PhD in Gender, Feminist & Women's Studies

PhD Degree Requirements

Candidates for the PhD degree must fulfil the following requirements:

Courses

Three full-courses (or equivalent) including WMST 6009. 3.0 Advanced Research in Feminist Theory, WMST 6008 3.0 Feminist Methodologies and Research Methods and one half-course chosen from the Program -based core courses. Please see Core Courses section for details. The final selection of courses will be determined with the assistance of the GPD, or a designated faculty advisor. With permission from the Program director, one full course or equivalent may be chosen from those offered by another Graduate Program. Typically full-time students complete all course work requirements within the first two years.
(See Course Descriptions for details)

Academic requirements for your graduate program can be found at:
http://gradstudies.yorku.ca/files/2015/11/program-requirements.pdf

The Program Seminars

All PhD students are required to participate in 12 of the Program seminars, usually during the first and second year (see Program Seminars section for details).

The Comprehensive Exam

Students in the Doctoral Program must demonstrate, by passing a written and oral comprehensive examination, that they have both an overall command of knowledge in Women's Studies and in their area of dissertation specialization. The successful completion of the exam indicates that the student is qualified to teach at the university level, in undergraduate introductory and overview courses as well as in her/his own specific area.

What is the Comprehensive Examination?

Graduate education at the doctoral level invariably includes at least three elements or stages which are academically evaluated:

  1. Learning of new, advanced knowledge;
  2. Synthesis and mastery of knowledge across broader fields than covered by individual courses; and
  3. Acquisition of research skills and the application of those skills in an original contribution to knowledge.

The first is typically accomplished through course work and individualized supervision while the third is accomplished primarily through the doctoral dissertation. The demonstration of the second is some form of examination beyond those of individual courses: a comprehensive, qualifying or field examination.

The comprehensive exam challenges the student to examine and synthesize a body of theory, and related empirical research. Comprehensives combine breadth, depth and synthetic ability, without necessarily entailing exhaustive knowledge of the field. Students are expected to demonstrate a broad understanding of the major theoretical perspectives in the field and of key debates. Comprehensiveness also requires good knowledge of the alternative approaches to relevant empirical research, key findings and their interpretation in relation to theoretical approaches and gaps in current research.

The purpose of the ‘comps’ is to:

  1. Provide an opportunity to bring a lot of material together and think it though in a coherent way;
  2. Ensure students have a shared acquaintance with the field of WS as it has developed;
  3. Prepare students to review a body of literature and relate it to proposed research projects;
  4. Prepare students to research and teach in WS;
  5. Prepare the students for academic jobs, first by preparing them for interviews: esp. two popular job interview questions: how would you teach an introductory WS course? what would you teach in an upper–level feminist theory course? and second, by preparing them to teach a variety of undergraduate courses.

The Comprehensive Exam Process

Students in the Doctoral Program must demonstrate, by passing a written and oral comprehensive examination, that they have both an overall command of knowledge in Gender, Feminist and Women's Studies (the General comp) and in their area of dissertation specialization (the Specific comp). The successful completion of the exam indicates that students are qualified to teach at the university level in undergraduate introductory and overview courses as well as in their own specific area.  It also indicates that students are ready to begin a dissertation.

The purpose of the comps is to:

  • ensure students have a shared knowledge of the field of GFWS as it has developed;
  • provide students with the opportunity to learn how to review a body of literature, to understand its empirical research, core concepts, and theoretical debates, and to think the material through and engage with it in a coherent way;
  • prepare students to review a body of literature and relate it to proposed research projects;
  • prepare students to research and teach in GFWS;
  • prepare the students for academic jobs, first, by preparing them to teach a variety of undergraduate courses; and second, by preparing them for interviews: especially two popular job interview questions: how would you teach an introductory GFWS course? and what would you teach in an upper level feminist theory course?

The Comprehensive Exam Process:  Overview and Timeline:

The comps exam process works at the program level (not FGS) so only the supervisory committee, the Graduate Study committee and/or the GPD are involved.  Within the program regulations and guidelines outlined below, stude0nts and their committees can negotiate the topics, timeframes, frequency of meetings and other details to suit them.

We encourage students to complete course work by the end of the Winter term of year 1 (term 2) and to do the comps over the three terms of year 2.  However, students often do their comps over a different period, depending on when the courses they want to take are offered, their own workloads, the availability of committee members and other reasons. Some students prefer to be taking one course while they are reading for their comps as they appreciate the regular contact with colleagues. The timeframe outlined here is recommended but not required.  Students and their committees may arrange a different schedule.

Students start the comps exams as soon as they have completed course work or as they are completing it, typically in the summer of year one (term 3) or the fall of year two (term 4).  The comps exam process takes about six months and is normally completed by the end of year two (term 6).

Note: While students may begin their comps while they are doing course work, they cannot write their comprehensive exams until all coursework is completed.

Note: In 2017, the Program made changes to the comprehensive examination (approved by the York University Senate in September 2017). Students who entered the Program before October 2017 may choose to follow either the old or new procedures.  Students who entered the Program after October 2017 must follow the new procedures.  The two charts below provide an overview of the old GFWS Comprehensive Examination process, which expired October 2017, and of the new GFWS Comprehensive Examination process, which came into effect October 2017. The Outline of Changes clarifies the differences between the two procedures.
(See Appendix 1 in handbook)

Back to Top

Language and Cognate Requirements

There are no language or cognate requirements for the PhD degree in Women's Studies. However, students may be required, based on the dissertation topic, to demonstrate knowledge of a language other than English, or a cognate skill.

Back to Top

PhD Dissertation

Candidates must complete a research study and report the results in appropriate dissertation form. The research and dissertation should demonstrate the Candidate's independence, originality and understanding of the field of investigation at an advanced level. After the formal submission of the dissertation, an oral examination is held in accordance with Faculty of Graduate Studies regulations (see FGS Regulations pp. 30-37; Program Guidelines for PhD Dissertation Proposal below for more details).

The PhD Dissertation involves the following steps:

  1. The student selects a PhD dissertation committee and a supervisor:
    When a student has successfully written the comprehensive examination, the student, in consultation with the comps supervisor, selects a dissertation supervisory committee. This committee consists of a minimum of three faculty members, at least two of them must be members of the Graduate Program in Women's Studies, one of whom is the principal supervisor. The student completes the PhD Dissertation Supervisory Committee Approval Form and submits it for approval to the Graduate Study Committee and the Director of the Graduate Program in Women's Studies. If one of the committee members is not a member of the Women's Studies faculty, the student must submit a request explaining why the faculty member is appropriate, including a copy of the faculty member's CV, to the Executive Committee for approval.
    Once they have approved it, the request is forwarded to the Dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies for approval. This should normally occur before the proposal is submitted. (Please see the FGS policy on supervision "Graduate Supervisory Principles, Policies and Practices" available on the Web or in the FGS Handbook.)
    There are 3 benchmarks that require attention:

    1. A supervisor must be recommended by the appropriate graduate Program director for approval by the Dean of Graduate Studies no later than the end of the fifth term of study (end of second term of PhD II). Students will not be able to register in the seventh term of study (the onset of PhD III) unless a supervisor has been approved.
    2. A supervisory committee must be recommended by the appropriate graduate Program director for approval by the Dean of Graduate Studies no later than the end of the eighth term of study (end of second term of PhD III). Students will not be able to register in the tenth term of study (the onset of PhD IV) unless a supervisory committee has been approved.
    3. A change to FGS Regulation # 32, Dissertation Supervisory Committees, was
      passed at FGS Council on June 7, 2007. The new section of Regulation 32 adds that a dissertation proposal must be submitted to FGS and approved by the end of the eighth term of study, or the student will not be able to register in term 10.

    The student writes a dissertation proposal:

  2. The student writes a dissertation proposal:
    The structure for the PhD dissertation proposal is as follows:

    • Since a dissertation proposal must be approved by the Faculty of Graduate Studies students should adhere to the instructions described on the web at the following URL – gradstudies.yorku.ca/current-students/thesis-dissertation/
    • All students must submit the FGS Thesis and Dissertation Proposal Form TD1 with their dissertation proposal (gradstudies.yorku.ca/current-students/thesis-dissertation/research-ethics/). Students whose research involves human participants must submit FGS Human Participants Research Protocol Form (TD2)
    • A PhD dissertation proposal should be approximately 7 single spaced pages or 3500 words. The bibliography is additional and should be no longer than two pages. Appendices and documents about ethical guidelines are likewise additional.
  • Include a working title which can be refined/changed later
  • In 2–3 paragraphs, identify the research goals and key questions: otherwise it is difficult to know what your research objectives are other than to study a topic which hasn't received much scholarly attention.
  • In 1-2 single spaced pages identify the theoretical framework, e.g., key concepts within feminist thought that guide your study. It is not enough to say, for example, that your research will be informed by “feminist theory.”
  • In 2-3 single spaced pages identify the research methods that will be used. What are the important or relevant site(s) and/or source material to be analyzed? How are the methods you will be using to analyze your sites/source materials appropriate? Are there ethical issues involved in your research?
  • In one paragraph, explain the suitability of this proposal to the parameters of the Graduate Program in Women’s Studies: how does it relate to existing feminist scholarship? What do you hope that your work will contribute to scholarship in Women’s Studies?
  • Provide a draft Chapter Outline.
  • Set out a Work Schedule for your dissertation research
  • Articulate a careful and realistic timeline for writing and submitting drafts of chapters to the supervisory committee and for completion of the dissertation. Discuss with the supervisory committee whether all members will receive each chapter, or whether the supervisor will see early drafts first. In establishing a schedule, be sure to build in turn-around time for committee members to return drafts, and then build in time for revisions. Establish a target date for completion of a first full draft. Indicate your target for the dissertation defense.
  • Provide a “Working Bibliography” that lists 15-20 of the most relevant bibliographic sources Identify which style sheet you are using (e.g., MLA)

The Graduate Study Committee has responsibility to review proposals to ensure the following:

  • that the student's committee is appropriate for the student’s research topic and is constituted and approved according to GWS policy. Proposed committee members must be appointed to Grad WMST, or given special approval to serve on a specific dissertation committee.
  • that the proposal meets GWS and FGS standards and is suitable to be forwarded to FGS
  • that the proposal is formulated according to the internal template of the Graduate Women’s Studies Program as outlined above.
  • that the proposal is a project suitable for MA/PhD work within the parameters of the Graduate Program in Women’s Studies.
  • that the proposal is written so that readers who are outside the immediate topic area can understand what the student wants to do and how the student plans to proceed.

When submitting a PhD dissertation proposal, students and their committees are expected to follow the format specified in the Grad WMST program handbook. Responsibility for this rests with both students and supervisors. Proposals that do not follow this format will be returned for revision.

At the Graduate Program Meeting of April 22, 2008, the following option (which is a voluntary process) was passed: Students and their supervisors are invited to attend the Graduate Study Committee meeting at which the student’s proposal will be considered. At that meeting, the student makes a short oral presentation, the committee (having read the proposal ahead of time) asks questions, makes comments and gives the student an opportunity to respond. If the student and supervisor wish, the supervisor, may also respond to the committee's questions and comments. The committee will notify the student and supervisor of their decision in writing shortly after the meeting. (Note: students who prefer not to present their work orally may continue to submit proposals in writing and receive written replies.)

*The format for bibliographic entries should follow one of the three style manuals listed below. In consultation with their supervisor, students should choose one model and use it consistently. Copies of three manuals are available in the Program Office: The Chicago Manual of Style, Fifteenth Edition (2003); MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, Sixth Edition (2003); Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, Fifth Edition (2001).

  • The student does the research and writes the dissertation:
    Substantial research should not be undertaken until the proposal is approved. The student and the Committee should be in regular contact. Students should keep committee members informed about when they can expect to receive drafts and faculty members should keep the student informed about their schedules across each Fall/Winter and summer terms. Within reason, students should be able to expect a prompt and detailed written response to their work. As the student begins the final version of the dissertation, the committee should meet to discuss possible dates for the dissertation defence and members for the examining committee. The supervisor is responsible for contacting potential examining committee members and negotiating both their participation and defence dates. A check-list and package of all required forms is available from the Program Office.

    Note: The National Library has specified that an abstract for dissertations cannot exceed 350 words. Any excess will be truncated when the National Library microfiches the completed work.
  • The student submits the dissertation:
    The final dissertation must be presented in appropriate thesis form to the Program Office at least six weeks prior to the tentative defence date (not including holidays). Consult the Faculty of Graduate Studies Guidelines for the Preparation and Examination of Theses and Dissertations for details about the format and the composition of the Examining committee and oral defence procedures (Copies are also available in the Program Office). Once the supervisory committee agrees that the thesis is ready for defence and that all final revisions have been made, the student notifies the Program Office. The supervisor organises the examining committee according to FGS regulations. This must occur at least six weeks before the proposed defence date.
  • The student ensures that copies of the dissertation are distributed to all members of the examining committee so that they receive it at least 5 weeks before the defence. The supervisor ensures that all paperwork, including the Recommendation for Oral Exam Form with the signatures of all members of the Supervisory Committee, is submitted to the Program Office. The Program Assistant ensures that all paperwork is forwarded to FGS.
  • The supervisor confirms all arrangements (time, date, etc.) with the Chair and the External. FGS sends out the official letter to all members of the examining committee. The Program Assistant books the examination room, and makes arrangements for any AV equipment required.
  • One week prior to the defence, the Program Assistant (on behalf of the Program Director) contacts all members of the examining committee to determine whether they agree that the dissertation is examinable. The Program Assistant notifies the supervisor, the Program Director and FGS if there are any problems.
  • The oral defence examines the candidate on the written thesis and on the performance during the defence according to FGS regulations.
  • On successful completion of the defence, the student makes any revisions or corrections to the thesis and submits 3 copies of it to FGS, with all necessary paperwork.
  • The Program Assistant ensures that the Convocation form is completed and sent to the Registrar's Office. This form must reach the Registrar's Office one month prior to convocation.
    Note: There are important deadlines that will not be waived. Make sure you know what they are and observe them if you wish to graduate by a specific date.

Back to Top

PhD Timeline

The PhD is designed to be completed in 6 years (18 terms). The Faculty of Graduate Studies requires that a Master's degree must be completed within 6 years (18 terms) as a full time or part time student.

The expected progress for students through the Program :
(for various legitimate reasons not all students follow precisely this pattern)

 Full-timePart-time
Terms 1 and 22-3 full courses1 full course
(Fall/Winter)TA assignment
4-6 Program Seminars
3 Program Seminars
Term 3 (Summer)1 half course
and/or work on Comps
1 half course
Terms 4 and 5complete course work1 full course
(Fall/Winter)TA assignment
complete Comps
2–4 Program Seminars
3 Program Seminars
NOTE: FGS regulations require that students must have a supervisor by the end of the fifth term of study. Students will not be able to register in the seventh term unless a supervisor has been approved.
Term 6 (Summer)prepare dissertation proposal1 half course
work on Comps
Term 7 and 8research for dissertationcomplete comps
(Fall/Winter)2-4 Program Seminars3 Program Seminars
NOTE: FGS regulations require that students must have a supervisory committee by the end of the eighth term of study. Students will not be able to register in the tenth term unless a supervisor has been approved.
Term 9 (Summer)research for dissertationprepare dissertation proposal
Terms 10 and 11dissertationdissertation
(Fall/Winter)TA assignment3 Program Seminars
Terms 12-18dissertationdissertation

Back to Top