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

Thesis Criteria

The MMus Composition thesis consists of:

  • An original composition of approximately 10 minutes in length, and
  • an analytical essay on the composition of approximately 20-30 pages, written in good literate style.

Length: The total number of pages, composition and analytical essay combined, including reference materials, appendices, and preliminary materials (title page, abstracts, table of contents, preface, acknowledgements) is normally less than 100 pages; 150 pages is the absolute limit.

Thesis Evaluation Criteria

  1. Originality and creativity of aesthetic viewpoint/composition
  2. Awareness of and alertness to significance of past compositional achievements and related research/aesthetic viewpoints
  3. Diligence, care, technical mastery in the realization of the composition
  4. Potential of composition to assume a place in repertoire; usefulness of analytical text to other musicians
  5. Analytical thinking skills and powers of discrimination in supporting written text; connection between composition and analysis
  6. Quality of presentation in composition and written text (coherence, lucidity, grammar, style, freedom from typographical-notational 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. The title of the compositional work;
  2. Duration;
  3. Instrumentation;
  4. A short introduction contextualizing the work;
  5. A description of inspirational or conceptual ideas shaping the work;
  6. A discussion of form as a reflection of guiding ideas
  7. Relevant pitch, rhythmic and/or other formal elements;
  8. Orchestration considerations as relevant.

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 2-3 hard copies of the thesis (2 if you have one supervisor and 3 if you have a co-supervisor), plus completed nomination of examiners form, waivers, 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 papers to the Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies Office.  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 in Music) 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 composition ideas 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)