PhD Program

The PhD in Germanic Studies program focuses on the application of critical theories and the development of discipline-related expertise. Students develop this expertise in experiences ranging from one-on-one discussions and small tutorial groups to formal seminars and lectures.

Upon entering the PhD program, students will determine their course of study in consultation with the Graduate Advisor and other Graduate Faculty.

Program Requirements

In order to complete the PhD in Germanic Studies program, students must complete a total of 18 credits under the following requirements:

  • GERM 500: Research Methods (3 credits)
  • GERM 501: Literary Theories (3 credits)
    • Or GERM 505: The Acquisition of German as an Additional Language (3 credits)
    • Or GERM 506: Intercultural Competence (3 credits)
  • Elective Courses (12 credits)
    • Electives must be approved Germanic Studies courses at the 500-level. Chosen electives must cover at least one course in literary or cultural history (any course GERM 510-520).
    • Also, one of your electives must have a methodological focus (any course GERM 500-510).
  • GERM 649: Doctoral Dissertation (0 credits)

With approval from the Graduate Advisor, students may enrol in courses offered by other academic units on campus.

Procedure: Students wishing to be granted credit toward their degree for courses taken outside of the program must do the following:

  • Send a request to the Graduate Advisor asking for the desired course to be counted for elective credit. Include a brief rationale as to why the course is related to your course of study/research interests.
  • If accepted, the Graduate Advisor will send the student an email indicating official approval of the substitute course. A copy of the approval will also be sent to the Graduate Program Assistant for the student’s file.

GERM 547 – Guided Research (Directed Studies) Students who need help developing a research focus or a thesis topic are advised to take German 547 (3/6) in their second year, with approval from the Graduate Advisor. Students have the opportunity to take this course with a Graduate Faculty member who agrees to supervise them. Students may take a maximum of 6 credits of GERM 547.

Procedure: Students should approach a Graduate Faculty member with either a research proposal or syllabus (including a reading list) and seek approval for a feasible project. A timetable for completion should also be agreed upon. Guided Research can be worth (3) or (6) credits. If approved, the Graduate Advisor will ask the Graduate Program Assistant to proceed with the student’s registration.

The student’s supervisor and/or the Graduate Advisor may recommend that competence in another area of expertise (e.g, a third language) is necessary for the student's program of research.

Mandatory Workshops

Graduate Students are encouraged to become Teaching Assistants (TAs) as part of their program. All TAs must successfully complete one of the Instructional Skills Workshops (ISW).

Doctoral Candidacy Examinations will test the student's ability to deal with acquired information critically. Examinations are taken after the course requirements have been met (normally at the end of the second year). The exams must be scheduled in consultation with the student’s committee members and the Graduate Advisor.

*Please note, a student who is not admitted to candidacy within 36 months from the date of initial registration must withdraw from the program.

There are three components of the exam:

  • Students will write two essays on negotiated areas of research, covered synchronically and diachronically,
  • One oral examination of approximately two hours based on questions raised in the written part of the examination.

Questions in both the oral and written examinations will be based on a reading list created by the candidate in consultation with the examination committee. The list should contain no fewer than 100 titles of primary and secondary sources and theoretical texts (formatted in MLA style). The list should be finalized by the candidate and approved by the committee at least three months prior to the date of the oral examination. The approved final list must be sent to the Graduate Program Assistant and the Graduate Advisor.

Essay/ Written-Examination Details

There are two possible formats for the written-examination that students can select:

  • Two take-home papers of at least 15 double-spaced pages which must be written within one month of each other. At the designated start of the exam period (i.e., the agreed timing of the candidacy exams), the student is given two weeks to propose at least three possible exam topics/questions to the committee. The committee selects an exam topic/question, and the candidate will be given three days to write a paper on the assigned topic. The process repeats for the second exam.
  • Two in-camera examinations of three hours each, written within a week of each other. In each of the two examinations, the student will write an essay on one of three topics from the list submitted to the committee.

The topics of these papers may be revised by the exam committee as is necessary.

In exceptional cases, one of the two papers may be replaced by an appropriate article, published, or accepted for publication in a refereed scholarly journal. Students who wish to propose a publication to be accepted in lieu of one of the written exams should consult the Graduate Advisor.

Oral Examination Details

The oral exam takes approximately two hours to complete and is based on the student's essays, the questions raised by the essays, and the overall reading list.

If not already serving on the committee, the Graduate Advisor will chair the exam. The student will select three other exam committee members from the CENES Graduate Faculty who are close to the negotiated areas of research, including the student’s supervisor. Exceptions to the committee structure (e.g., inclusion of Graduate Faculty from other programs) may be approved by the Graduate Advisor on a case-by-case basis. If the Graduate Advisor or exam committee chair has been involved with the candidate in mentoring, thesis or research supervision, another Graduate Faculty member at arm’s length must replace them. The exam committee chair will only oversee the exam procedures (without a vote).

Following the discussion, the student is asked to leave the room. The exam chair (either the Graduate Advisor or an arm’s-length Graduate Faculty member) will moderate the in-camera discussion about the student’s performance in the exam. The committee must evaluate the student’s performance in both the written and oral portions of the exam, assigning an outcome of Unconditional Pass, Conditional Pass, or Fail.

For a Conditional Pass, the committee may require the student, e.g., to write a paper or address some aspect of their preparation before advancing fully to candidacy. If the committee finds that the student has failed the oral exam, a re-examination must be scheduled. Upon passing the oral exam, the student’s exam committee is dissolved. Committee members may join the eventual thesis supervisory committee, but there is no obligation to do so. There is no grade assigned for the exams. The exam chair will communicate the exam results to the student and will inform the graduate program office about the outcome of the oral exam in writing.

A doctoral student will be admitted to candidacy when they meet the following basic requirements:

  • All required coursework (18 credits) has been successfully completed
  • The candidacy examination has been passed
  • The research supervisor has certified that the thesis proposal has been approved by the supervisory committee

Additional criteria for students to be admitted to candidacy, such as a language proficiency, or proof of additional knowledge may apply. Students are normally expected to complete their candidacy examination within 24 months from the date of initial registration.

*Please note, a student who is not admitted to candidacy within 36 months from the date of initial registration must withdraw from the program.

Thesis proposal

The student will write a detailed thesis proposal, which consists of a detailed statement of intent (about 20-25 pages including bibliography). The proposal must be submitted within three months of the successful completion of the candidacy examination. The supervisory committee's approval of the proposal is required before the student may advance to candidacy.

The thesis proposal should state a working title and provide an account of the scope and objectives of the thesis. The proposal should include a preliminary structure and a general outline of the theoretical basis. The methodological approach, the research plan and sources of research material, as well as an assessment of the relationship to existing literature and research should also be discussed. Based on this, the supervisor and the members of the committee will make an informed judgment on whether to accept the proposal.

As soon as the thesis proposal has been approved by the supervisor and the committee, the Graduate Advisor shall recommend to the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies that the student be admitted to candidacy. This process includes the official appointment of the supervisory committee. This status is then entered in the University's Student Information System and will be visible on the student’s transcript.

Based on the detailed proposal, the doctoral dissertation is written after the student has been admitted to candidacy. The dissertation is understood to be a research project representing an original contribution to the field.

Because the department guarantees only four years of major scholarship support, students should try to complete their thesis in a period of two years. The writing of a doctoral dissertation requires close and continuous cooperation between candidate and supervisor. Regular consultation with members of the supervising committee is also necessary. At least one supervisory committee meeting is required annually. Students are expected to organize these meetings and to document the progress of their research projects annually. Progress reports are due by March 1 each year.

After a complete version of the thesis has been approved by the examiners and the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies (see Dissertation & Thesis Preparation), the supervisor will schedule a date for the final oral examination (public defence) at the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, in accordance with the regulations for final doctoral examinations.

The final version of the thesis, including all changes required by the defense committee, must be submitted electronically to cIRcle.

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