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Wilfrid Laurier University Faculty of Arts
November 28, 2015
Canadian Excellence

PhD Program Requirements

a)    Admission standards

Admission to the PhD Program normally requires an MA in English, an MA in Cinema/Film Studies, or an equivalent degree with at least an A- average in graduate work. Applications are considered by the Graduate Studies Committee and a recommendation to admit or decline is forwarded to the Dean of Graduate Studies.  Admission standards are rigorous and involve three letters of recommendation, official transcripts, a writing sample and a proposed program of study.  The program is dedicated to maintaining the highest possible standards with regard to admissions.

b)    Program requirements

The PhD Candidacy exams are constituted by a) Comprehensive Area Exam and the b) Specialization Area Exam. These exams prepare students in an area of specialization for teaching and research.  The two areas complement and reinforce each other, but are graded separately. The Comprehensive will be comprised primarily of canonical texts for a teachable area, while the Specialization may cover, in-depth, both the canonical and the non-canonical texts necessary for the dissertation.   

c)    Course requirements

In their first year of study, PhD students are required to take four 0.5 credit courses, typically two in each term.

d)    PhD Area Exams and Schedule

Term 1   Fall                            
Term 2 Winter
Term 3 Spring/ Sum
Any Term
Year 1 2 courses
2 courses

Area Exam

 Year 2
CAE written (December)
Specialization Area Exam (SAE); draft Dissertation Proposal due
SAE written (August); Dissertation Proposal due 8 weeks later

 Year 3
 Dissertation  Dissertation  Language exam (Fall or Winter)
 Year 4
 Dissertation  Dissertation Defense

Schedule for Years One and Two

Year One (Terms 1 & 2):
1) In December, the student consults the Graduate Officer to determine the constitution of the overall Area Exam committee based upon the plan of research and study for the dissertation.

2) The committee, including the dissertation supervisor, plus two other members with expertise in one or more of the areas the student wishes to pursue, is selected by January, Year 1.  

3) One overarching area of study—genre, period, movement, nation, theory—is chosen by the student for the purpose of developing a recognized teachable strength and to form a general background for the Specialization.

4) The study selection outlined above will constitute the "Comprehensive Area Exam" and the reading list will be provided by the department. from a series of set lists updated yearly to reflect changes in the discipline.

5) The reading list will involve 90-100 "text units," where each text unit is equal to six hours of reading. An exact definition of “text unit” is impossible; however, a practical outline of its sense is offered in the following descriptive guidelines:

A text such as Pride and Prejudice, which can be read in six hours, constitutes one “text unit,” and would form one of the readings on the list.

An average feature-length film of 90-120 minutes constitutes two-thirds of a “text unit” (since films do not have a fixed length, the count is based on a viewing and reviewing of the film – approximately 4 hours = two-thirds of 6 hours).

The committee will determine the number of works equivalent to the 90-100 “ text units” required because a complex theoretical article or experimental novel may take more time than, say, a review article or a historical overview of a literary period or era.  The committee, for example, might determine the following “ text unit” values:
    i.) Derrida’s Of Grammatology = eighteen hours of reading = three text units
    ii.) The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner = nine hours of reading = one and a half text units.
    iii.) The film, The Birth of A Nation = 3x3 hours of viewing = one and a half text units

Note:  To be sure that requirements, policies, and guidelines are followed, the supervisor meets with the student at least once a term in winter and spring.

First week of December, Year Two:
1)    The student writes a take home exam (of a one week maximum duration) where there is a choice of 3 out of 5 essays questions, each of which requires approx.  eight to ten pages of double-spaced typed writing.
2)    Evaluation:  The 3 essay questions will be weighted equally.
3)    If a student should fail the Comprehensive area exam, the student is allowed one chance to rewrite the exam within two months of receiving the failed grade.

February 1, Year Two:
The student submits a reading list for the Specialization Area Exam to the committee for approval. This list will be self-directed in consultation with the examining committee, of 70-80 works (= 90-100 text units). Text unit values apply, as above.

March 1, Year Two
1)     The student writes a draft dissertation proposal of approximately 6-8 pages, and a Works Cited which is handed in for approval to the student’s SAE committee and copied to the Graduate Studies Committee.  The Graduate Studies Committee should respond to the proposal within four weeks of submission.
2)    The student begins studying for Specialization Area Exam, directly pertinent to the dissertation.

Late August, Year Two:

1)    The student completes on campus the written exam (1 essay out of 3 questions).
2)    The student takes the oral exam (two hours), which is devoted to questions on the reading list as a whole, within one week of written exam.
3)    Evaluation: 40% for written exam; 60% for oral exam.
4)    As soon as possible, and normally not more than eight weeks after the oral exam, the student submits a formal dissertation proposal to the SAE committee, taking into account any recommendations of the SAE examination committee. The formal dissertation proposal and the FGPS form must be copied to the Graduate Studies Committee before being passed to the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies.
5)    If a student should fail the Specialization Area Examination, the student is allowed one chance to rewrite it within four months of receiving the failed grade.

September, Year Three:
1) The student begins work on the dissertation.

a)    PhD Dissertation

Following successful completion of the two Area Seminars, the student must complete an original research project on an advanced topic. The advisory committee for the dissertation will consist of three members of the graduate faculty, one of whom will assume the primary advisory role. The dissertation should normally be between 50, 000 and 75, 000 words in length. The regulations and procedures at the university in which the student is registered will govern both the dissertation and the examination formats.

b)    Language Requirement

Doctoral students are required to demonstrate reading proficiency in at least one language other than modern English. (French is the recommended language though students may propose a language other than French if it has direct relevance to the student’s program of study.) The language exam must be completed in Year 3 of the student’s program.

If the student proposes a language other than French, the selection of the language will be determined by the student in consultation with the dissertation advisor, and a written request, in the form of a one-page rationale, must be submitted for approval by the Graduate Studies Committee. A student may also submit for approval by the Graduate Studies Committee a written request to have the language requirement waived where evidence of demonstrated proficiency in a relevant second language can be provided. (Any such request must be submitted to the Graduate Program Coordinator no later than the Winter term of the student’s second year in the program.) Credit will not normally be given for the completion of an undergraduate-level language course.

c)    Program Standing

A minimum standing of B+ in all prescribed graduate courses and seminars is required. Students are normally expected to maintain an A- average in the program. A student who twice fails the Comprehensive Area Exam, the Specialization Area Exam, or the language exam will normally be required to withdraw from the program. In April 15 of each year of registration, a student is required to complete an annual research Progress Report detailing the achievements of the previous year and the objectives for the next year. The report must demonstrate satisfactory progress, and must be signed with comments by the advisor and Grad. Co-ordinator, and filed with the Graduate Co-ordinator and the Graduate Studies Office. Failure to submit a satisfactory report may result in a suspension of the student’s funding or the student being required to withdraw from the program.

d)    Residency Regulation

At least five terms of full-time study must be devoted to the doctoral program following the completion of a recognized Master's degree.