Research and Thesis
The following information will be helpful for students undertaking research and preparing theses.
Safety, Animal Care and Research Ethics Approval
Depending on the nature of research undertaken for a graduate studies thesis, students may require prior ethics approval by the StFX Research Ethics Board (REB), as well as training or advice on suitable ethical practices. Appropriate workplace safety knowledge and training may also be required, including basic occupational health and safety, awareness of specific laboratory safety requirements, and attendance at a safety seminar (scheduled as needed). In addition, for certain graduate students, field safety, dive safety, or biosafety rules may apply, and training may be required. If research requires use of animals, students will need animal care training. The level of training needed will depend on the research protocol involved. Faculty Supervisors and Graduate Studies Coordinators associated with each program can help guide students to the right resources for training and approvals.
Research Integrity and Conflict of Interest
Of particular importance to all researchers at StFX is the Policy on Research Integrity. This Policy identifies the responsibilities of all researchers at StFX in carrying out research ethically and with integrity. The Policy defines scholarly misconduct and outlines the procedures for investigating allegations of scholarly misconduct. It is available for review on the StFX website.
The Expert Committee on Research Integrity by the Council of Canadian Academics has outlined several Fundamental Principles of Research Integrity:
- Conduct research in an honest search for knowledge.
- Foster an environment of research integrity, accountability and public trust.
- Know your level of competence and your limitations; act accordingly.
- Avoid conflicts of interest, or if they cannot be avoided, address them in an ethical manner.
- Use research funds responsibly.
- Review the work of others with integrity.
- Report on research in a responsible and timely fashion.
- Treat data with scholarly rigour.
- Treat everyone involved with research fairly and with respect.
- Acknowledge all contributors and contributions in research.
- Engage in the responsible training of researchers.
Submission and Examination of Theses
The following is a summary of the usual steps involved in the development, submission and examination of theses. Some regulations vary within programs; confirm with your graduate coordinator.
Candidates must make a formal presentation of their thesis proposal. The presentation is normally made to the faculty of the department for which the thesis is being written, and it is open to members of the Committee on Graduate Studies, interested faculty members, and graduate students. In some departments, it may be open to the public. The department Chair or Graduate Coordinator (and/or the candidate’s faculty advisor) will ensure that at least 2 weeks notice is given of the date, time, and place of the presentation of the thesis proposal.
Following presentation of the proposal, after obtaining the approval of the appropriate ethics committee(s), and on the recommendation of the candidate’s thesis supervisory committee, and the department Chair /Program Coordinator the candidate will be permitted to register in the thesis.
Submission and Examination
Students often underestimate the amount of time required between submitting a thesis for defense and having it examined, defended, revised, and finalized. Students need to be realistic in considering the time needed to complete all requirements; otherwise, meeting the deadlines for graduation can be very stressful.
When completed, the thesis is submitted to the candidate’s supervisory committee for approval. The thesis is read by at least one other faculty member, designated by the department Chair. The thesis is also read by an external examiner chosen by the department Chair or Graduate Coordinator after consultation with the candidate’s supervisory committee. The external examiner is a faculty member external to the candidate’s department and may be external to the university. After consultation with the candidate’s supervisory committee, the Chair will appoint a thesis examination committee consisting of the external examiner, the candidate’s faculty advisor, and at least one (but no more than three) other members of the department (members of the supervisory committee may serve as members of the examining committee). The AVPRGS or her/his designate from the Committee on Graduate Studies will be a non-voting member of the examining committee ex officio.
The external examiner must submit a report on the thesis, which is sent to the student’s supervisor and supervisory committee. A public presentation and defence of the thesis is undertaken by the candidate after receipt of the external examiner’s report and following the approval of the supervisory committee. Normally, at least two weeks notice is given to the University Community concerning the date, time, and place of the presentation and defence.
Immediately following the public presentation of the thesis, an examination of the candidate is held. Normally, the public presentation and examination will not exceed 120 minutes. The examining committee will then, in camera, arrive at a unanimous decision, agree on any changes to be made to the thesis, determine who will be responsible for ensuring that these changes are made, and consider whether the student is to be nominated for the StFX Outstanding Graduate Student Research Award. Should the Committee not be able to arrive at a decision on the disposition of the thesis, the matter will be referred to the Committee on Graduate Studies for review and resolution.
The decision of the examining committee, along with their names and, as appropriate, signatures, will be recorded on the COGS Graduate Thesis Approval Form, with a copy retained by the Department and a second copy sent to the relevant Dean (cc’ed to the AVPRGS).
A final corrected copy of the successful thesis must be submitted to the supervisory committee for approval within a timeframe established by the examining committee in consultation with the candidate. The names of successful candidates must be provided to the appropriate Dean.
Students are responsible for providing print and electronic copies of the approved thesis to be deposited with the StFX Library and Archives Canada. Students must also complete and submit the required ‘StFX Thesis Non-exclusive License Form.’ Please consult the ‘Graduate Thesis Submission Guidelines’. Details are available here.
There is no single format requirement for thesis preparation or submission at StFX; each department/program tends to have different acceptable formats and conventions. Students should discuss acceptable formatting practices, conventions and approaches with their supervisor and committee.
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