Department of English

University of Toronto

Thesis Information

Return to main GRADUATE page .


In preparation for the submission of the Thesis Proposal, students are advised to obtain a copy of Guidelines for the Preparation of Ph.D. Theses (click to download) as well as the guidelines as listed on the School of Graduate Studies website under PRODUCING YOUR THESIS (available on the SGS website here ).  

Please also consult the Timeline for Thesis Proposals, Reading Lists and Special Field Exams (click to download - revised Dec. 2015)  in preparation for the submission of your Thesis Proposal to the Department.



Deciding on a thesis topic is critical for the Doctoral Candidate. Choose a subject that excites your curiosity and engages your interest. Even those candidates who enter the program with ideas about a thesis topic are advised to test them further against the current state of scholarship and available resources.


The Graduate English faculty is large in number and extraordinarily wide-ranging in its scholarship. Students are advised to investigate just how extensive the range of potential supervisors is. Every Ph.D. student is assigned a mentor, who is one source for information about potential thesis supervisors. Coursework offers the chance to explore intellectual affinities with potential supervisors, and the Director and Associate Directors of the graduate program can offer useful advice. Members of the Graduate Faculty are always willing to discuss thesis topics and supervision with candidates, and asking a faculty member to read and comment on a fellowship proposal is an excellent way to begin to gauge the potential of a supervisory relationship.  Students should initiate discussion of a thesis topic with potential supervisors no later than the Spring of the first year of the Ph.D. program (or second year for Direct Entry students).


After securing a thesis supervisor and developing a thesis topic in consultation with that supervisor, the student submits a Preliminary Thesis Proposal (Form A*), outlining the focus and approach of the proposed thesis, to the Department by November 1st of the second year (or third year for Direct Entry students).  The student is urged to consult with at least three or four further members of the graduate faculty to gain additional perspectives on the design and viability of the project.  The student lists the names of the faculty members consulted, and is invited to suggest the names of up to four faculty members to be considered as potential members of the supervisory committee.

The Preliminary Thesis Proposal is a statement of approximately 1-2 single-spaced pages that outlines the focus and approach of the proposed program of research. Successful proposals will be written in clear, concise prose, and will include the following:

The preliminary proposal, in short, demonstrates thoroughness in the preliminary investigation of a thesis topic and assures the Department about its feasibility. Make sure that your writing is clear, concise and coherent. Ask fellow students and faculty members to read your proposal and offer comments.

Also due November 1 is a Supervisory Report (Form B*), submitted directly by your proposed supervisor to the Department.  The Department circulates the preliminary thesis proposals to all members of the English graduate faculty and invites comments.


After the preliminary proposal has been received, the Director and Associate Director, Ph.D., will determine the composition of the supervisory committee (usually the supervisor plus two additional members).  In exceptional cases, a fourth member may be added if a particular kind of expertise is desirable.

During the next three months (November-January), the candidate must meet with the supervisory committee as a group, to discuss the  proposal (including any comments received from other faculty members), to plan the Reading List for the Special Field Examination, and to set up a provisional schedule of work.  The student then revises the proposal, and submits an Approved Thesis Proposal and Special Field Reading List (Form C*), signed by all members of the committee, by February 15 of the second year of the program (or third year for Direct Entry students).



The supervisory committee also serves as the examination committee for the student’s Special Field Examinations (click to download - revised Dec. 2015).


It is critical to the success of the working relationship between supervisor and candidate to develop an initial agreement about the method and scope of the research, and to clarify the expectations of supervisor and candidate: about the kind and amount of advice that the candidate wants and the supervisor is able and willing to offer; about the involvement of the members of the supervisory committee; about the frequency, regularity and contents of consultations; about an appropriate time scheme for the completion of the thesis; and about the way draft workis to be submitted. 

The candidate meets with the supervisor and individual committee members according to the schedule they have established, but the candidate must meet with the full supervisory committee at least once every year in order to meet SGS registration requirements.

A SGS publication, Graduate Supervision Guidelines - Students is available on the SGS website.

A SGS publication, Graduate Supervision Guidelines - Faculty (2012 Edition) is available on the SGS website.


Top Of Page 


Site Information:

Site Tools:

Click below for directions to the University of Toronto!

University of Toronto, St. George Campus
Map of St. George Campus
Map of Mississauga Campus
Map of Scarborough Campus