PhD Program

We welcome applications from our own MA students, students from other recognized institutions, and those applying for Direct Entry into the PhD program from an undergraduate degree. However, it should be noted that admission to the PhD program is highly selective; there are always many more qualified applicants than can be admitted.

Candidates for admission to the PhD program must complete an MA in English at this or another university with a standing of A- or better, and must satisfy the Department that they are capable of independent research at an advanced level. The program is designed for completion in four years; it may extend, if necessary, to a maximum of six years.

At first registration, doctoral candidates are assigned an advisor from the graduate faculty of the Department. A thesis supervisor and supervisory committee are appointed at the end of Year 1.

PDF iconPhD Program Timeline and Policy on Satisfactory Progress should be reviewed by all students in the PhD Program (NB: click on the link to download this document, revised August 2019). 

Direct Entry (PhD U) Candidates

PhD U admission is granted only occasionally, and is intended for students with an unusual profile. PhD U admission will be considered in the case of applicants who have been admitted from undergraduate studies to a PhD (or equivalent) in another country. It may be considered for students who lack the required coursework for entry (eg. have completed/are completing a thesis-based MA or MPhil degree), or who have/will have a very specialized master's degree in English (Genre Studies) or a master's degree related to English (Cultural Studies). If in doubt about your eligibility, please contact the PhD Associate Director before applying.

As of September 2011, Direct Entry students must complete three FCE’s (full course equivalents). Students must complete Critical Topographies: Theory and Practice of Contemporary Literary Studies in English in their first year, plus Texts, Theories, and Archives in their second year with a grade of at least B in each course and an overall A- average. In second year, they must complete the other regular program requirements listed below.

Required Course Work

The program requirements (except for ENG9900H and ENG9500H) for the PhD are usually completed within the first two years of the program, or the first three years for Direct Entry (PhD U) students.

  • Three FCE’s (full-year course equivalent)
  • ENG8000HF Texts, Theories, and Archives (1st year PhD, or 2nd year PhD U)
  • ENG9500H (Professional Development) (4th year PhD or 5th year PhD U)
  • ENG9900H (Professing Literature) (3rd year PhD or 4th year PhD U)

Students must complete their coursework with an average grade of at least A- for continuation in the program.

PhD students may take up to 1.0 FCE of coursework outside of the Graduate Program in English, with the approval of the PhD Associate Director.

Courses that are cross-listed by English from other departments are equivalent to English courses and may be taken without special permission from the Department.

Thesis Information

In preparation for the submission of the Thesis Proposal, students are advised to obtain a copy of the PDF iconGraduate English Guidelines for the Preparation of Ph.D. Theses (revised October 31, 2021), as well as the guidelines as listed on the School of Graduate Studies website.

During the 2020 pandemic, please consult the following addendum: PDF icon2021 Covid 19 Pandemic Addendum to the Graduate English Guidelines for the Preparation of Ph.D. Theses Please also consult thePDF iconDescription of Special Fields Exam and Timeline for Thesis Proposals Reading Lists and Special Fields Exam (Revised December 2021), 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 PhD 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 early in the second term of the first year of the PhD 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 and supervisor work together to submit Preliminary Thesis Proposal and Committee Request List (FileFORM A, Revised September 12, 2019), to the Department by May 15 of the first year (or second year for Direct Entry students). The student is urged to consult with four (or, at a minimum, three) 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 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. It is, as its title suggests, preliminary: the position paper component of the Special Fields Exam will provide the opportunity for revision and expansion. Students should feel free, if it in fact reflects their current thinking, to use their Program of Study from a SSHRC or Plan of Study from a OGS proposal.

After the preliminary proposal and committee request list have been received, the Director and Associate Director, PhD, 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.

Early in the summer, the candidate should meet with the supervisory committee as a group to discuss the proposal, draw up an initial list of texts for the Special Fields Examination, and develop a plan of work. In late summer or early fall the student consults with the committee once again to complete the Special Fields Reading List (FileForm B, Revised November 11, 2019), which must be submitted to the Department by October 1 of the second year of the program (or third year for Direct Entry students).

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.

Departmental Exam

The Special Fields Examination both prepares students for teaching and scholarly work in a particular field and facilitates the transition to writing the doctoral thesis. Accordingly, the Special Fields Reading List, which forms the basis for the examination, comprises between 80 and 100 texts, roughly two-thirds (55-65) in a major field and roughly one-third (25-35) in a minor field. Students construct their own lists in consultation with their supervisor and thesis committee. The Special Fields Examination must be completed by the end of Year 2 and will normally be taken in March or April of that year.

For a full discussion, please see PDF iconDescription of Special Fields Exam and Timeline for Thesis Proposals Reading Lists and Special Fields Exam (Revised December 2021).