Doctoral Candidacy Requirements

Department of Philosophy graduate program

A. Statement of purpose

A student admitted into candidacy in the Philosophy PhD program should have: (1) a solid foundation in philosophy generally as well as in the student’s particular areas of research; (2) the ability to articulate philosophical views, arguments, and criticisms that respond to the current literature, in the form of papers as well as orally; (3) a well-developed thesis proposal; and (4) the necessary skills and background preparation to successfully complete the proposed research.

B. Candidacy components

All doctoral students in the Philosophy Graduate Program must successfully complete the following components:

  • All course requirements as indicated in the Philosophy program description in the FGS Calendar, including, if applicable, the Logic Requirement

  • Two Field of Study Papers

  • The Field of Study Oral Examination

  • The Thesis Proposal

  • The Thesis Proposal Oral Examination

Suggested timeline

Philosophy Ph.D. students should aim to complete their Candidacy Requirements according to the following timeline.

  • Course requirements: in the first two regular semesters in the program. If required, Phil 677 (Metalogic) should be taken by the second semester in program.

  • Field of Study examination: by the end of the third regular semester in the program. This includes:

    • Approval of paper topics

    • Approval of reading lists

    • Submission of papers

    • Evaluation of papers

    • Oral examination

  • Thesis Proposal and Thesis Proposal Oral Examination: by the end of the fourth regular semester in the program.

This timeline is a suggested guideline only; official deadlines for candidacy components are given below.

According to the Regulations, subject to any extension allowances, PhD students must complete all candidacy requirements within 28 months of first registration. Those students who have transferred from a Master’s program must complete all candidacy requirements within 36 months of the first registration in that Master's program.

 


C. Field of study examinations

PhD students must pass a Field of Study (FoS) examination prior to their Thesis Proposal Oral Examination and within 20 months of first registration. The FoS examination is intended to test the student’s knowledge of, and competence to work in, their chosen areas of philosophy. Students are expected to show understanding of the central positions and important lines of debate in the chosen area, and to demonstrate general intellectual and philosophical ability at the PhD level.

C.1 Format and process of field of study examinations

At first registration, the Graduate Office informs students of their FoS Paper Submission Deadline and the suggested timelines for completion of Candidacy Requirements. The Deadline is normally set to the first day of the 14th month in program, or the first day of the 26th month for students entering without an MA.

The Field of Study Examination is an oral examination in a major and a minor field, chosen by the student in consultation with the supervisor and approved by the Graduate Program Director five months before the student’s Paper Submission Deadline. One area should be the student’s proposed area of specialization, i.e., the broad area of their chosen dissertation; the second area is the student’s minor field. Students should discuss their plans for FoS areas and the paper topics with the GDP and their supervisor well in advance.

Four months before the Paper Submission Deadline, the student submits two 300-word abstracts and bibliographies for two papers, one in each of the major and minor areas, to the GPD for approval. The two papers submitted by the student will form the basis of the FoS Oral Examination. The GPD approves the paper topics if (1) they are in the approved areas, (2) required faculty expertise is available, and (3) the topics of the major and minor area papers are not closely related. The minor and major papers will normally engage distinct bodies of literature. The GPD will take into account the range of courses available to the student in preparation for the Field of Study Papers.

If approved, the GPD strikes a Committee for the evaluation of the Field of Study Papers and the Field of Study Oral Exam, normally consisting of the Supervisory Committee and two other members of the permanent faculty, and names a Chair. Two members should be experts in the student’s minor field.

The student prepares two papers of between 5,000 and 7,500 words, excluding bibliography, one for each area. The bibliography need only include works cited in the papers and can be distinct from the approved reading lists for the FoS Oral Exam. Students are encouraged to work with department faculty to polish their papers, in particular, with their Supervisory Committee. It is explicitly allowed to revise papers previously used to satisfy course requirements as FoS Papers, with the understanding that FoS Papers must be more polished than typical term papers.

The student draws up two reading lists that cover the areas of the papers or are related to them and submits them to the committee three months before the Paper Submission Deadline. The Committee reviews the reading lists and may make modifications or additions, and approves final reading lists within two weeks. The Chair communicates the revised reading lists to the student.

On or before the Paper Submission Deadline, the student submits both papers together to the Graduate Office, which will distribute the papers to the Committee for evaluation. Papers submitted before the Deadline may but need not be evaluated before the two week period after the Deadline has passed. Early evaluation of FoS Papers is at the discretion of the Committee.

C.2 Evaluation of field of study papers

The examination committee will evaluate both the form and quality of the papers.

Formally, a passing Field of Study Paper must take the form of a professional philosophical article. The paper must address a question in one of the approved areas of philosophy, and engage with the literature in that area. It should state the question the paper is attempting to answer or the philosophical objective it is pursuing. For instance, a paper may critically assess a philosophical view or argument, it may compare philosophical views, it may interpret the writings of a historical figure, it may analyze a result or practice (say, in one of the sciences) philosophically, or draw out implications of a philosophical position. In doing so, it must describe relevant views or arguments in the literature. Positions proposed must be supported by arguments or evidence. The paper’s arguments must be presented explicitly, with explanations of why certain assumptions are made or not, what justifies the inferences in the argument, how the assumptions and conclusion relate to the views being discussed. When a reading of a historical figure is offered, the paper must articulate reasons for why the reading is appropriate. If a philosophical concept is applied to an example, it must be explained why the concept applies to the example. The paper must also, at least in outline, survey related views in the literature. It must appropriately cite relevant work using a standard and uniform bibliographic reference format. It must offer a novel contribution, be it positive, interpretative, or critical; mere surveys of the literature are unacceptable. It must be proofread and free of spelling and grammatical mistakes.

In addition to the formal criteria above, the examination committee will also evaluate the quality of the argumentation, and the philosophical acumen and skill displayed in the paper. In order for a paper to receive a pass, the description of others' views and arguments must be clear, accurate, and charitable. The paper must be well-organized. When new terminology is introduced, it must be defined precisely; and when existing technical terms are used, they must be used in accordance with their commonly accepted definitions, or, if competing definitions are available, the definition adopted must be given and used appropriately. Arguments offered must be cogent, and justifications must be applicable. Discussion of related literature must include relevant works from the reading list.

After a student submits their FoS papers, the members of the Committee will evaluate the papers individually, and communicate their evaluation to the Chair. If at least one Committee member votes to fail a submitted paper, or if one of the members of the Committee requests it, the Chair arranges a meeting of the Committee to discuss the papers. At the end of the discussion in that meeting, the Committee members vote again. If all but at most one members of the Committee vote to pass, the paper is passed.

The Chair will inform the student and the Graduate Program Director immediately after the Committee meeting, and in any case within two weeks of the Submission Deadline, which of the submitted papers passes. If one or both papers fail, the Committee will provide the student with written comments and suggestions for improving the paper, and set a new submission deadline for re-evaluation of the paper or papers, no sooner than two months and no later than six months from the original submission deadline (fail date).

If the Committee does not make a decision within two weeks of the Paper Submission Deadline, the Graduate Program Director will ensure that the Committee comes to a decision without further delay.

Only one resubmission of each paper is permitted. If the Committee determines a resubmitted paper is a fail, the student will be required to withdraw (see the Graduate Calendar, Academic Regulations – Candidacy – Candidacy Examination Outcomes). The graduate program must send the Recommendation of Required Withdrawal from Graduate Program for Failure to Maintain Academic Progress to gpoform@ucalgary.ca.


D. Field of study oral examination

Once both papers are passed, the Graduate Office schedules an oral examination, no later than four weeks after the Committee has evaluated and passed both papers.

The Graduate Program Director appoints a faculty member of the Philosophy Department not on the FoS Committee as Neutral Chair of the FoS Oral Examination Committee. The Neutral Chair is not a member of the examining committee and is non-voting.

Questions in the oral exam are restricted to the submitted papers and the approved reading lists. While the oral exam is not a re-evaluation of the papers, the student should be able to answer a) questions regarding how the topic and results of the paper relate to the broader area it is situated in and the literature on the specific topic or question, as well as b) questions that further probe and consider the implications of the claims, interpretations, arguments, examples, assumptions, and objections considered, made, or proposed in the paper itself.

D.1 Conduct of field of study oral examinations


Length of examination

The examination should not exceed two hours. This does not include the deliberation time of the Examination Committee.

Closed examination

Thesis proposal oral examinations are closed. Only the Examination Committee, the Neutral Chair, and the student examined may attend.

Examiners' questioning

No one other than a member of the examination Committee is allowed to question the student. All examiners should be given an opportunity to question the student during the early part of the examination, e.g., by rounds of questioning. Roughly equal time should be devoted to the major and minor area and paper.

Questions to the student should be clear and succinct. The student should be given reasonable time to answer. If the student has understood the question and cannot answer, the examiner should pass to another question and not attempt to extract an answer by prolonged interrogation, or by leading the student. The Chair should guard against any tendency of examiners to interact with each other instead of concentrating on the examination of the student.

The Neutral Chair must stop the exam if one of the examiners needs to leave the room and will reconvene the exam when all examiners are present.

Official examiners discussion

At the end of the examination, the student is asked to withdraw from the room. Before any discussion of the student’s performance, each examiner must identify, in a straw vote, which recommendation (pass/fail) they favour. They vote separately on each area. This provides the Committee with a frame of opinion on which to base a discussion of the student’s performance.

D.2 Outcomes of the field of study oral examination

Once the Committee discussion is concluded, the Committee votes on the student’s performance in the oral exam, separately on each area examined.

A vote of pass on the oral examination indicates that in the view of the Committee, the student has (1) satisfactorily answered questions about the context of the paper within the field delineated by the approved reading list; (2) can clearly articulate the motivation and contribution of the paper; and (3) has shown the ability to defend the views, arguments, and interpretations offered in the papers against relevant objections; (4) can situate the content of the paper in the broader disciplinary context.

Every effort should be made to reach a unanimous recommendation on both votes. Should the outcome of a final vote include at most one negative vote, the student will pass the respective paper. When both areas are passed, the student has completed the Field of Study Examination component of the candidacy requirements.

Failing the field of study oral examination

Should the outcome of the vote on one area of the oral examination include two or more negative votes, the Committee’s recommendation to the Graduate Program Director for the respective area will be “fail”. In the case of a fail,

The Neutral Chair

must inform the student of the Committee’s recommendation immediately following the vote of the examination committee.

The Examiners

write brief memos to the Graduate Program Director explaining the reasons for his/her vote and submit within five working days from the date of the examination.

The Graduate Program Director

may uphold the “fail” in the case of a clear fail or refer to FGS for decision in the case of an unclear fail. If the GPD upholds the “fail”, after consultation with the Supervisor, the Graduate Program Director then summarizes the essential points from the memos to the student, copied to the Supervisor.

The Graduate Program

must send the Notice of a Failed Candidacy Component to the student within ten working days from the date of the examination.

Re-take of examination

In the case of a failed Field of Study Oral Examination, the student will be permitted to re-take the exam once. The re-take will be based on the same papers and reading list as the first exam. If the outcome of the first exam was a fail on only one of the two areas, only the failed area and paper will be re-examined.

Only one re-take will be permitted. The re-take must take place no sooner than two months and no later than six months from the date of the first examination. Normally, the composition of the Committee will remain the same.

In reporting the results of the second examination, the Committee will be limited to recommending either a pass (i.e., no more than one negative vote), or fail.

A recommendation of “fail” requires that, within five working days:

  • each examiner must submit a confidential written report to the Graduate Program Director, copied to the Supervisor, detailing the reasons for his/her vote.

  • the Neutral Chair must also submit a written report of the examination procedures to the Graduate Program Director.

    If the Graduate Program Director upholds the recommendation to fail, the student will be required to withdraw from the Faculty of Graduate Studies. The graduate program must send the Recommendation of Required Withdrawal from Graduate Program for Failure to Maintain Academic Progress to gpoform@ucalgary.ca.


E. Thesis proposal and thesis proposal oral examination

Thesis proposals must be examined before the end of the 28th month in the program, therefore PhD students are encouraged to begin work on their thesis proposal as early as possible. The thesis proposal must have a well-motivated research question and it should highlight the research’s potential contribution to the philosophical literature. It should formulate the question, situate the question in the philosophical literature, formulate a plan for answering the question, and outline the proposed structure of the dissertation. The length of the Thesis Proposal will depend on the nature of the research; they are normally about 5,000 to 7,500 words (approximately 20 to 30 pages) not including the bibliography. Students should work closely with their Supervisor and Supervisory Committee to develop their Thesis Proposals. The Supervisory Committee will provide guidance and feedback on Thesis Proposal drafts before a final version is submitted for examination and approval. The Thesis Proposal must be submitted to all members of the Thesis Proposal examination committee at least two weeks before the examination.

E.1 Composition of the thesis proposal oral examination committee

The Thesis Proposal Examination Committee is composed of the student’s Supervisory Committee and two other examiners. The two examiners not on the Supervisory Committee can be Philosophy Department faculty members, or one Philosophy Department member and one member of another department. The student’s Supervisor will make the necessary arrangements for the composition of the Thesis Proposal Oral Examination and convey those arrangements to the Graduate Program Director. The Graduate Program Director shall ensure that no conflict of interest exists between the student or the Supervisor and the additional members of the examination committee. A Postdoctoral fellow whose Supervisor is on the Supervisory Committee may not serve on the examination committee (See Graduate Studies Conflict of Interest Policy). The Supervisor is a voting member of the Thesis Proposal Examination Committee.

The Graduate Program Director appoints a faculty member of the Philosophy Department as Neutral Chair of the Thesis Proposal Examination Committee. The Neutral Chair is not a member of the examining committee and is non-voting.

E.2 Scheduling of the thesis proposal oral examination

PhD students must take their Thesis Proposal Oral Examination within eight months of completion of their FoS examinations and within thirty days of submission of their Thesis Proposal to the Thesis Proposal Examination Committee. The student’s Supervisor will propose the date and time of the Thesis Proposal Oral Examination and, upon agreement with the student and Committee, will convey that information to the Graduate Program Director.

E.3 Conduct of thesis proposal oral examinations


Length of examination

The examination shall not exceed two hours. This does not include the deliberation time of the Examination Committee.

Closed examination

Thesis proposal oral examinations are closed. Only the Examination Committee, the Neutral Chair, and the student may attend.

Examiners' questioning

No one other than a member of the examination Committee is allowed to question the student. All examiners should be given an opportunity to question the student during the early part of the examination, e.g., by rounds of questioning.

Questions to the student should be clear and succinct. The student should be given reasonable time to answer. If the student has understood the question and cannot answer, the examiner should pass to another question and not attempt to extract an answer by prolonged interrogation, or by leading the student. The Chair should guard against any tendency of examiners to interact with each other instead of concentrating on the examination of the student.

The Neutral Chair must stop the exam if one of the examiners needs to leave the room and will reconvene the exam when all examiners are present.

Official examiners' discussion

At the end of the examination, the student is asked to withdraw from the room. Before any discussion of the student’s performance, each examiner must identify, in a straw vote, which recommendation (pass/fail) they favour. This provides the Committee with a frame of opinion on which to base a discussion of the student’s performance.

E.4 Outcomes of the thesis proposal oral examination

Passing the Thesis Proposal Oral Examination and Accepting the Thesis Proposal

Once the committee discussion is concluded, the committee votes on the outcome of the Thesis Proposal Oral Examination.

A vote of pass indicates that in the view of the Committee, the student (1) has articulated a clear and feasible research project or question, (2) has demonstrated knowledge of the context of the project topic by providing a competent and up-to-date literature review, (3) has articulated a promising approach to addressing the research question, (4) has answered questions about previous or competing contributions to the topic satisfactorily, (5) can clearly articulate the motivation and importance of the proposed research, and (6) has shown the ability to defend the proposed view or approach against objections or to formulate strategies for doing so.

Every effort should be made to reach a unanimous recommendation. Should the outcome of a final vote include at most one negative vote, the student will pass.

Passing the Thesis Proposal Oral Examination constitutes acceptance of the Thesis Proposal.

Failing the thesis proposal or thesis proposal oral examination

Should the outcome of the vote include two or more negative votes, the Committee’s recommendation to the Graduate Program Director will be “fail”. In the case of a fail,

The Neutral Chair

must inform the student of the Committee’s recommendation immediately following the vote of the examination committee.

The Examiners

write brief memos to the Graduate Program Director explaining the reasons for his/her vote and submit within five working days from the date of the examination.

The Graduate Program Director

may uphold the “fail” in the case of a clear fail or refer to FGS for decision in the case of an unclear fail. If the GPD upholds the “fail”, after consultation with the Supervisor, the Graduate Program Director then summarizes the essential points from the memos to the student, copied to the Supervisor.

The Graduate Program

must send the Notice of a Failed Candidacy Component to the student within ten working days from the date of the examination.

E.6 Re-take of examination

In the case of a failed Thesis Proposal Oral Examination, the student will be permitted to re-take the exam.

Only one re-take will be permitted. The re-take must take place no sooner than two months and no later than six months from the date of the first examination. Normally, the composition of the Committee will remain the same. The members of the Committee will communicate to the student which changes to the Thesis Proposal, if any, they consider necessary, and the student should work with their Supervisory Committee to revise the Thesis Proposal. The revised Thesis Proposal must be submitted to all members of the Thesis Proposal Examination Committee at least two weeks before the examination.

In reporting the results of the second examination, the Committee will be limited to recommending either a pass (i.e., no more than one negative vote), or fail.

A recommendation of “fail” requires that, within five working days:

  • each examiner must submit a confidential written report to the Graduate Program Director, copied to the Supervisor, detailing the reasons for his/her vote.

  • the Neutral Chair must also submit a written report of the examination procedures to the Graduate Program Director.

    If the Graduate Program Director upholds the recommendation to fail, the student will be required to withdraw from the Faculty of Graduate Studies. The graduate program must send the Recommendation of Required Withdrawal from Graduate Program for Failure to Maintain Academic Progress to gpoform@ucalgary.ca.