ARST 599 (6) Thesis

Guidelines for Theses for MAS, MLIS and Dual Degree Candidates
This document is intended to provide information to UBC iSchool students wishing to undertake theses as part of MAS, MLIS or Dual degree programs and for faculty members who are supervising theses.

In addition to this document, students should consult UBC’s Graduate Studies website for more information about thesis preparation, including ethical issues, formatting, and submission requirements.   Faculty may wish to consult the Handbook of Graduate Supervision and  UBC’s Graduate Studies’ Information for Supervisors.  Here you will find guidelines on forming the supervisory committee, responsibilities of faculty and graduate students, and student-faculty relationships.

iSchool MAS, MLIS and Dual Theses
Thesis Credit Value

Students registered in the MAS, MLIS, or Dual programs may decide to complete a 6–credit thesis.  The theses numbers are LIBR 599: Thesis (6) and ARST 599: Thesis (6).  The usual term for initial registration in ARST 599/ LIBR 599 is the third term in the program.


  • Students must have completed 24 credits of course work in their program before registering for a thesis.
  • Prerequisites for LIBR 599: MLIS core courses + 15 additional credits
  • Prerequisites for ARST 599: MAS core courses + ARST 591 (as pre-requisite or co-requisite) + 3 additional credits
  • A grade point average of at least 76% (B+) on iSchool coursework is required.

Thesis Topic and Supervisor
Students intending to write a thesis should consult their assigned advisor and/or a faculty member whose interests appear relevant to the area(s) of interest. These discussions should identify a topic and faculty member to supervise the thesis; this individual may or may not be the person of preference.

Supervisors must be in any of the tenure-stream ranks. Faculty in the Educational Leadership stream require additional permission from UBC Graduate Studies. Forms for this process can be found here.

Thesis Committee
Once a faculty member agrees to supervise the student’s research, the two should discuss other potential members of the Thesis Committee. Within the first month of registering for the thesis, the Thesis Committee will be constituted in consultation with the student’s advisor and Thesis Supervisor. The Thesis Committee will consist of the Thesis Supervisor, and one additional member of the iSchool faculty or a UBC faculty member from a department outside of the iSchool. This Committee is responsible for approving the formal thesis proposal; it should meet at least once, and preferably twice, during a year to monitor students’ progress.

While the principal supervisor should be an iSchool faculty member, a UBC iSchool student planning to undertake the MAS, MLIS, or Dual thesis may request permission to have a non-iSchool, external thesis co-supervisor. (See here for External Co-Supervisor Form). The remaining committee members will be iSchool faculty.

The non-iSchool external thesis co-supervisor should be a UBC faculty member in any of the tenure-stream ranks. If the approved prospective non-iSchool external thesis co-supervisor is not in any of the tenure-stream ranks, the Graduate Advisor will approve the position in consultation with Graduate Studies.

Students making this request will need to submit to the Graduate Advisor a letter indicating why the proposed non-iSchool external UBC faculty member is appropriate as co-supervisor of your thesis, and include a copy of the individual’s Curriculum Vitae. The iSchool Graduate Advisor will approve the request in consultation with other members of faculty as deemed advisable.

More information about the role and responsibilities of the Thesis Supervisor can be located on the Graduate Studies website.

Thesis Proposal
The thesis proposal should be discussed with the Thesis Supervisor early in the process and may take different formats. Members of the Thesis Committee must approve the research proposal. When the thesis proposal is of sufficient quality, in the opinion of the Thesis Supervisor, it will be distributed to members of the Thesis Committee and a date will be established for the thesis proposal meeting. At the proposal meeting, the Thesis Committee will give feedback to the student and may request changes.  All members of the Thesis Committee will sign the Thesis Proposal Form. The Thesis Supervisor will place a copy of the approved proposal in the student’s file.

All research involving human participants is approved and governed by one of the Research Ethics Boards at UBC. Students should be familiar with the Tri-Council Policy Statement on Ethical Conduct for Conducting Research Involving Humans. The Thesis Supervisor and student will determine whether the research requires ethical review.  If ethical review is required, the Thesis Supervisor and student will select the UBC Ethics Board most appropriate for the student’s research, discuss the proposed methodology and its ethical implications, and develop an ethics protocol. Approval from the UBC Ethics Board must be received before research begins. Students should understand that it can take significant time both to prepare an ethics application and to have it approved and should factor this into their planning.

Evaluation of the Thesis
The student will submit drafts regularly to the Thesis Supervisor, who will guide the investigation and writing and decide when the document is of sufficient scope, depth, and quality to be eligible for examination. When the work is deemed ready by the supervisor, the student will submit one copy of the thesis to each member of the Thesis Committee.  A final presentation may be organized for the student to discuss the thesis with faculty and students. This is not a thesis defence or exam but an opportunity to share the content and process of the research. As it is not a formal exam, it will not contribute towards the final grade.

Criteria for assessment
Master’s theses are assessed using criteria dependant on the kind of research that is carried out; therefore, assessment criteria may vary from case to case. To approve a thesis, the Thesis Committee must be convinced that the student has adequately demonstrated the ability to design and carry out a respectable research study and has described the process and outcomes of that study in a clear, complete and cogent fashion.

The Thesis Committee will meet, determine the grade for the thesis, complete and sign the Completion and Thesis Grade Form, and place it in the student’s file. Even if the thesis is assigned a passing grade, the Thesis Committee may require corrections and changes to the thesis as presented to its members. The supervisor is responsible for ensuring that these are made in the finished copy to be submitted as follows.

Submission of Finished Copies
In order to be eligible for convocation, all thesis-based Master’s students must submit one approved copy of their defended thesis to Graduate Studies. Full information on electronic submission requirements is available on the Graduate Studies website. Theses are to be submitted electronically as a single PDF file to UBC’s online information repository, cIRcle.

The Thesis

Content and Focus
MAS, MLIS and Dual theses are formal reports of research. The content and organization of theses vary widely depending on the topics addressed and research approaches employed. A thesis demonstrates the student’s ability to design, carry out, and report on a formal research project in which the student applies accepted methods of scholarship to a question or issue of concern.

“Accepted methods of scholarship” is interpreted quite broadly to include any and all empirical, analytical, interpretive, and critical approaches regarded as legitimate forms of scholarship in the area of study. Reviewing recently completed theses by students in one’s area of specialization is a useful exercise for students to gauge appropriate research topics, methods, reporting formats, and the degree of effort required to complete a thesis.

Structure, Style and Format
UBC’s Graduate Studies outlines the thesis structure.  There are strict format requirements that must be met before theses are accepted by Graduate Studies. Students should consult the Graduate Studies’ website when preparing their manuscripts.  This covers UBC guidelines and regulations regarding types of theses, theses specifications, formatting requirements, document requirements, final thesis submission, and resources for thesis checking.

Examples of previous outcomes of ARST 599 / LIBR 599 can be found at UBC’s institutional repositories cIRcle. The exact scope and form of the final product of the thesis will be decided in consultation with the Thesis Supervisor. If the final form of the thesis is outside of the Graduate Studies’ guidelines, approval from Graduate Studies will have to be obtained.

Time Limits and Deadlines

Supervision and Proposals
Students who elect to write a thesis usually begin work on the thesis proposal when they have completed core courses.

Tentative Schedule for Graduation
These schedules suggest guidelines for students for planning thesis timelines. Thesis students should note that time to completion will depend on and be affected by a variety of factors including the student’s regular course schedule, work outside their program, the ethics approval process, etc.

Sample Timeline For May Graduation

September First draft of proposal to Thesis Supervisor for feedback and revision
October Proposal completed and submitted for response to Thesis Committee
November Proposal approved
December to March Research conducted, chapter drafts and revisions sent to Thesis Supervisor
March Completed manuscript and abstract to Thesis Committee
April UBC Graduate Studies sets a deadline each April for submissions of revised thesis to Graduate Studies for May graduation


Sample Timeline For November Graduation

January First draft of proposal to Thesis Supervisor for feedback and revision
February Proposal completed and submitted for response to Thesis Committee
March Proposal approved
April to July Research conducted, chapter drafts and revisions sent to Thesis Supervisor
August Completed manuscript and abstract to Thesis Committee
October UBC Graduate Studies sets a deadline each April for submissions of revised thesis to Graduate Studies for November graduation


Please note that these are samples of possible timelines but alternative schedules can be arranged with the approval of the Thesis Supervisor and Thesis Committee.

Appendix A: Request for Permission for iSchool External Thesis Co-Supervisor form

Appendix B: Thesis Proposal Form

Appendix C: Report of completion and thesis grade form

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