Types of Theses & Dissertations
Master’s theses submitted by students in partial fulfillment of degree requirements must embody the results of original research and must be successfully defended at oral examinations. Master’s theses shall be on a topic approved by the student’s supervisor and supervisory committee, and shall include submission and approval of a thesis proposal, including appropriate ethics review and approval, in accordance with Faculty and program requirements and procedures.
Master’s theses should demonstrate that the student is familiar with and has an acceptable understanding of the literature in the subject of the thesis; that appropriate research methods have been used; and that appropriate levels of critical analysis have been applied. The research embodied in the thesis should make some original contribution to knowledge in the field.
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Doctoral dissertations shall be on a topic approved by the student’s supervisor and supervisory committee, and shall include submission and approval of a dissertation proposal, including appropriate ethics review and approval, in accordance with Faculty and program requirements and procedures. Dissertations must embody the results of original research and must be successfully defended at an oral examination.
The doctoral dissertation must embody original work conducted while in program, and must constitute a significant contribution to knowledge. It should contain evidence of critical understanding of the relevant literature. The material embodied in the dissertation should merit publication.
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Originality of a Thesis/Dissertation
By submitting a thesis or dissertation, a student is making the representation that it is entirely his or her own work and that it has been done while he or she was a graduate student at York University.
If such is not the case, then the student must indicate in a signed, written statement what part of the thesis or dissertation is solely his or her own or co-authored. If co-authored, the candidate must provide an account of its provenance. The supervisor must produce her or his own corroborative written statement.
If a thesis or dissertation is the result of collaborative work, then the nature of the collaboration and the extent of the candidate’s contribution must be described in a written statement signed by the candidate and approved in writing by the candidate’s supervisor. Where there has been collaboration with others in the collection or preparation of data, materials, or documentation included in the thesis or dissertation, then appropriate acknowledgment must be made in the thesis or dissertation.
If a thesis or dissertation – or any part thereof – has been published prior to submission of the thesis/dissertation, then the candidate must disclose this fact in a signed written statement, and the supervisor must approve in writing the inclusion of such work in the thesis or dissertation. In cases where one or more chapters of the thesis or dissertation have been previously published in a journal or book to which the author has assigned copyright, permission to include the chapter(s) in the thesis or dissertation must be obtained from the copyright holder(s). Please see the section on Copyright for more details.
A thesis or dissertation containing previously published material of which the candidate is the author and/or co-author should also contain a review of the literature that adequately explains the relationship to the literature of the work undertaken. In addition, it should contain a rationale for the study. These elements may form part of the body of the work – normally an introduction or opening chapter – that leads coherently into the publications. Furthermore, there should be a concluding chapter or section that discusses the body of the thesis or dissertation, including all previously published parts.
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Manuscript-based Theses & Dissertations
The general form and style of a thesis/dissertation may differ from program to program, but a thesis/dissertation should be a coherent work. This means that if a thesis/dissertation contains separate manuscripts, there needs also to be introductory and concluding chapters that explain how these separate manuscripts fit together into a unified body of research. If previously published materials are included, then it should be made clear what exactly is the student’s own work and what is the contribution of other researchers, as outlined above under Originality of a Thesis/Dissertation.
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Complex Electronic and Multimodal Theses & Dissertations
All theses and dissertations must contain a written component. Theses and dissertations may, however, include other components in addition to the written component.
A complex electronic thesis/dissertation is a work with a high reliance on slides, film or videos, electronically interactive word/image-based text on CD-ROM or the internet. For complex electronic theses/dissertations, part of the work can be produced in traditional written form, but key elements of the work depend on direct experience with or interaction with a text whose physical form may be changed as a consequence of the interaction. Students producing a multimedia thesis/dissertation should consult with the Theses Canada Portal on the Library and Archives Canada website for advice on formats supportable for preservation. However, a student may work in or submit work in an unsupported format as part of the oral exam as long as the work is readily accessible by the exam committee and the student submits a written component.
A multimodal thesis/dissertation is a work in which the key component is a performance or piece of art. For multimodal theses/dissertations, part of the work can be produced in traditional written form, but key elements of the work depend on direct experience by the exam committee with, for example, displayed artworks or theatrical productions.
For both electronic and multimodal theses/dissertations, students may wish to include supplementary files as part of their final submission (see Final Thesis/Dissertation Submission).
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Language of Theses & Dissertations
A thesis or dissertation should be written in English, but approval may be given to a written request from a student for a thesis or dissertation to be written in French or in the language of any Aboriginal/First Nations people in North America, subject to confirmation from the director of the graduate program concerned that relevant supervision and sufficient support for the completion of such written work can be provided.
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Students preparing their thesis/dissertation should follow a single style guide appropriate to their discipline. The York University Libraries provides links to various style guides for various disciplines.
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Thesis and Dissertation Proposals
In accordance with program requirements and procedures, all students should prepare a thesis/dissertation proposal, normally in consultation with their supervisor. Each program should have written guidelines and should communicate them to candidates, as and when appropriate.
At a minimum, the proposal should contain a brief statement in non-technical language on the purpose of the thesis/dissertation research, its relationship to existing work in the area, and the contribution which 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 recommended maximum length of a proposal is 3,500 words, but individual programs may require proposals of a greater length.
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Following approval of the proposal by the supervisory committee, students must submit one or more copies of the proposal to the graduate program director. After confirming that the relevant Faculty and internal program requirements have been satisfied, the program director is responsible for submitting the proposals to the Office of the Dean, Graduate Studies using the Form TD1: Thesis/Dissertation Research Submission (.pdf).
As indicated on Form TD1: Thesis/Dissertation Research Submission, submission of the proposal to the Office of the Dean, Graduate Studies, includes submission of the relevant research ethics forms and documentation. For more information, please refer to the Research Ethics section of this Handbook.
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For a master’s thesis, the supervisory committee must review the student’s research proposal and recommend its approval not less than three months prior to the date set for the oral examination.
For a doctoral dissertation, the supervisory committee must review the student’s research proposal and recommend its approval not less than six months prior to the date set for the oral examination.
Please note that the deadlines outlined above are the Faculty’s minimum requirements, and individual graduate programs may have more specific requirements and timelines with respect to the development, review and approval of thesis/dissertation proposals. Students should consult their program for more details. Further, the Faculty deadlines outlined above may not provide the time necessary for ethics approval, if required. More information regarding research ethics is provided below.
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York University is committed to the highest standards of integrity in research. All projects involving the use of human subjects, animals, and biohazardous materials are subject to review by the appropriate University committee. York has formulated policies and procedures for the conduct of research involving all three of these areas.
As indicated on Form TD1: Thesis/Dissertation Research Submission (.pdf), submission of the thesis/dissertation proposal to the Office of the Dean, Graduate Studies for approval must include the relevant research ethics forms and documentation.
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Research Involving Human Participants
All research involving human participants is governed by the Senate Policy for the Ethics Review Process for Research Involving Human Participants. The Senate Policy stipulates that all University-based research involving human participants, whether funded or non-funded, faculty or student, scholarly, commercial or consultative, is subject to an ethics review process. The Senate Policy for the Ethics Review Process for Research Involving Human Participants and corresponding review procedures adhere to the published guidelines of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, known as the Tri-Council Policy Statement (TCPS).
Please note that in accordance with the TCPS and Senate policy, graduate students undertaking research with human participants may not begin that research until their proposal has received approval from the appropriate body. Further, prior to conducting research involving human participants, graduate students are required to complete the complete the TCPS tutorial.
Details regarding the ethics review procedures for thesis/dissertation research involving human participants is available on the Faculty of Graduate Studies research ethics webpage.
Students conducting research with human participants may be required to submit the Form TD2: Human Participants Research Protocol (.pdf). Additional forms may be required.
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Research Involving Animals, Biohazardous Materials and Other Research Situations
Further details regarding the University policies and ethics review procedures for thesis/dissertation research involving animals and biohazardous materials is available on the Office of Research Ethics webpage.
Ethics guidelines for other research situations are also available on the Office of Research Ethics webpage, including:
- Invasive Procedures
- Health and Safety Checklist
- Surveys and Research in an Online Environment
- Research Conducted by External Researchers
- Research Conducted in Hospital Clinical Settings
- Research in Educational Settings
- Research Involving Minor Age Participants
- Research with People who are Homeless
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Ownership of Theses/Dissertations
Students hold copyright to their theses and dissertations, regardless of the method of submission. Consequently, a student is free to publish his or her thesis/dissertation following a successful oral examination. Please note that if a thesis/dissertation includes any work which is copyrighted to another party, permission may be required to publish the thesis/dissertation.
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Distribution Licenses and Confirmation of Originality
After a successful oral examination the Library and Archives Canada Thesis Non-Exclusive License (.pdf) must be submitted to the Office of the Dean, Faculty of Graduate Studies. The student must also accept the terms of the York University Copyright License as part of the electronic submission of their thesis/dissertation using the Electronic Thesis and Dissertation (ETD) application.
By signing these licenses, a student is confirming that his or her thesis/dissertation is his or her original work, that his or her thesis/dissertation does not infringe any rights of others, and that he or she has the right to make the grant conferred by those copyright licenses. In addition, the student is granting a Licence to York University to make copies including electronically formatted copies, and/or distribute worldwide all or part of the thesis/dissertation, subject to the conditions outlined.
If applicable, the student should submit copies of any required copyright permissions prior to the final thesis/dissertation submission to the Office of the Dean, Graduate Studies. The student should also retain copies of all copyright permission requests and approvals.
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When to Secure Copyright Permission
The following sections provide guidance and suggestions with respect to when and how to secure copyright permission. It is, however, the responsibility of the student to confirm that if there is copyrighted material in his or her thesis/dissertation, it either complies with the “fair dealing” provisions of the Canadian Copyright Act or documented permission has been obtained to use the copyrighted material. The Office of the Dean, Faculty of Graduate Studies cannot offer legal advice as to whether or not copyright permission is required.
Limit of Copyright Protection: Copyright protection applies to original, literary, musical, dramatic or artistic works in a variety of forms, including written materials, computer software, and web-based formats regardless of whether the work in question is published or not and whether someone has made it available to the public or not. This protection expires 50 years after the death of the originator, regardless of who holds copyright at that time.
Public Domain: A work that is freely available to the public is not necessarily in the public domain. For a work to be in the public domain, the originator must have specifically waived copyright to the work, or copyright must have legally expired. Work that is in the public domain can be used by anyone without copyright being violated.
Fair Dealing: A student is allowed to use copyrighted material in his or her thesis/dissertation provided it falls under the Canadian Copyright Act's definition of "fair dealing". Information on York University’s Fair Dealing Guidelines can be reviewed at York University - Copyright.
While it is required academic practice to cite sources, proper citation does not remove the obligation to obtain documented permission to use copyrighted permission that is not covered under the “fair dealing” provisions of the Canadian Copyright Act. If a thesis/dissertation includes any of the following elements, the student should seek copyright permission. (Please note that this is not an exhaustive list. If you require additional information on York’s Copyright Policy or Fair Dealing Guidelines contact the Copyright Office at firstname.lastname@example.org).
- Material or parts of material written by the thesis/dissertation author which have been previously published in a journal and to which the author has assigned copyright
- Material co-authored with another author(s) who share copyright
- Tables, figures, and all forms of images including photos, maps, graphs, drawings, logos etc. that have been obtained from a copyrighted source, including websites, newspapers, journals, books, brochures, professors' lecture notes, etc.
- Scripts and recordings of any performance
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How to Secure Copyright Permission
In cases where a student is not certain that his or her use of copyrighted material is covered under the "fair dealing" provisions of the Canadian Copyright Act, documented permission from the copyright holder(s) must be obtained in order to include the material in the thesis/dissertation. Since securing copyright permission may take some time, it is strongly recommended that students being this process sooner rather than later. Please note that the copyright holder must be aware of and agree to the terms of the York University Copyright License and Library and Archives Canada Thesis Non-Exclusive License.
If seeking permission from a journal, a good first step is to check the journal’s website, which may provide information with respect to copyright, including advance permission to journal authors who have signed over copyright, how to request permission, and uses that are specifically prohibited. There are also a number of websites that may be helpful in determining the copyright policies of particular journals/publishers, including Sherpa Romeo and EPrints. Some journals and publishers provide (on their website or on request) a policy statement granting copyright permission to the author of a thesis/dissertation who signed over copyright to the journal/publisher. In such cases, retain a copy of that policy statement as evidence of documented permission.
Alternatively, a student should contact the copyright holder. Sample text for a copyright permission request is included below. Although email proof of permission is acceptable, please note that an original, signed letter on the copyright holder’s letterhead is the best protection against accusations of copyright violation.
Students should provide copies of any required copyright permissions prior to submission of their final thesis/dissertation to the thesis coordinator in the Office of the Dean, Graduate Studies. Students should also retain copies of all copyright permission requests and approvals.
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Sample Text – Copyright Permission Request
Re: Request for Permission to Use Copyrighted Material in a Thesis/Dissertation
I am a York University student preparing my thesis/dissertation for submission as part of the requirements of my master’s/doctoral degree in [program]. The title of my [thesis/dissertation] is: […]
The reason I am writing is to ask permission to include the following material in my thesis/dissertation: [Provide standard reference information for the material, including figure/table number, if any, and page numbers. If appropriate, you can also briefly describe the manner/context in which the material will be used in thesis/dissertation.] The material will be fully cited in my thesis/dissertation.
In the interest of facilitating research by others, my thesis/dissertation will be available on the internet for reference, study and/or copy. The electronic version of my thesis/dissertation will be accessible through the York University Libraries website and catalogue, and also through various web search engines. I will be granting Library and Archives Canada a non-exclusive license to reproduce, loan, distribute, or sell single copies of my thesis by any means and in any form or format. These rights will in no way restrict republication of the material in any other form by you or by others authorized by you.
Could you please confirm in writing or by email that these arrangements meet with your approval. If you do not solely control the copyright in the material, please let me know as soon as possible. I would also appreciate any information you can provide about others to whom I should write to request permission.
If you would like to confirm permission in writing, you can do so by signing and completing the information below and returning this signed and completed letter in the enclosed self-addressed stamped envelope by [date].
If you would like to confirm permission by email, my email address is […].
[Your Name and Signature]
I, the undersigned, hereby represent and warrant that I have authority to grant the permission requested and do grant the permission.
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Citations of Sources
Students must include full citations for any copyrighted material used in their thesis/dissertation regardless of source, including photos, pictures, charts, graphs and tables.
Each citation must include the copyright symbol, name of the copyright holder (who may or may not be the author), and, if applicable, a statement that the use of the material or adaptation (in the case of adapted graphics) is by permission of the copyright holder.
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Unable to Secure Copyright Permission
In cases where use of copyrighted material is not covered under the "fair dealing" provisions of the Canadian Copyright Act and a student is unable to secure permission from the copyright holder (or there is a charge for obtaining permission), the material in question must be removed from the thesis/dissertation. In its place, the student should indicate that the material has been removed because of copyright restrictions.
Depending upon the nature of the material, the student may want to include additional information. In the case of a figure or image that has been removed, a description of the missing material and a full citation of source material and where it can be found (including, if possible, a link to an online source) would be helpful to those reading the thesis/dissertation. In the case of a chapter that was previously published in a journal, an abstract of the chapter content and link to the journal website where the article can be found could be provided.
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The Faculty of Graduate Studies recognizes the mission of the university to seek, preserve, and disseminate knowledge and to conduct research in a fair, open, and morally responsible manner.
In such regard, the Faculty of Graduate Studies believes that intellectual property rights are divided among several interests, and that the rights and obligations of various claimants should be specified, fairly regulated, and that disputes arising may be mediated. All parties (students and faculty) are expected to behave in an ethically appropriate manner beyond their immediate graduate student/supervisory relationship, to encompass intellectual property rights, dissemination of research data, and in making decisions on authorship and publication of joint research.
Because of the varied cultural aspects and practices that differ among the graduate programs, each program is responsible for enacting and enforcing this policy of appropriate ethical practices on intellectual property rights, in compliance with the Faculty Policy on Intellectual Property for Graduate Programs. Programs which choose not to enact their own specific policy are bound by the Faculty Policy on Intellectual Property for Graduate Programs
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