MI Thesis Option

The MI thesis

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Completing an MI thesis allows students to gain experience in developing and executing a research project from beginning to end. This option is designed for students who have a clearly defined topic, can find a supervisor, and can meet tight deadlines in order to complete all program requirements within the normal time limit. The thesis option is typically carried out in the second year of the two-year program. Faculty approval is required.

The length and structure of the Faculty of Information Master’s theses may vary widely depending on their disciplinary context. The general guideline is that the length of a thesis, and the scope of work it reflects, should be proportionate to the 2.0 credits allotted to the thesis in the MI program. The minimum length of a thesis should be determined in consultation with the supervisory committee, but the maximum length should not exceed 21,000 words (including notes, but excluding appendices, bibliography, tables, and figures). The student and supervisor are responsible for keeping the scope of the work within these limits, and should agree on a target length at the proposal stage. Theses that exceed the length limit may not be permitted to go forward for defense.

The format and scope of the thesis project will be determined by the supervisory committee based on the expectations and norms of the disciplines the thesis draws upon. In some cases, a prototype, design, or coded element may be considered the substantive component of the thesis work. Supervisors and program directors may be able to recommend recent examples relevant to the student’s interests. The Inforum maintains a listing of Faculty of Information Master’s theses, many of which are downloadable in full.

The MI Program Director oversees all aspects of the Master’s thesis process. Students and supervisors are encouraged to consult with them periodically throughout the thesis process.

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Students pursuing the thesis option need to have completed the following prior to submitting their thesis proposal:

  1. A Research Methods course and received an A- and above. INF1240H is recommended, however, students may take a similar course from another graduate unit. Please consult MI Director before pursuing a research methods course offered outside of the Faculty.
  2. A Reading course and received an A- and above


Students interested in pursuing a Master thesis can do so under the General Program Pathway or the Concentration pathway (please review the individual pathway degree requirements).

Part-time MI students may enroll in the thesis option only after the successful completion of eight 0.5-credit courses.

The thesis option cannot be combined with the Combined Degree Program (CDP) or the MI Co-Op option.

Students wishing to combine the thesis option with a Collaborative Specialization are advised to consult with the MI program director about compatibility.

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The following timeline is based on full-time registration in the normal two-year program for the MI degree. Students not on the following two-year program schedule should consult with their supervisor and program director about adapting the following timeline to their schedule. Any departure from this standard timeline must be justified in the thesis proposal and approved by the Committee on Standing before the student may be enrolled in the thesis option. SGS policies regarding overall degree timelines apply in all cases.

Note that the thesis option is recorded as, RST9999Y – Research/Thesis and is typically a three-term course worth 2.0-credits. Students who have not completed the thesis within the three-term limit must request an extension to coursework from the Committee on Standing.

Step 1: Complete a Research Methods course over Fall or Winter of Year 1. Use the time to find a supervisor for their Reading Course. Explore potential thesis topics.

Step 2: Complete their Reading Course over the Summer. Use the time to put together a thesis proposal with their supervisor or supervisory committee.

Step 3: Submit thesis proposal, together with the Master’s Thesis Proposal formto Committee on Standing via Student Services prior to September 1st of Year 2. If approved, student will be enrolled into RST9999Y to start on their thesis. Students typically start on their thesis in the Fall of Year 2.

Research using human subjects: Research protocols must be approved by the University of Toronto’s Social Sciences & Humanities Review Committee– Human Research Area, if human subjects are involved. Your supervisor and the Associate Dean Research can advise you on the process and timelines. The Research Ethics Board (REB) review process takes 3-4 weeks from submission to approval depending on the complexity of the project, the vulnerability of the population to be studied, and the degree of risk involved in the project. Students and supervisors should take the REB submission dates and timelines into account when planning the thesis.

Step 4: Research, write, research and write more!

As research for the thesis begins, the student and supervisor should agree upon meeting schedules, implementing the research plan described in the proposal, project milestones, and the process for submitting drafts, receiving feedback, and handling revisions. (See also the School of Graduate Studies’ Supervision Guidelines, allowing for the differences between PhD and Master’s programs, where applicable). A second reader may wish to be closely involved in the research process at an early stage, or may wish only to read and give feedback on a complete draft of the thesis at a later stage. The student, supervisor, and second reader should consult together early to agree upon the process and make expectations clear.

Move towards thesis completion over the Summer of Year 2

Step 5: Get ready for defense by scheduling the date in!

Once the supervisor and second reader have read the complete thesis and agree that it is ready for defense, the supervisor must notify the program director in writing and submit a Committee for the Final Oral Examination Form to Student Services at least seven weeks prior to the desired defense date.

For example, for a defense to be scheduled on September 15th (the last possible day), the program director should be notified in the first week of August at the latest. This interval is to allow for faculty absences during the Summer session and to ensure that Examining Committee members have appropriate time to evaluate the thesis. The student and supervisor are advised to have second and third choices ready when proposing external examiners.

Step 6Final oral examination

Step 7Thesis submission to the School of Graduate studies

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Details on:

  • Forming the supervisory and examination committees

  • Thesis proposal

  • Thesis completion

  • Final oral examination

  • Thesis submission to SGS