PhD dissertation milestones

Your PhD dissertation should be 250-350 pages long (excluding abstract, notes, bibliography, and appendices). Prepared with the advice and direction of your supervisory committee, your dissertation is the principle focus of the doctoral program. It should be of the highest possible calibre, potentially publishable, and must meet the university's standards.

Use the following milestones to help develop your dissertation:

1. Complete your coursework, arrange your supervisory committee, and develop your proposal

Your PhD application included a basic, five-page proposal. Revise and expand that proposal over your first months in the program in consultation with your supervisory committee and in conjunction with your coursework.  Submit a Supervisory committee structure approval form

2. Apply to the Human Research Ethics Board for approval (if applicable)

All research involving human participants must have advance approval from the Human Research Ethics Board (HREB). Apply early in your program; approval can take up to six weeks even if no changes are required. Your application should be done in consultation with your supervisory committee.

3. Candidacy examination

During the second year of your program, you will be required to participate in a candidacy examination (structured defence of your research program and any completed segments of your dissertation).

The examining committee consists of at least two members of your supervisory committee, plus a member who is external to that committee. You must complete the candidacy examination before moving on with the program.

You should begin the research and writing required for your candidacy examination in your third term.

PhD candidacy examination student procedures and guidelines

4. Research and write

If you are conducting field work research, this is usually done after completing your candidacy examination.

Once you start the writing of your dissertation, work out a schedule with your supervisory committee for reviewing your draft chapters. In calculating your completion dates you must include at least 2-3 weeks for each review by your supervisory committee members.

Use the following guides for formatting:

Thesis and dissertation guidelines
UVic thesis template

You must use a consistent citation style. In law, students use the most recent edition of Canadian Guide to Uniform Legal Citation ("the McGill guide"). Other styles are acceptable if used consistently.

You must avoid any form of academic dishonesty, including unauthorized use of an editor.

5. Initiate the examination process

When you and your supervisory committee agree that the dissertation is ready for examination, begin the examination process.

Allow several months for your supervisory committee to review, comment on, and approve drafts and to complete the oral examination. Communicate closely with them about their availability as you approach the oral examination and final submission deadlines.

Your final PhD dissertation must be defended in an oral examination. You must discuss possible external examiners with your supervisory committee and agree on a list of three nominees. The list of nominees and contact details, your dissertation tittle and abstract, and a proposed exam time/date must be submitted to the graduate program director for a decision.

The examination committee may approve your dissertation subject to corrections. If these are minor, and if you meet the deadline for final submission, you will not be required to pay fees for an additional term. If they are significant, you will have to register and pay the fees for another term.

6. Final revisions and submission

The last stage of your program is the final submission of the examined, completed, and corrected dissertation.

Review the dissertation submission procedures and contact the graduate assistant with any questions.

There are strict submission deadlines that you must submit by in order to avoid additional term fees and graduate at a specific convocation ceremony.

You are responsible for tracking your deadlines and meeting them.

Submission deadlines are established by the Faculty of Graduate Studies and cannot be extended. Timelines do not allow for unexpected delays so set earlier deadlines for yourself if possible.