Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) program

Admission requirements

There are two routes of entry into the doctoral program. The first requires a masters degree in geography or equivalent. Normally only a masters student with an A- average on all graduate work will be admitted. The second route allows exceptional students to enter the PhD program directly from the masters program. Such applicants must have completed all MA/MES requirements except the thesis, have demonstrated a superior academic record and have satisfied other conditions (details of which can be obtained from the director of the program).

For international students, additional requirements are detailed on the graduate studies website of the student's home university:

For doctoral students, failure to obtain a grade of B+ in each course they take means an automatic review of the student's status in the program. The review committee will consist of the student's advisor, the program director and the graduate officer. The review committee may require that the student withdraw from the program.


The course load at the doctoral level is normally one research seminar (selected from GEOG 600, 620, 640, 660), and GEOG 691. Additional coursework may be assigned subject to the needs of individual candidates.

Note: While in residence, all doctoral candidates are expected to attend colloquia and guest lectures. All doctoral candidates in the Waterloo-Laurier Graduate Program in Geography are required to give a seminar in a class setting after completion of the comprehensive examination and before defending their dissertations. Those doctoral candidates who have completed a masters degree in the Waterloo-Laurier joint program are exempted from GEOG 691.

Comprehensive Examination

The Comprehensive Examination will be held in public. The aim of the Comprehensive Examination is to confirm that the student has adequate knowledge in the chosen field of study and has identified a major research issue to be pursued in the thesis research. The examination includes both a written and an oral component. Normally the examination involves the student writing answers to a question or questions over a period of three weeks. The answer(s) will not exceed 10,000 words excluding the bibliography, abstract, figures and tables. In the oral component of the examination, which normally lasts no longer than three hours, the student defends the written document.

The topics to be covered and the format of the examination are determined by the Student's Comprehensive Examination Committee, in consultation with the Student. The committee must be approved by the director. With the approval of the Waterloo-Laurier Graduate Program in Geography Committee, alternative formats for the Comprehensive Examination process may be permitted, provided they meet the objectives of the Comprehensive Examination.

The Comprehensive Examination will normally be completed by the end of the fourth term of registration in the doctoral program. (This assumes continuous registration once admitted into the program; an equivalent time-frame, based on terms of registration, should be calculated by a part-time PhD student.) The dates for the written and oral components of the examination will be established by the student in consultation with the advisor, the other members of the Comprehensive Examining Committee and the graduate officer.

The Comprehensive Examining Committee normally will consist of the student's advisor and three additional examiners, one of whom will be from outside the Waterloo-Laurier Graduate Program in Geography. Advisors and examiners from Wilfrid Laurier University must have graduate faculty status. At least two members of the Comprehensive Examining Committee and the Thesis Committee must be members of the Waterloo Laurier Graduate Program in Geography. The committee will be determined through consultation among the Student, the student's advisor and the graduate officer. The Chair for the Examination will be determined by the Graduate Program Office (UWaterloo)/the Graduate Studies Office (WLU) and will be approved by the program director.

PhD Thesis Requirements

Upon successful completion of the Comprehensive Examination, a Thesis Committee consisting of four members will be established. Normally, this committee will have the same membership as the Comprehensive Examining Committee. Before undertaking thesis research, the student will submit a thesis proposal to the Thesis Committee for their approval. The format of the proposal is approved by the Thesis Committee in consultation with the student. The thesis proposal may be submitted at any time but must be submitted within three months, and approved within four months, after the successful completion of the Comprehensive Examination. When the thesis proposal has been approved, and the appropriate section of the PhD Reporting Form signed, the student completes the research and submits a thesis for oral defence.

Students undertaking a PhD have the option of a normal, traditional thesis or a manuscript thesis. Read the guidelines for the manuscript PhD thesis.

Prior to the oral defence, a Thesis Examining Committee is established. It must be approved by the director. This consists of the Thesis Committee plus an external examiner and a chair, both of whom are appointed by the graduate dean or designate of the appropriate university. The decision of the Thesis Examining Committee is based both on the thesis and on the candidate's ability to defend it.

(1) Accepted

Thesis may require typographical and/or minor editorial corrections to be made to the satisfaction of the supervisor normally within one month.

(2) Accepted conditionally

Thesis is acceptable but requires some changes in substance or editorial changes which are to be made to the satisfaction of members of the Examining Committee designated by the committee. The Examining Committee's report must include a brief outline of the nature of the changes required and must indicate the time by which the changes are to be completed. In any case, changes must be completed to the committee's satisfaction within one calendar year of the date of the defence or the student must withdraw from the program.

(3) Decision deferred

Thesis requires modifications of a substantial nature the need for which makes the acceptability of the thesis questionable. Examining Committee's report must contain a brief outline of the modifications expected and should indicate the time by which the changes are to be completed. The revised thesis must be re-submitted to the Dean of Graduate Studies for re-examination. Normally, the re-examination will follow the same procedures as for the initial submission except that the display period may be reduced or eliminated at the discretion of the Dean. Normally, the same Examining Committee will serve. A decision to defer is open only once for each candidate.

(4) Rejected

Thesis is rejected. The Examining Committee shall report the reasons for rejection. A student whose doctoral thesis has been rejected will be required to withdraw from the PhD program. The department graduate officer will confirm in writing the decision of the Examining Committee to the student and the requirement to withdraw within one week of the date of the examination.