The dissertation is the major academic work for doctoral students. It takes place in three phases that mirror the comprehensive process: the proposal, research and writing, and the oral exam.

The Proposal

For a doctoral dissertation, the supervisory committee must review the student’s research proposal and recommend its approval not less than six months prior to the date set for the oral examination.

The proposal is comprised of a literature review, which will largely be based on the comprehensive paper, research question (or questions) or problem, a plan for the collection of data, and planned method of analysis. In the case of a purely theoretical paper, the intended scope of the paper will be outlined. The target date for submission for Option One students is January 31 of Year three (near the beginning of term 8). For Option Two students the target date for submission is April 30 of Year 3 (the end of the 8th term). At a minimum, the proposal should contain a brief statement in non-technical language on the purpose of the thesis/dissertation research, its relationship to existing work in the area, and the contribution which the researcher hopes to make to the advancement of knowledge in the field. In addition, the proposal includes a title, the name of the supervisor and the supervisory committee. The title should indicate as clearly as possible the area of research, but it is understood that this title may change. The recommended maximum length of a proposal is 3,500 words.

As indicated on Form TD1: Thesis/Dissertation Research Submission, submission of the proposal to the Office of the Dean, Graduate Studies, includes submission of the relevant research ethics forms (including one copy of the TD1, two copies of the TD2, a certificate of completion of the Course on Research Ethics, and two copies of the Written Informed Consent Document or the Script for Verbal Informed Consent) and documentation. For more information, please refer to the Research Ethics section of the FGS Website.

Following approval of the proposal by the supervisory committee, students must submit one or more copies of the proposal to the Graduate Program Director. After confirming that the relevant Faculty and internal program requirements have been satisfied, the Program Director is responsible for submitting the proposals to the Office of the Dean, Graduate Studies.

Research and Writing

In this phase the student will be implementing the dissertation proposal which will usually involve the collection and analysis of data, the presentation of results, and a discussion of their implications. The student’s progress shall be monitored as above by the Supervisor and the committee. By the Summer of Year 4 (Option One) or the Fall of Year 5 (Option Two), the student should have completed a final draft of the dissertation that both the supervisor and the student agree is ready for the Oral Examination phase.

Oral Exam

Doctoral Dissertation Exam Committees

Composition of Committee

A dissertation examining committee shall consist of at least five voting members, including the Chair, as follows:

  1. The Dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies or her/his representative, who will be at arm’s length from the supervision of the dissertation, and who will serve as Chair of the examining committee;
  2. One external examiner, from outside York University, at arm’s length from the dissertation, recommended by the program director;
  3. one graduate faculty member at arm’s length from the dissertation, and normally from outside the program, recommended by the program director;
  4. two graduate faculty members from the supervisory committee, or one member from the supervisory committee and one graduate faculty member from the program.

In exceptional circumstances, the Dean may approve a program director’s recommendation that a York University faculty member who is not a member of the graduate faculty serve as a member (but not the Chair) of an examining committee. Such recommendations are to be accompanied by a brief rationale and an up-to-date curriculum vitae, which may be attached to the Recommendation for Oral Examination Form.

In addition to the voting members, the thesis examining committee may include the following ex-officio members (non-voting, unless present as one of the voting members named above):  Vice-President Academic & Provost, Dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies or his/her representative, Graduate Program Director.

Only under rare, exceptional and compelling circumstances can an oral examination proceed in the absence of the external examiner, and only with the express permission of the Dean. In such circumstances, the following conditions must be met:

  • the external’s absence must be unplanned and unavoidable (i.e. it must have been the initial intent that the external would be present);
  • a written assessment of the dissertation must be received before the scheduled examination, including certification that the dissertation is examinable, and identification of any areas that need revision, or questioning and clarification at the oral exam. However, if the external examiner feels that the result of the examination depends upon the oral exam, then the external examiner shall be present or the oral exam will be postponed until the external examiner can be present or an alternative external examiner is appointed.