PhD Dissertation: Selection and Approval of Topics

  1. See Section II.D.(1) of this handbook for some general comments on the selection of dissertation topics.


  1. See Section I.B.(7) above regarding Dissertation Supervisor and Supervisory Committee.


  1. Students are reminded that Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies policy stipulates that “A student who is not admitted to candidacy within 36 months from date of initial registration must withdraw from the program.” “Candidacy” in Political Science is conferred on completion of course requirements and approval of the dissertation prospectus and presentation to the POLI 649 seminar.


Within 36 months of their date of entry into the program, PhD students must be admitted to candidacy, which means completion of all coursework requirements and approval of the thesis proposal. Students should work closely with their thesis supervisor and committee to develop a thesis proposal (typically about 25 pages double-spaced), which usually includes the following: a statement of the question or nature of the problem; the existing state of knowledge on the topic, which includes a concise survey of the bodies of relevant literature; the expected contribution of the thesis; the specific research methods to be employed in the study; and a projected chapter outline. Once the thesis committee approves the prospectus, the student must fill out the Doctoral Dissertation Proposal Approval form and submit it to the Director of the Graduate Program. Upon approval by the Director of the Graduate Program, the student must then present the proposal to the POLI 649 seminar, the scheduling of which the student will coordinate with their committee and the Graduate Secretary.

All faculty and graduate students are invited to attend the 649 seminars. Committee members are expected to attend, as are all PhD students in residence.


  1. The task of giving approval to a dissertation topic is not undertaken lightly. It is important to bear in mind that the student may spend the equivalent of two or more years on research and writing.  The initial discussions on the dissertation proposal should explore, therefore, all conceivable problems that may arise in the subsequent research so that any necessary modifications can be made sufficiently early.  Approval of a dissertation proposal should not be given without the assurance that the candidate has or will acquire the necessary language competence and methodological skills to undertake his/her dissertation research.


  1. The student’s supervisory committee must meet at least once before approval of the prospectus and the POLI 649 seminar.


  1. After the POLI 649 seminar, a copy of the dissertation prospectus, amended where necessary, should be placed in the student’s file along with the 649 approval form.


  1. The candidate is expected to maintain frequent contact with his/her Supervisor and Supervisory Committee in order to receive advice and to report on the progress of the research. If the candidate’s research does not permit him/her to be in Vancouver, such reports can be submitted by mail or email.  Reports may be requested of the candidate by his/her Committee.  (Students should consult the G+PS publications, “Guidelines for the Various Parties Involved in Graduate Student Dissertation Research” for a description of general norms.)


  1. It is expected that, in the progress of their research, candidates may slightly change the nature of their topics. Major changes, however, can be made only with the approval of the Supervisory Committee.  A major change, moreover, may require the formation of a new Committee for the candidate.