PhD Program

The PhD program in our Department requires the completion of 18 credits (6 courses) of coursework, selected by students in conjunction with their Supervisor, plus two additional courses (LING 693 and LING 694) leading up to Doctoral Candidacy. Doctoral Candidacy is the second stage of the PhD programme, and involves the writing of two Generals Papers and a Prospectus (the Candidacy Portfolio), and the completion of an Oral Doctoral Candidacy Examination. The final stage in the degree is the writing and defense of a Doctoral Dissertation

The Doctoral degree is ideally completed in 4 years, with coursework done in the first year, Doctoral Candidacy completed in the second and third years, and the dissertation written and defended in the fourth year. A more detailed timeline of the PhD program with all of the relevant deadlines is provided on our Timelines section below.

First-year review

Students in the first year of their doctoral program are required to submit all of the final written projects (e.g., term papers) from the courses taken over the first two semesters to their Supervisors for review. This allows the Supervisor to assess the quality of written work and to alert the student if there are any potential problems that might not necessarily be reflected in the student’s grades but which could reflect the student’s ability to proceed towards Doctoral Candidacy. The work will be assessed as either Satisfactory, Passed, or Unsatisfactory, and students with a less than Satisfactory rating may be advised or required to take some remedial steps.

Doctoral Candidacy

In preparation for Doctoral Candidacy, student must put together a Candidacy Portfolio consisting of two Generals Papers and a Dissertation Prospectus. Once these are completed and approved by the Supervisory Committee, the student takes an Oral Candidacy Examination. Students failing to complete an approved Candidacy Portfolio may not proceed to Oral Candidacy.

Candidacy Portfolio

There are two parts to the Candidacy Portfolio, the Generals Papers and the Dissertation Prospectus.

Generals Papers (GP's) are original research papers completed by the student under the supervision of a full-time, continuing faculty member, not necessarily the student’s Supervisor. Each student must complete two GP's before proceeding to the Oral Candidacy Exam. The format of the GP is that of a journal article in the relevant sub-discipline of linguistics. In order to be deemed acceptable, the paper must be judged to be of professional quality—that is, it must make a substantive original contribution to current work in the area, and exhibit clarity in form of presentation. The rules and procedures governing Generals Papers can be found here. Completed GP's will be presented at a mini-conference at the beginning of the semester following their completion.

The Dissertation Prospectus outlines the theoretical and methodological context of the proposed research, identifies the planned contribution to knowledge, and proposes a set of procedures and analyses that will contribute to the Doctoral Dissertation. A typical prospectus is between 10–40 pages in length, though the content will be decided by the Supervisory Committee and may vary from sub-discipline to sub-discipline in Linguistics.

Oral Candidacy Examination

The final component of the PhD candidacy procedure is an oral examination conducted by the Doctoral Candidacy Committee, which is made up of five scholars, including the student’s Supervisory Committee. The examination allows students to demonstrate the necessary level of knowledge of the discipline of Linguistics and of the subject matter relevant to the dissertation, as well as the ability to pursue and complete original research at an advanced level. The rules and regulations governing Oral Doctoral Candidacy Examinations can be found in the Graduate Program Manual.

Doctoral Dissertation

The single most important product of a student’s doctoral program is the Doctoral Dissertation. The dissertation must be a substantial piece of original research that makes a recognizable contribution to knowledge. Through it, the candidate must demonstrate:

  • analytical and critical skills in identifying a significant research problem
  • the ability to design and execute a research project, and to analyze and interpret the results
  • the presentation skills required for successful dissemination of research
  • the ability to write in academic English to a level commensurate with professional practice in the discipline
The Doctoral Dissertation must be defended orally before a committee of five scholars (including the Supervisor and Supervisory Committee), one of whom is a recognized expert on the topic of the dissertation from outside the university.
  • Students and Supervisors must begin making arrangements for the Final Doctoral Examination at least 8 weeks in advance of the desired defense date.
Doctoral defenses in the Department of Linguistics are open to the public so that students have a chance to present and defend their findings before their peers and the community at large. The rules and procedures governing Open Defenses in Linguistics can be found here; the rules governing the conduct of Final Doctoral Examinations in general can be found in the Graduate Program Manual.

The finished Dissertation must conform to the standards set out in the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research’s Thesis Preparation Page. The Department of Linguistics has its own specific guidelines for the formatting of Theses and Dissertations, which can be found here. The Department also has its own guidelines for Paper-based Doctoral Dissertations; that is, Dissertations that consist in their main part of standalone papers. These guidelines are available here.

Doctoral Program Timelines

Our Doctoral program is designed so that students will normally complete the degree within 4 years. In order to ensure timely completion of the degree, students will be held to the following timeline:




Year 1

  • 3 courses
  • formal appointment of supervisor
  • 3 courses
  • first-year review of student’s written work
  • formal appointment of Supervisory Committee
  • completion of 7 hours of ethics training

Year 2

  • work on first GP
  • register in LING 693 (Jan.)
  • completion of first GP (April)

Year 3

  • presentation of first GP (Sept.)
  • register in LING 694 (Sept.)
  • completion of second GP (Dec.)
  • presentation of second GP (Jan.)
  • completion of final hour of ethics training
  • completion of Dissertation Prospectus
  • completion of Oral Doctoral Candidacy Exam

Year 4

  • Doctoral dissertation

On completion of Doctoral Candidacy, the student is considered to be ABD (All But Dissertation) and the only remaining task is completion and defence of the Doctoral Dissertation. FGSR regulations state that students must be ABD by the end of their third year.