PhD program schedule

Department of History

Year One

During this year, students focus on the course work, begin preparation for candidacy examinations, and refine dissertation projects.

August to September

Over the summer or in early September, in consultation with the supervisor:

  • Discuss thesis topic and possible doctoral supervisory committee membership
  • Establish how language requirement will be met
  • Complete a course registration form, signed by your interim supervisor
  • Submit PhD Course Registration form to the GPA by the first day of class

August to September

  • Attend Orientations
    • Department of History mandatory teaching-assistant workshop
    • Department of History mandatory orientation and lunch
    • Optional FGS orientation session
  • Begin coursework
  • Write the appropriate second language exam in the first full week of regular instruction
  • Prepare list of sources of external funding for which to apply this academic year
  • Begin the application process for the SSHRC award:
    • Submit a Notice of Intent in late September
    • Attend optional FGS PhD SSHRC workshop
    • Attend mandatory Department of History SSHRC workshop
    • Begin drafting a research proposal

SSHRC Website


Submit SSHRC draft proposal for workshopping and attend departmental workshop

  • Revise draft application, taking into account input from workshop and your supervisor
  • Submit SSHRC application before announced deadline

November to December

  • Commit to selection of primary and secondary fields for Ph.D. program:
    • Canada
    • History of Science
    • Latin America
    • Medieval and Early Modern Europe Military/Diplomatic
    • Modern Europe and Britain
    • United States
    • World
    • African History

Meet with supervisor and secondary area specialist to begin planning your path to the written exams and to agree upon a supervisory committee (which is then formed by the supervisor).


  • Continue with coursework
  • Language exam offered in the first full week of regular instruction
  • Prepare Graduate Awards Competition (GAC) application (including Open and Killam awards, special awards, and bursaries) for submission by the internal deadline

February to April

  • Complete coursework
  • Students should finalize about 80% of their reading lists with their Supervisors and Secondary Area Specialists. The length of the complete list will be 120-140 titles for the primary area and 60-70 titles for the secondary area (with the understanding that three articles or stand-alone chapters in essay anthologies are the equivalent of one book). 

May to August

  • Submit Annual Progress Report in May
  • Continue preparation for candidacy in primary and secondary areas
  • In consultation with the Supervisor, students begin to prepare the thesis proposal
  • Department funding for the next academic year will be announced in writing, normally in July

Year two

This year students will complete candidacy examinations and begin work on their doctoral dissertations.


Submit registration for the coming year and pay fees

Language exams are given during the first full week of courses. If a student has not passed the language exam by October of their second year, the student and his/her Supervisor, along with the GPD, will meet to make a plan to achieve a positive result.

Prepare a list of sources of external funding if eligible

October to March

Attend SSHRC workshops and submit application (if applicable)

  • As the student nears the first of their written candidacy examinations, the Primary Area Supervisor, in consultation with the student, determines the composition of the entire Field of Study Committee
  • The FoS reading lists for the primary and secondary areas are to be fully established no later than one month before a student writes the exam for each. No additional readings will be assigned after this time.

Learn more

October to March (continued)

  • One month before the oral FoS examination, the Primary Area Supervisor instructs the GPA to file a Notice of Candidacy, which publicly announces the date of the oral Field of Study examination and the composition of the Field of Study Committee
  • Student completes the two written exams within a two week period, with the oral exam scheduled for two weeks after the completion of the last of the written exams.
  • Within two weeks after the Oral Field of Study exam, the student submits their thesis proposal to the supervisory committee.
  • Within two weeks after submission of the proposal to the committee, the student meets with the committee to discuss the proposal.  Student advances to candidacy when the committee approves the proposal.

March to August

  • If using human subjects in dissertation research, ethics approval must be secured before such work can begin
  • Once candidacy exams and the thesis defense are completed, student conducts thesis research
  • Annual Progress Report is due in May.

Year three

During this year, you will focus primarily on research for and beginning to write the dissertation.


Prepare a list of sources of external funding to apply for.

October to August

  • Research and write
  • Annual progress report due in May

Year four

During this year, students focus on writing the thesis, which will be defended in an oral examination.


Apply for funding for which you are eligible as needed and appropriate if you will not complete the degree within four years

Remainder of the year

  • Keep writing and consult with your supervisor
  • Submit some chapters to the other supervisory committee members
  • FGS has strict formatting guidelines 
  • About three months before the thesis defense, the Supervisor and/or Supervisory Committee must recommend the name of the proposed External Examiner and submit proper forms to the GPA for their approval by FGS. 
  • At least a month before the oral defense date, the Notice of Oral Defense needs to be prepared, signed, and sent by the GPA to the Faculty of Graduate Studies 

Remainder of the year

  • A defendable thesis must be distributed to examiners no later than 3 weeks prior to the date of defense
  • Final changes to the thesis need to be made and the thesis must be submitted to the Vault at FGS before the fee deadline of a term to avoid paying the fees for that session

         Learn more »

  • Traditionally students have provided supervisors with a bound copy of the dissertation. Some supervisors now prefer an electronic copy