Thesis and Dissertation Information

Research and UBC Ethics Approval

Any project carried out by a person connected with the University that involves human subjects, must conform to University Policy #89: Research and Other Studies Involving Human Subjects.

For Political Science students, this means that any research involving human subjects, such as interviews and questionnaires, requires UBC Ethics approval. For information on requirements for Behavioral Research Ethics Board approval, click here.

Applications are extensive and are often returned with requests for revisions or further information, so please plan to submit the forms well ahead of planned research activities and trips.


MA Thesis

The MA thesis will consist of a research paper which has as its model an article for submission for publication (normally between 8,000 and 12,000 words in length, including notes). The thesis will typically originate as a research paper in a graduate seminar and undergo revision under the direction of a Political Science faculty member (normally the seminar instructor). If the thesis does not originate as a research paper in a seminar, the student should prepare a thesis prospectus by the end of April which indicates the nature of the topic he/she plans to investigate, the specific research methods and plans to be followed in the study, and the body of literature, relevant materials, etc. to be used. The approval of the prospectus rests with the Thesis Supervisor.

Thesis Topic Selection

The subject matter and orientation of the thesis must be within the generally recognized boundaries of Political Science. In practical terms, any topic for which a Thesis Supervisor within the Department can be obtained will be acceptable. It is the student’s responsibility to ensure that the necessary source materials are available. Students should feel free to consult Department members for suggestions as to possible thesis topics.

Thesis Supervision

Once an acceptable thesis topic has been outlined, a MA student must identify and secure agreement from an appropriate faculty member to serve as supervisor of the thesis, in consultation with the Graduate Director. The Supervisor will be a person with special interest and competence in the field of research being undertaken. A two-member committee, composed of the Thesis Supervisor and one other faculty member, chosen by the Director of Graduate Studies in consultation with the student and the Supervisor, decides on the acceptability of the thesis. Academically qualified persons from outside the Department may serve as committee members.

After the thesis topic is approved, and until the final evaluation of the finished thesis, the student’s primary contact will be with his/her Supervisor. The candidate must keep in frequent touch in order to receive advice and to report on the progress of the research. If his/her research does not permit him/her to be in Vancouver, such reports can be submitted by mail or email.

Please consult the Graduate Handbook for full details on the steps involved in researching, writing, and submitting a thesis in our Department. All students are advised to familiarize themselves with thesis preparation requirements of UBC’s Graduate School.


PhD Dissertation Proposal

Within 36 months of their date of entry into the program, PhD students must be admitted to candidacy, which means completion of all coursework requirements and approval of the thesis proposal. Students should work closely with their dissertation supervisor and committee to develop a dissertation proposal (typically about 25 pages double-spaced), which usually includes the following: a statement of the question or nature of the problem; the existing state of knowledge on the topic, which includes a concise survey of the bodies of relevant literature; the expected contribution of the dissertation; the specific research methods to be employed in the study; and a projected chapter outline. Once the dissertation committee approves the prospectus, the student must fill out the PhD Dissertation Approval Form and submit it to the Director of Graduate Studies. Upon approval by the Director of Graduate Studies, the student must then present the proposal to the Political Science 649 seminar, the scheduling of which the student will coordinate with their committee and the Graduate Secretary.

Note: all faculty and graduate students are invited to attend the 649 seminars. Committee members are expected to attend, as are all PhD students in residence.

Dissertation Supervision

The PhD candidate is expected to maintain frequent contact with his/her Supervisor and Dissertation Committee in order to receive advice and to report on the progress of the research. If the candidate’s research does not permit him/her to be in Vancouver, such reports can be submitted by mail or email. Reports may be requested of the candidate by his/her Committee.

For procedures and forms regarding completion of the PhD dissertation, please see the UBC Graduate School for information on Dissertation Preparation and Submission.