Candidacy requirement

The culmination of your doctoral study is your dissertation, a substantial written work of original research. You are required by the University to show your preparedness and aptitude for this task by successfully completing a candidacy examination (also known as the comprehensive requirement).

In the Linguistics department, the candidacy examination consists of two substantial research papers

Students writing candidacy papers must register for LING 693.


In the normal case, students will complete their candidacy requirement by the end the second year of their PhD program, after completing their coursework.

It is expected that work on the candidacy papers will begin in the second year of the program and that students will do this while in residence (i.e., while in Victoria). 

Candidacy papers areas

The two candidacy papers typically are developed from revisions and elaborations of term papers. In the usual case, one of the papers will be in the area of your dissertation research. Topics can be chosen from the following areas:

  • One paper in the area of phonology or syntax, understood broadly
  • One in an area of specialization sufficiently distinct in scope from the other paper agreed to by the student and supervisor. 

Candidacy paper committee

For each paper, a committee of three faculty members is constituted:

  • the supervisor of the candidacy committee
  • an active second reader
  • a third reader

The student’s PhD supervisor, in consultation with the student, determines the supervisor of the candidacy committee. The candidacy supervisor, in consultation with the student, then determines the other two committee members (in the usual case, the committee members will consist of faculty members of the Department who have a specialization in the area of the paper).

The candidacy supervisor and the second reader advise the student on the content of the paper (see Proceedures below); only the candidacy supervisor is expected to meet regularly with the student during its writing. The third reader acts as an external examiner, reading and evaluating only the (pre-)final draft of the paper.



Before beginning work on their candidacy paper, students must submit a short (up to 5-pages) proposal to the candidacy supervisor and the second reader. This proposal must include:

  1. The goal of the paper
  2. Its scope:
    • how it meets the criteria of being in the area of phonology or syntax OR
    • how it is sufficiently distinct in scope from the theoretical phonology/syntax paper
  3. A brief outline of the research needed to complete the project, including a timeline of when the research and writing will be completed
  4. A preliminary bibliography of relevant research on the topic

Submission of drafts

While writing the candidacy paper, students meet regularly with the candidacy supervisor and occasionally with the second reader. Once a complete draft is ready, its formal evaluation begins. Students can submit up to a total of five complete drafts before a decision is made:

  • The candidacy supervisor will read at most two complete drafts of the paper before passing it on to the second reader for feedback.
  • The second reader will also read at most two complete drafts of the paper before passing it on to the third reader
  • The third reader will at most one complete draft of the paper before coming to a decision


Once the third reader has read the (pre-)final complete draft, the committee has a closed meeting to discuss the paper and arrive at a decision. The decision is communicated to the student immediately after the meeting. The candidacy paper is judged as follows: 

  1. The Candidacy paper passes with no revisions - no action taken by student
  2. The Candidacy paper passes with minor revisions
    • The student has two weeks to complete the minor revisions, which are then approved by the candidacy supervisor
  3. The Candidacy paper must be revised and resubmitted
    • The student will revise the paper and resubmit it to the committee
    • The paper can be revised only once
  4. The Candidacy paper fails
    • If the revised paper does not meet department standards, students will be asked to withdraw from the PhD program

When the candidacy paper has been judged as meeting the required standard, the supervisor of the candidacy committee sends a memo to this effect to the student, with copies sent to the student's PhD supervisor and the graduate advisor. The graduate advisor then issues a memo of confirmation to the Graduate Admissions and Records Office (GARO), signed by the student's PhD supervisor and the chair of the Department of Linguistics.

Criteria for passing the candidacy

Through the candidacy examination, students demonstrate that they have mastered the necessary tools to successfully complete a dissertation. These include familiarity and facility with a field’s history, texts, critical paradigms, and forms of argumentation.

Candidacy papers are normally the length of a journal article (maximum 35 double-spaced pages, excluding references). Their quality is assessed by the candidacy committee, according to the following criteria:

The candidacy paper must demonstrate:

  • Original research of a quality which will allow the student to submit a conference abstract based on the candidacy paper
  • Knowledge of the literature and major issues in the field of study
  • Ability to respond to and think critically about the literature and major issues in the field of study