You are now in the main content area

Dissertation Regulations

Updated March 2016

All students who are completing a degree by thesis or dissertation must prepare a thesis/dissertation proposal. See Program specific information later in this document.

The Thesis and Dissertation Proposal regulations are set out in some detail in the Guidelines for the Preparation of Theses and Dissertations published by York University’s Faculty of Graduate Studies, and in the Ryerson University School of Graduate Studies Faculty Handbook. In addition, Ryerson School of Graduate Studies Thesis Policies and Thesis Regulations can be found on the SGS web site: (click Policies).

While both the Faculty of Graduate Studies at York and the School of Graduate Studies at Ryerson have their own guidelines for submission of thesis and dissertation proposals, programs are allowed to set their own deadlines within those guidelines. Therefore, please observe the following Program deadlines and the consequences of not submitting the proposal by that deadline:

Ph.D. students both FT and PT:

Ph.D. candidates are required to submit the dissertation proposal, approved by the supervisory committee, within five months of receiving notification that they have successfully completed the Qualifying Examination. Failure to meet this deadline will result in York students not being permitted to register for the next term until they have submitted the proposal (this may mean they incur a late fee or may be withdrawn from the university). Ryerson students will not be permitted to register in the dissertation research course but will have to pay the program fee.

The proposal contains a brief statement in non technical language on the purpose of the research, its relationship to existing work in the area, and the contribution that the researcher hopes to make to the advancement of knowledge in the field. In addition, the proposal includes a title, the name of the supervisor and the supervisory committee. The title should indicate as clearly as possible the area of research, but it is understood that this title may change. The maximum length of a proposal is 3,500 words. Students prepare a proposal in consultation with their supervisors, then submit it to the Program Director. At York, the Program Director is responsible for submitting the proposals to the Dean of Graduate Studies once internal program requirements in regard to proposals have been satisfied. See below for program specific requirements.


York: The Senate Committee on Research is responsible for York University policies respecting Ethics. In particular, attention is drawn to the Senate Policy on Research involving Human Participants (Appendix C), and the Animal Use and Care Protocol (Appendix D) at the following web site:

In addition, most individual graduate programs have developed or require additional Codes of Ethics. The proper form must be submitted at the same time as the proposal. Students are advised to consult with Graduate Program directors and the Secretary of the Senate Committee on Research. FGS regulations concerning the recommendations and appointment of supervisory committees are set out in the Faculty of Graduate Studies' Calendar [Committees: Master's and Doctoral.] The following is an interpretation of these regulations and procedures for recom-mendations and approvals, and does not supersede the Faculty Regulations in any way.

Please note too that the guidelines merely state the general conditions that apply across the Faculty.

Ryerson: Ryerson’s Policy for Ethics Review of Research Involving Humans can be found on the web site, opens in new window, and Guidelines and Application Forms are on the web site, opens in new window.

(A) Composition of Supervisory Committees

Normally all members of supervisory committees must be members of the Faculty / School of Graduate Studies. In exceptional circumstances the Dean may approve a Program Director's recommendation that a faculty member who is not a member of the Graduate Faculty serve as a member (but not a Chair) of a supervisory committee. Such recommendations are to be accompanied by an up to date curriculum vitae. Faculty members who are appointed to more than one graduate program may act as the outside member of a supervisory or examining committee if they have not designated that Program as their primary affiliation.

External members are expected to be established academics and normally members of a graduate Faculty at another university.

Doctoral Supervisory Committee

A Doctoral supervisory committee consists of a minimum of three faculty members:

  1. the supervisor from the candidate's Graduate Program; and
  2. a minimum of one other faculty member from the candidate's Graduate Program; and
  3. if appropriate, one graduate faculty member from outside the Graduate Program in which the student is registered.

It is the responsibility of the student in consultation with the Program Directors to constitute the committee. The membership of the committee must conform to FGS / SGS regulations and be approved by the Directors.

(B) Approval of Supervisory Committees and Dissertation Proposals

The membership of each student's supervisory committee must be recommended by the appropriate Program Director to the Dean of Graduate Studies for approval. The Dissertation Supervisor will chair the Supervisory Committee. A copy of the candidate's proposal should accompany the recommendation. The proposal must contain at least the tentative title of the dissertation and a brief statement, in non technical language if possible, outlining the purpose of  the research, its relation¬ship to existing work in the area, and its intended contribution to the advance¬ment of knowledge in the field. Doctoral proposals must be submitted and approved by Graduate Studies at least six months prior to the oral examination.

The role of the supervisory committee is to:

  1. Review a candidate's research proposal and recommend its approval to the appropriate Program Director;
  2. Review the candidate's progress from time to time. Reports to the Graduate Program Director of unsatisfactory progress may require candidates to withdraw from the Graduate Program in which they are enrolled; and
  3. Ensure that a copy of the candidate's dissertation is sent to each member of the examining committee as far as possible in advance of the oral examination, but no later than five weeks prior to the date set, in the case of a Ph.D. dissertation.
  4. Advise the Program Director as to whether the dissertation is examinable.

What you need to know before you start

For comprehensive information from Graduate Studies on theses and dissertations, please see:

Program Specific Regulations

The Proposal:

Length: 8 - 10 pages + bibliography (maximum = 3500 words)


  1. Title: state briefly and directly the subject of the research
  2. Introduction: brief description of the project and its rationale
  3. Objectives:
    1. research problem, question or hypothes
    2. theoretical perspective
    3. expected contribution to the field (the originality of the work must be demonstrated)
  4. Methods and Sources
    1. brief description of research methods to be employed
    2. description of sources to be employed
    3. discussion of any anticipated problems of access (to research subjects, archives, media content, etc.) and how they will be dealt with.
  5. Relationship to existing literature or professional practice
    1. identify and briefly discuss the research or professional “stream” to which you wish to contribute
    2. provide a brief overview of the dominant theoretical perspectives / professional practices in this stream
    3. indicate where your work fits in and / or where it challenges these perspectives and / or practices
  6. Proposed chapter or section outline (structure of the dissertation)
  7. Proposed time line for completion of the work
    1. literature survey: January-February
    2. interviews / archival work March-April
    3. analysis May-June
    4. writing July-August
    5. completion September 15
  8. Select Bibliography
    1. theoretical works relevant to chosen methodology
    2. works bearing on the substance of the topic.
  9. Footnotes should be kept to a minimum. Any accepted citation form may be used.

The Examining Committee:

The Examining Committee will be constituted according to the regulations already in place in the Faculty/School of Graduate Studies at the respective universities.

The following schedule applies to York University defences: Please note that the schedule set out below allows the program enough time to meet the deadlines required by the Faculty of Graduate Studies for notification of the date set for the oral examination and to deposit an examination copy of the dissertation for the Dean’s Representative, as set out in Regulations 29 and 36 in the FGS Calendar.


When the dissertation is in the final stages, the supervisor, in consultation with the candidate and the program director will arrange an examining committee, including an external examiner. Once the examining committee and oral examination date is in place, the supervisor shall complete the “Recommendation for Oral Examination” form, obtain signatures from the supervisory committee and forward the form to the program office, as soon as possible but no later than five weeks prior to the date set for a doctoral defence.


It is the candidates responsibility to ensure that all members of the examining committee receives their examination copy of the dissertation no later than five weeks prior to the date set for a doctoral defence.

The examination copy of the dissertation for the Dean’s Representative shall be deposited in the program office according to the above schedule.

Program Administrator:
  1. Books room for defence.
  2. Obtains program director’s signature on Recommendation for Oral Examination form.
  3. Ensures Dean’s Rep’s copy of dissertation and Oral Examination form is deposited with the Faculty of Graduate Studies by their deadlines.
Graduate Studies:

Graduate Studies sends out formal notification of the examination to examiners and candidate. The candidate is also sent information regarding final electronic submission of the dissertation.