MA course and thesis

MA (Thesis-based) Requirements and Policies

Course Requirements for Thesis-based Master’s

MA (Thesis-based) students in the Department of Political Science must complete a minimum of 15 units (2.5 Full-Course Equivalents). The following conditions apply:

  • At least 9 units (1.5 full-course equivalents) must be taken in the Political Science Department at the University of Calgary.
  • At least 6 units (1.0 FCE), and no more than 9 units (1.5 FCE) will be in the student’s Primary Field. A student’s Primary Field will consist of one of Canadian Politics, Comparative Politics, Indigenous Politics, International Relations, or Political Thought.

  • A maximum of 6 units (1.0 FCE) may be reading courses. Please note: proposed reading courses must be approved by the Department Head, with a course outline that has been submitted to and approved by the Head.

Normally, students will complete all of their 15 units (2.5 FCE) of course work over the Fall and Winter semesters of their first year.

NOTE: MA students must demonstrate (normally through previous course work) a basic knowledge of research methods equivalent to POLI 399 (Quantitative Research Methods).

Students who do not meet this requirement must take POLI 691. If students are required to take POLI 691, it will be included in these 15 units (2.5 full-course equivalents). Students who have an equivalent of POLI 691 will still be required to take 15 units (2.5 full-course equivalents).

Thesis-based students normally take courses that prepare them for conducting research for their Master’s thesis. Students must consult with their Supervisor when selecting courses and will be required to submit a Course Approval Form.

Thesis-based MA students may take a maximum of 6 units (1.0 full-course equivalents) as reading courses. Each reading course must be approved by the Department Head. The Head’s approval of reading courses will be guided by the following understandings:

  • Reading courses should aim to develop a broad understanding of the student’s Primary Field, Secondary Field (if applicable), and/or the discipline of Political Science as a whole.
  • Minimum enrolment levels in existing course offerings ought to be maintained and therefore students should select their courses from within the existing offerings. Doing so will allow students to take courses in a seminar setting with their peers and faculty to deliver courses on- rather than off-load.

Please see the Faculty of Graduate Studies Calendar under “Academic Standing” for the FGS requirements concerning “adequate progress” and the conditions that lead to “poor academic standing” in the course work component.

The University recognizes that there are instances when a student may wish to challenge University decisions about grades or academic policy. When a dispute arises, every effort should be made to resolve the issues informally rather than resort to a formal appeal. If, however, a formal appeal is necessary, the student should follow the Appeals Procedures in the most recent Faculty of Graduate Studies Calendar.

Master’s thesis requirements

Please see the Faculty of Graduate Studies (FGS) requirements for Thesis formatting, templates, and copyright information. The Departmental policies supplement the FGS regulations and requirements and are, in every case, subordinate to them.

Thesis-based MA students should aim to achieve the best possible dissertation in light of the “Quality of Thesis” requirements as outlined in the FGS Graduate Calendar.

The Supervisor will be given the opportunity to read and comment on the draft work of the Master’s thesis as each chapter is produced.

The Department strongly recommends that a Master’s thesis not exceed 100 pages or 30,000 words (not including bibliography).

Copies of completed theses are available. Please inquire with the Graduate Program Administrator or through the online Vault at the University of Calgary

Ultimately, the thesis must be the student’s own work. Editing should take place as part of a learning process, a collaboration between the student and his or her supervisor and other academics in the University. Working with a student to teach him or her how to edit the thesis is part of a learning experience; having a thesis professionally edited is not acceptable. However, permission for professional editing may be granted by the GPD in consultation with the Supervisor, when circumstances warrant.

Please see the Faculty of Graduate Studies (FGS) regulations regarding thesis examinations and requirements. The Department’s policies and guidelines below supplement the FGS regulations and are, in every case, subordinate to them.

Once the thesis has been completed, the Master’s Thesis Oral Examinations committee will examine the thesis. The Supervisor is responsible for signing and submitting the Consent to Schedule Exam form to the Graduate Administrator and for scheduling the examination once she or he has determined that the entire thesis meets the minimum standard. Under no circumstances are students permitted to make arrangements for an examination.
Please note the following time requirements:

  • At least four weeks prior to the date of the examination, the original Notice of Thesis Oral Examination form will be prepared by the Graduate Program Administrator and must be received in the Faculty of Graduate Studies office.
  • At least three weeks prior to the exam, the thesis must be submitted directly by the student to the members of the examination committee for the final examination. The thesis must be in all respects a final, complete copy and not a draft.

Please note: It is the student’s responsibility to ensure the thesis arrives in the hands of the examiners as intended. Normally the thesis will be sent electronically to the members of the examination committee as a pdf file. If a member of the examination committee requests a printed copy also, the student must allow time for it to be sent by mail or courier, but the pdf version should be considered the official copy.

A student who has successfully completed all Faculty of Graduate Studies and program requirements has the right to submit and defend a thesis even if doing so may be contrary to the advice of the Supervisor.

The exam begins when the thesis is distributed. The examiners must not discuss the thesis or their evaluation of it with each other (or anyone else) prior to the oral examination.

It is the responsibility of the Supervisor to contact the examiners and determine their willingness and availability to serve on the examining committee. The Graduate Program Administrator will prepare the necessary documentation.

The Master’s Thesis Oral Examination Committee must consist of:

  • the Supervisor.
  • the Co-Supervisor (if one has been appointed).
  • an additional member of academic staff.
  • an Internal Examiner (who may be internal to the home program) or External Examiner


Both the Internal-External Examiner (or External Examiner in the exceptional case where one is used) normally must satisfy the FGS criteria for examiners (see the FGS Graduate Calendar “Internal & External Examiners”):

  • have well-established research reputation.
  • have expertise in the area of the student’s research.
  • have experience in evaluating theses at the graduate level.
  • have experience in supervising to completion at the graduate level.
  • not be a close personal friend of the Supervisor.
  • not have collaborated with Supervisor in past five years.
  • not be closely related to, or have worked with the candidate.


In addition, any external examiner (if one is used) normally:

  • must not have been a Supervisor in the student’s graduate program in the past three years.
  • must not have served as external examiner in student’s program in the past two years.

See FGS’s External Examiner Checklist under “Examination Guidelines”)

Thesis oral examination policies and rules for MA (Thesis-based) and PhD students

The Graduate Program Director or his or her designate will serve as the Department’s Neutral Chair. Normally, the Neutral Chair will be a member of the Political Science Department’s Graduate Committee and will normally not be in the same field as the examinee.

The exam is normally an open exam but only the Examination Committee members can question the candidate.

The oral examination begins when the thesis is distributed. The examiners should not discuss the thesis or their evaluation of it with each other (or anyone else) prior to the oral examination.

Before the oral examination, each examiner is required to prepare an assessment of the thesis, on the official Examiner’s Report on Thesis form. These assessments are to be submitted to the Neutral Chair before the oral examination begins.

The assessments are confidential until the final decision is made. After the examination the Examiners’ Reports are available to the student, upon request. The examiners’ deliberations are private and confidential.

Ordinarily, the oral examination should not exceed two hours. This does not include deliberation time of the Examination Committee.

The following oral examination procedures should be followed.

  • Student’s Opening Remarks: • It is a common (although not mandatory) practice for the student to present opening remarks (up to 15 minutes) which introduce the research and highlight its significance.
  • Rounds of Questions to the Candidate: No one other than a member of the Examination Committee is allowed to question the candidate. All examiners must be given an opportunity to question the candidate early in the examination, e.g., by rounds of questioning.
  • Questions to the candidate should be relevant to the subject matter of the thesis, clear and succinctly phrased.

At the end of the thesis oral examination, everyone except the committee and the neutral chair is required to withdraw from the room. Before the discussion, each examiner identifies, by secret ballot, whether she or he favours recommending a pass with no revision, a pass with minor revisions, a pass with major revisions, or fail on the thesis and pass or fail on the oral defence.

Following a count of the straw vote, the Neutral Chair will facilitate a post-examination discussion.

In addition to FGS required documentation, at the conclusion of the discussion, the Department requires that each examiner indicate and initial her or his recommendation for the thesis and oral on the Departmental Report of Doctoral Thesis Examination form.

Recommendation to the Dean of Graduate Studies must be unanimous. If it is not unanimous, the Dean of Graduate Studies will decide the outcome of the thesis and the oral examination.