The MI Thesis
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 defence.
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.
Student should note that writing a thesis is dependent on the student finding a supervisor with expertise in their area who also has the time to dedicate to supervision. This option is not guaranteed.
Students pursuing the thesis option need to have completed the following prior to submitting their thesis proposal:
- 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 the MI Director before pursuing a research methods course offered outside of the Faculty.
- A Reading course and received an A- and above.
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 MI Co-Op option. For CDP students that are interested in pursuing an MI thesis as part of their degree, please review the information and steps here to make the request. Do note that it is rare for CDP students to pursue a thesis, and approval need to be obtained from the Faculty.
Students wishing to combine the thesis option with a Collaborative Specialization are advised to consult with the MI program director about compatibility.
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.
A typical sample to-do sequence for students interested in pursuing a thesis:
|Year 1 Fall:||Year 1 Winter:||Year 1 Summer:||Year 2 Fall:||Year 2 Winter & Summer:|
|Enrol in INF1240H (Research Methods) or equivalent
Explore topics of interest, consider who you may want to work with as Supervisor
Consult with the MI Program Director for advice on how to seek a supervisor for your project
|If not yet done in Fall term: Enrol in INF1240H (Research Methods) or equivalent
|Complete Reading Course with potential Supervisor
Prepare Thesis Proposal with Supervisor
Submit Thesis Proposal by end of Summer term (around Sept. 1).
Use the time to put together a thesis proposal with potential supervisor or supervisory committee.
|Thesis Proposal is approved by Graduate Committee on Standing early September
Ethics approval obtained if needed (give 6-8 weeks especially during busy period) — consult with your Supervisor about need for Ethics approval
|Thesis starts: Research your topic, collect and analyse your data, etc. Lots of researching and writing.
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. Consult with the MI Program Director for advice on how to seek a supervisor for your project.
Step 2: Complete a Reading Course over the Summer.
Start thinking about a thesis proposal, and discuss with your potential supervisor or supervisory committee.
A student’s supervisory committee provides advice and guidance as the student develops and carries out the thesis project. The supervisory committee consists of:
- A thesis supervisor, who must be a regular faculty member at the Faculty of Information
- A second reader, who may be a regular, adjunct, status only or emeritus faculty member at the Faculty of Information or a regular or emeritus faculty member at another U of T department. The thesis supervisor will assist in locating a second reader with you.
For more information and advice on the roles of the student and the committee members, see the School of Graduate Studies Supervision Guidelines (allowing for the differences between PhD and Master’s programs, where applicable).
Step 3: Submit a thesis proposal, together with the Master’s Thesis Proposal form, to the 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.
At times, the Committee on Standing may suggest some changes to a student’s thesis proposal. In that case, student need to submit an updated proposal prior to being officially enrolled into RST9999Y (and start working on their thesis).
NOTES ON THESIS PROPOSAL
The thesis proposal should contain detail sufficient to describe the significance, background and rationale for the thesis and the work the student will perform for the thesis. Supervisors should guide students in structuring a proposal appropriate to the disciplinary context of the project. The following list of elements is typical for a thesis proposal in Information; however, the Faculty recognizes that this list may not fit all thesis proposals and thus should be considered as illustrative only:
- Statement of the problem–includes the background, context in the information field and in the broader scheme of academic pursuits, key questions, significance of the problem, and description of chosen methodology.
- Grounding and rationale–provides a representative review of theoretical, conceptual, technological or methodological precedents which directly relate to the thesis topic.
- Research plan–details the methods that will be used or the processes that will be followed during the course of investigation. This section describes how the questions posed by the thesis will be addressed, and how the research will translate into a project timeline leading to the defence.
The proposal should also include a statement about the estimated length of the thesis (see guidelines above). If a course other than INF1240H: Research Methods is used to satisfy the research methods requirement, a brief rationale for the choice of methods course should be included as part of the thesis proposal, as well as the course syllabus, and a formal endorsement of the appropriateness of the course from the program director. (Students and supervisors are therefore advised to consult with the MI Program Director on non-standard methods courses well in advance.)
The proposal should be no more than 10 pages (double-spaced, not including bibliography or any appendices, tables, and figures), though it may be shorter depending on the nature of the project.
RESEARCH INVOLVING 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.
Our Research Officer can assist in taking a first pass on your REB documents – please forward request to Student Services.
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: Thesis completion & scheduling your defence
The completion of the thesis should be well within sight by the beginning of summer of Year 2. The student and the supervisory committee should be entering the final stages leading to the defence.
The official deadline to submit your thesis to the Faculty and School of Graduate Studies is typically September 15th. By this deadline, students need to have successfully defended and ready to submit a complete Thesis to the Faculty and the School of Graduate Studies. To meet this timeline, we recommend that students defend at least 1-2 weeks ahead of this deadline (at the latest). To avoid any unforeseen challenges, the defence should happen prior to the end of August.
Students who are unable to complete their work in time to meet this deadline will normally become ineligible for November convocation, be required to re-register and pay extra tuition fees, and apply for an extension to course work to remain in the thesis option. Students and supervisors are strongly encouraged to avoid September defences, and to plan the thesis’s scope and research process to allow for an early- or mid-summer defence.
The second reader should be given a minimum of two weeks to read the complete thesis and give feedback. The student should also consult well in advance with their committees about their availability over the summer, allowing for vacations, research trips, and other periods of unavailability.
Once the supervisor and second reader have read the complete thesis and agree that it is ready for defence, 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 defence date.
- For example, for a defence 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 Thesis Examination 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.
The Thesis Examination Committee consists of the thesis supervisor, the second reader, a non-voting Chair, and an external examiner.
An external examiner is someone that is:
- External to the Faculty of Information;
- A faculty member from another U of T department, a qualified senior practitioner, or an appointed individual from an academic or research institution
- Arm’s-length from the student and the thesis project:
- The external appraiser must be at arm’s length from both the Candidate and the supervisor(s). Normally, this will exclude anyone who: has served as Masters or PhD Supervisor / Supervisee of the Candidate or the Supervisor; or has, in the past six years, been a departmental colleague of the Candidate or the Supervisor, or has collaborated on a research project, scholarly work or publication, with either of them.
Once the Final Oral examination form is received, the MI program director:
- Ensures that student has completed all other degree and course requirements (examinations cannot be scheduled if any grades are outstanding)
- Confirms that the thesis is within the length guidelines (theses that egregiously exceed the length limit will not be sent to the external examiner until they are edited)
- Reviews, approves, and contacts the external examiner about serving on the Thesis Examination Committee, and informs her/him about the role
- Appoints an independent, non-voting Committee chair (normally the program director fills this role, schedule permitting)
- Books an examination room and necessary equipment
6 weeks prior to defence date: Once the Examination Committee and defence date have been finalized by the program director, the student is responsible for providing digital copies of the defence draft to the Examination Committee, at least six weeks prior to the defence date for pre-defence appraisal/review.
At least two weeks prior to defence date: the external examiner submits a short written report (1–2 pages) to the program director, who then makes the report available to the student and the rest of the Examination Committee.
The final oral examination consists of a 10–20 minute presentation by the student (which may include visual aids), followed by a question period not exceeding 60 minutes. Quorum for the examination is two voting members of the Examination Committee. Participation by telephone conference call or videoconferencing is permitted. Other faculty members and students may be invited to attend the examination, with permission of the candidate. Guests may not vote, and must leave the room during the discussions of the Examining Committee before and after the question period.
Assessment is based on examination performance, and quality of the written thesis, taking into account that the Faculty of Information Master’s theses are worth 2.0 FCEs in total.
The Examination Committee Chair follows the Procedures for the Final Oral Examination as follows:
- Committee assembles and Chair briefly outlines these procedures.
- Chair requests that the student leave the room.
- Chair informs the Committee as to whether degree requirements have been met.
- Chair invites the Committee to briefly discuss any considerations that the student will need to address in the defence questioning, such as weaknesses identified in the external’s report.
- Student is invited back into the room to present their work (10–20 minutes). No questions are asked during the presentation.
- First Round: Chair invites the Committee to comment/ask questions about the presentation and thesis in the following order: 1) external examiner; 2) second reader; and, 3) supervisor. The external examiner is normally given more time for questions in this round than the other two examiners. In the Second Round, Committee members may ask additional questions, following from the First Round.
- Chair requests the student leave the room.
- Committee discusses the presentation in terms of the student’s ability, knowledge of her/his research field, and defence. If the Committee agrees that modifications are required (see below), the Chair makes a list of the specific modifications, including their scope — i.e. whether the modification should be manageable via a couple of new paragraphs, or a short subsection, or a new footnote, or a few strategically placed clarifying sentences.
- Committee votes for Pass, Pass with Modifications, or Fail; outcome is determined by a majority vote.
- Chair recalls the student, and informs them of the Committee’s decision. (See below for detailed instructions in the event of a Pass with Modifications decision).
The Thesis Examination Committee fills out the Thesis Completion Form at the end of the examination. If the vote is for a Pass with Modifications, a member of the Thesis Examination Committee, normally the supervisor, is appointed to:
- Inform the student in writing of the modifications
- Review the modifications and advise the student during the process if necessary; and
- Report the result to the program director by a deadline agreed upon by the Examining Committee
Normally, modifications are those which may be reasonably handled by the student within a two-week timeframe or less. Major revisions involving substantial new analysis or data collection should be considered beyond the scope of Pass with Modifications. If the thesis requires major modifications of this nature to be judged passable by the Examination Committee, the outcome of the defence should be Fail (see below). Minor typos and corrections that can be handled quickly in a single sitting can be included in a straightforward Pass outcome. If the modifications are not completed within this interval, or do not adequately address the Examining Committee’s instructions, the outcome is Fail.
IN THE EVENT OF A FAILURE
Students are provided with written reasons in the case of a Fail recommendation.
A second examination may be scheduled within six months of the defence date.
If a second Fail recommendation is made, the student fails the thesis option, and may not repeat it.
A failed student may have his/her registration terminated. However, to make up the total number of credits required for the degree, the necessary number of elective courses may be substituted in place of the thesis option with SGS approval, and on the recommendation of the Faculty of Information.
Step 7: Thesis Submission
The thesis must be submitted in electronic format through the School of Graduate Studies (SGS) submission process. SGS only accepts theses in electronic format. SGS has helpful information about how to format and prepare the thesis, and about publication factors to consider.
SGS notifies students about convocation arrangements about 4–6 weeks in advance. Students failing to complete all steps by the SGS deadlines will be required to re-register and pay additional fees.