MSc Thesis

Any research topic related to the health of human populations is considered suitable for a thesis in the School. Specific research topics will be constrained by the availability of faculty with suitable content and methodological expertise to supervise the work. Students are encouraged to meet with many different faculty members to discuss potential research topics.

Thesis Supervisor

You are responsible for choosing your thesis supervisor, who will chair your supervisory committee.

A review of the School's full-time faculty will enable you to familiarize yourself with the research being conducted in the School and start a preliminary dialogue with any faculty members whose research appears compatible with your intended course of study. If your research interests or plans change, you can change your supervisor, although you should be aware that this may delay your progress towards graduation.

The thesis supervisor must be a full-time Professor, Associate Professor or Assistant Professor in the School and must be a member of the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies.

Thesis Supervisory Committee

The supervisory committee consists of the chair and two or more other committee members.

Work together with your supervisor to identify suitable committee members. At least one committee member should be a School faculty member (can include an associate faculty member, i.e., one with a primary appointment in another UBC department, but also formally appointed in our School).

Other committee members may be clinical faculty or individuals from other academic units or from outside the University.

Members from outside the School must be approved by the Director of the MSc Program.

When your Thesis Committee Members have agreed to their role, please fill out this MSc Thesis Committee Form and submit it to the program at .

Roles and Responsibilities

An online guide, the Handbook of Graduate Supervision, has helpful tips to facilitate the interactions between students and supervisors.

Also see UBC policies and procedures for graduate studies for information about responsibilities of supervisors, policies regarding thesis preparation, deadlines, and much more.

MSc students are required to present their thesis research protocol orally as one of their SPPH 507 (Research Seminar) presentations.

Presentation of the thesis proposal to the Thesis Screening Panel is optional. If you plan to present to the Panel, please refer to the "Thesis Screening Panel" section below

Thesis Format
There are no specific rules regarding thesis length or content. This should be determined by the student and the supervisory committee. Typically, a Masters thesis focuses on one main research question, which may or may not be closely linked to a faculty member's research. The School strongly encourages students to publish their research results in the peer-reviewed literature. The written thesis must adhere to the formatting requirements of the University.

MSc students who elect to prepare a thesis proposal and present it to the Thesis Screening Panel must be aware of the following:

  • The Panel holds three meetings per year, in the months of October, February, and June.
  • Students must book their presentations to the Panel with the MSc/PhD Program Manager well in advance. Priority is given to PhD students.
  • Please note these dates in your calendar. Time slots for presentations to the Panel are booked on a first come first served basis. PhD Students who wish to present to the Panel will be given priority in terms of booking time slots.
  • At the meeting, the student gives a brief (10-12 minute) oral presentation and responds to questions from the Panel. The student's supervisor is expected to attend the Panel meeting; other supervisory committee members are also encouraged to attend.
  • The Panel's role is to evaluate the scope and content of the proposed research in light of the general expectations of the university and the School for masters or doctoral theses, and to provide feedback to the student and the supervisory committee on all aspects of the proposal.

Format for Thesis Screening Panel proposals

The proposal submitted to the Thesis Screening Panel is expected to be no more than 10 pages (1.5 spacing), not including the title page, references, or appendices. Students are encouraged to use the following structure:

  • Title Page including email addresses of student and supervisor
  • Problem Statement
  • Background and Rationale, including a brief literature review
  • Research Plan, including
    • study objectives,
    • study design and methods (study sample, data collection, and analysis),
    • ethical considerations,
    • feasibility (previous/pilot work done, data availability if not proposing primary data collection, likely response rates for surveys/interviews, and subject availability if primary data being collected),
    • strengths and limitations.
  • Implications of the Study
  • Knowledge Transfer and Translation
  • References
  • Appendices describing following (maximum 1 page each)
  • time line
  • budget outlining anticipated expenses and source(s) of funds
  • composition and contribution of supervisory committee members

DO NOT include surveys, letters of reference or collaboration; these may be commented upon in the presentation and discussion with the Panel.

The proposal MUST be signed as 'approved for submission to the thesis screening panel' by at least two members of the supervisory committee. It must be submitted to the Panel members 2 weeks prior to the meeting date of the panel.

The cover sheet and signature page can be downloaded here.

Prior to any student requesting to hold a thesis defence, the student must have approval from their Thesis Supervisor and Committee. The student’s committee has to determine if the thesis is ready for the defence. The thesis examiner (selected by the supervisor and approved by the Program Director) must review the written thesis and approve the oral defence to proceed.

After the thesis has been approved by the supervisor and supervisory committee members, it must be submitted to the School and defended in an internal School oral defence. The student and supervisor are responsible for scheduling the oral examination. Please note that the examination and any subsequent revisions must be completed in time for final submission of the thesis to the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies to meet graduation deadlines.

Once the student has this approval, the first step to booking your defence is to fill out the MSc-PPH-Thesis-Defence-Form. This is to be provided to the program staff who will help to book a room and prepare for the announcement email to invite the SPPH community to the defence. It is the responsibility of the student to book the thesis defence.

The thesis defence itself for a Master’s degree is a public 20-minute presentation of the student’s thesis, followed by questioning from examiners and the audience. It is open to all members of the university community and has a maximum duration two hours.

Step-by-Step Process for the Student

1) Once student finishes writing the thesis - provide a copy of the thesis to all members of your Thesis Supervisory Committee.
2) Identify an examination committee. The committee must include at least three members proposed by the thesis supervisor and approved by the School Director; members to include the thesis supervisor, one other School faculty member (typically from the student's thesis committee, but not necessarily so), and one other full-time School faculty member not on the student's thesis committee to serve as the external examiner.
3) Fill out the MSc-PPH-Thesis-Defence-Form, which includes details about your preference for the date, time and location of the defence, as well as the names of all examiners and the nomination of the external examiner. Submit this form to the program at
4) The program director must approve the selected examiner.
5) The supervisor and student must ensure a final copy of the thesis is provided to the examiner at least two weeks prior to the defence date.
6) Approximately one week prior to the defence, the school will send out an announcement/invitation for this.
7) The student must take a copy of the Masters Thesis Approval form to the defence, and if the defence is successful, ensure all committee members and the chair sign the form. Scan this form and email a copy to the program manager for your record - the original is submitted along with the thesis cover sheet and cIRcle Non-Exclusive Distribution License to G+PS.
8) After the defence, the Thesis supervisor, or the chair, is to inform SPPH program staff and Program Director if the student has passed.

9) Student makes any suggested corrections to their thesis as instructed during the defence.
10) The thesis supervisor approves the revised thesis (if major corrections are required, the thesis may need to be sent to all committee members for final approval.)
11) The student submits the final and corrected thesis to G+PS. Note: Students are expected to complete any required revisions to the thesis and submit to G+PS within one month of the oral defence – see G+PS submission guidelines.
12) You apply for graduation (this can also be done prior to the defence).

For the structure of the defence, as well as guidance for the committee chair and members, please click here.