The Graduate Program in Humanities offers advanced training leading to the MA and PhD degrees. It is expected that each student will actively pursue an approved program of studies and will register as a full-time or part-time student, in the first academic session following admission.
MA in Humanities
The M.A. Program is envisioned as a one-year program of study whose purpose is to introduce students to graduate study in Humanities. It will be open to qualified students who do not or may not plan to pursue graduate study in the Humanities or in other professional degree programs beyond the M.A. and also to qualified students who plan or may plan to continue their studies in the Humanities at the doctoral level or in other professional degree programs.
The faculty adviser for all M.A. candidates will be the Program Director, who is responsible for ensuring that students complete their degree requirements in timely fashion and for providing students with general academic advice. All M.A. candidates will be required to develop a plan of study in which they provide an integrated, coherent rationale for their studies as they relate to their course work, participation in the Humanities Graduate Seminar, and Major Research Paper.
Requirements for obtaining a MA in Humanities:
- The equivalent of three full graduate courses consistent with their plan of study
- At least two of the three courses will be in Humanities
- One of the three courses may be a Directed Reading course (Humanities 5000), as approved by the Program Director
- MA candidates will be required to enrol in this course in their first year: HUMA 5100 6.0: Core Practices and Methodologies in Humanities Research
Major Research Paper
- Students will be required to demonstrate in a Major Research Paper their grasp of a subject within the interdisciplinary study of culture in Humanities
- The Major Research Paper may be related to the work that students have done in one or more of their courses, but it must demonstrate independent research. It is normally to be completed by the end of the summer of the first year of study
- It will be formally evaluated and graded by two Humanities faculty chosen by the Program Director in consultation with the student. One of these faculty members will serve as supervisor, the other as second reader
MA Program Guidelines for Stages of Progress
- View the program guidelines for stages of progress here.
PhD in Humanities
The Ph.D. program is envisioned as a multi-year program of advanced graduate study whose purpose is to train students to become highly qualified scholars in Humanities. The Program will culminate in the preparation of a dissertation which makes an original contribution to scholarship in Humanities. The Program will be open to qualified students who want to obtain advanced scholarly training in the interdisciplinary study of culture in Humanities.
All Ph.D. candidates are assigned an interim supervisor on entry to the program. A primary supervisor as agreed upon by the student, the faculty member, and the Program Director must be selected by March 15 of the first year in the program. A Comprehensive Supervisory Committee as agreed upon by the student, supervisor, the faculty members and Program Director is required by May 15 of the first year in the program. The supervisor and supervisory committee will work with the student to develop a program of study integrating course work, participation in the Humanities Graduate Seminar, comprehensive examinations and dissertation that demonstrates interdisciplinarity in the study of culture in a Humanities context.
All updates to a student's status require completion of the PhD Report on Status form.
Requirements for obtaining a PhD in Humanities:
- The equivalent of three full graduate courses consistent with their plan of study, as approved by their supervisor and the Program Director
- At least two of the three courses will be in Humanities
- One of the three courses may be a Directed Reading course (Humanities 6000), as approved by the student's supervisor and the Program Director
- Comprehensive examinations in the Graduate Program in Humanities serve three primary and closely related goals: they require candidates to situate their primary area of research within clearly defined fields of scholarly study in the Humanities; they require candidates to demonstrate a sound knowledge of the major scholarly works, actors, debates and methodologies that define and illuminate their fields of scholarly study; and they require candidates to present their fields as areas in which they can claim expertise, and thus in which they will be able to conduct research and to teach
- Students are normally expected to take the examination by their eighth term of registration. Candidates are required to demonstrate comprehensive knowledge within the designated areas on the examination. Evidence of such comprehensive knowledge will be assessed on the basis of the candidate's competence in providing answers to questions during the examination that address the material on the reading lists in relation to significant critical and theoretical issues. In the case of failure students will be permitted to re-sit the examination only once, and the re-examination is to take place within six months of the date of the first examination. A second failure will require withdrawal from the Program. The examination committee will be composed of four faculty: the program director or his/her representative; the student's supervisor; and two faculty members appointed to the Faculty of Graduate Studies (at least one of whom must be a member of the Graduate Program in Humanities) appointed by the director in consultation with the student and the supervisor
- Candidates for the doctorate must select two areas of study, the general and the specialized. The comprehensive examinations assess the student's overall knowledge of both areas. The general area is the broad area within which the dissertation will be written and will normally be a coherent and definable area of scholarship within one of the program fields: comparative perspectives and cultural boundaries; religion, values and culture; or the cultures, technologies and sciences of the modern. The specialized area will cover the more specialized knowledge that students will need to research and to write their dissertation. Students will be required to prepare comprehensive lists for both the general and specialized areas of their comprehensive examination and have them approved by their supervisory committee and the director three months before the examination
- For further information on comprehensive examinations, click here
- There is no official language requirement, but students working in an area where the language is other than English must demonstrate to the members of their dissertation supervisory committee that they have the ability to read primary sources and secondary literature in that language
- Students will be required to prepare a dissertation in which they make an original contribution to Humanities scholarship in the interdisciplinary study of culture. The completion of the dissertation will involve the following four steps:
- The establishment of a Supervisory Committee of three members, at least two of whom will be members of the Graduate Program in Humanities. The third member may be appointed in a Graduate Program other than Humanities
- The preparation of a dissertation proposal which must normally be approved the Supervisory Committee within three months of completing the final comprehensive examination, and approved by the Graduate Program Director and the Faculty of Graduate Studies
- The writing of a dissertation acceptable to the Supervisory Committee and in the end formally approved as examinable by the members of that committee;
- The holding of an oral examination, centred on the dissertation and matters related to it, and presided over by an Examining Committee recommended by the program director for approval and appointment by the Dean of Graduate Studies (Section 36 of the Faculty Regulations: "Dissertation Examining Committee")
PhD Program Guidelines
- View the PhD Program Guidelines here.
Comprehensive Exams in the Graduate Program in Humanities serve to reflect a student's major interests in the Humanities based on three primary and closely related goals:
- To define the student's scholarly expertise in the Humanities
- To demonstrate a sound knowledge of the major scholarly works, actors, debates, and methodologies that define and illuminate this expertise
- To situate their knowledge within relevant scholarship as a whole, with a mind to future research and/or teaching and other relevant employment
There are two examinations, a General and a Specialized. These examinations equip students with the knowledge they need to conduct research for, or begin writing, their doctoral dissertation, to pursue subsequent research in their future endeavours, and to teach courses in existing or developing programs at universities, colleges, and private institutions.
Comprehensive Exams in the Humanities program follow the principles guiding the tradition of academic exams found in discipline-based departments, but are distinct from them in form and method. The Humanities Program tests students on lists the students have created themselves. Thus a student's lists are unique, reflecting her/his projected work within selected fields of study. By "fields", we mean areas of research that reflect debates, methods, themes, and tropes that exist in scholarship, drawn from traditional and/or contemporary approaches, from one or several fields across schools, and/or methods, and from discipline-based research such as philosophy, history, literature, etc., or multi-disciplinary research areas such as cultural studies, environmental studies, biblical studies, media studies, etc. Working with the Comprehensive Exams committee, students will create unique lists that are situated within scholarly study in the Humanities.
Knowing where and how the student's work fits into existing scholarship is fundamental for creating two coherent lists, one for each exam. When building the lists, the student should consider several factors. The lists should reflect the topic, if not the thesis question of the dissertation, at least in part. The lists should be modelled for future employment, whether that will involve teaching in academia, carrying out academic research, or working in other environments. If teaching is the goal, for example, lists that reflect existing programs in University departments will allow the student to form concrete ideas about where she/he can start applying for work after completing her/his degree. Finally, the lists should take into account expertise acquired at the undergraduate and Master levels. Advice on how to incorporate, build on, or otherwise account for this past expertise in the lists, can be sought from members of the Committee, the Program Director, and/or faculty members.
The General and the Specialized Exams
Students are required to take two exams, the General, and the Specialized. For each exam, the student is expected to supply a list of works along with written material. The list of works for the General exam must aim to describe the larger vista of the field and/or fields of study in which the student will claim expertise. The list for the Specialized exam is more narrowly defined. It provides focus to the student's research, which may involve isolating an aspect or theme of the larger area of research, highlighting a method or school of scholarship, or applying some other formula for circumscribing knowledge. In some cases, the Specialized list contains the material upon which the student's thesis is based.
Examples of past lists and written submissions are available for viewing the Graduate Program Office. Students must prepare their lists and materials so that individuals unfamiliar with their research areas can readily understand them.
For the General exam, students must provide the following materials:
- Students must provide a list of approximately seventy-five works, with a title, student information, and supervisory and comprehensive supervisory committee information. The list of works may include articles, books, films, and other appropriate sources, that are either scholarly or primary sources where appropriate
- Each work should be a significant contribution to the scholarship for which the student will claim expertise
- The works should be organized thematically and provided minimally three months prior to the comprehensive examination allowing the student time to finish studying and prepare the written submission
- Students must provide a written submission of approximately 3,500 words, defining the comprehensive field, and discussing the important works, debates, and methodologies informing the field
- The committee then decides whether the written submission plausibly sets out a field of study and is examinable
- The written submission must be provided a minimum of three weeks prior to the comprehensive examination
In the comprehensive examination, students will be examined on both the list and the written submission.
For the specialized exam, students must provide the following materials:
- Students must provide a list of approximately fifty works, with a title, student information, student information, and supervisory and comprehensive supervisory committee information
- The list of works may include articles, books, films, and other appropriate sources, that are either scholarly or primary sources where appropriate. Each work should be a significant contribution to the scholarship for which the student will demonstrate expertise
- The works should be organized thematically and provided minimally three months prior to the comprehensive examination allowing the student time to finish studying and prepare the course syllabus
- Students must provide a twelve-week half-course syllabus at the 4000 level that focuses more directly upon the area of research of their dissertation. This course syllabus will include:
- A course description that sets out with clarity the focus and methodology of the course
- A weekly class schedule that specifies the topic and reading assignments for each week, and a paragraph detailing the nature, rationale and overall place within the course of each class
- The course syllabus must be provided a minimum of four weeks prior to the comprehensive examination
In the comprehensive examination students will be examined on both the list and course syllabus. The first half of the examination will focus on the list and the second half on the syllabus.
Students will normally be expected to take both examinations in the second term in the third year of their program of study or the eighth term of study.
Setting up the Examinations
- The lists of works for each comprehensive field are to be submitted and approved by the supervisor and the comprehensive supervisory committee, and by the Graduate Program Director, minimally three months before the comprehensive examination. Students must meet with their comprehensive supervisory committee prior to approving the final version of the list. Once the list is approved by the committee, students are to submit the list together with a PhD Report on Status form signed by the supervisor to the Graduate Program Office
- The written submission for the general comprehensive examination or the course syllabus for the specialized comprehensive examination are to be approved by the supervisor and the comprehensive supervisory committee, and submitted to the Graduate Program Office, minimally three weeks before the comprehensive examination. Once the written material is approved by the committee, students are to submit the material together with a PhD Report on Status form signed by the supervisor to the Graduate Program Office. Only once the written material has been submitted will a comprehensive examination be scheduled
- Once the written material for the comprehensive examination has been submitted, the Graduate Program Assistant will schedule the examination. Each examination committee will be comprised of four faculty: the Program Director or his/her representative; the student’s supervisor; and the two further members of the comprehensive supervisory committee. Students or supervisors should never attempt to schedule comprehensive examinations; these must always be scheduled by the Graduate Program Assistant
Each examination takes two hours. An additional half hour must be allowed at the end of the examination for the examination committee to consult and write their report on the examination. Candidates may choose to take both examinations in one day or to take them on separate dates, as agreed with the members of the examination committee. If an examination committee is considering two examinations in one day, it must allow two and a half hours for each examination and for a break between examinations.
Candidates will be required to demonstrate comprehensive knowledge of the designated fields in the examination. Evidence of such comprehensive knowledge will be assessed on the basis of the candidate’s competence in providing answers to questions during the examination that address the material in relation to significant critical, theoretical and methodological issues. Examiners will want to know that candidates have a firm idea of each of their fields: what are the key questions raised in these fields; what methods of investigation are appropriate in each field; how is this field connected to related fields; and who are the influential scholars, both past and present, who helped define the fields? Candidates will also be examined on the construction and understanding of their fields of research and the relationship between their fields of research, existing academic fields or disciplines and the study of the humanities. In general, the examination will focus on the critical interpretation of texts and methods of inquiry.
Each examination will last two hours. Before the examination begins the chair will send the candidate out of the room. The committee will then decide if, on the basis of the materials submitted and other considerations, the candidate is examinable. If the candidate is examinable, the committee will agree on the length and order of the questioning. (Usually the supervisor goes last). It is the chair’s task to ensure that members of the committee stay within the time allotted. Once the committee is ready to proceed with the examination, the candidate will then be invited back into the room.
- General comprehensive examination: The candidate will be asked to give a five minute presentation addressing the main issues and problems within the field. The examination will then proceed through two cycles of questioning, in which the examining committee will ask questions regarding the comprehensive list and the submitted written work
- Specialized comprehensive examination: The examination will be broken into two parts
- In the first part, the candidate will be asked to give a five minute presentation situating the specialized comprehensive field within the general comprehensive field. The examining committee will then proceed through a cycle of questioning regarding the comprehensive list and the problem the student has stated it is meant to address
- In the second part, the candidate will be asked to give a five minute presentation on the course syllabus. The examining committee will then proceed through a cycle of questioning regarding the course syllabus
In each examination, once the questioning has come to an end, the student will be asked to leave the room so that the committee can make their decision. The committee can choose to pass or to fail the candidate, or to pass the candidate subject to revisions to the written materials. The members of the committee must sign the standard comprehensive examination form that records their decision and allows them to make comments. The candidate is then invited back into the room and the committee’s decision is announced.
Students who fail a comprehensive examination will be permitted to re-sit the examination only once, and the re-examination is to take place within three months of the date of the first examination. A second failure will require withdrawal from the Program.