PhD candidacy

PhD candidacy process

Before doctoral students can begin work on their doctoral dissertations, they must successfully complete their doctoral candidacy requirements.

All doctoral students in Political Science must successfully complete the following components to become a doctoral candidate:

  1. Required Course Work
  2. Field of Study (FoS) Written Examinations
  3. Field of Study (FoS) Oral Examination
  4. Thesis Proposal
  5. Language Requirement (If Applicable)

The purpose of the candidacy requirements is to ensure that doctoral students have the necessary background to develop and sustain a high-quality teaching and research program in the discipline of Political Science.

For successful completion of the candidacy requirements a student must demonstrate: (i) familiarity with the most important literature, methodologies/approaches, and arguments in her or his Primary Field and Secondary Field; (ii) ability to read critically; and, (iii) ability to express arguments in written and oral form.

The Department of Political Science strongly recommends that doctoral students complete all candidacy requirements in 20 months and all degree requirements within four years. Although the Faculty of Graduate Studies permits 28 months and six years, respectively, it is expected that most candidates will complete program requirements within four years.

Phase 1

Component

  • Course work

Component start

  • Year I: Sept  

 Component completion

  • Year I: Apr or Aug

# Months from Program Start

  • 8 or 12 months

Phase 2

Component

  • FoS Written Examinations   

Component start

  • Year II: Fall or Winter

 Component completion

  • Year II: Fall or Winter 

# Months from Program Start

  • 15 or 19 months

Phase 3

Component

  • FoS Oral Examination

Component start

  • Year II: Fall or Winter

 Component completion

  • Year II: Fall or Winter  

# Months from Program Start

  • 16 or 20 months

Phase 4

Component

  • Thesis Proposal and Meeting

Component start

  • Year II: Fall or Winter  

 Component completion

  • Year II: Winter or Spring

# Months from Program Start

  • 20 or 24 months

Phase 5

Component

  • Optional Language Requirement    

Component start

  • Year I

 Component completion

  • Year II: Winter or Spring

# Months from Program Start

  • 20 or 24 months

.

PhD course requirements

Doctoral students in the Department of Political Science must complete a minimum of 18 units (3.0 Full-Course Equivalents). However, the following conditions apply:

  • At least 12 units (2.0 FCE) must be taken in the Department of Political Science at the University of Calgary.
  • At least six units (1.0 FCE) must be taken in the student’s chosen Primary Field and at least six units (1.0 FCE) must be taken in the student’s chosen Secondary Field. A student’s Primary and Secondary Fields will consist of any two of Canadian Politics, Comparative Politics, International Relations, or Political Thought.
  • A maximum of six units (1.0 FCE) may be reading courses. Please note: proposed reading courses must have a course outline submitted to the Head and approval from the Head.
  • PhD students must demonstrate (normally through previous course work) basic knowledge of research methods equivalent to POLI 399. Students who cannot do so must take POLI 691. If students are required to take Political Science 691, it will be included in these 18 units (3.0 full-course equivalents). Students who have an equivalent of Political Science 399 will still be required to take 18 units (3.0 full-course equivalents).

Normally, students will complete all of their 18 units (3.0 FCE) of course work over the Fall and Winter semesters of their first year.

Students normally take courses leading toward their Field of Study (FOS) written examinations in their Primary and Secondary Fields. Students should consult with their Supervisor and look at the relevant Field reading lists when selecting courses. Students must submit a Course Approval form.

Students may take a maximum of 6 units (1.0 full-course equivalents) as reading courses. Each reading course must be approved by the Department Head. The Head’s approval of reading courses will be guided by the following understandings:

  • Reading courses should aim to develop a broad understanding of the student’s Primary Field, Secondary Field (if applicable), and/or the discipline of Political Science as a whole.
  • Minimum enrolment levels in existing course offerings ought to be maintained and therefore students should select their courses from within the existing offerings. Doing so will allow students to take courses in a seminar setting with their peers and faculty to deliver courses on- rather than off-load.
  • Reading course requests will be more favourably considered if they come from faculty members who have not taught/are not currently teaching the student or who have not had a chance to teach graduate courses.

Please see the Faculty of Graduate Studies Calendar under “Academic Standing” for the FGS requirements concerning “adequate progress” and the conditions that lead to “poor academic standing” in the course work component.

The University recognizes that there are instances when a student may wish to challenge University decisions about grades or academic policy. When a dispute arises, every effort should be made to resolve the issues informally rather than resort to a formal appeal. If, however, a formal appeal is necessary, the student should follow the Appeals Procedures in the most recent Faculty of Graduate Studies Calendar.


PhD field of studies (FoS) written examinations

Political Science doctoral students must successfully complete two FoS written examinations: (i) one written FoS examination in their chosen Primary Field; and, (ii) a second written FoS examination in their chosen Secondary Field.

At the end of the Winter Semester, the Department of Political Science will announce two FoS written examination periods, of approximately one-week in length each, for the following academic year. Normally, one examination period will occur in the Fall semester, and one in the Winter semester.

Doctoral students will take both their Primary Field FoS written examination and their Secondary Field FoS written examination in the same one-week examination period. Normally the Primary Field examination will be written at the beginning of the examination period and the Secondary Field examination will be written at the end.

Although two examination periods will be available each year, students are advised to take their FoS written examinations in the first available examination period.

Each FoS written examination will be a three-hour, closed-book, on-site examination written in the Department of Political Science. Each examination may be written on a computer whose internet connection is off.

Normally, the regularly reviewed Field reading lists (posted on the Department website) provide both the structure for the FoS written examinations as well as the broad areas within each Field to be tested through questions (see “Setting the Questions” below). If needed, Supervisors may draw up individualized reading lists to better respond to a student’s research interests. Normally, each Field reading list specifies three sections, with the student answering one question per section.

Normally, students will be able to choose from a number of questions within each designated section of a FoS written examination. Generally, examination questions are broad and open-ended to allow students to demonstrate their breadth of core knowledge in their chosen Fields.

The Supervisor will set the FoS written examinations but will solicit input on questions from the FoS examination committee members (see below) and the relevant Field caucuses. (Field caucuses are made up of faculty members who research and/or teach in one of the following designated Fields: Canadian Politics, Comparative Politics, International Relations, or Political Thought.) The examination committee and Field caucus members must have access to any individualized reading lists and individualized examination structure.

At least one week before the written examination period, a draft of the questions must be approved by the FoS examination committee, with a copy to the Graduate Program Director. In the event of a dispute, the Graduate Program Director will make the final ruling on examination questions.

As soon as possible after the completion of the course work requirements, if not earlier, the student should meet with her or his Supervisor and Supervisory Committee to discuss the Field reading lists and FoS written examination structure. Students are responsible for adequately preparing for the FoS written examinations but should regularly consult with their Supervisors and Supervisory Committees to develop strategies for preparation, mock questions, and so on.

The FoS examination committee will consist of the Supervisory Committee plus two additional Departmental members. When possible, two of the examination committee members will have taught the student in her or his Secondary Field at the graduate level.

Within one week of receiving the student’s completed Primary Field and Secondary Field FoS written examinations, each member of the examination committee will evaluate the written examinations, judging whether each is of sufficient quality to pass on to the FoS oral examination.

Overall, each written examination must demonstrate a critical analysis of the questions or topics posed, as well as informed, insightful, and well-reasoned responses that incorporate knowledge of the relevant Field.

If a written examination is judged, overall, to be of sufficient quality, the committee member will give that examination a “pass”. If a written examination, overall, is determined by the committee member to be a “fail”, he or she will provide a brief account of that examination’s shortcomings and suggest what remedial actions are needed. Each committee member will submit to the Graduate Program Director her or his assessment of each of the two examinations (i.e., “pass” or “fail” plus remedial actions recommended) within one week of receiving the completed FoS written examinations.

A FoS written examination is a “pass” if the majority of the FoS examination committee has judged the examination to be a “pass”. In case of a tied vote, or if the majority have judged the exam to be a “fail,” the written examination will be a “fail”.

The Graduate Program Director will inform the student and examining committee members of the results for both written examinations within one business day of receiving the examination committee member’s assessment.

Both Primary Field and Secondary Field FoS written examinations must be a “pass” for the FoS written examinations component to be successfully completed.

If one FoS written examination is a “fail,” a re-take examination in that Field will be permitted. If both FoS written examinations are a “fail,” then re-take examinations in both Fields will be permitted. Normally, all re-take examinations will be written within six months and, if necessary, outside of a regularly scheduled examination period. Doctoral students in the Department of Political Science may make two attempts to successfully complete the FoS written examinations requirement, after which they will be required to withdraw from the program.

In the case of failed outcomes, students have the right to appeal. Students must appeal directly to the Faculty of Graduate Studies. Please see the Faculty of Graduate Studies Calendar, “Faculty of Graduate Studies Appeal Process.”


PhD field of study (FoS) oral examination

Political Science doctoral students must successfully complete a single oral FoS examination which treats both their Primary and Secondary Fields.

Normally, the FoS oral examination will occur within four weeks of completion of the FoS written examinations.

The FoS oral examination will consist of rounds of questions by members of the FoS examination committee.

The oral examination should not exceed two hours, not including the deliberation time of the FoS examination committee.
Students are allowed to take notes while a question is being asked. However, they are not permitted to bring other materials into the examination except for hard-copies of their FoS written examination questions, their written answers, and the Field reading lists.

The questions asked of the student during the FoS oral examination will come from the members of the FoS examination committee and will not be circulated to the student. However, the student’s FoS written examination answers will be circulated among the examiners and may serve as a basis for questioning at the oral.

The examination committee used in the FoS written examinations will also conduct the FoS oral examination.

Each member of the examination committee will have the opportunity to question the student and will evaluate the student’s oral responses only. Overall, answers must demonstrate a critical analysis of the questions or topics posed, as well as informed, insightful, and well-reasoned responses that incorporate knowledge of the relevant Field.

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 which recommendation (pass/fail) he/she favours. This provides the committee with a frame of opinion on which to base a discussion of the student’s performance.

The FoS oral examination is a closed exam.

Successful completion of the FoS oral examination component is achieved when the final vote of the FoS examination committee is for a “pass”. Should the outcome of the final vote include one negative vote, the student will pass.

Should the outcome be two or more negative votes, the FoS examination committee’s recommendation to the Graduate Program Director will be “fail.”

Doctoral students in the Department of Political Science may make two attempts to successfully complete the FoS oral examination requirement, after which they will be required to withdraw from the program.

In the case of failed outcomes, students have the right to appeal. Students must appeal directly to the Faculty of Graduate Studies. Please see the Faculty of Graduate Studies Calendar, “Faculty of Graduate Studies Appeal Process.”

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.

Current PhD field of study reading lists

Doctoral students will complete one written FoS in their primary field, and one written FoS examination in their secondary field, followed by an oral FoS examination of both fields.

To help doctoral students prepare for these examinations, faculty members from each field normally annually review the Field Instructions and Reading Lists.

  1. Canadian Politics Field Instructions and Reading List
  2. Comparative Politics Field Instructions and Reading List
  3. International Relations Field Instructions and Reading List
  4. Political Theory Field Instructions and Reading List
     

There are two Field of Study (FoS) examination periods: normally, one in the Fall and one in the Winter. Both primary and secondary field FoS written examinations are taken in the same examination period.

Although two examination periods are available, students are advised to take their FoS written examinations in the first available examination period.

•    Fall Field of Study Fall Examination Period: normally sometime between November-December
•    Winter Field Of Study Winter Examination Period: normally sometime between Apr-May

For full details on the scheduling of your FoS examinations contact the Graduate Program Administrator.


Thesis proposal

Doctoral students must complete a written Thesis Proposal, which is approved by their Supervisory Committee in a Thesis Proposal Meeting.

Normally, students will begin their Thesis Proposal immediately after the successful conclusion of the FoS oral examination and complete their Thesis Proposal within four months. Following completion, the Thesis Proposal will be evaluated in a Thesis Proposal Meeting.

The student should work closely with the Supervisory Committee when developing the Thesis Proposal. The Supervisor is the primary advisor.

The Thesis Proposal sets out the student’s proposed research, locates it in the context of the relevant academic literature, explains its potential contribution to that literature, and outlines in detail the proposed methodology that will be used in the research. In addition, the Thesis Proposal must include a realistic completion schedule outlining the relevant phases of the research and writing of the doctoral dissertation. This schedule should include a timeline of when draft chapters are to be distributed to the Supervisor and Supervisory Committee.

Normally, the Thesis Proposal will be no longer than 5000 words, excluding citations, bibliography, and the dissertation completion schedule.

When ready, the written Thesis Proposal will be assessed in a Meeting of the student and Supervisory Committee. The primary purpose of the Thesis Proposal Meeting is to provide students with an opportunity to present and discuss their research plan.

In this meeting, every member of the Supervisory Committee will have a chance to question the student on the Thesis Proposal and to provide constructive feedback.

The Thesis Proposal Meeting should last no more than two hours, not including deliberation. The Thesis Proposal Meeting is open.

Approval of the Thesis Proposal component of candidacy is achieved when the Supervisory Committee judges the Thesis Proposal to demonstrate that the project in its details can be carried out by the student in a reasonable time and with the likelihood that the project could meet or exceed the Faculty of Graduate Studies’ requirements for doctoral thesis quality (see Faculty of Graduate Studies Calendar, “Quality of Thesis”).

When evaluating the Thesis Proposal, the options available to the Supervisory Committee are “Approved without revisions,” “Approved with minor revisions,” “Approved pending major revisions,” and “Not Approved.”

A second Thesis Proposal Meeting is required only in the case of a Thesis Proposal, which is “Not Approved.”

If minor revisions are required (normally, the revision which can be completed within two weeks), the Thesis Proposal can be approved at the conclusion of the meeting. If major revisions are required (normally, revisions which can be completed within four weeks), the Supervisory Committee members will withhold their approval until an acceptable version of the Thesis Proposal is delivered.

Approved Thesis Proposals (with all necessary revisions made and schedules for completion attached) will be submitted to the Graduate Program Director.

 

If a Thesis Proposal is “Not Approved,” the student will be requested to remedy the problematic areas identified in writing by the Supervisory Committee and resubmit the Thesis Proposal.

As per FGS requirements, the Thesis Proposal must be revised and resubmitted within two to six months of receiving notification of the failure and a second Thesis Proposal Meeting held.

Doctoral students in the Department of Political Science may make two attempts to successfully complete the Thesis Proposal component, after both attempts they will be required to withdraw from the program.

In the case of failed outcomes, students have the right to appeal. Students must appeal directly to the Faculty of Graduate Studies. Please see the Faculty of Graduate Studies Calendar, “Faculty of Graduate Studies Appeal Process.”


Language requirement (if applicable)

The Department of Political Science does not require Doctoral students to undertake other- than-English language training as part of the candidacy requirements. However, the Department does permit a Supervisor, where the dissertation topic warrants or Field expectations apply, to require a working knowledge of a language other-than-English as a requirement of candidacy for her or his student.

A Supervisor requiring the addition of the language requirement, must file a letter with the Graduate Program Director, signed by both Supervisor and student, specifying: (i) the language, (ii) the reason for its inclusion as a candidacy requirement, and (iii) the criteria for successful completion of this requirement (such as: the achievement of a particular Government of Canada Second Language Evaluation score for French or a Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) level; certification through a recognized language or cultural institute (e.g., the Goethe Institut); university language courses; and the like)

Students who already have a language requirement must complete it within the FGS-specified 28 months to complete all candidacy requirements.
Normally, the student should complete this requirement at the same time as the Thesis Proposal is completed.

The student must meet the agreed-upon criteria for successful completion specified in the letter specifying the additional language requirement (see “Optional Language Requirement” above).