Thesis and thesis defence

Doctoral Thesis

A doctoral thesis is a significant body of original work produced by a student during the course of their doctoral study. Please note that PhD students in the Department of Criminology must be continuously registered in THD9999 up until such time as the thesis is submitted to the evaluators for review.

An acceptable thesis is thoroughly researched, demonstrates rigorous critical thinking and analysis, is supported by theory, presents a detailed methodology and accurate results and includes solid verification of any knowledge claims. A doctoral thesis must make a significant contribution to knowledge in the field of study, embody the results of original investigation and analysis and be of such quality as to merit publication, in whole or part1.


The format is a monograph of approximately 300 to 400 double-spaced pages (excluding bibliography) in length. Please refer to the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies webpage for specific formatting requirements.


Students are expected to complete their doctoral studies in four (4) years, however, they must submit their completed thesis (approved by their supervisor and committee) for external evaluation within six years of the date of initial registration in the doctoral program. Those unable to complete their thesis within this timeframe may request an exceptional extension from the FGPS.

Submission Of Thesis

Prior to final submission students are expected to distribute the completed thesis (which has been approved by the supervisor) to their committee for review in a timely manner and arrange a meeting with all committee members and the supervisor. At this meeting all committee members will determine outstanding issues and (ideally) agree that the thesis is (pending agreed upon changes) ready for defence2. Note to students: supervisors will only complete the “Statement of Thesis Supervisor” form (required for the evaluation process to commence) when they (and the members of the committee) are satisfied that the thesis merits submission.

The supervisor will identify and contact one internal-external examiner (a professor at the University of Ottawa – including criminology professors – who are members of the School of Graduate Studies) and confirm that they are willing to evaluate the thesis. The supervisor will also identify and contact eligible external examiners (professors from outside the University of Ottawa who are not in conflict of interest due to an association with the student, supervisor, or the University of Ottawa). These names (and accompanying documentation) must be given to the Secretariat of the Department of Criminology at least one month prior to the submission of the thesis.

Public defence


A defence will only be organized after the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies has received favourable reports from the examiners. Prior to the defence the supervisor will receive a file (that will be shared with the student) containing the examiners' reports, (from which identifying information will have been removed).

Defence Process

The defence begins with introductions and a 15-20 minute presentation by the student.  This is then followed by two rounds of questions from the examiners (the usual order is for questions to be posed first by the external examiner, then by the internal-external examiner and finally by the other committee members). The thesis supervisor is given the opportunity to comment or ask questions at the conclusion of the formal rounds of questioning. There may also be a period of more informal discussion. Student and audience members are then asked to leave the room while the jury deliberates its verdict.


The jury can render one of four verdicts:

  1. Thesis is accepted: Although corrections may be required, these are limited to occasional grammatical or spelling errors, formatting problems, minor redundancies or omissions (e.g. transitional paragraphs, notes).
  2. Thesis must be revised: Revisions (i.e. correction of numerous grammatical or spelling errors; clarification of concepts or methodology, addition of sections) are required.
  3. Thesis must be revised extensively and undergo the evaluation and the defence process again: Major revisions (involving rewriting large sections of the thesis due to problems related to the theoretical or methodological approach or interpretation of the results) are required.
  4. Thesis is unacceptable and the candidate must withdraw from the program: This verdict is given only when the thesis requires major revisions and when the thesis defence makes it clear that the candidate is incapable of making such major revisions.

1This description has been adapted from the Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies Theses Writing website. Please see the original web page available here for more information.

2Note that this meeting is not essential but highly recommended as it ensures that the committee members are supportive of the student at the defence.

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