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Guidelines for a MEC Thesis Defence Moderator

The official detailed information about a moderator's role in theses defences for all Computer Science Master programs can be found at: https://www.dal.ca/faculty/computerscience/graduate-programs/grad-handbook/thesis/moderator-guidelines.html

The information at the above URL contains the official guidelines. This page contains some additional practical information.

A summary of the moderator role is:

1. Show up at the start of the defence. The defence can last up to 2 hours. The moderator should have the Thesis Completion form, pre-filled by the candidate (the student defending the thesis). The candidate should provide this form. The candidate should also have the FGS thesis form ready.

2. The moderator should check that the candidate and the committee are there; introduce all of them including herself/himself, and explain how the defence will proceed: The candidate will present for 30 minutes without interruptions; then the committee will ask the questions in rounds. The questions will start from the bottom of the list on the Thesis Completion form (from farthest from the supervisor, ending with the supervisor). There will be several rounds of questions; typically there are 2. If there is time, questions can be taken from the audience. It is important to have time in mind, since the whole defence should end in 2 hours. This means that the defence and question period should not pass 1.5 hours. At the end of the question period, the moderator will ask the candidate and the audience to leave the room so that the committee can deliberate.

3. The moderator lets the candidate present and keep track of time. The presentation should not go over 30 minutes. PhD defences last 20 minutes and some departments have 20-min Masters defences. The MEC program is an interdisciplinary program, so if the candidate can have a choice either to make a 20-minute or 30-minute presentation. There should be no interruptions during the presentation.

4. The moderator gives turns to the committee members to ask questions as described above. If there is time, the moderator can take questions from the audience for the candidate.

5. After the questions, the moderator asks the audience and candidate to leave the room, but the candidate should stay close. If the candidate leaves the computer, it is a good idea to close it so that the discussion is not accidentally recorded.

6. When the moderator and the committee are alone in the room, the moderator should first remind the committee about the outcomes on the form and explain them:

Pass — thesis is good as submitted without any changes.

Pass with minor modifications — the thesis is good as submitted, subject to some minor, typically editorial changes. This is by far the most common outcome in defences. The changes are usually doable within 2 weeks, and typically the supervisor will overview and approve changes, although on the request, any committee members may require to see the final thesis before it is approved.

Pass with major modifications — this means that the thesis requires some major modifications, such as significant rewriting, additional literature search in an area where a lot of work is missed, additional experiments and similar. It would typically require a month or more of additional work, and the committee would typically want to see the thesis again.

Re-examination — would require a new defence, possibly with a different committee, due to major problems with the thesis or defence.

Fail — means that the thesis is totally unacceptable.

The committee members should be given turns, in the same order as with questions, first to recommend one of the outcomes, with possibly a very brief explanation, and then the second turn to give more comments on the thesis. The discussion can take a more free form after. The committee will hopefully agree on the decision, although if not, a majority vote needs to be taken.

7. The moderator labels (circles) the outcome on the thesis completion form, signs the form, and asks each committee member to sign the form. The form will be kept by the supervisor. In case of minor or major changes, the supervisor will sign the approval field on the form after the changes are finished, and submit the form to the Graduate Office of Computer Science.

The supervisor should leave a copy of the form immediately for the Graduate Office. (This practice is recommended since the form is sometimes lost.)

The candidate will also have the FGS thesis form, that needs to be signed and kept by the supervisor until changes are finished. After that, the candidate will submit this form with the thesis to FGS.

8. The moderator invites the candidate back into the room, informs him or her about the outcome, and advises how the changes will be communicated to the candidate from the committee members, and the process of making final changes and the submission.

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