M.Sc. Thesis - Organization & Content

The fundamental requirement of the M.Sc. is to generate publication-quality data that reaches a significant conclusion. The data might constitute only a portion of a complete paper. In other words, the student's work should culminate in at least a couple of publication-quality figures or tables that they produced themselves and can interpret on their own. The student should be able to propose detailed experiments for the future that are based on their work.

In addition to the SGS format rules for the M.Sc. and Ph.D. theses, we highly recommend using 12 point un-condensed Times New Roman font for clarity.

The thesis should be written in the first person (use of the pronoun "I"), describing the student's individual work: experiments, rationale, hypotheses and conclusions.


  • Should provide the relevant background to the thesis work.
  • Should not be a general survey of every topic touched upon by the work.
  • Should clearly outline the state of knowledge in the field of the research and emphasize the outstanding questions in the field, especially those specifically addressed by the M.Sc. research.
  • Should end with a brief outline and rationale for the thesis research. The introduction should not exceed 15 pages.

Data Chapter

  • Should describe the experiments performed by the student.
  • The M.Sc. thesis consists of one data chapter that contains enough data to reach a significant conclusion. These data should be of publication quality but do not need to be published.
  • Work of collaborators may be included when this work is crucial for understanding the student's own data. When work by collaborators is included, which experiments were done by collaborators should be clearly indicated. In this case, there must be a general explanation on the cover page of each data chapter outlining the contributions, by experiment, from each person.
  • Use "I" in the body of the chapter to describe the student's experiments and the name of the collaborator(s) (or "we," if appropriate) to describe others' experiments/data. The student must write the chapter to emphasize their own work.
  • Figures and tables not exceeding three pages in length (-see the note below for instructions on how to present vast datasets) should be placed in the body of the chapter, on the page following its first introduction, and not in a separate section at the end of the chapter. Where possible, the legend should be on the same page as the displayed item. Aside from vast datasets or movies (see below), there should be no reference to supplemental materials/figures/tables; all relevant data should be presented in the results section of the data chapter. Sometimes, figures that have been copied into a thesis are of inadequate resolution. Please ensure that all figures within a thesis are at least 300 dpi.
  • In no case is it permissible for a published or unpublished manuscript to be used as a data chapter without some alteration. Even in the case of a single-author paper by the student, the introduction must be modified to avoid repetition with the thesis introductory chapter. The results section of the chapter will incorporate all supplementary materials as described above.
  • If a study involves Human Subjects, a section in the materials section should be included indicating the study was approved by an Institutional Review Board (specify which) and that informed consent was obtained from all human subjects. If a study involves vertebrate subjects, a section in the materials section should be included that indicates that the appropriate animal care board reviewed all related protocols used (specify which.
  • The term 'data not shown' does not belong in a thesis. Arguments that rely on casual observation because no data was collected should not be present in a data chapter as this provides evidence of poor scientific method. Speculation based on casual observation is permissible within a concluding chapter, so long as it is clearly stated that the argument relies on casual observation and not on real data.

Concluding Chapter:

  • Should begin with an overall summary of the thesis work explaining how the work has advanced the field.
  • Should refer to questions and hypotheses posed in the introduction and explain how the research has solved (or maybe not solved) these problems.
  • The thesis should end by proposing several future investigations that could further address the key issues in the field.

Inclusion of Very Large Data sets, Movies, and References to Published Supplemental Materials

All data relevant to the M.Sc. thesis must be included within the thesis and distributed to supervisory and examining committee members for editing and evaluation purposes. It is not acceptable to refer to online supplementary materials published by the student within the thesis. The University cannot rely on outside agencies to maintain the integrity of data directly relevant to the thesis.

Students must present figures and small tables (not exceeding three pages) within the appropriate data chapter. The appendix of the table should present display items that exceed three pages in length. If the student and supervisor feel that the data within a large table (more than ~10 pages) would be better presented in an electronic format, the student may include this data as a CD/DVD appended to the thesis.

Students should present movies as a series of representative stills in the appropriate data chapter. They should also include the movie on a CD/DVD physically appended to the thesis.

Once approved by the examining committee, the student must electronically submit the thesis and the associated data contained in a CD/DVD to the School of Graduate Studies (SGS). The student must give a bound hard copy of the thesis to our Graduate Program Administrator for archival purposes. The CD/DVD containing thesis-related data should be in an envelope glued to the inside back cover of the thesis given to the Department.

Thesis Formatting

We strongly recommend that authors use an SGS thesis template. You can apply the template at any stage of the writing process, but using one early on will simplify writing and later PDF conversion. These templates are meant to assist with the formatting and production of a thesis. However, whether or not the student uses an SGS template, their responsibility is to ensure that the thesis meets SGS formatting requirements.

Technical Requirements

The thesis must be in PDF format and may also include supplementary files for multimedia, sound, video or HTML pages with embedded files. For specific information, please see the SGS website.

Guidelines for the main text-based thesis file

  • Font size: Text must be a minimum of 12 points. Smaller font size may be used for graphs, formulas, and appendices.
  • Line spacing: Text line spacing must be at least one-and-a-half spaces, except for the thesis abstract, which should be double-spaced. Single spacing may be used for long quoted passages and footnotes.
  • Footnotes and References: The student and supervisor must decide the form and location of footnotes and the presentation of references and bibliography. The preferred location for footnotes is either at the bottom of the page or at the end of the chapters to which they refer. The student should consult style manuals in conjunction with the Guidelines. For questions not answered in either the Guidelines or any style manual, we urge students to use their discretion and maintain a consistent style.
  • Page and margin sizes: The size of the pages should be 8 1/2" x 11" (21.5 cm x 28 cm), the text reading across the 8 1/2" (21.5 cm) dimension. The left-hand margin should be at least 1 1/4" (32 mm), and the remaining three margins should be at least 3/4" (20 mm) to the main text.