Department of History Graduate Program
Statement of Purpose
Students passing the written and oral Field of Study (FoS) examinations, in addition to having their thesis proposal approved, will have demonstrated a combination of skills and knowledge that prepares them to conduct advanced research and attain sufficient core knowledge to teach in undergraduate university classrooms in their areas of study. To this end, the purpose of the candidacy requirements is to demonstrate students’:
- familiarity with the most important literature in the primary and, to a lesser extent, secondary area of study
- understanding of major historiographical debates of their areas of study
- ability to read critically
- familiarity with a range of approaches/methodologies within their areas of study
- ability to independently and effectively express arguments in written and oral form
All course requirements
All courses must be completed.
Second (non-english) language exam
If not completed at the Master's Level.
Field of Study (FoS) written exam
In primary and secondary area of study.
Oral FoS examination
In primary and secondary areas of study.
Approval of thesis proposal
Working with your supervisor.
If you have completed a non-English language requirement
If you have completed this requirement at the MA or BA level, you will be required to submit proof to their Graduate Program Director (GDP) demonstrating that you have met the second language requirement.
If you have not completed a non-English requirement
You will be required, in consultation with the Interim Supervisor, to identify a non-English language relevant to your research area and demonstrate in an exam an ability to competently read in that language.
Each semester language examinations are normally scheduled in the first week of class. Examiners, appointed by the GPD, normally choose a text from an academic article or book of up to 500 words and provide them to the Graduate Program Administrator (GPA) who schedules an exam sitting. In this sitting you will be required to translate and summarize this text, with the use of a dictionary, to be to be assessed by the examiner.
A student fails when he or she has been unable to translate a substantial portion of the text over the two-hour period, or makes serious errors in summarizing its meaning. Students failing the exam on their first attempt are expected to improve their reading skills through independent study. They are also eligible to audit language courses.
You will have the opportunity to retake this exam each term. You will have to successfully pass the exam before the FoS exams can be taken. If you fail to pass the language exam and are prevented from moving on to your FoS examinations within the 20 month period of first registration, the GPD, the Supervisor, and will meet to discuss ways that the student can meet the language requirement or change the thesis research so that you can pass the examination in another language.
You may appeal a failed language exam, in which case the GPD will appoint another faculty member to re-evaluate the submission. If the second faculty member also gives the submission a failing grade, you may wish to appeal the submission with the Faculty of Graduate studies.
Composition of the Supervisory and Field of Study Committees
Within three months of starting their program, you will consult with your Interim Supervisor to:
- Discuss your thesis topic
- Confirm a Supervisory Committee consisting of
- Secondary Area Specialist
- Third member, usually from outside the Department specializing in a complimentary area of research
In some cases, a Co-Supervisor or secondary area Co-Specialist
Field of Study (FoS) Committee
When you are almost ready to take your written examinations, you and your Primary Area Supervisor will confirm availability of your FoS Committee. Your FoS Committee will consist of:
- Your Supervisory Committee
- Two faculty members that compliment your research
- Usually one member is from the Department of History and one is from outside the Department
The purpose of the FoS Committee is to evaluate the written FoS exam and sit in on the oral FoS exam.
The primary area Supervisor must inform the GPA of the FoS Committee members at least for weeks before the first written exam is scheduled to begin.
Format of Field of Study Written Examinations
You will be required to write two exams:
- Primary area of study
- Secondary area of study
These exams will be scheduled at different times over a two-week period and consist of broad, open ended questions so you can demonstrate:
- Breath of core knowledge and major historiographical debates in that field
- Critical reading skills
- Familiarity with a range of approaches/methodologies within the area
- Ability to independently and effectively express arguments in written form
Primary area exam
Comprehensive reading list: 120-140 book titles (note that three articles or stand-alone chapters in essay anthologies are the equivalent of one book)
Questions: Write answers to two out of the six questions developed by your Supervisor.
Length: Maximum 3000 words
Sources: Students must explicitly cite by name the authors they are using to support their arguments. Formal footnotes and a bibliography, however, are not required and will not be included in final word count.
Timeframe: 48 hours to complete the exam
Location: exam is completed at home. If you are unable to write the exam at home, you can request, from your GPD, to use university space within the same period.
Evaluation: Examination committee will determine a pass or a fail within one week of having received both your submissions. Your exam will be marked as a fail if two or more FoS Committee members mark it as a fail. If you do not pass either of the written exams, you are not able to move on to the oral exam.
Secondary area exam
Comprehensive reading list: 60-70 book titles (note that three articles or stand-alone chapters in essay anthologies are the equivalent of one book)
Questions: Complete two out of the six questions written by your Secondary Area Specialist.
Length: Maximum 2500 words
Sources: explicit citation of authors used is required—formal bibliography is not required and will not be included in final word count
Timeframe: You will have 48 hours to complete the exam
Location: You will write the exam at home. If you are unable to write the exam at home, you can request, from your GDP, to use university space within the same period.
Evaluation: Examination committee will determine a pass or a fail within one week of receiving your submissions. Your exam will be marked as a fail if two or more FoS Committee members mark it as a fail. If you do not pass the written exams, you are not able to move on to the oral exam.
You will have the opportunity to retake or any failed written exams within two to six months of the first attempt. You and your Supervisor will schedule the exam retake and can take into consideration the extent of comments made by the FoS committee. If the exam is failed a second time, then you will be forced to withdraw from the program.
Oral Field of Study Examination
You will be required to take an oral FoS exam to test your knowledge of both your primary and secondary areas of study. This is usually scheduled to take place within two weeks of passing your written examinations.
A Neutral Chair is appointed as the moderator for the exam. They will establish the order in which examiners will ask questions and ensure that you are given enough time to answer questions.
Usually, two rounds of questions from the committee are will be directed to the student’s written responses, the questions not answered on the written examinations and to test the student’s comprehensive reading. Further rounds of questions are permitted so that the committee feels that the student has been sufficiently examined. The exam is up to two hours in length, not including the committee’s deliberations.
In the exam
You can take notes while a question is being asked, but you are only allowed to bring the following into the exam:
- Written examinations
- Your answers
- The reading lists
After the exam is over, you will leave the committee to deliberate. Each committee member will cast a secret vote before a discussion is opened with other members. Then, each member will cast a final vote that will determine whether you passed or failed the oral exam.
All members who judged it at a fail, will be required to write a rationale for their vote within two business days. This will include feedback for you to use to improve. The Neutral Chair will inform the GDP of the failure and all reports from the committee will also be directed to the GDP. The reports will then be passed along to you, the Supervisor and the Secondary Area Specialist.
You will, in consultation with the Supervisor and Secondary Area Specialist, choose a date for retake based on the remedial actions recommended by the examining committee in its reports. You will be requested to withdraw from the program upon a second failure of the oral FoS examination.
Thesis Proposal Approval
Preparation of Thesis Proposal
You, in consultation with your supervisor, should formally begin developing the proposal in the eighth month of the program. It is important to begin early as it must be submitted to the Supervisory Committee within two weeks after successfully passing the oral FoS examination. The thesis proposal will be approximately 2500 words in length plus a bibliography. Within two weeks of receiving your proposal, the Supervisory Committee will meet with you to evaluate it.
The Supervisory Committee assesses the proposal on the following criteria:
- The problem or question that the research seeks to answer
- The historiographical significance and originality of that problem
- The hypothesis for addressing the problem
- The method for exploring that hypothesis
- The inventory of the most relevant evidence for the method
- The proposal should also include a bibliography of at least three pages listing the most relevant primary and secondary work for the thesis
After discussing the proposal as a group, you will be asked to leave the room so that members of the committee can deliberate. To be considered as having completed this candidacy requirement, you must have your Supervisory Committee sign the Approval of Thesis Statement Proposal form, provided by the GPA.
In the event that more than one member of the committee is of the opinion that the thesis proposal cannot be approved, the Supervisor will inform the GPD immediately and each committee member will provide the Supervisor with written reports on the thesis proposal within two business days. You, with the guidance of your Supervisor and in response to the committee’s reports, will have an opportunity to resubmit the proposal to the Supervisory Committee within two to six months. Should the revised thesis proposal not be approved by the Committee, you will be requested to withdraw from the program.
If the thesis proposal is not approved, you have the right to appeal the decision to the Faculty of Graduate Studies. Procedures for appeal are described in the Graduate Calendar under Academic Regulations.