The doctoral dissertation must be an original contribution to historical knowledge, based upon primary sources. The PhD candidate is strongly advised to select a dissertation topic and research supervisor as early as possible, and to begin work on the dissertation within one of the research seminars. The dissertation must not exceed 400 pages, including footnotes, bibliography, and appendices.
Dissertation Supervisor and Dissertation Committee
When a student has completed all coursework and the comprehensive examinations, the candidate and Graduate Advisor establish a Dissertation Committee. This Committee is composed of a minimum of three faculty members including the Dissertation Supervisor and is presided over by the Dissertation Supervisor. Although the supervisory work is largely done by the Dissertation Supervisor, the final responsibility for supervision, for approving the dissertation proposal, for judging the acceptability of the dissertation, and for recommending its submission to the University Thesis Examining Committee rests with the Dissertation Committee.
Candidates are required to present a dissertation proposal for approval by the Dissertation Committee. The dissertation prospectus is usually presented between one month to no later than four months after completion of the PhD comprehensive examinations. Candidates should first present to the Dissertation Supervisor a 10-12 page prospectus indicating the nature of the problem the candidate plans to investigate, the body of literature relevant to the problem and the candidate's expected contribution to that literature, the specific research methods and plans to be followed in the study, the availability and accessibility of the relevant materials including specific archival collections and other sources, and a tentative schedule for research and writing. After consultation with the Dissertation Supervisor, the prospectus must then be presented to the Dissertation Committee for their suggestions and approval. If one of the Dissertation Committee members cannot attend this presentation, another faculty member will join the committee for the discussion of the prospectus. A student who is not admitted to candidacy within a period of three years from the date of initial registration will be required to withdraw from the program.
Admission to Candidacy
Once candidates have completed their residency period, completed all required coursework, passed their comprehensive examinations, and the dissertation proposal has been approved by the Dissertation Committee, the student is admitted to candidacy and may proceed with the dissertation. A student who is not admitted to candidacy within three years from the date of initial registration will normally be required to withdraw from the program.
Progress Reports and the Role of the Dissertation Committee
There should be frequent contact between candidates and thesis supervisors to facilitate the giving of advice and the reporting of research progress. The Dissertation Supervisor should be available, even when on leave. The Faculty of Graduate Studies suggests that there be contact between students and supervisors at least every three months. The Dissertation Committee may also request progress reports from a candidate. If research prevents the candidate from being in Vancouver, such reports may be submitted by arrangement with the supervisor and/or Dissertation Committee by mail or e-mail. While the Dissertation Committee should be an important source of advice and aid to the student, it is not responsible for the final quality of the dissertation. Its responsibility is to see that the candidate does the best possible job within a reasonable period of time, and then to decide, after discussions with the candidate, whether the dissertation should be laid before a University Committee for evaluation. The dissertation committee must be convinced of the quality and acceptability of the dissertation before approving its submission to the External Examiner, which begins the process of its submission for public examination to the University Thesis Examining Committee. The final examination of the dissertation by the University Thesis Examining Committee is not a mere formality. Candidates may be asked to undertake revisions, or the dissertation may be rejected at this stage. For further information on the composition of the University Thesis Examining Committee and the results of examinations see the Faculty of Graduate Studies document "The Final Oral Examination: Guide for Doctoral Candidates." Candidates should acquaint themselves with the submission procedures and technical requirements for formatting of theses. These requirements are listed in the Faculty of Graduate Studies document "Instructions for the Preparation of Graduate Theses."