Direct-Entry PhD Program Requirements


By the end of Year 3, students will complete 6.5 FCE:

  • LIN2101H - PhD Junior Forum (Credit/No Credit)
  • 3.0 FCE, to include if not taken previously:
    • LIN1103H - Introduction to Analysis and Argumentation
    • LIN1104H - Quantitative Methods (or equivalent)
    • LIN1121H - Phonological Theory
    • LIN1131H - Introduction to Syntactic Theory
    • LIN1145H - Semantics
    • JAL1145H - Field Methods
  • 0.5 FCE from the following group:
    • LIN10170H - Language Processing
    • LIN1106H - Introduction to Experimental Design
    • LIN1107H - Computational Methods in Linguistics
    • LIN1112H - Phonetic Analysis
    • LIN1156H - Language Variation and Change Theory
    • LIN1211H - Advanced Phonetics
    • LIN1255H - Advanced Language Variation and Change I
    • LIN1256H - Advanced Language Variation and Change II
    • LIN1271H - Advanced Psycholinguistics I
    • LIN1272H - Advanced Psycholinguistics II
    • LIN1276H - Topics in Speech Perception
    • JLP2451H - Language Acquisition
    • JLP2452H - Language Acquisition and Linguistic Theory
  • 2.5 FCE electives, which may be taken outside the Department of Linguistics, upon consultation with the Graduate Coordinator

Students must take at least 1.0 FCE at the 1200 level, of which 0.5 must be in Phonology, Syntax, or Semantics. Courses are chosen in consultation with the Graduate Coordinator. In order to remain in good standing, students must maintain a median mark of at least A- in all graded components of the program.

PhD Junior Forum

In their first term, PhD students attend PhD Junior Forum (LIN2101H), a professional skills course led by two faculty members. Topics of discussion include:

  • How and where to publish linguistics research
  • How to prepare conference presentations
  • How to produce an academic website
  • Balancing teaching and research

PhD Senior Forum

Students working on their Generals Papers are expected to present in an appropriate research group, to share their progress and get expert feedback (in lieu of bi-weekly Senior Forum meetings in previous years).

Generals Papers

Each PhD student will write two Generals Papers, normally completed by the end of the second year of the program. Students are enrolled in LIN2201H and LIN2202H in turn.

The two Generals Papers must be written in the following areas:

  • One of: phonology, phonetics, syntax, or semantics
  • A second area, to be chosen from the following:
    • Linguistic theory: a subfield distinct from the topic of the other paper
    • Language variation and change: sociolinguistics, dialectology, historical linguistics
    • Cognitive science: psycholinguistics, language acquisition, computational linguistics

Topics must be approved by the Graduate Coordinator, who determines whether the topic falls within an appropriate area, and whether the two topics are sufficiently distinct.


For each paper, a committee of three faculty members is set up:

  • Supervisor (chosen in consultation with the Graduate Coordinator)
  • Second Reader (chosen by the Supervisor, in consultation with the student)
  • Third Reader (chosen by the Supervisor, in consultation with the student)

The student should meet regularly with the Supervisor and the Second Reader while writing the Generals Paper.


Students choose their topic and enroll in their first Generals Paper (LIN2201H) in May of their first year; the paper is due in April of the following academic year.

Students choose their topic and enroll in the second Generals Paper (LIN2202H) in May of their second year, after completing their first paper. The second paper is due in April of the following academic year.

Completion and Defence

Evaluation of each Generals Paper is based on two components: the paper itself, and an oral defence.


Guidelines for Generals Papers

Generals Paper Completion Form

Language Requirement

All students must demonstrate the ability to read professionally in one language other than English. The choice of language is subject to approval by the Graduate Coordinator, and takes into consideration each student's research interests. Where appropriate, and with Departmental approval, a student may show demonstrated competence in computer programming in lieu of the language requirement.

A student may be asked to sit a reading comprehension exam in their chosen language; language exams are administered in the Spring. The exam will not test spoken or aural skills, nor will it require professional-level translation. Rather, a student must demonstrate the ability to read and understand academic writing in their chosen language. The exam consists of a three or four page text, usually from a contemporary linguistics source, and a series of questions to be answered in English, which may include:

  • Answering comprehension questions
  • Summarizing a section of the text
  • Translating a very short excerpt

Using a dictionary is permitted during the exam, which usually lasts two hours. The result is reported as Credit/No Credit.


A doctoral student who has completed all degree requirements apart from their thesis (e.g. coursework, language requirement, generals papers), and who has an approved thesis topic, supervisor, and supervisory committee, is designated a doctoral candidate in the School of Graduate Studies. Students must achieve candidacy by the end of Year 4.


Each student completes a doctoral dissertation in one of the Department's areas of research. During Year 4, the student must determine their thesis topic and complete preliminary work before making a thesis proposal in the spring.

All PhD students must make an oral thesis proposal by April 15 of their fourth year, on a date to be arranged with the graduate coordinator. Faculty and PhD students are expected to attend the presentation. The proposal should include:

  • A clear statement of the topic of research interest
  • A synthesis of the major literature in the area and how the topic is related to the literature
  • An indication of the major areas of research involved in the dissertation
  • A sense of the direction the student plans to take in carrying out the research

If the presentation does not meet these criteria, as determined by the faculty present, the student meets with the advisor and makes a second presentation no more than three months after the first, and in any case no later than June 15 of the fourth year. If the second presentation is judged by the faculty present to be unacceptable, the student will not be permitted to continue in the program.


All PhD students must submit a written thesis proposal before their oral presentation. A supervisory committee, consisting of the advisor and two other faculty members chosen by the student and the advisor, evaluates the proposal, makes individual comments on it, and meets with the student to discuss it prior to the presentation. If the committee has serious difficulties with the proposal, it may request that the student rework it. If a student is asked to rewrite the proposal, the committee must indicate where the problems lie and what kinds of improvements are necessary. If the committee cannot reach agreement about the suitability of the proposal, the student, together with the advisor or the Graduate Coordinator, may choose a fourth person to evaluate the proposal. This person makes a written evaluation without consulting the committee. A final decision on the suitability of the proposal is made by the committee and the fourth person. The proposal must be approved by June 15 of the fourth year. A student may be not allowed to continue in the program if an acceptable proposal is not received.

The report should normally be between 20 and 50 pages long. It should contain:

  • A clear statement of the major problem to be investigated in the thesis
  • An outline of the major areas to be investigated, including discussion of the relationship between each topic and the overall problem
  • A review of the appropriate literature
  • Substantial work in one area (e.g., a draft of one chapter)

It is recognized that the thesis will be an outgrowth of the report, and that it may deviate in certain ways from the topic outlined in the report. For this reason, copies of the proposals are not made publicly available, but are kept on file.

Thesis Proposal Guidelines

Thesis Proposal Presentation Form

While the writing of the thesis is overseen by a supervisory committee of three faculty members, students are expected to present their work to the department at large on a regular basis. The first presentation is the thesis proposal, and is done before April 15 of the fourth year. Subsequently, students are expected to give a presentation at least once per year until the thesis is completed. With the consent of the supervisory committee, a student may choose not to make a presentation during the final stages of writing. If a student’s progress is deemed to be unsatisfactory by the supervisory committee, it may require the student to make another presentation within three months. If this second presentation is not satisfactory, the student will not be permitted to continue in the program.

The thesis, which is a piece of scholarly writing, shall constitute a significant contribution to the knowledge of the field and must be based on research conducted while registered for the PhD program.Calendar of the School of Graduate Studies, section

Each student defends their thesis at a Final Oral Examination (thesis defense), conducted by an examination committee appointed by the School of Graduate Studies. The committee consists of the student's supervisory committee, two members of the graduate faculty who were not closely involved in the preparation of the thesis, an external examiner, and an examination committee chair.

For more instructions regarding the FOE, please see: 

PDF iconFOE Instructions

SGS regulations

May Monitoring

Each spring, PhD students meet with a supervisory committee to review their progress through program requirements.

Students in Years 1 through 3 are supervised by the Graduate Coordinator, who assembles a May Monitoring committee. Students are advised based on their timely progress through coursework requirements and their Generals papers. Students take this opportunity to plan their next year's workload.

Students who have completed coursework requirements and Generals papers, but who have not yet achieved candidacy, also meet with the Graduate Coordinator and May Monitoring committee.

Students who have achieved candidacy (ABD) meet with their thesis supervisor and committee for May Monitoring. The student makes a brief presentation of their thesis work, and the committee reviews the student's progress, providing advice on their future work.

After each meeting, the committee completes the relevant May Monitoring form in the absence of the student. Copies are provided to the student and Graduate Coordinator. The advisor discusses the report with the student, and the student is invited to respond in writing to the report. More frequent meetings may be required as determined by the committee. These meetings are not intended to replace the regular meetings between a student and their advisor.

May Monitoring Forms

PDF iconMonitoringProcedures.pdf

PDF iconStage 1: Students completing coursework and Generals papers

PDF iconStage 2: Students who have completed both Generals papers

PDF iconStage 3: Students who have achieved candidacy

Funding is provided for no more than four years of the PhD program; hence, it is important for students to finish all requirements within their four-year period. If the deadlines are not met, the student will meet with the graduate coordinator and the advisor to discuss the reasons for delay. In some cases of continued failure to meet deadlines, the student's continuation in the program might be at risk.

Ethics Protocols

All research done by graduate students that involves human participants requires an ethics protocol. This includes elicitation, interviews, psycholinguistics experiments, phonetics experiments, and so on. For research that involves elicitation only, the ethics protocol can be approved within the Department. All other ethics protocols must be approved through the University's Research Ethics Board. Students should discuss their research with their supervisor in order to determine what level of approval is required. Please refer to the Research Ethics overview for more information.