Western University PsychologyFaculty of Social Science

Thesis Research

Social, Personality and Developmental Psychology Cluster Guidelines for Thesis Proposal and Defense Meetings

Each M.Sc. and Ph.D. student in the SPDP cluster must prepare a thesis or monograph describing one or more empirical studies they have designed and carried out in their chosen area of research. Ph.D. students have the option of assembling a collection of studies they have already published in or submitted to peer-reviewed journals, rather than writing a monograph describing their unpublished results. The research described in the document will be defended in an oral exam before a Thesis Examining Committee.

Before embarking on a program of research, both the M.Sc. and Ph.D. student must form a Thesis Advisory Committee. A written proposal describing the research plan is prepared by the student, in consultation with his or her supervisor, and then discussed in a meeting with that committee. The make-up of the Thesis Advisory Committee, and the Thesis Examining Committee, and the time line for the thesis proposal meeting and the thesis defense are described below.

Thesis Advisory Committee
M.Sc. students. The Thesis Advisory Committee will consist of the supervisor (who must be a member of the School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, SGPS, and have M.Sc. supervisory privileges) and two other members of the Psychology Department. It is recommended, but not required, that one member of the committee is outside the SPDP cluster. If approved by the Associate Chair of Graduate Affairs, one of the committee members can be a part-time member of our department, or a scientist or professional outside the Department, or even someone outside the University.

Ph.D. students. The Thesis Advisory Committee will consist of the supervisor (who must be a member of SGPS and have Ph.D. supervisory privileges) and a minimum of two others from the Department. It is recommended, but not required, that one member of the committee is outside SPDP cluster. At least one of the other members of the committee must be a member of SGPS. Changes in the committee structure must be approved by the cluster Chair and the changes should be registered with the department’s Graduate Office.

Thesis Proposal
M.Sc. students. The M.Sc. student, in consultation with his or her supervisor, will prepare a written thesis proposal. The supervisor will then convene a meeting of the Thesis Advisory Committee in order to examine the scientific merits of the proposal as well as its feasibility. At the Masters level, a thesis proposal meeting is not mandatory, but it is strongly recommended. Further meetings may also be held, if the student needs additional guidance. Students are expected to have a completed thesis proposal around the end of their first M.Sc. year.

Ph.D. students. The Ph.D. student, in consultation with his or her supervisor, will prepare a written thesis proposal. A formal Ph.D. proposal meeting will be scheduled through the department’s Graduate Office. Students should submit copies of their proposal to their Thesis Advisory Committee at least two weeks before the proposal meeting. The committee may approve the proposal as written or may require that changes be made before the research can proceed. Further proposal meetings may be necessary. Students are expected to complete and defend the thesis proposal around the end of their second Ph.D. year.

Thesis Defense

M.Sc. and Ph.D. The final written thesis, whether at the M.Sc. or Ph.D. level, will be defended orally before a Thesis Examining Committee. The Ph.D. candidate will normally have two such examinations, as described below.

M.Sc. students. The Thesis Examining Committee will consist of three members, two of whom are from the Psychology department. At least one of committee members must have served on the student’s Thesis Advisory Committee. The second member can have served on the student’s Thesis Advisory Committee or could be another person in the department. The third person on the committee is an examiner who must be external to the department. The student’s supervisor cannot serve on the Thesis Examining Committee.

Ph.D. students. Doctoral students are normally expected to pass a Departmental Oral exam and a Senate Oral exam. The Ph.D. Thesis Examination Committee for the Departmental Oral will consist of at least one member of the student’s Ph.D. Thesis Advisory Committee, plus a second faculty member from the Department of Psychology who is not a member of that committee. If only one member of the advisory committee participates in the Departmental Oral, then the other member will automatically go to the Senate Oral. Having a Departmental Oral is the default option; nonetheless, students can submit a request to the Associate Chair of Graduate Affairs to skip this step and proceed directly to the Senate Defense. The Associate Chair of Graduate Affairs, in consultation with the supervisor and advisory committee, may recommend to the student that it is in her/his best interest to have the Departmental Oral, especially in the case of defending a monograph of unpublished research. Regulations about the composition of the Ph.D. Senate Examination Board, and the timing of the Senate Oral, can be found on the SGPS website (grad.uwo.ca).

Evaluation of Thesis Progress

In the spring of each year, all faculty supervisors of graduate students in Psychology report to the Graduate Chair on the thesis research progress of each of their students. The supervisor is asked to indicate which components of the M.Sc. or Ph.D. thesis the student has completed satisfactorily (e.g., review of the literature, acceptance of the thesis proposal, data collection, etc.). All such completed evaluation forms are then compiled into a department-wide May Evaluation Report. That report is distributed to all full-time faculty in the third week of May, in time for review before the May Evaluation Meeting in the last week of May. The Psychology Graduate Office uses the report, and the results of the May Evaluation Meeting, to prepare letters to the students about their progress. These letters are normally sent out by the third week of June.

Progression from M.Sc. to Ph.D.

M.Sc. candidates are required to complete a satisfactory thesis by August 31st of the year they intend to apply to and enter the Ph.D. program or they will not be permitted to register as Ph.D. candidates. In the event this deadline is not met by the end of the first M.Sc. year, the student must register as second-year M.Sc. student. Students in the SPDP Cluster generally take two years to complete the M.Sc. Admission to the Ph.D. program will be permitted at the beginning of the following term after the M.Sc. thesis is satisfactorily completed. If the thesis is not completed by the end of the Fall term, the student must apply by January 4 for Ph.D. admission for the winter term. A M.Sc. thesis of high quality must be completed for admission into the Ph.D. program.

Other Information

Regulations concerning the specific procedures that are followed during the M.Sc. thesis defense and the Ph.D. departmental defense are available from the Department of Psychology Graduate Office.