General regulations

You will need to pass two candidacy examinations:

  1. within three years of registration as a provisional doctoral student
  2. at least six months before the final oral examination

Candidacy examinations test your understanding of material considered essential to completion of a PhD and/or your competence to do research that will culminate in the PhD dissertation. The examination may be written, or oral, or both at the discretion of the department.

See the Graduate Studies Calendar for detailed information.

Candidacy papers

The goal of candidacy papers and oral exams is to:

  1. demonstrate your readiness to pursue your particular research direction
  2. indicate your knowledge of the field
  3. demonstrate an understanding of theory and methodology as it pertains to the dissertation research being considered

Normally you will submit two papers

  1. one focused on the substantive content and theory of an area of study
  2. one focused on research methodologies related to your area and topic of interest

The candidacy papers will be examined at an oral defence attended by the supervisory committee. You will give a short (maximum 20 minutes) presentation, followed by questions from the committee.

The process will be chaired by your supervisor and normally includes two rounds of questions and discussion. The committee will adjudicate the results as complete/incomplete.

In some cases, in consultation with your supervisor, you may choose to have two candidacy exams; one devoted to content and one devoted to methodology.


Your doctoral dissertation must embody original work and constitute a significant contribution to knowledge in your field of study. It should contain evidence of broad knowledge of the relevant literature, and demonstrate a critical understanding of the works of scholars closely related to the subject of the dissertation.

Material in the dissertation should, in the opinion of scholars in the field, merit publication. You will be required to pass an oral examination at the end of your dissertation.