Thesis proposal

Thesis Proposal and Proposal Defence


The thesis proposal provides the opportunity for the student to clearly articulate and justify their research project. The thesis proposal is to be defended in the student’s seventh semester in the program, after having successfully completed the comprehensive examination and, under usual circumstances, prior to applying for ethics approval. Please note that students must be registered to CRM9997 at the time of their thesis proposal defence.


A written paper of 40 to 50 double-spaced pages (excluding references) in which the literature review, theory and methods sections are of similar length.         


The thesis proposal must include an introduction, a review of the literature, a theoretical framework, a methodology section, a conclusion and references.

  1. Introduction: presents the context of the research, outlines the goals and rational of the thesis, articulates the research questions and provides a brief overview of the research framework.
  2. Literature Review: categorizes and reviews the principal approaches and emergent themes on the chosen topic.
  3. Theoretical framework: theoretical and conceptual framework that will guide the project and inform the methodological and analytic approach.
  4. Methodology:
    • presentation and discussion of the key epistemological and methodological considerations
    • presentation of the data collection method(s)
    • operationalization of key concepts
    • identification and reflection on the key ethical issues of the project
    • discussion of how data will be analyzed
  5. Conclusion: discussion of how the anticipated findings will be situated within existing literature and theoretical frameworks and the anticipated contribution of the project.
  6. References: list of all texts referenced


The student must submit the thesis proposal no later than September 30th of the students 3rd year of studies (7th semester). The proposal defence must take place no later than October 15th of the student’s third year of studies. In truly exceptional cases, there is the possibility for a new deadline to be established by the student, supervisor, and the thesis committee in collaboration with the Ph.D. committee of the Department of criminology. Students requesting this exception must, in collaboration with their supervisor, complete the Doctoral Proposal Defence: Request for Deferral (pdf) form, appended to a supporting letter from their thesis supervisor by the second week in September of the student’s 7th semester.

Students whose thesis proposal paper is not accepted for defence by their doctoral committee or who do not submit their paper by September 30th of the students 3rd year of studies (7th semester) will not be able to defend their proposal and will be considered to have failed their defense for the first time. Students have one additional opportunity to defend their proposal provided they deposit their approved paper appended to the signed “Thesis Proposal Acceptance Form” into their file prior to January 30th following their first trial and defend their thesis proposal before February 15th of their 8th semester of studies. Students who do not submit their paper by January 30th will be considered to have failed their defence for the second time and will be withdrawn from the program.

Submission of the thesis proposal

The student’s supervisor(s) and all members of their committee must declare that the proposal is ready for the defence, prior to the student registering the proposal.


  1. The supervisor will identify a chair for the defence. This individual must be a member of the Department of Criminology and member of the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies.
  2. The student or his/her supervisor will advise the Department of Criminology at least three weeks prior to the defence of the date/location and composition of the jury (note that this is a public defence so the room must be able to accommodate an audience). The supervisor signs the Registration of The Doctoral Thesis Project Defence (pdf) form
  3. The student must submit the final thesis proposal to the members of the jury, the defence chair and the Chair of the Criminology Doctoral Committee at least two weeks prior to the defence date.

Public Announcement

The date, the thesis project title, the composition of the jury and the room must be posted by the Secretariat on the Departmental bulletin board at least one week prior to the defence

Public Defence

The defence affords the student’s committee the opportunity to confirm that the proposed project is solid and viable, has no intrinsic contradictions or potentially fatal errors, is theoretically solid, is methodologically sound and will represent a contribution to the field of study.

Participation in Defence

There is no external evaluator for the thesis project defence – the jury is comprised of the supervisor(s) and the committee members

It is imperative that all members of the jury actively participate in the defence (one member may participate through teleconference or other electronic method). The supervisor must be present however if one committee member is unable to attend for exceptional reasons (i.e. sick leave) it is that member’s responsibility to designate a delegate who is member of the Department of Criminology and a member of the School of Graduate and  Postdoctoral Studies. That individual will pose questions prepared by the absent committee member.


  1. Length: 1 ½ to 2 hours
  2. At the beginning of the defence, the student and audience will be asked to leave the room. During their absence the chair will  confirm that the jury is satisfied that the proposal is ready for defence, review the rules of the process and ascertain the order of examiners
  3. Upon reconvening, there will be a brief (10 – 15 minutes maximum) presentation by the student focusing on one of the dimensions of the project.
  4. Students may bring papers and documents with them into the defence.
  5. The first round of questions follows the agreed upon process. During this round, it is anticipated that the exchange is essentially a one-on-one discussion between each jury member in turn and the student.
  6. An optional second round of questions may occur, including questions from the public. It is anticipated that this round will be a more open round characterized by an exchange of ideas.
  7. Private deliberation by the jury takes place (the student and audience members will be required to leave the room).
  8. The jury’s decision is communicated to the student.

Jury Decision

  1. The proposal may be:
  • Accepted
  • Accepted with minor revisions (the quality of the proposal is at least adequate, with only occasional grammatical or spelling errors, formatting problems, minor redundancies or omissions such as transitional paragraphs or notes). In this case  it is the responsibility of the supervisor to ensure that the revisions are completed
  • Not accepted, major revisions required (this verdict will be returned in one of the following scenarios: the interpretation or the methodological approach is faulty but revisions may bring the proposal to the appropriate standard; or the work was not done according to the criteria judged appropriate; or the candidate has not demonstrated that he or she has conducted work of the appropriate scholarly quality. This verdict is the equivalent of a fail and the doctoral thesis proposal must be revised and undergo the evaluation and defence process again from the beginning with the same examiners (except for necessary replacements of examiners). Note that consistent with Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies regulations, students whose proposal is not accepted are entitled to redo the process but only once.
  • Fail: students who have previously received a not accepted, major revisions required (iii above) and, where the jury returns a verdict of not accepted at the second defence are required to withdraw from the program.

2.  Jury members must justify, in writing (on the form prepared by the department), their decision and identify the strong elements of the project as well as those that require correction and/or greater elaboration. These will be deposited in the student’s file. The student is obligated to respect these directives.

Responsibilities of the chair

  1. Bring to the defence all of the documents prepared by the departmental Secretariat (Report of The Jury: Doctoral Thesis Proposal Defence)
  2. Administer the defence process: ascertain the order of the questioning, maintain order, and ensure that the procedure outlined above is followed;
  3. Take notes of the process and record the jury’s decision (i.e. changes, refinements, additions). These notes will be deposited in the student’s file. The student is obligated to respect these directives;
  4. Advise the student of the jury’s decision;
  5. Deposit all paperwork (include their own notes and the signed documents) with the Secretariat upon conclusion of the defence.

Status of Student

Upon successful completion of the thesis defence, the student is considered ABD (all but dissertation).

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