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The PhD in Media Studies program requires the completion of six courses, Fields Exam, a thesis proposal and a thesis.

The program normally proceeds in the following way:

Year Fall Winter Summer
Y1 Coursework Coursework Coursework
Y2 Formation of Supervisory Committee and Qualifying Meeting Fields Exam Fields Essay Submitted
Y3 Fields Exam & Thesis Proposal Thesis Research & Writing Thesis Research & Writing
Y4 Thesis Research & Writing Thesis Submitted Thesis Defense

Fields Examination and Thesis Proposal

Current students should visit the FIMS Graduate intranet for the full instructions for the Media Studies Doctoral Fields Examination and Thesis Proposal (login required).

Fields Examination

Qualifying Meeting

The first step of the Field Examination is the qualifying review meeting with the Graduate Chair and the student’s Supervisory Committee, ideally undertaken in the fall of year two. The purpose of the meeting is to review the student's progress to that point and give the student the opportunity to communicate with the committee. The substance of the meeting is both retrospective and prospective. It includes discussion both of the student's work to that point and of conceptualizations and plans for future directions. The latter includes possible preliminary examination fields. 

Defining the Fields

The substance of the Field Examination depends on the student's particular research and teaching interests. The student has an important role in determining exam areas. In delineating those areas in collaboration with their committee, the student is in many ways defining their intellectual and professional areas. The three fields will be configured as follows: 

Field One: the history and theory of a medium and/or related media 
Field Two: cultural/social theory and/or political economy 
Field Three: an elective field that provides a comparative perspective (i.e. Queer Theory, Indigenous Studies, Disability Studies.) 

Working with the Supervisory Committee, the candidate should construct core bibliographies in each field. Taken together, the fields should define the areas in which the student is planning to teach as well as the scholarly contexts for the student's projected research. The collective bibliography should include a total of 45 texts, ideally 15 texts per field. (Generally speaking, a “text” is defined as a monograph, or edited volume, or article of substantial weight.) Normally, the fields’ bibliographies are established at the end of the 1st semester of year two. 

Fields Essay & Oral Examination

After the fields have been established, the Supervisory Committee and student will establish a timeline for completion and clarify expectations for the exam. The student should write an essay (approx. 30-35 pages), exploring the three fields and their interconnections, discussing the key issues and scholarship that constitute them, and identifying the kinds of research questions, scholarly issues, and debates in which the candidate plans to intervene. For Media Studies Field Examinations (constituted after July 1, 2023), members of the Supervisory Committee will provide general feedback on one draft of the exam (if requested by the candidate and if the draft is submitted at least a month prior to the exam date) a minimum of two weeks prior to defense date. The final essay will provide the basis for an oral examination, to be conducted by the student’s Supervisory Committee, ideally within three weeks of receiving the essay.  The oral examination will run up to but not over 90 minutes in length and will be chaired by faculty member with SGPS supervisory status in Media Studies and who is not a member of the Supervisory Committee.  Normally, the fields essay will be submitted by the end of the summer semester in year two.  
Directly after the oral examination, the Supervisory Committee should discuss the student’s performance and make one of the following decisions, which will be immediately communicated to the student: (1) passed with no revisions, or (2) passed with minor revisions (final approval to be granted by Supervisor, in consultation with other members of the Supervisory Committee if appropriate) or (3) adjourned, pending major revisions.  A decision to adjourn cannot be appealed. 
If adjourned, the scope and substance of major revisions must be provided in writing by the Supervisory Committee to the student, copied to the Graduate Chair, within two weeks of the oral exam. This written rationale for adjourning should help assist the student rewriting the essay. The Supervisory Committee may assign a limited number of additional readings to assist in the revisions, but the original reading lists should otherwise be kept intact. The revised essay should be completed within three months, and reviewed by the entire Supervisory Committee once re-submitted. 
With approval of the Graduate Chair, one member of the Supervisory Committee may be replaced during the revision stage, based upon a written rationale by the student, approved by all three of the new committee members, explaining why the change supports new and unforeseen directions in their dissertation research. 
Upon re-submitting after major revisions, the Supervisory Committee will use the rationale for adjourning to decide whether the student has (1) passed, or (2) failed. Another oral examination is not required, but may be beneficial. Although consensus is always preferable, a vote of two of the three supervisory committee members is sufficient to determine the outcome. 
 A written rationale for a decision to fail must be provided in writing to the student, and copied to the Graduate Chair. A “pass” means the student may proceed to the oral presentation and thesis proposal. A “fail” after revisions means the student will be asked to withdraw from the program. 

Oral Presentation

After the completion of the Fields Examination, the student must prepare a 20-minute public presentation of their research followed by a Q&A. Normally this will occur in the fall semester of year three. 

Thesis Proposal

The thesis proposal is usually undertaken after the successful completion of the Fields Examination and is normally submitted in the fall of year three in the program.

The thesis proposal is a formal articulation of the student’s program of work. This document should be approximately 20-25 pages (double-spaced, 12-point font, not inclusive of the bibliography).

The proposed research should be original, shedding new light on the existing literature. The proposal must include the following elements:
  • Abstract + Keywords
  • Introduction
  • Body
  • Chapter Outline
  • Timeline
  • References
  • Appendix, if applicable
Upon approval of the proposal, the student proceeds to undertake the research for the thesis.