The Doctor of Philosophy in English is a limited enrolment program unique in Canada for its integration of literary studies with such fields as rhetoric, new media, and discourse analysis. The program draws students from across Canada, and has a very strong placement rate for its graduates, in high-quality academic and upper-level research positions.
The following is a brief summary of information about the program. Full program information and regulations are available in the Graduate Calendar. Requirements can be tracked with the help of our department checklists.
PhD program timeline
- Year 1:course work
- Year 2: exams (one Fall, one Spring) & Professionalization Training Requirement
- Year 3: dissertation proposal (due in Fall)
- Years 3 & 4: dissertation completion
- Year 4: dissertation defense
Full time enrollment, and Waterloo residency is expected for all three terms of all four years
All candidates are to fulfil the following requirements to graduate;
- Academic integrity workshop
- Language requirement
- Professionalization Training Requirement
- Course work
- Area exams
- Dissertation proposal
A course on the development of research skills and professionalization, to be offered to second-year PhD students in the fall term of every year, that will meet weekly. The course will cover such topics as: preparation for area exams, preparation of a dissertation proposal, bibliographical skills, teaching strategies, the job market (academic and non-academic), conferences, writing for publication, c.v. preparation, interview technique, and writing of grant applications
Students must complete 6 term length courses as well as the Language requirement.
- 1 Literature (LIT)
- 1 Rhetoric and Communication Design (RCD) or Experimental Digital Media (XDM)
- 4 Elective (one may be extra-departmental, and only one may be a reading course)
Students sit two area exams, one in their primary area of study, one in a secondary area. One must be in a literary field, one in an area of broader language study. Students can write the exams in either order. Sittings are usually on the last Fridays of November and May.
More details about area exams
Each written exam is somewhat different—some have specialized sub-areas the students choose to focus on, for instance, some are more general; some have assigned object texts, some do not; some include individualized reading lists worked out by the student with the exam committee; some do not. Students have access to the reading lists during the exam, and to any object texts that might be required, but no other notes or texts are permitted. No Internet access or digital appliance is allowed.
The secondary area exam has only a four-hour written component. The exam is graded out of 100, but the grade does not appear on the student’s transcript or affect their GPA.
The primary area exam has a four-hour written component followed within two weeks by a ninety-minute oral component. Students must pass the written component to qualify for the oral component. During the oral, students are asked about their written answers, about other questions from that exam, and/or about aspects of the area reading list. Students have access to their graded written component and the area reading list during the oral, and should bring in a notepad and paper to take notes on the fly and help compose their responses.
The passing grade is 70%. Candidates who fail the written exam (primary or secondary) may be eligible to write it again at the next formal sitting. Candidates who fail the oral exam will normally have another exam within two weeks.
Students are encouraged to consult the following pages to help them prepare for their area exams:
Students must arrange for a supervisor and a dissertation committee, from members of the faculty, and under their guidance prepare a proposal.
When the proposal is complete...
The dissertation proposal is an iterative process. Expect to spend several months writing and revising drafts in consultation with your supervisor and committee; failure to allot adequate time for feedback and revision may result in a failure to submit the proposal by the deadline.
Once the student’s supervisor and committee members are satisfied with the proposal, they will offer their signatures on the Dissertation Proposal form, and the form and proposal must be submitted to the English Graduate Studies Committee. Proposals are due by December 1 of the student's third year in the Ph.D program or six months after the completion of all area exams. Failure to submit the proposal results in loss of satisfactory standing and may result in the termination of internal funding.
The Graduate Studies Committee meets to consider all proposals, and will flag the proposal one of three ways:
- Referred for substantial revisions (must be resubmitted to the committee)
*In the event a proposal is rejected, the committee will determine next steps and the schedule for their completion, in consultation with the student’s supervisor. Usually, this event will mean the drafting of an entirely new proposal, possibly with a new committee and/or supervisor. In rare cases, it may result in the student being asked to withdraw from the program.
All students are responsible for original research and study on a topic that has been approved by their dissertation committee and the English Graduate Committee. A completed Dissertation should be between 200-400 pages in length.
The Library offers many electronic dissertation resources, including a word template, which are helpful for both students and supervisors.
The dissertation should be defended in the student's fourth year. When the student has completed a defensible draft, (s)he submits the abstract (in digital form) to the English Graduate Officer with the notification that (s)he is ready to defend, and sends an electronic copy of the dissertation and abstract to the English Graduate Office. Simultaneously, the supervisor submits a list of five candidates each for the External and Internal-External members of the committee. Once these committee members are secured and approved by the Associate Dean of Arts, Graduate Studies, a defense is scheduled.
- The supervisory committee must approve a final version of the dissertation.
The supervisor must contact the Graduate Officer in order to set up the defence committee. The supervisor must provide the Graduate Officer with the following:
a list of 5 candidates for the role of internal/external examiner (including department, email address, a line or two on suitability, and a statement concerning any professional or personal connection)
a list of 5 candidates for the role of external examiner (including institutional affiliation, email address, a line or two on suitability, and a statement concerning any professional or personal connection)
the dissertation abstract
The candidate must provide an electronic copy of the dissertation to the Graduate Studies Coordinator.
Once the Associate Dean approves the committee, a date and time will be set for the defence, no earlier than five weeks after the dissertation goes on public display.
Please note that the five-week display period means 25 business days—not including University holidays, black-out periods, or weekends; the blackout periods generally consist of the Christmas break, the last week of August, and university reading breaks.
Things to note during the black-out periods:
- Dissertation defences are not scheduled during this time.
- The mandatory five-week display period will not be affected by the black-out periods.
- All administration and paperwork will continue to be processed during this time.
- For more details, consult the Faculty of Arts doctoral dissertation procedures.
Dissertation publishing instructions
Once completed and approved, the dissertation must be submitted to UWSpace for publishing.
- Review the instructions for submitting your dissertation to UWSpace.
- Dissertations submitted to UWSpace will be reviewed within 3 to 5 business days of the GSO receiving your 'Thesis Acceptance' form from your Faculty/department.
- Submit 1 copy of your dissertation (.pdf format only) and any supplementary files to UWSpace for review by the GSO.
- You will be contacted by email after a review has taken place to advise you of any revisions that must be made prior to final approval.
- If revisions are required, your dissertation must be resubmitted to UWSpace.
- You will be contacted by email once your dissertation submission is approved.
- Retain a copy of the GSO/UWSpace approval email to submit to Media.doc if paper copies of your dissertation are required. An alternate printing service is pageforpage.com.
- The department requires 2 bound copies of your dissertation – one for the department office and one for your supervisor.