Candidates for the Ph.D. must have a strong first-class M.A. degree or its equivalent. Competition for entry into the Ph.D. program is keen; successful applicants typically have excellent records. The P.hD. program usually consists of three full graduate courses (or an equivalent combination of full and half courses), qualifying examinations, field study, and a dissertation.
During the fall and winter terms of their first year in the Ph.D. program, students are expected to complete their course work. They then begin in the summer term their preparation for the qualifying examinations (held in September and January of their second year). A Field Study (approximately 3500-5000 words in length) is completed by May 1st of year 2 and then the prospectus for the doctoral dissertation is submitted by May 31st, putting students in an excellent position to complete the research and writing of the dissertation by the end of their fourth year in the program. The schedule has recently been accelerated to enable students to achieve this goal.
Doctoral students and recent graduates from Western have been successful in winning postdoctoral fellowships, and many have exemplary publishing records. A number of graduates in recent years have had their revised dissertations published by prestigious academic presses. Graduates of the Ph.D. program have been hired in tenure-track positions at such universities as Alberta, Bishop's, Brock, Carleton, Guelph, McMaster, Memorial, New Brunswick, Ottawa, Waterloo, Wilfrid Laurier and Windsor. See our Graduate Placement Web Site for more information.
In addition to the general regulations of the Faculty of Graduate Studies (as given in the Calendar on the University's website at http://grad.uwo.ca/calendar.htm), the following rules govern students wishing to become candidates for the Ph.D. in English. These rules will be administered and interpreted by the Department of English through its Committee on Graduate Studies.
The aim of these regulations is to ensure that all students in the Ph.D. program benefit from a program which has high standards both of academic quality and of fairness.
An applicant for the Ph.D. program must normally have taken courses at the Honors or M.A. level in at least five of the following six areas of English Language or Literature:
Admission is on a competitive basis. To be considered for admission, an applicant must have the M.A. degree (or its equivalent) with a grade average of A- (80-84%) or higher. This is the minimum requirement and it does not guarantee admission. The minimum requirement for consideration is a grade average of 78% across all graduate courses taken, where there are grades available. If no grades are available, the last 10 full- or 20 half-courses are counted in calculating the average. Attainment of this minimum requirement does not, in and of itself, constitute eligibility for admission.
English proficiency standards set by the Department of English must be met (see Supporting Documentation).
The deadline for applications is Janaury 15. Applications can be considered after that date only if places are still open. Admission decisions are not subject to appeal. Students may enter the Ph.D. program only upon completion of all requirements for their previous degree.
Applicants to the Ph.D. program must submit both a writing sample (e.g., a recent essay) and a statement of intent (see Supporting Doucmentation for a PhD Applicant).
On entering the graduate program, students will be assigned a Faculty Mentor by the Chair of Graduate Studies. The mentor/student relationship is largely informal and intended to provide students with a designated member of the Graduate Faculty whom they may approach with questions relating to their graduate education and welfare, especially in the first year. Students may consult with their Faculty Mentors as much or as little as need arises. The role of the Faculty Mentor does not replace that of either the Chair of Graduate Studies or the Committee on Graduate Studies. The Mentor will not necessarily serve as the student’s thesis or project supervisor.
Four full years (i.e., twelve graduate terms, full-time) after the M.A. will normally be required. At the discretion of the Department, and subject to the approval of the Faculty of Graduate Studies, a part of this period may be spent in research and study elsewhere. Advance application, supplying academic justification, should be made to the Chair of Graduate Studies if a student is proposing to take periods of absence exceeding four weeks in any term.
The requirement is normally a minimum of three full graduate courses in English after the M.A. (two half-courses are the equivalent of one full course) taken in the first Fall and Winter terms of full-time enrolment. In addition, a student who has not passed an adequate course in bibliographical and textual studies must take English 9002. With approval from the Chair of Graduate Studies, up to the equivalent of 1.0 full course may be taken from another program (examples of eligible programs include French, Classics, Modern Languages, Comparative Literature, Women's Studies, Theory and Criticism, History, Political Studies, Psychology, Anthropology, Sociology, and Philosophy). A student may audit any other courses in English at the discretion of the instructors involved. All Ph.D. students are required to take at least one half-course at the graduate level before 1900 if they have not done so at the M.A. level.
English 9002 is a compulsory half-course for all students in the M.A. year or in a Ph.D. program. A student who regards his or her previous training in bibliography and textual studies as satisfactory must arrange to see the course instructor, who will assess that previous training and determine whether or not the student must take English 9002. This course will include study of annotation, the history and nature of textual scholarship in English, documents, the history of book production, printing, and editing.
English 9002 is marked on a pass-fail basis; the passing grade is 60%. Any student receiving less than this grade is entitled either to write the examination again the next time it is given or to take the course again. Whichever option is chosen, the student must pass the course at the second attempt and will be asked to leave the program if he or she fails to do so.
A reading course is one in which the student will meet an instructor regularly (a minimum of twenty-five hours is required for a full course and thirteen hours for a half-course) to discuss his or her progress in following a prescribed reading list. A candidate may be allowed to take up to one full course as a reading course as one of the graduate courses prescribed for the Ph.D. if he or she is able to find an instructor willing to direct such a course and if the Committee on Graduate Studies approves. The approval and commencement of reading courses (which in all other respects conform to departmental specifications) is contingent on a student's being in good standing in other graduate courses (i.e., assignments are handed in on time and are satisfactory). Course content, assignments and student-teacher consultation are expected to be equivalent in weight to regularly offered courses. A reading course must be approved by the Committee on Graduate Studies prior to the commencement of the course. An outline of the proposed course, briefly explaining its purpose and listing the texts to be studied, should be submitted to the Chair of Graduate Studies at least four weeks before the term in which the course is to be taken. The instructor should have indicated approval of this proposal by adding a signature to it.
The Graduate Faculty in English has set the following deadlines for the completion of term work in graduate courses:
Any instructor is entitled to set a deadline prior to those established by the Graduate Faculty in English, and it will have the same force and carry the same penalty as the Department deadline.
Any student who has not submitted all required work by the deadline will receive an F in the course, and his or her registration in subsequent graduate courses (i.e., progression in the program) will be subject to review by the Committee on Graduate Studies. Exceptions to this rule will be made only on medical or compassionate grounds that are established to the satisfaction of the Committee on Graduate Studies. Those intending to ask for extensions on such grounds should do so at least a week before the deadline.
If a student is dissatisfied with judgments rendered by the instructor, the student should try to resolve the differences with the instructor. The student must consult with the instructor in this way before he or she launches a formal appeal.
If, after such discussions, the student is still not satisfied, he or she can appeal part or all of the course. The student can inform the Chair of the Committee on Graduate Studies at any time during the course, or up to six weeks after the final marks are submitted, that he or she intends to appeal one or more assignments, but normally the Committee will wait until the course is over and the instructor has submitted all marks before acting on the appeal, and it will consider the appeal in the context of the entire course.
Once the Chair begins to act on the appeal, the instructor will be notified that the appeal is in process. The Committee on Graduate Studies will consult with both the student and the instructor before it reaches a decision. The student will be informed of the decision in writing within six weeks of receipt of the written appeal and complete documentation.
The Chair can, at the student's request, act on the appeal before the end of the course, but the student should understand that normally the instructor will be notified at that time of the appeal.
The proceedings of the appeal hearing are confidential.
Specific circumstances pertaining to individual courses may make it necessary for these procedures to be modified at the discretion of the Committee on Graduate Studies or its Chair.
The standard for progression is 78%, based on the final marks in the first three full courses or the equivalent. Students must maintain an average of at least 78%. Students who fail to do so will be required to withdraw from the program.
Once you have finished your course work for the PhD, you will move on to a series of qualifying exams, normally taken in the second year. (NOTE: ALL STUDENTS ARE REQUIRED TO COMPLETE THEIR COURSE WORK BEFORE TAKING THE QUALIFYING EXAMS.) Preparation for the qualifying exams may be used either to fill a gap in knowledge or to consolidate a secondary strength outside the area of the dissertation. Qualifying exams prepare the candidate for teaching, not only in his/her area of specialization, but as broadly as possible, especially for the survey courses that most faculty are required to teach at some point in their careers. For candidates not planning to enter the academy as teachers and researchers, the exams offer invaluable practice in the arts of acquiring a large and complex body of knowledge, synthesizing of information, communicating that information, and managing time.
In May of the PhD candidate’s first year of study, he/she will declare a secondary field and a primary field of interest. These fields must be taken from the following thirteen areas:
Old and Middle English Language and Literature; English Drama to the Restoration; Renaissance Non-Dramatic Literature; Restoration and Eighteenth-Century Literature; Nineteenth-Century British Literature; Twentieth-Century British and Irish Literature; American Literature; Canadian Literature; Postcolonial Literature; Literary Criticism and Theory; Women’s Literature and Gender Studies; Textual Studies*; Cultural Studies.
* Please note that Textual Studies may only be chosen as a secondary field.All qualifying exams are four hours in length, with the exception of exams in Old and Middle English, where a fifth hour is added to accommodate the mandatory translation of a passage. Exams are normally written on computers, although candidates are allowed to write by hand, should they choose. Faculty proctors will oversee the examination, and will gather up all exams at the end of the exam period.
Each examination is drawn up, graded, and examined orally (where applicable) by an Examining Committee of three faculty members (with the exception of the nineteenth-century, which usually has 4), one of whom is designated the chair and through whom all inquiries should be directed. The general/secondary reading lists for each of these fields is available from the Graduate Assistant. Candidates are also permitted to see select previous exams in order to get a clearer sense of what is usually required. These exams can be viewed in the Graduate Assistant’s office.
The qualifying examinations have three main parts:
The examinations will be held at stated periods in September (for the Secondary Field), January (for the Primary Field), and May (for the Field Study; the written document for the Field Study is due 1 May, and the formal consultation will follow shortly afterward). Candidates who defer an exam will be required to take it at the next sitting. Deferrals will be granted only on compelling medical or compassionate grounds (and with supporting documentation, where applicable). Requests for deferrals should be made to the Chair of Graduate Studies in English.
A student must undertake the written secondary, written primary and oral primary examinations, and the field study not later than May of the second year in the program, except in cases of deferrals on medical or compassionate grounds.
Descriptions of Exams:
1. Secondary Field Examination:
In May of the candidate’s first year of the program, all qualifying students will meet with their Examining Committee to discuss the format of the September exam and to clarify any matters pertaining to the writing of the exam. Candidates will obtain a reading list for the chosen secondary field from the Graduate Assistant (UC 180), and draw up their individual lists upon which they may be examined.
Each candidate will then forward this list to the examining committee by 1 June for approval. Approval or minor suggestions for revision will be provided in writing.
In September of the second year, all students will write the qualifying exam for the secondary field. Exams will be graded by the Examination Committee for each area, and the mark will be conveyed to the student. The exams are graded on the basis of “Pass,” “Fail,” or “Pass with Distinction,” which is what will be recorded on the transcript.
2. Primary Field Examination:
Once the doctoral candidate has passed the Secondary Field Examination, he/she will move on to the Primary Field examination. The Primary Field examination will test the candidate’s broad knowledge in the field in which his or her thesis research is to take place; it will indicate that s/he is “qualified” to write the dissertation. As with the Secondary Field examination, candidates will obtain a general reading list for their chosen primary field from the Graduate Assistant. The reading list will serve as the base upon which the student will develop his/her final list for the exam. Students are encouraged to review each list to determine how their final list is to be compiled. Expansion and fine-tuning of the Primary Field reading list must be done in consultation with the members of the Examining Committee for that area, and when the Committee has given final approval to that list, its Chair will forward it to the Chair of Graduate Studies in English for the approval of the Committee on Graduate Studies. Students should communicate their expanded lists to the relevant examining committees by 1 November (if writing in January), 1 March (if writing in May) or 1 July (if writing in September). Earlier submissions are encouraged. Templates are available from the Graduate Assistant.
The written Primary Field examination will be followed approximately one week later by an oral examination, lasting one to two hours. Like the written exam, the oral exam will test the candidate's broad knowledge of his or her chosen Primary Field. Questions (to be based on both the general reading list and the expanded reading list) might invite a candidate to elaborate on his or her written answers, and might also test a candidate's knowledge of texts that she or he chose not to write about in the written Primary Field exam. All three of these exams--the written Secondary Field, the written Primary Field, and the oral Primary Field--are graded "Pass," "Fail" or "Distinction" on the transcript. Students must pass both the written and oral Primary Field examinations in order to progress in the program.
Normally, a student who fails the qualifying exam will be re-examined by the same committee.
3. The Field Study:
The Field Study follows on successful completion of the Primary Field examination, and is designed to survey the defined and delimited area of research within the candidate’s Primary Field that is immediately pertinent to the proposed thesis topic. The following outlines the scope, requirements, and timelines for the Field Study:
a) Choosing an Examining Committee: By this point in your progress, it is assumed that you will have secured a faculty member to supervise your dissertation. You may also secure the approval of a faculty member to act as a second reader. Normally, these two faculty members will also serve on your Field Study Examining Committee, along with a third faculty member whom you choose in consultation with your supervisor.
The Examining Committee should be established by 1 March of the second year of your program.
b) Reading List: The Field Study will be based upon a reading list of approximately 25 books or their equivalent. The list, drawn up by the candidate in consultation with the Field Study Examining Committee, should contain a selection of primary and secondary texts (insofar as these categories are applicable), so as to provide representative coverage of the research area immediately pertinent to your proposed thesis topic. Overlap with the Primary Field Reading List (both the basic and the expanded lists) is permissible.
c) Production of Field Study document: When the reading list has been approved, candidates should proceed to write the Field Study. This work should be done in an ongoing discussion with the supervisor-designate and, as necessary, other members of the Field Study Committee. The Field Study document consists of two major components, which will probably be interwoven in the finished draft. Those components are:
d) Length and Time Requirements: The Field Study document will be approximately 3500-5000 words. It must be submitted by 1 May of the second year of the program to the Examining Committee, via the Graduate Assistant. If the candidate’s progress has been lengthened by medical or compassionate deferrals on earlier exams, the Field Study document will be submitted during the next tri-annual deadline for examination, at the latest.
Failing Results and the Results of Failing
Any numerical grade below 70% on an examination, whether written or oral, is considered a failing grade.
1. Secondary Field Examination
If a student fails the Secondary Field examination at the first sitting, the committee for that examination, through its chair, may request the Committee on Graduate Studies to set an exam at the next sitting for a make-up examination. A student who fails the Secondary Field examination on the second sitting will be required to withdraw from the program.
2. Primary Field Examination
If a student fails the Primary Field examination at the first sitting, either in its written or its oral component, the committee for that examination, through its chair, may request the Committee on Graduate Studies to set an exam at the next sitting. Only the failed portion of the Primary Field exam would be re-taken in that sitting, which is to say, failure on the oral component in the exam will require a retaking of the oral only, not the written. A student who fails the written Primary Field examination on the second sitting will be required to withdraw from the program. A student who fails the oral Primary Field examination on a second sitting will be required to withdraw from the program.
3. Field Study
If a student fails the Field Study, the committee for that examination, through its chair, may request the Committee on Graduate Studies to authorize submission of a revised version by 1 September of that year. A student who fails the Field Study on a second attempt will be required to withdraw from the program.
Note: in all three cases above, the decisions of the examining committee whether or not to request a second sitting and of the Committee on Graduate Studies whether or not to grant such a request are not subject to appeal by the student.
The Thesis Prospectus should be a succinct document, outlining the candidate’s topic, objectives, approaches, methods, and resources for the thesis. Some of it will represent a compaction of material from the Field Study document. It should be prepared in consultation with the supervisor-designate and optionally also the second reader-designate. The following form and content are required:
By the time they complete Year 3 of the PhD program, students must provide evidence that they have a reading knowledge of at least one language other than English. That language will, in appropriate instances, relate directly to the candidate’s thesis area.
Note: Old English may not be used to satisfy this requirement.
The requirement can normally be satisfied in one of the following ways.
Responsibility for finding a means of satisfying the requirement in the chosen language rests with the student. In practice, unless the student already has competence in the chosen language, it will be advisable to select languages that are supported by staffing and instruction at the University of Western Ontario.
In exceptional cases, satisfaction of the above requirements notwithstanding, the Committee on Graduate Studies may rule that further study of a language is required because of the specific demands of the chosen area of research for the Thesis.
The following notes provide English program in-house guidance for supervisors and candidates concerning the final stages of thesis completion and the setting up of the exam board and the defence. Definitive regulations are posted by SGPS and they should also be consulted: http://grad.uwo.ca/current_students/thesis_regulations/index.htm
1. Planning prior to submission of thesis draft to supervisor
In considering possibilities for a defence date, the candidate must plan well ahead to ensure that he or she has any necessary SGPS extensions in place, is in good standing with the University regarding fees and any other dues, has fulfilled the program's language requirements, can meet the SGPS deadlines for submission of thesis to SGPS, has allowed for the six weeks of reading time required for examiners, and (particularly in Summer Term) is taking account of faculty and staff vacation periods and other authorized leaves. It is wise to have made financial provision for payment of an extra term's tuition fees in case the defence has to be delayed for any reason. Please see the Section 4.04 d) of the Graduate Regulations on Thesis Defense Only status.
2. Submission of penultimate thesis draft to supervisor
The candidate submits a penultimate draft of the complete thesis to the supervisor. The draft must constitute one through-composed text (not, for instance, a set of discrete articles). All chapters, including introduction, conclusion, bibliography, notes, and any appendices, must be submitted at the same time (since the supervisor will want to check one section against another). A high standard of spell-checking and proof-reading should have been reached, so that the supervisor is not distracted by microscale errors. Similarly, bibliography format should conform with MLA requirements. If the draft does not meet the standards listed above it is not ready for this formal supervisor submission stage.
3. Supervisor reads thesis draft
The time needed by the supervisor for reading and reporting back should be negotiated in advance. The supervisor will need to be allowed several weeks at least, since this is a crucial stage in the proceedings. Special circumstances may call for longer. Supervisors should not be put under pressure to reduce or waive this reading time. Similar observations apply to other members of the supervisory board who have reading commitments.
4. Final revisions
The supervisor informs the candidate of any revisions that need to be made. All residual proof-reading and checking (e.g., of references) must be done as part of the revision, whether or not indicated by the supervisor.
5. Notification of graduate chair
If the supervisor is satisfied as to the overall quality of the thesis draft, he or she informs the graduate chair that the thesis is within two or three weeks of readiness for submission to SGPS and that carry-through to SGPS submission of thesis is guaranteed.
6. Preparation for final submission
The candidate should consult the SGPS webpage on Thesis Regulations for up-to-date format requirements. Copies of previous English program theses should not be used as templates, since format requirements may have changed. Where the SGPS instructions do not cover specific contingencies, MLA formatting and referencing guidelines may be followed instead. Where SGPS and MLA conflict, SGPS guidelines should be followed.
7. Candidate and supervisor role in setting up the examination board and defence date
Four examiners are needed: 1 external to the University, 1 within the University but external to the program, 2 internal to the program. Candidate and supervisor should discuss possible examiner nominees fully, reviewing the various options. Considerations are, for instance, a) their likely availability, b) the applicability of their teaching and research interests to the specific thesis project, c) their experience in the examiner role, d) their potential helpfulness for the candidate's career.
All nominee examiners must be "at arm's length" from the candidate. That means not being a relative or a friend, not having helped substantively with the thesis at any stage, not having collaborated with the candidate (e.g., on conference panels, editorship of journals or essay collections), and so forth. In case of the program examiners, these requirements apply less rigorously.
When these discussions have resulted in a consensus shortlist of prospective examiners, the supervisor passes the list on to the graduate chair. This list should include complete contact information, including e-addresses, telephone numbers, and links to the nominee's webpage, so as to expedite the correspondence between graduate chair and the nominees.
In the English program it is the convention that the candidate and supervisor do not themselves issue the formal invitation to prospective examiners. That (as described below) is the role of the graduate chair, who in turns consults the Department chair on budgetary matters connected with the external examiner visit.
8. Graduate chair role in setting up the examination board and defence date
On receipt of the invitation list, the graduate chair asks the supervisor whether all prospective examiners are "at arm's length" from the candidate. If satisfied on this score, the graduate chair contacts the prospective examiners. Although this process is prioritized over other graduate chair commitments and can sometimes be completed quite rapidly, equally (and unpredictably) it may well consume two or even three weeks. Nominees may have many commitments and be unable to respond immediately. Also, it can be difficult to find a date when all parties can attend defence. (It is the expectation, under SGPS regulations, that all examiners be present.) Candidates need to build this allowance into their time-line leading up to defence. Once all arrangements are made the graduate chair nominates the examination board to SGPS.
9. SGPS submission
Within the following week, and by the deadlines specified by SGPS (see Section 4 of the SGPS Thesis Regulations, the candidate should submit thesis to SGPS (see Electronic Thesis and Dissertation - Overview,) The supervisor approval form must be completed and submitted by the student in hard copy to the Thesis and Membership Coordinator at SGPS. In those rare and undesirable cases where the supervisor has declined to sign off but where the candidate wishes to go to examination regardless, the candidate should enquire with the graduate chair or graduate assistant as to the procedures for submitting on their own recognizance.
10. Commencement of examination
The thesis is dispatched to the examiners by the SGPS Thesis Coordinator. The Coordinator will also, in due course, inform the candidate officially as to date, time, and venue of the defence (though the first two items will have been unofficially communicated already by the graduate chair).
11. Guidance to candidate on defence
During the examiner reading time, the supervisor and the graduate chair will provide advice and guidance to the candidate on the standard protocols for the defence and how to prepare for it.