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PhD in Social & Political Thought

Timeline for completion of PHD

   Degree requirements



The equivalent of 24 credits (or 4 full graduate courses), of which at least 12 credits (2 full courses) must be SPTH courses, and of which only one (1) per year may be a reading course (SPTH 6001.06 or 6001.03). Effective Fall 2014, all PHD 1 students are required to enroll in SPTH 6104.6.0 in addition to the above regulations in their first two terms of enrollment.* 

The equivalent of 18 credits (or 3 full graduate courses), of which at least 12 credits (or 2 full courses) must be SPTH courses, and of which only one (1) may be a reading course (SPTH 6001.06 or 6001.03).    Effective Fall 2014, all PHD 1 students are required to enroll in SPTH 6104.6.0 in addition to the above regulations in their first two terms of enrollment.*  Upon completion of the course work the student writes a PhD Major Research Paper


                   *For 2014-2015, SPTH 6104 will be held on Mondays, 2:30 – 5:30 p.m.

                     in S536 Ross


All PhD students in SPTH then proceed to:

Comprehensive Oral Examination (Comps)

The PhD Comps are a comprehensive examination, taken after all requirements in option 1 or option 2 have been completed, and prior to writing the dissertation.
The purpose of the comprehensive examination is two-fold:

  1. To provide an adequate background and intelligible context for the writing of an interdisciplinary dissertation;
  2. To ensure sufficient breadth of scholarly knowledge to prepare the candidate for a career in university research and teaching.

The doctoral student, in consultation with the examining committee, defines two fields on which the student wishes to be examined. One field will be designated the major field, the other the minor field.
Determination of the fields should be guided by the following considerations:

  1. Fields must not be excessively narrow
  2. One field must not subsume another
  3. Both fields may not be primarily in the same discipline
  4. At least one field must not be limited primarily to the twentieth century.

Students are not expected to have total mastery of any field but should demonstrate a broad familiarity with the major texts, issues and critics in any given field.
Examples of acceptable fields include - but are not limited to:

  • Psychoanalysis/ Psychoanalytic Theory
  • Structuralist and Poststructuralist Theory
  • Postcolonial Theory
  • Queer Theory
  • Feminist Theory
  • Race Critical Theory
  • Kant and Enlightenment
  • Globalization and the Nation State
  • Social Theories of Religion and Modernity
  • Problems in 20th Century Historiography
  • Theorizing HIV/AIDS
  • Philosophical Anthropology
  • Theories of the body
  • Aesthetic Theory and Public Spaces
  • Hegel and Marx: Theories of the State
  • Themes in Critical Theory
  • Art and Revolution
  • Theories of Narratology
  • History of Childhood

Prior to the comps candidates will present a bibliography of the texts relevant to the chosen fields. The bibliography should include a minimum of (and not much more than) twenty-five (25)  significant entries in the major field and a minimum of (and not much more than) fifteen (15) entries for the minor field. The examination will focus attention on the material listed in the bibliography. The bibliography must be approved by the examining committee prior to setting the date for the examination. Candidates are advised to consult with their examining committee when preparing the bibliography.

*Arrangements with respect to time, place, date and composition of the examining committee must be made through the Program office for the Director's approval at least one month prior to the examination*. The comps examination committee consists of three members of the Program who are familiar with a student's work and the Director, or his/her representative. The student will consult with their committee members to determine a suitable date and time for the exam. The student will then provide to the Director (in writing or by email), the names of the three committee members, the proposed time and date of the exam, and the bibliography, and will set up a meeting with the Director to discuss potential Director's Reps. Once the bibliography and committee is approved by the Director, the Program Assistant will contact the faculty members nominated for the Director's Rep. and arrange the comprehensive exam. Official notification of the exam will be sent (by email) to all participants from the Program Office.

For students pursuing the coursework only option:
The exam may only be set if all coursework has been completed and all grades for the coursework have been submitted.

For students pursing the coursework and MRP option:
The exam date may only be set if both the coursework has been completed, and the PHD Major Research Paper has been read and passed by two readers, (usually the supervisor and one of the two committee members who will participate in the comps).

For the comprehensive exam, the student should be reviewing the list with the supervisor before the reading begins, and ideally, the whole committee should be participating in the development of the list. 

 For optional use of the time leading up to the comps exam, the student should set a reading timeline, and meet with committee members to discuss the books.  These meetings may be one on one with one of your committee members, or as a group, depending on the individual’s booklist and the academic interests of the committee.     The student must then email the director (and copy the program assistant),

1) the booklist (Title and author) of the three books

2) the date and time that the comps is tentatively planned for (both the student and the committee members have agreed on the time, and are available for that time and date)and – if a preference has been indicated by the student or committee members –

3) any suggestions for the director’s rep.  

The student does not select or contact the director’s rep.  Once the director has approved the books and ranked the list of any director’s rep, and program assistant will contact the first name on the list, and see if that faculty member is willing and able to participate in the exam.   The reason that four weeks advance notice is needed is that the office needs time to arrange for a director’s rep, and the director’s rep may need time to review the books that are to be examined.  The advanced notice cannot be changed or waived, and the time starts from when the request is made to do the comps exam.

 See our Frequently Asked Question for more information

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Dissertation Proposals

After the successful completion of the comprehensive requirement the student will prepare a dissertation proposal which must be written to the supervisory committee's satisfaction.
In no more than 2500 words (10 pages, double spaced) the proposal should outline:

  1. The topic of the proposed research and its interdisciplinary nature;
  2. Its relation to the traditions of social and political thought out of which it arises;
  3. The languages other than English, if any, which are needed to complete the dissertation satisfactorily;
  4. The travel, if any, needed to pursue the research;
  5. The approximate length of time required to complete the dissertation;
  6. A basic bibliography set out formally; (Please note: the bibliography is not part of the 2500 word limit, as the bibliography may be as long, or longer than the proposal in length.)
  7. A chapter outline indicating the themes and substantive issues to be studied. Generally a few sentences or a paragraph will suffice for each chapter;
  8. A Schedule of Completion
  9. A set of up to 5 keywords identifying the topic for the Graduate Faculty dissertation database.

Students should be reminded that a dissertation proposal is just that - a proposal. The finished product, a definitive argument, with well-rounded conclusions, etc. are not expected in a proposal (they are absolutely necessary in the dissertation!). What the proposal should indicate in a general and concise manner are the claims/themes/controversies/hypotheses/ arguments/ directions, etc. that the student plans to take up in the course of his/her research and writing.
All proposals submitted to the Program office must include the following:

  1. The Thesis and Dissertation Proposal Form (TD1) - found on the FGS website under Forms - with all appropriate                             committee signatures.
  2. The Dissertation Proposals Appraisal Form with signed approval by committee members.
  3. If appropriate, the FGS Human Participants Research Protocol form (TD2 form) - also found on the FGS website.
  4. A fully developed bibliography for the project.
  5. The program office will need one complete hard copy of the proposal as well as one complete electronic copy as the Advisory committee will received the electronic copy for review, and the hard copy is for submission to FGS (after it has been approved by the Advisory, the program will keep a copy of the proposal in the file as well*).

The proposal cannot be reviewed without all supervisory committee approvals and all relevant related paperwork. ALL signatures or email confirmations from the committee must be submitted on the deadline, in the proposal, or the proposal will be shelved until the next deadline.  The student needs to have them collected and included when the proposal comes into the office.  Presuming the faculty member will submit the form on time and calling or emailing to check if the file is complete is not the program office’s responsibility, it is the student’s role.

The dissertation proposal must be submitted and approved by both the program and FGS at least six months prior to the PhD oral defence.
Some examples of well-prepared dissertation proposals are available for viewing in the Program Office.

Deadlines for Dissertation proposals: 

Fall Term:  October 1st each year

Winter Term:  January 25th each year

Summer Term:   April 30th

If the deadline falls on a weekend, then the deadline automatically becomes the first business day after the deadline.

The proposals will then all by photocopied for the Advisory committee, sent to all committee mebers and a meeting will be set up approximately 1 month after each deadline.  Committee members will be polled on availability for meeting times, and a time and date will be set and all committee members will be notified.  At the same time students who have submitted their proposals will be notified of the time, date and location of the meeting, and encouraged to invite their supervisor to attend the meeting.  (If the supervisor is not available, the student may ask another member of their supervisory committee to attend if they wish). 

Review of the Dissertation Proposal

The dissertation proposal will be reviewed by the Advisory Committee with particular attention to the following matters:

                   1.  Significance and timeliness as a theoretical work;
                   2. Interdisciplinariness as a research study;
                   3. Are resources available at York and in Toronto to carry out the research?
                   4. Composition of the proposed supervisory committee in light of the topic, and relevant faculty appointments to SPTH.
                   5. Satisfaction of any and all applicable research ethics protocols and formal attestation to this effect;
                   6. clarity and comprehensiveness of the proposal, including bibliography.

The Advisory Committee is comprised of 3 faculty members, the Director (generally as either as chair or as a regular member, or the dierctor may appoint one of the faculty committee members to be the chair), 2 voting student members, and up to 2 non-voting student alternates. The Director will inform the candidate and supervisor of any comments, suggestions or concerns in a timely manner after the meeting.

The student will meet with the committee to discuss their proposals.  The supervisor may attend and participate in the discussion as well. Notes will be taken for the student, and the Chair of the committee will send them to the student and copy the supervisor, generally by email within a reasonable time after the meeting.   Please note:  While it is preferrable for the student to attend the meeting, if the student is unavailable at the date and time of the advisory meeting, the committee can proceed with the meeting, notes will be taken and the director will provide the information to the student and can discuss any comments on behalf of the committee with the student (and/or supervisor). 

If the Advisory Committee assesses the proposal and requests revisions or clarifications, the student and supervisor will receive written comments and will be requested to resubmit the proposal once revisions have been made. In the case of serious doubt or disagreement, the Advisory committee shall make a report to the Executive Committee for any resolution. Only upon resolution by the Advisory Committee and/or the Executive Committee will the proposal be submitted to the Faculty of Graduate Studies for approval.   If needed, a meeting to consider (or review again) the proposal can be requested at any time by the Candidate, the supervisor, the Director, or the Advisory Committee. If a meeting is to be held, it is highly recommended that the Candidate and the candidate's supervisor attend the session at which the Advisory Committee formally considers the dissertation proposal.

Most students have indicated that the Advisory committee is actually a very beneficial chance to talk to academics beyond the specialized scope of their supervisory committee about their research, and to see what kinds of questions their research generates. 

Most common issues with Dissertation proposals:

* Too long

* Ethcis paperwork not clear, (ie. questionnaire sample vague and undeveloped).

* Editting.

* Bibliography lacking key texts

* Note:  Students are strongly recommended to keep a complete copy of their dissertation proposal in their own personal records because it is their responsibiltiy to have this information.  This is particularly important if the student withdraws and plans to return to defend because they may need to proposal if the program's copy - in compliance with the FIPA regulations - has been destroyed after the student has been withdrawn for two years.  

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The Dissertation

By entering into the PhD Program, the student has made a commitment to devote the time and energy necessary to engage in research and write a dissertation which constitutes a substantial and original contribution to knowledge in Social and Political Thought.

Dissertations should adhere to the format set forth in the "Guidelines for the Preparation and Examination of Theses and Dissertations" published by the Faculty of Graduate Studies. Thesis Guidelines of the Faculty of Graduate Studies Copies are available in the SPTH office or in the Faculty of Graduate Studies.

In conjunction with the supervisor and supervisory committee, the PhD Candidate develops an intended timetable for completion of all stages of the dissertation, and works to realize that timetable, meeting appropriate deadlines. The Candidate should meet regularly with the supervisor to review progress, normally at least once a month, and not less than once each term. Interaction with other members of the supervisory committee should take place as appropriate.

Students wishing to view dissertations by SPTH alumni may have access to the bound dissertations through the Program Director, although dissertations may not be borrowed or used outside of the SPTH offices. In addition, the Scott Library maintains dissertations of all York graduate students.

Students who are working on their Dissertation may request Extended Library Loan Privileges. The form is available in the SPTH program office.

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   supervision and supervisory committees

The success of a doctoral study greatly depends upon having a supervisor and a committee that work closely with the student. It is important that a supervisor and the committee be identified at the early stages of the study.
A supervisor must be recommended by the Director for approval by the Dean of Graduate Studies no later than the end of the fifth term of study (end of second term of PhD II).
 A supervisory committee must be recommended by the Director for approval by the Dean of Graduate Studies no later than the end of the eighth term of study (end of second term of PhD III).

Tips for Putting Together a Supervisory Committee
  1. Initially, every student meets with the Program Director. This is a good place to start as the Director knows all the SPTH courses and has a good grasp of the research areas that SPTH faculty members work in. The Advising meeting will mainly focus on what courses you are interested in taking, but as these courses should incorporate your own research interests the first place to look for potential Supervisory Committee members is the Course directors for the courses you take.

  2. Other students: Throughout the year, you will meet other students that share some of your research interests. Talk with them to find out who is helpful, knowledgeable, and actively researching in an area you want to work in.

  3. Check out faculty member's publications. In this way, you not only know what they are researching, but also their interpretation of the field. Are your views compatible with theirs?

  4. Participate in SPTH committees. All the committees in the program have faculty members on them, and many (Admissions, Executive) need to discuss research interests within their purview. A number of students find potential committee members based on the discussions in these meetings.

  5. Meet with faculty members. Be prepared to talk about your research interests. Ask them about their research.

  6. Attend SPTH program seminars and social events: these give you a chance to lean about the research of professors in the program and to mix and mingle with other students and faculty. Talking in a relaxed environment is often a good way to find out about someone's research interests.

  7. If you still can't find the right people for your committee, meet with the Director. We may have to look outside of SPTH for one or more members of your committee. Although your supervisor must be appointed to SPTH that does not mean that they must be in the program already. If there is a faculty member who works in your field, they may be appointed to the program if they are willing, and if they meet the criteria for appointment to the program and to FGS. In addition, one of your committee members can be from another graduate program here at York.

  8. The Director will consult with the supervisor concerning recommendations to the Dean for the appointment of outside examiners for the dissertation committee.

Changing Members of the Supervisory Committee

Occasionally committee members have to be changed. The reasons for the change may vary - sometimes a faculty member falls ill, or will be out of the country or on sabbatical at a crucial time for your dissertation, other times your research direction may change and another faculty member working in that area would be beneficial to your committee. Students seeking to change committee members should proceed as follows:

  1. The committee member who is being replaced must be contacted and agree (in writing or email) to the change.

  2. The new member must agree to join the committee. They must be appointed to the Faculty of Graduate Studies, and - depending on the composition of your committee - may need to be appointed to SPTH.

  3. The SPTH director must receive notification from both faculty members of the change as well as a statement from the student indicating the reason for the change.

  4. Where a student has already submitted the dissertation proposal, the above correspondence must be submitted to the Associate Dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies for approval, and updated on the Dissertation Proposals Appraisal Form (TD1)




PHD Year Level

Option 1 – 24 credits of coursework

Option 2 – 18 credits of Coursework  & MRP


Year 1



Courses complete?



Any INCs?



Year 2

Coursework/complete MRP

Coursework, and MRP in Winter term or completed by start of summer term.

Courses completed?

Year 3

Comprehensive exams and dissertation proposal.

Complete comprehensive exam and submit dissertation proposal

Notes regarding your progress:




Year 4

Dissertation research and begin writing.

Seriously engage research and begin writing dissertation. 

Notes regarding your progress







Year 5

Dissertation completion and defense.

Dissertation research, writing, defense..

Notes regarding your progress






Year 6

If needed finish dissertation & defend

Finish dissertation & defend if time is needed


Notes regarding your progress






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