Exams, Thesis & Proposal

Stack of books Students enroled in the PhD in LIS program are required to pass a comprehensive written and oral exam prior to beginning work on their dissertation. The purpose of comprehensive exams is to ensure that the student has the requisite knowledge foundation to proceed and be successful in the program.

Once the comprehensive exam has been passed, students move on to their proposal and thesis.

Comprehensive exam, proposal & thesis

Comprehensive Exams

The comprehensive exam in the LIS doctoral program consists of a take-home, written essay. This approach allows the student to concentrate on expressing his/her ideas, demonstrating true synthesis and integration of materials and displaying scholarly depth, creativity and initiative in their preparations for the exam.

The comprehensive examination is normally prepared and written during the final term of the student’s required course work and the term following (for full-time students, summer term of first year and fall term of second year). The exam paper is normally due the first Friday of November of the second year of the program.

Examination Committee
The Graduate Chair and the student’s Academic Advisor shall identify three faculty members with expertise relevant to the student's chosen General Elective to serve as the Examination Committee. One faculty member will be appointed as Chair of the Examination Committee. The Examination Committee will be responsible for confirming the due date for the comprehensive exam and evaluating the written essay.

Reading List
The Examination Committee may identify additional material beyond the student’s course readings that they feel is necessary for the comprehensive examination. Such additional reading may consist of no more than 20 article-length items or equivalent, and the committee must normally provide the list of additional materials to the student by May 1 of the first year in the program.

The student will be given a minimum of twelve weeks after the completion of the required course work to focus on writing the comprehensive exam. For full-time students, the essay will normally be due by the first Friday of November of the second year of the program.

The student will write an extended essay of between 8000 and 10 000 words excluding references and appendices.

The examiners read the written essay independently and each examiner independently assigns a pass/fail grade. The Chair of the Examination Committee compiles the individual grades; the final grade is the majority of these individual grades. The grading requirements of the School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies apply (i.e., failure is defined as consistent with a numeric grade below 60%).

Within a week of the written examination, the Chair of the Examining Committee or designate will submit an overall Pass/Fail grade for the exam along with a one-page overview of examiners' feedback to the student and to the FIMS Graduate Student Services Office.

If the student has passed the written exam, a member of Graduate Student Services staff will then record the completion of this program milestone on the student's record.

If the student has failed the written exam, the student will have four weeks from receipt of the initial grade to revise and resubmit the essay.  

If the written exam is failed on this second attempt, the student must withdraw from the program.

Reading List Guidelines

The reading list for LIS PhD students preparing for their comprehensive exam is developed in consultation with the examination committee. It should include a selection of approximately 8000-12000 pages. The list should comprise a mixture of general and more specific works, all relevant to the area of the student's proposed dissertation. The structure of the list is open - various combinations of books and articles may result.

The student is responsible for initiating the process of generating the reading list soon enough to give the examination committee time to review, revise and approve it. The examination committee is responsible for submitting its contribution to the list in for the student to master all items included in preparation for the comprehensive examination.

Proposal & Thesis

Having successfully completed the comprehensive exam, the student is expected to produce a 20-40 page proposal (plus bibliography) of the thesis research. The proposal is normally due no later than the end of the 7th term. The proposal must be approved by the student’s Advisory Committee before work can commence on the thesis.

Thesis and Thesis Examination
Upon approval of the proposal, the student proceeds to undertake the research for the thesis. The completed thesis is approved by the student’s Advisory Committee and the student is permitted to proceed to the examination. For the examination, the student must give a public presentation of the results of the research, following by an oral examination, in accordance with the Guidelines of the School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies (SGPS).

Specific dates will vary each year.

Sample Time Frame (Spring):

  • Deadline to Submit a Completed Thesis to FIMS – mid-March
  • Deadline for Thesis Defence – mid-April
  • Deadline for Final Submission of the Thesis – late April