PhD Program Requirements

The doctoral program is a full-time four year program that consists of course work, a candidacy examination, and the completion and defence of a dissertation.

Required Courses

Students are required to take the equivalent of three full courses or six half courses in their first year of the program.

PhD students will be required to take the following three courses:

i) GSWS 9550 Feminist Theory (half course) - This course will analyze feminist theoretical approaches providing students with an understanding of the fundamental questions at stake in each. We will consider epistemological perspectives as well as the intersections of feminist theories with other theoretical approaches such as queer theory and critical race theory.

ii) GSWS 9464 Feminist Methodologies (half course)- This course will explore questions and contemporary issues that are central to research practice in the disparate disciplines that comprise feminist research.

iii) GSWS 9459 Professional Development - This half course will focus on preparing you for success as a graduate student as well as providing you with practical skill for future careers; topics covered will include feminist pedagogy and TA skills, abstract writing, grant applications, conference presentations, submission of articles and chapters for publication.

Students who have completed the core courses Feminist Theory (WS 9550) and either Researching Lived Experience - Feminist Methodologies (WS 9560) or Feminist Theory and Methods in the Arts and Humanities (WS 9565) during their MA in GSWS may waive these course requirements and replace them with electives. Each student will be assigned a faculty mentor in their field who will assist, along with the Graduate Chair, in the selection of their courses.

Candidacy Examination

Students have two options for the candidacy examination. The first option is to develop two course outlines, one aimed at the second-year level in an area that broadly informs their research, and one at the fourth-year level in an area that more specifically addresses their research topic. The second option is to develop one course outline at the second-year level in an area that broadly informs their research and one research paper in an area that more specifically addresses their research topic.

PhD students may have the opportunity to have their outlines considered as potential offerings in the Department's undergraduate program and to teach a course they have designed in year three or four of their program.


Once the candidacy examination is successfully completed, students will prepare a thesis proposal of approximately 20-25 pages. The proposal will be examined by a committee consisting of their supervisor and two additional faculty members who will serve as a supervising committee for the thesis. It is expected that a student will have a thesis supervisor confirmed by September 15th of their second year of study. The members of the thesis committee must be selected by February 1 of the second year of study. Students are expected to defend their thesis proposals by June 1 of their second year of study. Instructions for the thesis proposal can be found here:

In consultation with their supervisor, students may write their thesis dissertation either as a monograph or in the format of integrated articles. For more information about the PhD thesis and these formats, see

Timeline for completion of the PhD Program

Year One

Year Two

Year Three

Year Four

  • September-April: Completion of three (3) full courses (or six half credits) - must include Feminist Theory (WS 9550) and Feminist Methodologies (WS 9560) if new to Western University Program
  • May-August: Completion of course outline topics for Candidacy Examination
  • September-December: Completion of course outlines for Candidacy Exam
  • Oral examination of course outlines
  • January-June: Completion and examination of thesis proposal
  • Ethics approval by REB (if required)
  • Research and writing of dissertation
  • Completion of dissertation and defence

Each student will be required to submit a progression report to the Graduate Chair on May 15 of each year.