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, exclusive of works cited/bibliography. The dissertation should be defended in the student's fourth year.

For details on the integrated dissertation format, consult the department guidelines.

The dissertation proceeds in two stages:

  1. The student submits a dissertation proposal.
  2. The student writes, defends, and submits the dissertation.

Details of these stages are below.

Dissertation Proposal

Students must arrange for a supervisor and a dissertation committee, from members of the faculty, and under their guidance prepare a proposal. The final draft of the proposal must be submitted (in digital form) with the signed proposal form (PDF)  to the Graduate Coordinator by June 15th of the candidate’s second year in the program.


A dissertation proposal should contain an overview of the entire project of approximately 1000 words, a chapter-by-chapter breakdown of approximately another 1500 words, and a bibliography (of no fixed word count) of both primary and secondary texts. It should include first-page headings with your name, your supervisor’s name, your committee members’ names, and a title. Sections should be clearly signaled with subheads and blank space. Pages should be numbered.

The total word count should not exceed 3000 words, exclusive of bibliography.

The purpose of the document is to illustrate to the candidate's supervisory committee, and to the Graduate Committee, preparedness to begin writing the dissertation. The supervisory committee and the English Graduate Committee will provide the candidate with feedback about the project’s feasibility and the coherence of its research goals.

A dissertation proposal should outline the project's major research goals and the corpus of texts or objects to be considered. The proposal should thoroughly contextualize the project within its scholarly domain(s). It is not, however, primarily a literature review. 

The dissertation proposal must be formally approved in a meeting by the candidate’s supervisory committee before going forward to the English Graduate Committee. Once it has been approved, the proposals is sent forward in digital form with the signed proposal form (PDF)  to the Graduate Coordinator by June 15th of the candidates second year in the program. Students should submit a complete draft to their supervisory committee by April 1st of their second year, and set a date for the review meeting, allowing time for revision (if necessary). 

After Submission

When the proposal is complete, the student submits it to the committee members and calls a formal meeting. After the meeting, the committee assigns the proposal one of four designations, and informs the student:

  • Approved
  • Approved with minor revisions (revisions can be approved by supervisor alone)
  • Referred for substantial revisions (must be resubmitted to the committee)
  • Rejected

Approved proposals and documentation are submitted to the English Graduate Committee for final approval. If approved at this stage, the student begins drafting the dissertation.

In the event a proposal is rejected, the committee will determine next steps and the schedule for their completion, in consultation with the Graduate Officer. Usually, this event will mean the drafting of an entirely new proposal, possibly with a new committee and/or supervisor.

Once the dissertation committee is satisfied with the proposal, it is submitted to the English Graduate Committee. The final draft of the proposal must be submitted in digital form with the signed proposal form (PDF)  to the Graduate Coordinator by June 15th of the candidate’s second year in the program. Failure to submit the proposal results in loss of satisfactory standing and may result in the termination of internal funding.

Sample Dissertation Proposals

Dissertation Proposal Example 1 (PDF)

Dissertation Proposal Example 2 (PDF)


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.

Defence Guidelines

  • 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.

Publishing Instructions

Once completed and approved, the dissertation must be submitted to UWSpace for publishing.

Submission Information

  • 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.

Submission Process

  • 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 wPrint if paper copies of your dissertation are required. An alternate printing service is
  • The department does not require hard copies of your dissertation. 

Other Resources

The Library offers many electronic dissertation resources, including a word template, which are helpful for both students and supervisors.

Students are encouraged to consult the GSO's Thesis Regulations and Formatting Requirements.