Doctoral Program

Important information you will need during your academic studies at the Centre. For more detailed information, please refer to the Graduate Handbook.


Program Requirements

Course Requirements

Ph.D. students are required to take six half-courses or equivalent, at least four of which must be taken at the Centre to ensure that there is an adequate coverage of theoretical figures and issues. Students will normally take four courses in the first year and two in the second. Since this distribution is intended to ensure that all course work and qualifying examinations are completed during the first two years of the program, permission to do fewer than four courses in the first year must be sought from the Graduate Studies Committee.

Graduate courses in other programs concerned with theory and criticism may also be approved, with the permission of the Director and Graduate Studies Committee (GSC). Students may take up to two such half courses, provided that they are relevant to the program of study. Students should submit a formal request, including the course syllabus, outlining how the course is relevant to their research at the Theory Centre.  Requests should be submitted no later than the start of term (September 1/January 1/May 1).  In order to ensure a place in the course, students must also submit a Course Outside Home Program form.

In exceptional circumstances, students may fulfill one of their six course requirements by taking a Directed Reading course. Students should, however, be aware that instructors receive no credit for teaching reading courses and may therefore be unwilling to offer them. Reading courses are given on a Pass/Fail basis, must meet for the same number of hours as a regular course, cannot be specifically oriented to the student's thesis, and will not be approved if there is a regular course that covers approximately the same material. Requests for reading courses, including syllabus, marking scheme, and letter of consent from the instructor, must be submitted no later than six weeks before the start of the term in which the course is to be taken. Please consult the Director for further details.

Language Requirements

In order to be sufficiently equipped to pursue advanced study in the discourses of Theory, students will be required to demonstrate a reading knowledge of a language other than English which should be relevant to their proposed program of research. Students may complete this requirement by passing a translation test or by completing course work.

In addition, students whose proposed program of doctoral research involves sustained work with texts originally written in a language or languages other than English will be required, after consultation with the Director and their supervisor, to demonstrate competency in the language(s) necessary for the dissertation.

Satisfactory completion (70% or above) in an undergraduate language course beyond the level of senior matriculation (numbered 1900 - 4999) will normally be regarded as meeting the language requirement. Students who have already satisfied this requirement through previous post-secondary studies should consult with the Director at the beginning of the year.

There are three ways of satisfying the language requirement: 

  • Language Exam - For those who are fluent but whose proficiency is not reflected in formal course preparation. Students can meet the requirement in one of two ways:
    1. Take a written foreign language exam to demonstrate reading knowledge of a language other than English. This requirement is met by passing a translation test, to be written with the aid of a dictionary, set by the Director. Test languages are limited to the expertise and availability of faculty.
    2. The language department administers an online, computerized test to determine students' proficiency. Once completed, the results should be sent to the Director of the Centre for evaluation. 
  • Course Work - A grade of 70% or higher in a full year introductory course. *Note* enrolling in an undergraduate course requires the submission of an Add Undergraduate Course 
  • Previous Studies - students who have already satisfied the language requirement through previous post-secondary language studies may apply those course credits toward the language requirement. 

Note: Students enrolling in language courses through the Department of Modern Languages may take the course Pass/Fail. You must indicate that you wish to take the course Pass/Fail at the time of enrollment and cannot be changed retroactively.

Qualifying Examinations

Ph.D. candidates are required to pass the Core Examination and Field Study before proceeding to the doctoral dissertation. These are to be completed during the second year of study.

The Core Examination is to be taken during the second year of the Ph.D. There are two annual options for sitting the Core Examination: the first in September, and the second in February. It consists of a written examination based on a reading list of 50 books or equivalents (chapters/articles). The exam is assigned both a Pass/Fail and a numeric grade, the latter to be recorded only internally within CSTC. The student is notified of the results of the exam by the Chair of the examining committee. A candidate may fail and retake the Core Examination once. A candidate who fails the Core Examination a second time will be required to withdraw from the program.

The Field Study is an opportunity to define an area of interdisciplinary theory related to the student’s dissertation project.  It involves submission of a written text followed by an oral hearing in which this text is discussed with the student by a committee. Candidates have until May 15 of their second year to submit the written components, with the oral hearing to occur within 2-3 weeks of submission. Working with his/her supervisor and any other potential members of the advisory committee, the student will submit a 20 to 25-page text, including bibliography and synopsis. This text will be examined as part of the Field Study and is assigned a Pass/Fail. A candidate may fail and retake the Field Study once. A candidate who passes the Core Examination but fails the Field Study twice will be required to withdraw from the program.

A short, 4-5-page Thesis Proposal will be due 2 weeks after the Field Study Hearing. The Thesis Proposal, in the form of a chapter outline, will be the subject of a meeting between the candidate, his/her supervisor, and second reader. Final approval of the Thesis Proposal by the Graduate Studies Committee will be understood as the Program's approval for the candidate to proceed with the proposed dissertation project.

Summary of Schedule - Core Exam:

May 31 (Term 3) Date by which candidate must declare intention to take examination
November 15 (Term 4) Date by which the candidate must meet with chair of examining committee
September (Term 4) or February (Term 5) Examination to be taken during designated week

Summary of Schedule - Field Study:

May 31 (Term 3) Date by which candidate must declare intention to take examination
May 15 (Term 6) Date by which candidate must submit the written components of the Field Study. The hearing date to be determined by the candidate, in consultation with supervisor and second reader. Candidate must communicate hearing date to Program Coordinator at least six (6) weeks beforehand.
Two weeks after the Field Study hearing the thesis proposal must be submitted and discussed in a meeting between the candidate and his/her committee prior to submission to the Graduate Studies Committee for approval.

Follow these links for complete guidelines and regulations:
- Ph.D. Qualifying Examinations: Guidelines and Regulations
- Core Qualifying Examination Reading List

Dissertation Requirements

Year II, Fall term (September - December)

During the first term of the second year of the program, the student, with the help of the Graduate Studies Committee, must choose an area of study for dissertation research and an appropriate supervisor. Although every effort will be made to accommodate a student's research preferences, the program cannot guarantee a particular supervisor. The supervisor must be a core faculty member of the Centre with the appropriate level of supervisory membership for overseeing Doctoral thesis research. SGPS regulations concerning supervisory committees can be found here.

Year II, February & May

Qualifying examinations are to be completed between the beginning of Term 4 and the end of Term 6. The thesis proposal will be due 2 weeks after the Field Study, and will be the subject of a meeting between the candidate, his/her supervisor, and second reader.

Year II, June

A short, 4-5-page Thesis Proposal will be due 2 weeks after the Field Study Hearing. The Thesis Proposal, in the form of a chapter outline, will be the subject of a meeting between the candidate, his/her supervisor, and second reader. Final approval of the Thesis Proposal by the Graduate Studies Committee will be understood as the Program's approval for the candidate to proceed with the proposed dissertation project.


Each Ph.D. student is required to write a dissertation on an approved topic, which is expected to be an original contribution to knowledge and which will be presented in appropriate dissertation form for examination. The dissertation must be no fewer than 60,000 words, excluding bibliography and appendices, and must not exceed 100,000 words. The document should be submitted to the program 48 hours in advance to undergo a word count.

When the thesis is thought to meet recognized scholarly standards for the discipline and degree and is ready for examination, the Centre arranges a Thesis Examination by setting a proposed date and obtaining provisional consent from the potential members of the Thesis Examination Board, according to the General Thesis Regulations set by the School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies' (SGPS).

Normally the entire process, from the Centre's request for a Thesis Examination to the placement of the candidate's name on the convocation list, requires approximately 8 weeks.

*Note* all program requirements (including language requirement) must be completed before submission of a thesis for oral examination

Satisfactory Progress


In order to continue receiving funding, Doctoral students are expected to make satisfactory progress toward timely completion of all program requirements. The term “satisfactory progress” pertains to completion of the language requirement, completion of course work, completion of qualifying examinations, and progress on work for the thesis. All students in Year III and beyond must complete an annual Pathfinder Report with their supervisory committee and the Director.

All cases of “unsatisfactory progress” will be considered by the Graduate Studies Committee and may result in withdrawal of funding as well as withdrawal from the program.

Course Work

"Satisfactory progress" constitutes the timely completion of each course with a grade of 78% or above.

A student may request an incomplete (INC) without penalty on compassionate or medical grounds. In such cases, the student must make a written request to the instructor and the Director no later than the last day of classes, and must include a) the date by which the remaining work will be completed, and b) (where relevant) a certificate from a physician. This request will be forwarded to the GSC for approval. Permission from the instructor is not a guarantee that the INC request will be granted. Unless there are extenuating circumstances, the student will not be allowed to carry more than one INC in a semester. The INC will be changed to a grade only if the work is completed by the grade submission deadline for the term following. If a grade is not submitted by this deadline, the INC becomes a Failure. An 'F' grade resulting from an INC is final. The SGPS will not consider a revision of the grade except on documented medical or compassionate grounds.

Language Requirement

All entering students should discuss their schedule for completing the language requirement with the Director. Please note that a student cannot defend his or her thesis or graduate if the language requirement has not been fulfilled.

Qualifying Examinations

“Satisfactory progress” of the Qualifying examinations includes a) the completion of the Core Exam in the second year (Term 5) of study, and b) submission of the thesis proposal two weeks after the Field Examination.

Annual Progress Report

All students in Year III and beyond must complete an annual Pathfinder report with their supervisory committee. For the progress report the student must also submit a draft portion of the thesis. The student will discuss the draft material with his or her committee and complete the required portions of the report, to be submitted to the program Director. 

Submitting the Pathfinder portfolio is considered a degree requirement, and to maintain good standing in a program it must be completed by the assigned due date.


"Satisfactory" progress in thesis work consists of a) choosing an area of study for dissertation research and a supervisor by the end of the 4th term of registration (Oct. 15 of Year II); and b) submission of a dissertation proposal, including bibliography, by the beginning of the 6th term of registration (May 1 of Year II)