In this section: Thesis criteria and deadlines.  For writing tips, visit Student Resources.

Thesis Criteria

The M.A. thesis demonstrates familiarity with previous work in the field and the ability to carry out research and organize results. It must be written in good literate style.

  • An exhaustive review of work in the particular field is not required, nor is original scholarship necessarily expected.

Length: Typically between 80-100 pages (excluding musical examples and other illustrations). It cannot exceed 150 pages in total, including all preliminary pages.

Thesis Evaluation Criteria

  1. Grasp of subject, powers of criticism and awareness of previous work.
  2. Resourcefulness, alertness to significance of findings.
  3. Diligence, care, technical skill in research.
  4. Organization of findings.
  5. Quality of presentation (coherence, lucidity, grammar, style, freedom from typographical errors).

Thesis Proposal Submission Timeline

Submit your thesis proposal form ( MA_M_MusPropForm.pdf) to the Area for approval by:

  • November 1st, for review by the Graduate Subcommittee (MRGSC) on December 1st.
    • By November 15: The Area Chair submits it to Graduate Studies for inclusion in the MRGSC meeting.
  • March 1st, for review by the Graduate Subcommittee (MRGSC) on April 1st.
    • By March 15: The Area Chair submits it to Graduate Studies for inclusion in the MRGSC meeting.
  • In special cases, recommendation for thesis proposal review may be made outside the above timelines.
    • By September 15: Special recommendation for thesis proposal review must be submitted by the Area Chair to Graduate Studies, for inclusion in the October 1st meeting.


Tips for Submitting an Effective Thesis Proposal

The thesis proposal is a short description of your project (2 pages) with a bibliography (1 page).  Include:

  1. A clear and concise title;
  2. An opening statement that situates your topic;
  3. Language understandable to non-specialists;
  4. A concise description of your goals and objectives (what you will do);
  5. An explanation of methodology (how you will do it);
  6. A description of outcomes and benefits (why it is worth doing).

Thesis Submission Timeline

Graduation date Initial submission Thesis evaluation semester Final submission deadline
May/June December 15 Winter April 15
Fall (October, November) April 15 Summer August 15
Winter (no convocation) August 15 Fall  December 15

Initial Submission Steps

  • Two weeks before initial submission:
    • Print the checklist from the McGill Graduate Studies website.
    • Make a thesis submission appointment with [at] (Graduate Studies).
  • One week before initial submission:

Confirm that your supervisor has ensured availability of examiner and received confirmation (via email) duly indicated on the form that they do not have conflict of interest on each of the indicated points.​

  • Bring one hard copy of the thesis (no special binding required), plus completed nomination of examiners, thesis submission, waiver, original ethics, and all permission to use materials forms to the appointment.
  • With the approval of the Associate Dean of Graduate Studies in Music, submit your thesis online.  It will typically take 6-10 weeks to receive your examination results.

Final Submission Steps

  1. Review the examiner's comments with your supervisor and make revisions if required. Consult the Associate Dean (Graduate Studies) and the GPS website if the thesis has not been passed.
  2. Complete all required revisions and proof-reading.
  3. Submit online as per instructions by the date in the above table.
  4. Notify your supervisor that this has been completed.  Your supervisor will review and issue the final confirmation.
  5. Check out the convocation website for further details, and prepare to celebrate!

Colleagues' Tips for Surviving the Thesis Journey

  1. Begin talking about your thesis or paper topics as early as the first semester and develop a schedule for developing the idea and completing the research with your supervisor. For helpful hints on how to develop the schedule as you define your topic, visit the Graduate Supervision website.
  2. Use a bibliography software tool such as endnotes or Zotero at the beginning of your research process.
  3. Take time for fun, nourishment and living life—each day, each week, each month!
  4. Assemble all software packages that your work will require at the outset (statistical or other analytical tools, notational, word processing, bibliography, illustration tools, etc.). Write a short “test” document and apply the McGill software package formatting to understand style implications and any potential challenges for your work (margins, fonts, headings, etc.). Visit the Graduate Studies website for troubleshooting tips.
  5. Review the Schulich School of Music Style Guide pertaining to style manuals and music. Keep a file tracking the style choices you make from the very beginning.
  6. Attend a concert, a movie, or some other live cultural event at least once a week.
  7. Collect written permission to use materials as soon as possible and track the progress of this process by assembling musical examples, illustrations, photographs, etc. in a separate folder.
  8. Use the talents of others to format musical examples as a major time-saver and to facilitate proof-reading.
  9. Attend the thesis defenses and lecture-recitals of your colleagues – enjoy in particular the wine!
  10. Share the results of your work in a variety of formal and informal settings. The more people you share with, academic and non-academic, musical, non-musical, the clearer the expression becomes!  You can find tips on the Graduate Supervision website.
  11. Draw on the resources of the whole Schulich School of Music Team, Library, and beyond.
  12. For other helpful hints, go to the Graduate Supervision website. Know that usually you are not the most effective proof-reader, that it takes much longer than you ever imagined and that, at least once, the computer, the electricity, the plumbing or some other critical disaster will occur at the most inopportune moment.

Other Resources

Tools for writing and research (including the Schulich School of Music style sheet)