PhD Proposal Exam Instructions

The research proposal should be prepared when the student has settled on a research topic; completed a preliminary exploration of the sources; and identified the problem and defined a research strategy. Ideally, the research proposal should take the form of a paper of about twenty to forty pages in length which includes a statement of the problem, research questions, a discussion and literature review of the research context in which it is set, research objectives or hypotheses, a brief outline of the data sources and methods, a draft survey or guiding questions for interviews (where appropriate) and a suggested timetable for completion. There should be a discussion of methods and methodology that makes reference to the literature on methodology. The proposal should provide a rationale for the choice of methods and discuss any ethical issues stemming from the research (if appropriate). The research proposal should be defended prior to extensive research. It should not constitute a draft of the final thesis.

Exam Request Form

To confirm exam details, students must submit the Exam Request Form and submit their proposal to the committee and graduate office a minimum of 10 full working days prior to the exam. For clarity, this timeline does not include the day of the exam, or any days which the university is closed. The thesis/MRP must be sent by 9am in order for that day to count as a full working day. If the proposal is not distributed by this deadline, the graduate office will cancel the exam.

The graduate office will prepare the examination file for the supervisor that can be collected just before the exam and returned immediately following the exam.

To book a room/AV for the exam, please contact prior to submitting the exam request form. The exam should be booked for up to 2 hours.


To keep on track for time-to-completion the department recommends the research proposal be defended by June of year two and no later than September of year three. Normally, all required coursework will have been completed by the time of the research proposal exam but in some cases the research proposal can be presented earlier with the agreement of the supervisory committee.

Exam Results

A Research Proposal must be submitted and defended before the supervisory committee at the research proposal examination. The committee will advise the student on the acceptability of the proposal and will decide on any further steps to be taken in shaping the dissertation research project. The outcome of the proposal exam is one of the following:

  • Pass
  • Conditional Pass. Student must satisfy conditions specified by the supervisory committee (within three months) subject to final approval of the committee or a subset of the committee, which must include the supervisor(s). Failure to satisfy conditions by this date shall result in failure of the exam.
  • Fail. The student must repeat the exam within six months.

The conditions will be attached to the research proposal examination form and typically include requests for revisions to theory and methodology. Examples of requested revisions might include additional reading on theory, reconceptualization of the theoretical approach, or additional research into the feasibility or appropriateness of the methodology.