, to each member of the Thesis Examining Committee including the Chairperson, at least 25 days in advance of the oral thesis examination for PhD candidates and following departmental deadlines for Master’s candidates.

Doctoral students:  A PDF copy of the thesis must be submitted to the School of Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs (thesis@queensu.ca) to be reviewed for formatting. The student will be notified of any required corrections. 

Composition of the Thesis Examining Committee — Doctoral Programs (as of July 1, 2022):

  • Chairperson - (selection made by the Thesis Coordinator)
  • Head of the Department (or delegate) (who may serve as Chair and therefore not a voting member)
  • Supervisor(s)
  • Examiner: At least one faculty member from Queen's
  • Internal/External Examiner: At least one faculty member from another Department
  • External Examiner: An external examiner from outside Queen's University
  • Additional Examiner: An optional additional examiner

It is the responsibility of the Department to select, verify eligibility, and invite all members of the Thesis Examining Committee.

Conflict of Interest: No member of the examining committee can be in conflict of interest with the candidate. Conflict of interest is defined as a personal or family relationship with the candidate and/or vested interest in the thesis or research for personal or financial gain. Further the Chair, External Examiner, and at least one other examiner must be ‘arms-length’ to the candidate (e.g., must not have a prior supervisory relationship, must not have co-authored with or co-presented with the candidate). Provided the conditions above are satisfied, members of a candidate’s supervisory committee are eligible to be thesis examining committee members.

Important: Final approval of the Thesis Examining Committee members lies with the Dean of the School of Graduate Studies.

Confidential Report Form: The Thesis Coordinator circulates the oral examination particulars and confidential report forms to each member of the Thesis Examining Committee by e-mail.

The reports must be submitted (in confidence), to the Thesis Coordinator for circulation to the Chairperson of the committee by the deadline date indicated. Each member of the Thesis Examining Committee must indicate whether the examination should be held, and if the candidate is permitted to defend the thesis.

Oral Thesis Examination Outcome Categories: At each oral thesis examination, the examining committee will reach one of the four outcome categories below (as of July 1, 2022):

  1. Passed
  2. Passed with Major Revision
  3. Referred
  4. Failed

These outcome categories are outlined in full detail in the Graduate School Regulations.

Oral Thesis Examination Form - Ph.D (PDF, 175 KB)

Copyright permission is required:

  • if your thesis contains someone else’s work; text, figures, maps, images, questionnaires, photos, etc.; AND/OR
  • if your thesis contains your own previously published materials (e.g., journal article) or material (e.g., a chapter, an article) that was co-written with another author.

You must obtain written permission to reproduce copyright material from the copyright owner (e.g., journal publisher and/or co-authors). Any copyrighted material including photos, pictures, charts, graphs, maps, etc., must receive full citation within your thesis, on the page of the thesis on which the material appears, or in a footnote or reference section.

For more information about copyright, go to: