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PhD thesis and candidacy

Handbook and guidelines

Templates and formatting

All theses must comply with specific formatting requirements established by the School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies (SGPS).  Failure to comply with thesis specifications and formatting requirements may delay graduation.

For more information on these specific requirements, refer to the PhD Thesis template (.docx format) and Thesis Checklist and Formatting Guidelines (PDF).

Timelines and deadlines

There are PhD thesis deadlines each term in order to guide students through each step of the examination process. The objective is to help students meet requirements for specific program end dates or for graduation ceremonies.

If you are a doctoral student or research supervisor looking to plan a final examination within the next year, please use the following material for guidance. First, review the PhD Thesis handbook, which describes each step in the examination process, and then prepare a plan of action using our example timeline and checklist.

Students who defend and submit the final thesis package to SGPS prior to the end of an academic term may be eligible for a partial tuition refund

PhD candidacy

Each student in a doctoral program is required to prepare a written research proposal and pass a candidacy exam. Full-time students are normally expected to do this within 18 months of their initial registration. The examination is to determine whether the student has the appropriate knowledge and expertise to undertake a thesis in the selected field of study.

The candidacy examination is comprised of the three components described below:

  • A written thesis proposal.
  • An oral presentation of the PhD research plan (20 to 30 minutes).
  • Open questioning of the student by the candidacy committee to ascertain the readiness of the student to carry out the proposed research. The examiners may ask questions which allow them to judge the student's mastery of relevant background knowledge for their thesis topic, including an appropriate breadth of knowledge in the discipline and the student's ability to undertake independent and original research.

Each program may have slightly different requirements for the PhD Candidacy (for example, comprehensive exam).  The supervisory committee/faculty will provide guidelines for the format and content of the written proposal and oral presentation.

For details regarding the composition and responsibilities of the PhD candidacy committee and possible outcomes of the examination, see PhD candidacy examinations in the Graduate Academic Calendar. 

The roles and responsibilities of all parties and forms and procedures related to the examination are described in the Handbook for PhD Candidacy Exams.

Forms for faculty

Deadline and timelines

Transfer from a master's to a PhD program

Exceptional students in a master's thesis program may request to transfer from the master's to the PhD program before they have completed their master's degree. Admission to the PhD program is conditional upon satisfactory completion of the program's PhD Candidacy Examination and approval from the Dean of the School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies. 

For transfer criteria, see the transfer from a thesis-based master's to a PhD program policy in the Graduate Academic Calendar.

The procedure to be followed in this case is described in the Handbook for PhD Candidacy Exams.

In addition to the three forms for faculty noted above, the student's supervisory committee must first complete the Recommendation to Transfer from Master's to PhD form.

Faculty forms

*Form also found under student forms; can be initiated by faculty member or student.