Thesis

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).

Format of Thesis Proposal

A complete thesis proposal consists of the following elements:

M.A. Thesis

  • Summary, defining and situating topic, explaining: rationale based on literature review; purpose, research questions or hypothesis; methodology; expected results; expected contributions/implications for the field (8-12 double-spaced pages of text)
  • Bibliography (2-3 pages)
  • Completed PDF icon M.A./M.Mus. Thesis Proposal Form

Thesis Proposal Submission Deadline

After the proposal has been approved by the candidate’s supervisor (or co-supervisors, if applicable), it should be submitted to the Music Theory Area Chair by

  • November 1 (for approval during the Fall Term)
  • March 1 (for approval during the Winter Term)

The Area Chair will schedule a proposal presentation as soon as possible at a meeting of the Music Theory Area.
The Area Chair will distribute the proposal to all members of the Music Theory Area at least one week in advance.

Thesis Proposal Presentation

  • The candidate’s presentation will take place at a meeting of the Music Theory Area
  • A quorum of 50% of faculty members in the Music Theory Area (not counting faculty members currently on leave or serving in administrative positions) will be required to evaluate the presentation
  • The candidate or any faculty members may participate via teleconference
  • Any faculty members participating via teleconference will be considered to be present for the purpose of meeting the quorum, and they will retain their voting rights
  • The candidate’s supervisor will normally be present at the presentation. If the candidate has a co-supervisor outside the Music Theory Area, that co-supervisor will be invited to the presentation and will have voting rights.

The proposal presentation will include the following components:

  • An oral presentation by the candidate providing an overview of the topic (maximum of 10 minutes)
  • A brief period in which the candidate will respond to questions from the faculty (approximately 5–10 minutes)

Candidates are advised to respect the ten-minute guideline for the brief presentation.
Since all faculty members will have read the submitted proposal in advance, the presentation should be used as an opportunity to go into greater detail and to provide additional context.
The candidate may elect to have the proposal presentation be open to the Schulich School of Music community.

Evaluation of the Proposal and Presentation

Faculty members in the Music Theory Area (and any co-supervisor outside the Music Theory Area, if relevant) who are present at the proposal presentation (in person or via teleconference) will vote on one of the following three outcomes, to be determined by a simple majority:

  • Pass (with no revisions): indicates that the Area Chair may sign the Thesis Proposal Form, and the proposal and the proposal form will be forwarded to the Graduate Studies Office.
  • Provisional Pass (with minor revisions): indicates that the candidate must revise the proposal based on feedback provided at the proposal presentation.
    • The revised proposal will be approved by both the Area Chair and the candidate’s supervisor(s).
      Once they are satisfied with the revisions, the Area Chair may sign the Thesis Proposal Form, and the revised proposal and the proposal form will be forwarded to the Graduate Studies Office.
  • Fail (major revisions required): indicates that major revisions are needed. Once those revisions are complete, a new proposal presentation must be scheduled.

Once the proposal has been forwarded to Graduate Studies, it is considered to be approved.

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 graduatestudies.music [at] mcgill.ca (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)