HSR Student Handbook

Development of the MSc Thesis Proposal

1. MSc Thesis Committee

In consultation with the supervisor, the student selects a minimum of one additional member for his/her MSc Thesis Committee. The supervisor, who functions as chair of the thesis committee, must have his/her primary School of Graduate Studies (SGS) appointment through IHPME and must be a full or associate member of the School of Graduate Studies. Committee member(s) are chosen on the basis of their expertise in the student’s area of research. Committee members are normally Continuing Members of the School of Graduate Studies (SGS) of the University of Toronto. It is possible to appoint a committee member from another university who has similar graduate faculty status at her/his university. In this instance, the supervisor must obtain a copy of the outside member’s CV and forward it to the MSc/PhD Program Director who, in turn, will arrange temporary SGS graduate faculty status for the outside member. Most MSc thesis committees will consist of two working members; the supervisor must be a full or associate member of the School of Graduate Studies. When all committee members have been selected and have agreed to serve, the supervisor is responsible for notifying the MSc/PhD Program Director of the membership of the thesis committee. This information will be placed in the student’s file.

2. The Thesis

2.1 Introduction

The thesis is an original piece of scholarly research on a topic that has been selected by the student and approved by the supervisor and the student’s thesis committee. The thesis is a major undertaking that reflects the highest standards of scholarship and makes a significant contribution to knowledge and practice in the field of health services research.

Work on the thesis is conducted under the supervision of the supervisor in consultation with the thesis committee. The first step is the completion of the MSc thesis proposal.  An MSc thesis is approved by the MSc Thesis Committee, and no formal defense of the proposal is required (unlike the PhD dissertation research proposal). The following criteria are to be considered by the Supervisor and the MSc Thesis Committee member(s) in assessing the merits of the student’s thesis proposal.

  1. To what extent is the research question focused and researchable?
  2. To what extent is there a coherent and relevant review of the literature in support of the research question?
  3. To what extent are the design and methods appropriate and clearly articulated? Are sampling strategies and other sources of information well thought out and appropriate? Are the variables clearly described and their operational definitions outlined? Are the planned analyses appropriate?
  4. Is the proposal work plan feasible?

Upon approval on the part of the MSc Thesis Committee of the MSc Thesis Proposal, the student prepares and submits an ethics protocol. The student can proceed to collection of data and preparation of the thesis ONLY AFTER APPROVAL of the thesis proposal has been obtained from their MSc Thesis Committee, and only after Ethical Approval has been received.

Upon approval of the ethics protocol, the student proceeds with the research and arranges meetings with the supervisor and the thesis committee at regular intervals. It is important that the student keep both the supervisor and the thesis committee informed of her/his progress.

When the thesis is completed and has met with the approval of the thesis committee, the student proceeds to the Oral Examination. If at all possible, students are encouraged to present their research results on IHPME’s Research Day (in early May), or in another academic conference venue, prior to their final defence.

2.2 The MSc Thesis Proposal Development & Content

The MSc Thesis Proposal is developed by the student in consultation with, and under the guidance of, the thesis supervisor and the supervisory committee in a series of iterative steps.  Normally the committee first meets to discuss the thesis project generally, after which, drafts of the proposal are submitted to the supervisor and committee for feedback and revision.

The MSc Thesis proposal is usually 20-30 pages in length, double spaced, excluding references and the work plan.  The proposal should contain the following elements:

  • Title: The thesis title should give a clear indication of the topic being studied.
  • The Problem: The proposal should contain a description of the study problem which includes specification of the study question(s), justification for their selection in relation to previous research and to the literature, and the potential relevance of the thesis findings.
  • Theoretical Framework and Background Information: Following a concise and critical review of the theoretical and research literatures, the proposal should discuss the major theoretical premises and the salient concepts which underlie the problem or question(s).  The proposal should then outline a framework, based on literature, for analyzing the problem and question(s).
  • Design and Methods (some aspects may vary depending on the nature of the study): The type of research design should be clearly explained (e.g., survey, archival, descriptive, interpretive, experimental) as should the reasons for selecting it, including its merits and limitations.  The questions and/or hypotheses for the thesis are formulated clearly and in such a way that all the study variables and their anticipated relationships are specified. The proposal should offer operational definitions of each of the study variables. Sampling procedures should be clearly outlined, including theoretical and practical reasons for selecting the population or date base from which the sample is to be drawn.  Sample size, or details of any data base, should be included.Data collection methods should be described in detail as should their relationship to the theoretical and conceptual issues associated with the thesis project.  Interview schedules, procedures for analysis of data bases, coding methods, coding methods, recording methods, instruments, or any other proposed data collection techniques must be included.
  • Data Analysis: The methods of analyses appropriate for the study design should be fully described and justified, including their strengths and weaknesses.  The proposal should be clear about any conceptual or theoretical issues relating to the analysis of the data.
  • Work Plan: The proposal should include a detailed work plan, with estimates of time needed to complete each phase of the proposed research. Alternatives should be outlined for those elements of the work plan which may prove problematic.

2.3 MSc Thesis Oral Defence

The format of the MSc Thesis Oral Defence generally follows that of the PhD Dissertation Research Defence; see http://www.sgs.utoronto.ca/informationfor/students/finup/oralex.htm