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Political Science at UWindsor

Major Paper and Thesis

All students in the M.A. program are given the opportunity to complete a major research project on a subject of their choice as part of their degree. The major paper, internship report, and thesis options offer students the opportunity to develop, organize and carry out a lengthy project that will further develop their research and writing skills. Both the major paper and thesis options culminate with an oral defence and thus provide students with an experience that will prepare them for oral presentations in a Ph.D. program, at law school, or in government.

Students in the M.A. internship stream must complete an internship report, presented at a public event at the end of the fall semester following the conclusion of their internship. The format of the internship report follows those for the major paper and thesis options detailed below, but the length is shorter (approximately 25 pages), the focus must be related to a public policy issue, and the department's internship coordinator serves as an internal reader.

Please see the M.A. Internship page for more details.

Major Paper Requirements and Regulations

1. The length of a major paper will be in the range of 60 pages, excluding notes and bibliography.

2. Each student will be assigned a supervisor, taking into consideration the student’s research area, as well as faculty workload.

3. The supervisor will provide a maximum of 4 supervision hours. This does not include time spent reading and commenting on all or parts of the paper.

4. Major paper examination boards will also include the supervisor and a second internal examiner (from within the Department of Political Science).

5. It is the responsibility of the supervisor to select the internal examiner.

6. Internal examiners may offer 1 hour of supervisory time prior to paper submission, but this will not include a full review of the manuscript. In many cases, the internal examiner will only review the major paper once it has been submitted and approved for defence by the supervisor.

7. The major paper will proceed to defence when the supervisor believes that it is academically ready.

  • The decision to proceed to defence will not occur automatically.
  • The decision to proceed to defence will not be based on the financial needs of the student. The supervisor will only recommend a major paper or thesis proceed to defence when it is academically ready even if this means that a student must register for an extra semester. This is an advanced degree and it will be awarded on academic grounds, not financial need.
  • A student has the right to insist on a defence against the advice of the supervisor. In these circumstances, the student should be advised that there is an increased likelihood that the paper will fail.

8. The Faculty of Graduate Studies requires eight days’ notice between the notification of oral defence and the defence date. The Department of Political Science requires that internal examiners (second readers) be given two weeks to read and prepare for the oral defence. Each semester, the Faculty of Graduate Studies provides a list of important dates that includes the final possible date for defence before fees become due for the next semester.

9. All major papers and theses must follow one of the following referencing styles: Chicago; MLA; APA. Information on these styles and other writing tips are available online through the Leddy Library.

10. The final preparation of the major paper or thesis must follow the Faculty of Graduate Studies’ format specifications. These are available on the Faculty of Graduate Studies website.

11. Papers will be assigned a pass/fail grade. A major paper may be passed with no changes; passed with minor changes; or passed with major changes.

12. If the decision is made to pass the paper with minor changes, it is expected that the supervisor and second reader will clearly establish for the student the changes that need to be made. Ideally, this will take the form of providing the student with a written list, and/or a marked copy of the paper. It is the job of the supervisor to determine when the minor changes have been satisfactorily completed.

13. In cases where the paper has been passed with major changes, the committee must decide how satisfactory completion is to be determined. This may include the committee reviewing the paper, a second defence, or leaving the determination to the supervisor. The committee should provide the student with a detailed outline of the changes that are required. In addition, the committee MUST prepare a recommendation detailing how satisfactory completion is to be determined and forward this to the Dean of Graduate Studies.

Thesis Requirements and Regulations

1. A thesis will be at least 100 pages, but will not exceed 150 pages, excluding notes and bibliography.

2. Thesis examination boards will include the supervisor, internal examiner, an outside examiner from another department within the university, and a chair of the defence committee from within the department (the chair does not participate in the assessment of the thesis).

3. The supervisor will select the internal examiner early in the thesis writing process and the internal examiner will be expected to participate in the thesis preparation process in some way. The exact working relationship between the student, supervisor, and internal examiner, however, will be developed on a case-by-case basis. In every case, the primary responsibility for the thesis lies with the student, assisted by the supervisor.

4. The supervisor will select the external examiner once the thesis has been approved to proceed to defence. At this time also, the supervisor is responsible for arranging for a chair of the defence committee.

5. There is no formal due date for a thesis, but the department encourages students to complete their thesis within one year of starting the program.

6. The thesis will proceed to defence when the supervisor believes that it is academically ready. 

  • The decision to proceed to defence will not occur automatically.
  • The decision to proceed to defence will not be based on the financial needs of the student. The supervisor will only recommend a thesis proceed to defence when it is academically ready even if this means that a student must register for an extra semester. This is an advanced degree and it will be awarded on academic grounds, not financial need.
  • A student has the right to insist on a defence against the advice of the supervisor. In these circumstances, the student should be advised that there is an increased likelihood that the thesis will fail.

7. The Faculty of Graduate Studies requires eight days’ notice between the notification of oral defence and the defence date. The Department of Political Science requires that internal examiners (second readers) and external examiners be given at least two weeks to read the thesis and prepare for the oral defence. Each semester, the Faculty of Graduate Studies provides a list of important dates that includes the final possible date for defence before fees become due for the next semester. 

8. All major papers and theses must follow one of the following referencing styles: Chicago; MLA; APA. Information on these styles and other writing tips are available online through the Leddy Library.

9. The final preparation of the thesis must follow the Faculty of Graduate Studies’ format specifications. These are available on the Faculty of Graduate Studies website.

10. A thesis may be passed with no changes; passed with minor changes; or passed with major changes. In addition, the thesis will be assigned a letter grade with a B- the minimum passing grade. The grade is assigned to the thesis at the time of the defence; that is, before either minor or major changes have been made if requested by the committee.

11. If the decision is made to pass the thesis with minor changes, it is expected that the supervisor and second reader will clearly establish for the student the changes that need to be made. Ideally, this will take the form of providing the student with a written list, and/or a marked copy of the thesis. It is the job of the supervisor to determine when the minor changes have been satisfactorily completed.

12. In cases where the thesis has been passed with major changes, the committee must decide how satisfactory completion is to be determined. This may include the committee reviewing the thesis, a second defence, or leaving the determination to the supervisor. The committee should provide the student with a detailed outline of the changes that are required. In addition, the committee MUST prepare a recommendation detailing how satisfactory completion is to be determined and forward this to the Dean of Graduate Studies.

Post Defence Procedures

Once a major paper, internship report, or thesis has been successfully defended (and revised if necessary and approved by the supervisor), the preparation of the final document must follow the procedures and format determined by the Faculty of Graduate Studies. Students should refer to the Faculty of Graduate Studies website for information.

It is the student’s responsibility to revise and prepare the final document for submission. Failure to complete this part of the process within the Faculty of Graduate Studies’ deadlines can result in a student having to pay extra fees even if the defence was held before the deadline. One copy of the final paper/thesis must be submitted to Graduate Studies complete with multiple copies of the signed approval page. Graduate Studies arranges for the copying and binding of the final paper/thesis (billed to the student). At a minimum, students must ask for a bound copy for the department and one for the Leddy Library. It is also usually expected that students will provide their supervisor with a bound copy of the final paper/thesis. Students may also want to budget for additional personal copies. Students wishing to graduate must complete the Application for Graduation online. This can be found on the web on the student information system (SIS) by clicking on the ‘Application to Graduate’ link. A student must apply to graduate even if they do not intend on going to a graduation ceremony.