I recently finished my thesis and graduated with my Master’s degree. When I say recently, I submitted my thesis at the absolute last possible minute (literally 11:58 p.m.) to make the deadline to attend October 2021 convocation. I am usually very organized, I rarely procrastinate, I work normal to slightly over a full work week as a grad student, so you may be asking yourself, “Why did it ever come to this?“. Primarily, my problem boiled down to me not knowing what was involved in the graduation process. I initially thought that all I had to do was submit my thesis to my supervisor and committee and be done, but I was woefully wrong. Once it came time for me to graduate, I also found it rather difficult to navigate the system and figure out what I needed to do and when.
Now that I have been through this process, sharing what I have learned might be useful. Please keep in mind that departments have different requirements and deadlines. Hence, as my first and most important piece of advice, I highly recommend talking with your supervisor and/or department head about your expectations, timeline, and due dates. Think about when you would like to graduate and work backward from there. Timelines may get shifted, but at least you will know what to expect. Below, I will outline the steps that I had to go through with some comments.
- Finish writing your thesis. Surprisingly (to me, at least), this was only the beginning of the process to graduate. Throughout my studies, I had been writing my chapters as individual documents to make them more manageable. When I completed the first full draft of my entire thesis, I sent it to my supervisor for comments. It is a long document, my supervisor is thorough, and this was the first time he saw the whole thing altogether, so it took him some time to get his comments back to me. I also sent it to him at the busiest time of the semester (but more on that in a future blog post).
- Edit based on supervisor comments. Depending on the feedback you get, this could take a long time. As I said before, the full draft that you send may be the first time your supervisor sees the big picture, and they may have some opinions on how to tweak it so it is more cohesive. You may need to rewrite entire sections or redo some of your stats. All these edits will ultimately make your thesis better, but it will also take you time. Sometimes, your supervisor may want to see the thesis again and give more feedback. Be sure to factor this step into your timeline so that neither of you needs to rush.
- You and your supervisor send your thesis to your committee. Again, remember that it could take them a long time to go through your thesis. Generally, committee members are less involved than the supervisor, so they are less familiar with what they are reading. During my masters, I was very fortunate to have a supportive and thorough committee. They have a range of expertise, so I got a wide variety of feedback. Again, I want to point out that this is likely the first time your committee sees the bigger picture, so your feedback could range from hyper-specific to much more general.
- Address your committee’s comments to their and your supervisor’s satisfaction. This will take time. In this and all steps, don’t forget to prioritize your physical and mental health. Communicate regularly with your supervisor and your committee to make sure that you understand their feedback and address it the way they want you to.
- Submit your thesis to the School of Graduate Studies (SGS). You and your supervisor will send the document to them together. Once SGS has your first submission, they will contact potential internal and external examiners that your supervisor suggested. These are people with a Ph.D. who are considered an expert in the field of your thesis. The internal examiner will be someone who works at MUN, and the external examiner will be someone who does not work at MUN. Both will be anonymous to you until you receive their evaluation. It could take SGS a few weeks to find examiners who are willing/able to review your thesis. Once they have confirmed both examiners, they will then send your thesis out to them. They have between 4 and 6 weeks (it may vary depending on the department and type of thesis) to provide feedback on your thesis, but I have learned that it might take longer than this time frame (they are human and life gets in the way). Once both examiners have submitted their feedback to SGS, you will receive an email.
- Address examiner comments. You need to edit your thesis to address the comments to the satisfaction of your supervisor and committee. Often, the thesis is not the final draft of the research if you plan to publish it after, so it may not be perfect. Similar to manuscript publications, your examiners will recommend that your thesis be a) accepted as is, b) acceptable after revisions, c) unacceptable and requires another revision, or d) unacceptable and the thesis has failed. Option b is the most common, and you will have six months from the time you receive your examination to make changes and resubmit to SGS.
- Resubmit the thesis. This is the final step! After you have edited your thesis to the satisfaction of your supervisor and committee, you can submit your final version to SGS! YAY!!! Some forms need to be signed, and you may need to complete other requirements to graduate (i.e., a thesis defense or exit seminar), but you are officially done with your thesis. You need to upload your thesis to the e-thesis portal at least ten days before the date of the convocation you want to attend.
I would like to reiterate this was a description of my experience and the steps I needed to take, which may not be identical to your requirements. Still, I hope that this post will be helpful. I wish you all the best in your graduate studies, and especially a smooth thesis submission process!
~ Sydney ~