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PhD Students

PhD Students are required to complete four courses and three milestones in the program.

Year 1 (and 2 in some cases)

Year 2

Years 3 and 4 

  • ES9001 Advanced Envio. Studies in Policy & Mgmt
  • ES9002 Research Methods 
  • Minimum One Elective Group A
  • Minimum One Elective Group B
  • PhD Symposium Milestone
  • Candidacy examination Milestone
  • Prepare & defend dissertation proposal
  • Prepare papers for publication etc.
  • Draft & defend the dissertation
  • Prepare papers for publication etc.

PhD Supervisory Committee

You must complete the  (PDF file) PhD Supervisory Committee Approval Form prior to your Candidacy Exam. It is preferred PhD students do this by the end of the first term in the program. Submit this completed form to The supervisory committee is composed of a minimum of two YSGS members (one member must be from the EnSciMan program), plus your supervisor(s). For more detailed information, please review the below excerpt from policy 164.

According to Policy 164:

16.3 Supervisory Committee for Doctoral students

16.3.1 The membership of a student’s Supervisory Committee: is composed of two to four members, who should remain on the committee throughout the student’s research, including: the student’s supervisor(s) and one faculty member from the student’s program who is a member of YSGS; may include a non-academic expert professional in the field of research or a Toronto Metropolitan University faculty member who is not a member of YSGS; and Policy 164: Graduate Status, Enrolment and Evaluation 20 is recommended by a student’s supervisor to the GPD for approval.

16.3.2 The GPD shall forward to the Vice-Provost and Dean, YSGS the recommendations for committee appointments in accordance with program expectations no later than the beginning of the third year of study.

16.3.3 The Supervisory Committee shall: be chaired by the student’s supervisor; at minimum, meet once annually with the student; review the student's preparedness and establish a timeline of expected progress; update the GPD when the student successfully completes a non-course program component and has set a research topic; update the GPD when the student is unsuccessful in completing a non-course program component and provide detailed reasons for the decision to the GPD, Vice-Provost and Dean, YSGS, and the student within two weeks of the failed attempt; formally approve the dissertation proposal; complete any requirements as indicated by the graduate program; and evaluate the readiness of the dissertation to be examined and, with a minimum of majority agreement, make a recommendation to the GPD regarding the formation of the Examining Committee.


Milestone 1: PhD Symposium

First year PhD students put together a PhD symposium in year 1 to fulfill the requirements of the seminar milestone.  The Program Director will meet with the 1st year PhD students in the first term in the Fall to provide information.  For information about the recent/past symposia, visit the EnSciMan PhD Symposium page.

Milestone 2: PhD Candidacy Examination Milestone Procedural Guide

The Examination Committee: The Examination Committee normally consists of members of the Candidate’s Supervisory Committee. This committee includes your supervisor(s) and at least two other members (one other must be a YSGS member). An extra member can be added to the committee in consultant with the ENSCIMAN Graduate Program Director (GPD). The GPD (or delegate) serves as Chair of the committee. All the members of the Examination Committee are voting members. In case of co-supervision, the co-supervisors collectively have one vote.

EnSciMan PhD Candidacy Exam Schedule Request Form (external link) 

Review the  (google slide) EnSciMan Road to Defence - Candidacy Exam (external link)  slide deck for more detailed information on the process. 

The intent of the Written Component of the examination is to determine both the scope of the Candidate's critical knowledge of his/her area of specialization and his/her ability to communicate this knowledge in writing. The written component is designed to ascertain:

  1. A Candidate’s understanding of the basic theories and concepts, and recent developments of both a theoretical and applied nature, in his/her broad fields) or area(s) of study. This understanding must exhibit both articulate comprehension and critical exposition.
  2. The ways in which the Candidate’s proposed dissertation links with previous research in the area and advances knowledge in the field.

The Proposal: At least three weeks prior to the date of the scheduled written component of the examination, the candidate must submit to the members of the Candidacy Examination Committee a comprehensive PhD research proposal. This proposal should be not less than 15 pages and not more than about 30 pages (double-spaced including graphics – BUT page count excludes references). The proposal must be reviewed and approved by the student's Supervisor (or Co-supervisors) before submitting to the committee.

The proposal should contextualize your research and serve as the starting point for the written and oral exams. The following are rough guidelines for you to consider, but ultimately the structure of the document is at the discretion of your supervisor and their local norms in terms of their discipline.
  1. Title: Provide a cover page. The Thesis/Project Paper title should give a clear indication of the topic.
  2. Executive summary/abstract (1 page): starting from a broad perspective and narrowing in on your research question. What is the significance of the issue/problem you are solving and what are your research objectives. This prose is more high level and is not necessarily geared towards your committee, but rather the program director or candidacy chair to appreciate your work.
  3. Literature Review: Place the proposed study in context through a critical analysis of the theoretical and research literature as appropriate. Locate and briefly describe those theories/studies that support and counter your approach to the issue/problem (this should be the largest portion of your proposal and ideally this prose will be reflected in your final thesis as well.
  4. The Problem: Consider starting this section with, “The purpose of this study is to…” change, interpret, understand, evaluate, analyze…. [the issue/problem]. Provide a description of the specific topic which includes a clear statement of the study question(s). Review what is known about your research topic as far as it is relevant to your proposal. As you wind down this section, elaborate clearly the nature of your hypothesis, research question, etc. It should capture the essence of your intended research and also help to put boundaries around it.
  5. Approach/Methods: This section contains an overall description of your approach, materials, and procedures. What methods will be used? How will data/information be collected and analyzed? What materials will be used? Specify and describe the selected design (experimental, laboratory testing, modelling, survey, archival, descriptive, interpretive, etc.). Pilot testing of analytic procedures may be required when these procedures have not been previously tested. Give the reasons for selecting the design, including its merits and limitations. Survey alternative methodological approaches that have been used by others who studied the issue/problem. Instrumentation, laboratory procedures, interview schedules, database analyses, coding methods, recording methods, case study identification, study site selection, or any other proposed data collection techniques or processes are described. Where appropriate, specify sampling procedures and detail data collection methods. Describe appropriate methods of data analysis and presentation. Disclose any conceptual and methodological limitations.
  6. Results thus far: While you are not expected to have many insights, you likely have data and perhaps some observations you can share with your committee.
  7. Conclusion/Anticipated Significance: Why is your study important? To whom is it important? Place yourself in the position of responding to someone who says, “So what?”
  8. References: All references cited in the text (and only those) are listed. Follow a standard system of referencing, ensuring all details are consistent. In the Proposal do remember to cite all ideas, concepts, text, data, etc. that are not your own. If you make an assertion in text, substantiate it with data or referencing.
  9. Future work (OPTIONAL): one of the best ways to visualize your future objectives/activities is to present this work flow plan in the form of a Gantt Chart – this may be an element you want to include.

Written Exam: Subsequently, each committee member must submit to the committee chair a question based on the research proposal. Each question may consist of multiple parts; it may be partly quantitative (i.e., involve analysis and/or calculations and/or diagrams) and partly qualitative (i.e., involve a written explanation), or completely qualitative (but not completely quantitative) in nature. The questions above make up the written component. The Chair of the Examination Committee will ascertain that the questions are appropriate (through discussion with the Candidate’s Supervisor or Co-supervisors, if necessary) and will be responsible for the invigilation of the examination on the scheduled date.

The written component is comprised of 3 questions from your committee and in total should be answerable in a time of 180 minutes (1 hour per committee member question = 3 hours); AND, if there are four committee members, each question should be answerable in approximately 45 minutes.

Although the written component should only take 3 hours to complete the student will be given a time frame of 48 hours as this is a take home exam. This exam is “Open Book”, and it is expected that you will have access to literature, and will make use of this when responding to questions. However, it is expected that all answers provided are in your own words, and written at the time of the exam (e.g. not extracted from your previous writing, such as your proposal).

A copy of the Candidate’s answers will be delivered to the committee members. The commitee members must decide within one week whether or not the answer to their specific question is satisfactory and relay that to the Graduate Program Director. If a majority of committee members are not satisfied, the oral component of the examination will not proceed and the Candidate will be notified that he/she has failed the written component of the examination. The examination will be rescheduled (possibly with different questions). Otherwise, the candidate will be informed they have passsed the written component of the exam, and the oral component will proceed as scheduled.




The Oral Examination: The Oral Examination will be held within one month of the written examination. The oral commences with the Candidate’s presentation (with illustrations) of her/his dissertation proposal. This oral presentation includes a discussion of the hypotheses to be investigated, the proposed dissertation’s context of recent methodological developments in the field, the methodology and approach, an indication of the ways in which the research should provide both advances in the field, and its real or potential applications. The suggested presentation duration is 25 min (30 min max).

Following the Candidate’s presentation, he/she will be questioned by each member of the Examination Committee. The questions will relate to the candidate’s comprehension and critical understanding of his/her selected field of expertise. The questions posed by the committee members will be related (directly or indirectly) to the written component of the Candidate’s written examination and to his/her dissertation proposal.

There is no specified time limit for the oral component of the examination; however, its duration normally should be between two and three hours.

The Chair may question the Candidate.

With respect to the pass/fail evaluation at the conclusion of the oral component of the examination, the Chair will vote only in the case of a tie.

All the members of the Examination Committee are voting members. In case of
co-supervision, the co-supervisors collectively have one vote. The Examination Committee shall decide (by majority vote if necessary) whether the examination is “pass” or “fail.” A Candidate may be granted a “pass” even though some small weaknesses are identified—if it is considered that these may be remedied quickly. In such cases, a plan of remediation is to be designed by Supervisor in consultation with the Candidate, and satisfactory completion of the plan is to be attested to by the ENSCIMAN Graduate Program Director.

Should the Examination Committee evaluate a “fail” in either the Written Component or in the Oral Examination, the Candidate will be notified that he/she has failed that component of the examination, and an “UNS” (Unsatisfactory) grade designation will be assigned for the Dissertation for that term. The Candidate will be granted a second opportunity to attempt the Candidacy Examination after a period of at least three months, but not more than six months. A second “UNS” (Unsatisfactory) grade will result in a grade performance designation of “F” and the Candidate will be withdrawn from the program.

Milestone 3: Dissertation

Writing your Dissertation

From the time the candidacy exam is successfully completed, until the final oral exam, PhD students will be working on their dissertation. The following reources will be helpful when writing. 

Nominating your Exam Committee and  Booking your Defence

As a student nears completion of their dissertartion, they should work with their supervisor(s) to submit nominations for the External Examiner and Examining Committee. You may find it helpful to use this  (excel file) PhD Dissertation Workback Calculator to determine your timeline. Remember to use the last date to clear requirements for the term in which you plan to complete.

All PhD students are asked to complete the  (google form) PhD Dissertation Oral Defence Schedule Request Form (external link)  once their committee has been approved and dates are set. Once submitted, the Graduate Program Administrator will book the room or zoom meeting and promote the event.   

More Information

Review the google slide  (google slide) EnSciMan Road to Defence Dissertation & Oral Exam (external link) , for more detailed information on the process. 

For guidelines and policies please refer to  (PDF file) Policy 164, particularly:  

  • Supervisory Committee for Doctoral Students (Senate Policy #164, section 16.3) 
  • Readiness for Examination (Senate Policy #164, section 19)
  • Doctoral Preparation Phase (Senate Policy #164, section 22)
  • Doctoral Dissertation Phase (Senate Policy #164, section 23)