Time in Program

All requirements for the Ph.D. degree must be completed within six years of the date of registration in the first course. However, students are encouraged to complete their Ph.D. programs in four years. Students beyond the fourth year of their programs are normally not eligible for funding.

Residency Requirement

The University of Saskatchewan encourages students to spend time on campus interacting with faculty, researchers and other students and participating in the academic life of the university. The College of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies has no minimum residency requirements. Individual graduate programs, however, are required to establish their own residency guidelines. The minimum residency for Ph.D. students in the Department of English is two years.

Program Requirements




Other requirements


18 cu

plus English 801.3 (Textual Scholarship) if not taken previously

Dissertation (200-400 pages)

Registration in ENG 996 each term

Language requirement: advanced level grade of 60% or higher in a language other than English; or pass a translation exam

Field examinations

Registration in English 990 & GPS 960

Ph.D. Qualifying Examination

If you are admitted to the Ph.D. and you are new to the kind of graduate program offered at this university (or you did your M.A. more than five years ago), you will be asked to take a qualifying examination early in the first year of your program. This is not a comprehensive examination. The Qualifying Examination tests familiarity with common literary terms and critical methods, awareness of the impact of critical position on interpretation, and ability to talk about a frequently discussed text.

Towards the Qualifying Examination, the Chair of the Graduate Committee asks the candidate to choose three areas of specialization in which to be tested. The Graduate Chair then invites three faculty members (each one a specialist in an area selected by the candidate) to form an examining committee. Forty-eight hours before the examination begins, this examining committee gives the candidate a selection of three short texts (for example, an essay, a short story, a play, poems) representing at least two genres in each of the candidate's chosen areas.

At the Qualifying Examination, the student discusses these texts with the examining committee. The Chair of the Graduate Committee (or a designate) presides. The Qualifying Examination lasts one hour.

If you enter the program in September and are required to take the qualifying examination, you must do so before 31 October. If you enter in January and must take this examination, it will be scheduled for February. Candidates who fail the examination must take it again at the next time it is scheduled; those who fail a second time will be required to withdraw from the program.


Ph.D. students must take the equivalent of three full courses (18 credit units) beyond those required for the M.A. At least twelve credit units must be taken at this university. In addition to the 18 credit units of course work, if they have not already taken a similar course at the M.A. level, Ph.D. students must take English 801.3 An Introduction to Textual Scholarship). Ph.D. students also enrol in English 996 (Ph.D. Research) and English 990 (Professional Development Seminar).

During the regular session (fall and winter terms), graduate seminars meet once a week for two and a half hours. During the intersession (spring term), seminars meet several times each week.

Graduate students and instructors should have a standard expectation for assignments in courses. As well as giving reports, students write two term papers for each full year (six credit) seminar. For a three credit, single term course, students give reports and write one term paper. If course instructors do not wish to assign final examinations in graduate courses, they must apply to the College of Graduate Studies and Research for exemption.

All students must maintain an average above 70% in their coursework. For a Ph.D. student, a mark below 70% is a failing grade. Students must take another course to replace a failed course, but the marks in the failed course still count toward the student's average. Students who fail two courses will be required to withdraw from the program.

The Department of English offers the following graduate classes:

ENG 801.3 - An Introduction to Textual Scholarship (Note: cannot be used as part of the 18 cu required for Ph.D. course work)
ENG 802.6 - Studies in Literary and Cultural History
ENG 803.3 - Topics in Literary and Cultural History
ENG 804.6 - Studies in Individual Authors
ENG 805.3 - Topics in Individual Authors
ENG 810.6 - Studies in National and Regional Literatures
ENG 811.3 - Topics in National and Regional Literatures
ENG 816.6 - Studies in Literary and Cultural Theory
ENG 817.3 - Topics in Literary and Cultural Theory
ENG 818.6 - Studies in Methods and Texts
ENG 819.3 - Topics in Methods and Texts
ENG 842.6 - Studies in Genres and Contexts
ENG 843.3 - Topics in Genres and Contexts

Each year, faculty propose particular versions of these courses. Thus, Topics in Individual Authors might one year be a course on Shakespeare, and the next a course on Emily Dickinson.

Graduate students in English may apply to the Graduate Committee to take one of their courses (a maximum of six credit units per degree program) outside the Department. Such an application must include a letter indicating the particular value and relevance of the course to the student's program, as well as a description (from the instructor of the course or the department in which it is taught) of readings and assignments to be undertaken to fulfil graduate-level requirements. Under the Western Dean's Agreement, a student in the English program at this University may also register in a graduate course (up to an equivalent of six credit units) at another Western Canadian university.

The experience of intellectual debate provided by seminars is vital to graduate study. In graduate degrees in English, course-work is intended to give students an opportunity to study at graduate level a range of literature and a variety of approaches, and should not focus exclusively on one area of specialization. However, in exceptional cases, where a student's completion of the program would be jeopardized without studies in a particular area—studies that cannot be pursued through the courses offered in the English Department or elsewhere—a student may propose a reading course, arranged between the student and a faculty member. The Graduate Committee will evaluate the need for the proposed course and whether it is comparable to a regular full (6 cu) or half (3 cu) course, and will decide whether to recommend its approval to the College of Graduate Studies and College of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies. To protect the viability of our seminar offerings in any given year, reading courses will be recommended for approval only under these exceptional circumstances. Students may take a maximum of six credit units of reading courses. Students wishing to request a reading course should first consult the Chair of the Graduate Committee.

English 990: Professional Development Seminar

The professional development requirement has three aspects:

  1. All graduate students are required to attend the series of workshops entitled "Conversations on Graduate Studies in English" in their first year of graduate work. Several workshops will be offered each term on topics such as English Department and College of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies regulations and deadlines; preparing SSHRCC applications; writing the thesis/dissertation proposal; choosing a paper for the project-based M.A.; the graduate student-supervisor relationship; the thesis/dissertation defence; electronic research in the humanities; looking for an academic job; preparing a c.v.; preparing the conference abstract, writing the paper, and presenting it.
  2. All Ph.D. students are required to give a 30-45 minute Works-in-Progress presentation in anticipation of their dissertation defence. The presentation might be either a detailed synopsis of the project or a conference-style paper. The scheduling of the seminar will be arranged by the Graduate Chair in consultation with the student and supervisor. In practice, this presentation would take place when the student's dissertation is well advanced.
  3. All graduate students are required to attend the Ph.D. Works-in-Progress seminars as well as the two colloquia hosted each year by the Department's Research Committee. NOTE:
    1. Eng. 990 will appear on graduate student transcripts;
    2. Conversations, the Ph.D. Works-in-Progress presentations, and the colloquia will normally be scheduled for Wednesday afternoons.

Field Examination for the Ph.D.

Ph.D. students take this examination to establish that they have sufficient understanding to do advanced research and teaching in a specific field, or area of the discipline. This examination is taken in May of the second year of the program or (at the latest) October of the third. At least six months before examination, students must inform the Graduate Chair in writing of their intention to sit the examination.

The following areas are the ones for which reading lists have been set:

Each candidate either selects one of the areas listed here or proposes an examination in an area for which a list is not already set. The set lists themselves are not exhaustive: each list will comprise two-thirds of the reading to be undertaken for the examination, and the final third will be drafted by the candidate in consultation with the supervisor. At least three months before examination, this list will be submitted to the candidate's examining committee for approval. 

If a candidate chooses to be examined in an area for which there is no list, the candidate (in consultation with the supervisor) will propose an area to the Graduate Committee at least twelve months before the examination is to be taken. If the Graduate Committee accepts the proposal and if three faculty members are willing to serve as examiners, the candidate (in consultation with the supervisor) will prepare a reading list comparable in dimensions to those in areas for which set lists exist. At least three months before the examination is to be taken, this reading list is to be submitted to the examining committee for approval.

The candidate may write the examination either on one day (9:00-12:00, 1:30-4:30) or in two three-hour blocks on successive days. No less than a week and no more than two weeks after writing this examination, the candidate will attend an oral examination of no more than two hours' duration. This oral examination will be convened by the Graduate Chair, and conducted by the three faculty examiners who set and marked the written portion. In this oral examination, the examiners will ask questions about the written examination as well as about the candidate's own contributions to the reading list, especially as they relate to the topic of the candidate's dissertation.

The written and oral components of the Ph.D. Field Examination are of equal value, and a composite grade is given: Pass with Distinction, Pass, and Fail. If a Fail is given, the candidate may repeat the examination at the next time scheduled with the permission of the Dean of College of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies. If repetition of the examination is necessary, usually both the written and oral parts are required; the examining committee has discretion to require, however, that only the oral be retaken.

Students can request the use of the department laptop computer to write, and print, and submit their answers.

Language Requirement

Facility in a language related to one's area of specialization will enable advanced research and fuller participation in the scholarly life of a bilingual country and a multilingual academic community worldwide. The process of language learning cultivates a disciplined and systematic understanding of language as a complex human and social phenomenon, fosters an appreciation of diversity, and works against cultural insularity and complacency. 

We require Ph.D. students to demonstrate, at a minimum, either:

  1. an intermediate knowledge of two languages other than English; or
  2. an advanced knowledge of one language other than English.

Ph.D. students are required to propose the languages they will offer for approval by the Graduate Committee within three months of entering the program.

The language (or at least one of the two languages) must be relevant to the student's field of research in the judgement of the Graduate Committee. Native speaker competency in one language other than English satisfies the Ph.D. requirement only if that language is relevant to the student's dissertation research.  

Intermediate knowledge
A grade of 60% or over in one of the following from the University of Saskatchewan (or equivalent course(s) from another university) is evidence of intermediate knowledge of a language:

  • French 125.3;
  • German 202.3 and 204.3;
  • German 214.3 and 217.3;
  • Russian 214.3 and 217.3;
  • Spanish 202.3 and 204.3;
  • Ukrainian 214.3 and 217.3;
  • Cree 120.6 (note: Cree 101.6 is a prerequisite);
  • Latin 113.3 (note: Latin 112.3 is a prerequisite);
  • Greek 113.3 (note: Greek 112.3 is a prerequisite);
  • Hebrew 111.6;
  • Sanskrit 101.6.

Students are expected to check the prerequisites for these courses.

Advanced knowledge
A grade of 60% or over in one of the following from the University of Saskatchewan (or equivalent course(s) from another university) is evidence of advanced knowledge of a language:

  • French 220.3;
  • any 6 credit units (cu) of senior French literature;
  • German 314.3;
  • any 6 cu of senior German literature;
  • any 6 cu of senior Russian literature;
  • any 6 cu of senior Spanish literature;
  • any 6 cu of senior Ukrainian literature;
  • Latin 203.3;
  • Greek 203.3;
  • Hebrew 201.6.

HIST 888.0 – Reading French also enables students to fulfill their advanced language requirement.

In languages where the concept is applicable, we accept a "reading knowledge," which would enable a student to undertake university-level literary study as an advanced knowledge. This level of fluency would, if reinforced through application, facilitate scholarly work in the language. Ph.D. students may write an advanced translation exam to demonstrate this knowledge, subject to the availability of a qualified examiner.

Ph.D. Dissertation

1. Scope and Specifications

According to the College of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies Calendar (2000-2001), the Ph.D. dissertation is to be "based upon original investigation, [and] must demonstrate mature scholarship and critical judgement . . . as well as familiarity with tools and methods of research in the candidate's special field. To be acceptable, it must be a worthwhile contribution to knowledge, and warrant publication in whole or in part" (12).

When finished, the Ph.D. dissertation will be between two and four hundred pages. The finished document must conform to the requirements of the current editions of either the MLA Handbook or the Chicago Manual of Style. It will also meet the specifications of the College of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies instructions for Electronic Theses and Dissertations.

2. The Dissertation Supervisor

On acceptance into the program, students are assigned a provisional dissertation supervisor. If the student wishes to change the focus of the dissertation and accordingly needs a different supervisor, the student should notify the Graduate Chair by May 15 of the first year of the program. If the student has any questions about the relationship with the supervisor, he or she should see the Graduate Chair for advice.

3. Writing the Proposal

A proposal form must be filled out in consultation with the supervisor.

Click here for PhD Dissertation Proposal instructions and form.

When completed, the complete form and proposal will show the working title for the dissertation, a brief statement of the objectives of research, a statement of support from the supervisor, a detailed description of the project, and a working bibliography of primary and secondary sources important to the project. For the Ph.D., a three- to five-page proposal with a four- to six-page bibliography is adequate. The completed proposal must conform to the requirements of the current Chicago Manual of Style or the MLA Handbook. You should submit the Dissertation Proposal to the Chair of the Graduate Committee by 31 October of the second year of your program. Students are required to submit the proposal as an e-mail attachment to the Graduate Chair.

The dissertation proposal is sent to the Graduate Committee, which has the task of either approving it (and the project it entails), or returning it to the student with advice for revision. Getting the approval of the Graduate Committee for the proposal is thus an important juncture in the whole project. A clear dissertation proposal gives momentum to the research and writing that follow. It also gives a powerful focus to (and justification of) the dissertation at the time of examination.

4. Guidelines for Writer and Supervisor of the Dissertation

The principal role of the supervisor is to help students achieve their scholarly potential. In doing so, the supervisor is a committed, accessible, stimulating, respectful guide but also a consistent and rigorous judge. After all, the student's work must meet the standards of the university and the discipline. It is unusual, though not impossible, for a student to change supervisors part way through a dissertation project. Should a situation arise which may require a change in dissertation supervision, either the student, the supervisor or both should consult the Chair of the Graduate Committee.

What can a student expect of a dissertation supervisor?

  • to help select and plan a suitable and manageable research topic;
  • to help set and stick to a schedule of work;
  • to be either familiar with the specific area of research or willing to gain that familiarity;
  • to be available for consultation with the student about the project; depending on the project itself, and particularly on the student's stage of work on this project, such meetings may take place once a week, once a month, or once a term;
  • to consult with the Chair of the Graduate Committee on selection of specialist reader and external reader(s) for the dissertation;
  • to respond expeditiously, thoroughly, and constructively to the student's drafts of the dissertation;
  • to consult with the student and the Chair of the Graduate Committee about continuity of supervision before leaving for extended periods;
  • after approving the complete dissertation, and having determined that its presentation of text is correct and consistent, to give a finished copy of it to the Graduate Chair, to be passed on to the specialist examiner; by saying the dissertation is ready for examination, the supervisor does not commit the Department to accepting the dissertation; and
  • to advise the student about any changes required in the dissertation by its examiners.

What can a supervisor expect of a student?

  • to show commitment in learning what is needed to design and carry out the project;
  • to develop a plan for completion of all stages of the project, and to stick to that plan;
  • to meet with the supervisor and advisory committee when requested and to report fully and regularly on progress;
  • to maintain registration in the program and (for international students) to keep any necessary visas and immigration documents up to date;
  • to maintain an available current address;
  • to consider seriously and respond to advice and criticism;
  • to meet the requirements of the University, College of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, and program, including those about deadlines and dissertation style;
  • to recognize that the supervisor and advisory committee have other teaching, research, and administrative obligations which may take precedence over consultation on the dissertation project; and
  • to be scrupulous in acknowledging sources of assistance or information.

The Advisory Committee

Each graduate student has an advisory committee.

The Graduate Committee serves as advisory committee until the student's own committee is established by the Graduate Chair in consultation with the dissertation supervisor. After consulting with the supervisor, the Graduate Chair will invite a specialist and a non-specialist departmental reader and an extra-departmental faculty member (cognate) to join the dissertation supervisor on the advisory committee. This committee is chaired by the Graduate Chair. On the advisory committee of a Ph.D. student, the Dean of the College of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies is an ex officio member.

Yearly Advisory Committee Meetings

The student meets annually with this committee, usually in the autumn, to report about progress towards completion of the requirements of the program, and the committee responds by either indicating approval of this progress or suggesting ways to improve it. The advisory committee may also recommend changes to the student's program, or to the direction of dissertation research. Toward this review, each graduate student must submit an annual report on progress in the program, both hardcopy and as an e-mail text; the student's supervisor must receive and endorse this report, and then send it to the Graduate Chair.

The report should indicate: 

  • the student's progress toward completion of program requirements to date, including
    • courses 
    • online ethics course
    • language requirement
  • the student's progress toward submitting the dissertation proposal,
  • the student's progress toward completing the field exam,
  • the student's progress in researching and writing the dissertation,
  • participation in research projects if applicable,
  • conference presentations or awards if applicable,
  • submissions or publications if applicable, and 
  • the student's plans for the upcoming year toward completing program requirements.

The Chair of the Graduate Committee reports annually to the College of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies about the progress of each student in the program. A report indicating unsatisfactory progress is referred for further action to the appropriate committee in this College. Either the student or the advisory committee can ask for additional meetings.

What can a student expect of an advisory committee?

  • to provide constructive criticism of the student's ideas as the program develops;
  • to be reasonably accessible to the student for consultation; and
  • to comment on the student's annual progress report.

Dissertation Examination

There are four examiners: a member of the Department who is a specialist in the subject of the dissertation, another member of the Department who is not a specialist in the subject of the dissertation, a cognate examiner (i.e., a member of another department who has an interest in the subject of the dissertation), and an external examiner (i.e., a specialist in the area of the dissertation who is on faculty at another university). When the supervisor has agreed that the dissertation is ready to go forward, the student will supply three clean copies to the Chair of the Graduate Committee, who will deliver them to the specialist, departmental, and cognate examiners.

The duties of each examiner are outlined here.

  1. Specialist examiner
    This examiner reads the dissertation in its proposed final form, paying attention to its quality of argument, its professional maturity, and its structure, format, and readability. This process normally takes at least three weeks. In a report written to the Chair of the Graduate Committee and copied to the student, supervisor, departmental examiner, and cognate examiner, the specialist examiner will state whether or not the dissertation is ready for examination, and is entitled to request revisions. The student is free to proceed to the examination over the objections of the specialist examiner.

    In reporting that a dissertation is ready for examination, the specialist examiner does not commit the Department to accept it at the examination. If there are serious concerns about the acceptability of aspects of the dissertation, the written report will indicate them.
  2. Departmental examiner
    This examiner is concerned with the overall quality of the argument of the dissertation, its structure and format, and its accessibility to readers knowledgeable in the discipline but not the specialization written about. The departmental examiner also checks that the dissertation conforms to the stylistic and typographical specifications of the College of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies.
  3. Cognate examiner
    The cognate examiner represents the Dean of the College of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies. This examiner reads the dissertation, observes the examination as it proceeds, participates in evaluating the dissertation and the student's responses during the examination, and afterwards submits a form reporting to the Dean on these matters. The cognate examiner examines the dissertation with attention to the way it refers to the area of his or her own expertise, and considers the general persuasiveness of the dissertation for an audience not familiar with the discipline of English.
  4. External Examiner
    After the specialist examiner, departmental examiner, and cognate examiners have agreed that the dissertation is ready for defence, the dissertation is sent to the external examiner. The external examiner is a specialist in the area of the dissertation who is on faculty at another university. The College of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies forwards a copy of the duties of the external examiner at the time of appointment. The student should have no contact with the external examiner before the examination. On reading the dissertation, this examiner submits a written report, which forms part of the grounds for the decision of the examining committee. The external examiner is offered four to six weeks in which to read and complete the written assessment of the dissertation.
  5. The Examination
    Given the difficulty of scheduling dissertation examinations between 1 June and 31 August, students must complete the dissertation well before deadlines. The time from initial submission to examination for a Ph.D. dissertation is normally about two to three months; during the summer, arrangements for the defence can add to that time. A dissertation examination is governed by the following regulations:
    • A printed Dissertation Summary is distributed to the examining committee at the time of the examination. It is the responsibility of the candidate to prepare this Summary and to submit it to the Dean of the College of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, at least one week before the examination.
    • All faculty of the Department are invited to attend; the candidate may also request that the Department invite interested graduate students.
    • The Chair of the Graduate Committee or the Chair's designate will chair the examination.
    • The supervisor is neither an examiner nor the chair of the examination, but normally attends the examination and remains during the examining committee's deliberations.
    • At the outset of the examination, the candidate speaks for ten to fifteen minutes about the issues, approaches, conclusions, and significance of the dissertation.
    • The examiners question the candidate for about twenty minutes each, and then have the opportunity for one or two further questions; subsequently, any other faculty present may ask one question each. Normally, the examination will not exceed two hours.
    • After the questioning, everyone but the Chair and the examiners withdraws while the examiners deliberate their decision. That decision will be one of these five:
      1. Recommendation 1: dissertation acceptable, with or without minor revisions (to be completed within two weeks); oral defence acceptable
      2. Recommendation 2: dissertation requires re-submission (within six weeks); underlying research adjudged to be sound, but dissertation in need of recasting with addition of illustrative material or limited additional data; oral defence acceptable
      3. Recommendation 3: dissertation acceptable; oral defence unacceptable; second attempt at oral defence should be completed within three months of the date of the initial examination (only one re-take allowed)
      4. Recommendation 4: dissertation unacceptable; oral examination re-take; dissertation does not meet minimum standards, but committee believes that further research and/or revision may bring it to an acceptable standard or dissertation defence is unacceptable but the committee agrees that the candidate has the potential, with additional preparation, to be able successfully to defend work; re-submission of dissertation and second attempt of oral defence no sooner than six months and no later than twelve months after the original defence.
      5. Recommendation 5: clear fail; dissertation does not meet minimum standards and committee considers that no reasonable amount of additional research or revision is likely to bring it to an acceptable standard or oral defence of dissertation is completely unacceptable and committee agrees that the candidate does not have potential to be able to successfully defend the work; committee recommends candidate be required to discontinue from the College of Graduate Studies

No later than a week after the examination, the examiners must give a written copy of any requirements they have for the dissertation to the Chair of the Graduate Committee. The supervisor and the chair of the examination are responsible for seeing that the candidate carries out the changes, but the examiners have the right to approve them. If the supervisor declines to see the changes carried out, the chair of the examination appoints one of the Department examiners to do so in the supervisor's place. All these things are to be agreed upon before the examination meeting ends.

Candidates must submit the dissertation electronically to CGPS.

Consult the Electronic Theses and Dissertations Site for details on how to proceed.