Degree Requirements

Candidates for the MA degree must satisfactorily complete the following studies, which may be completed in one or two academic year.  Students will complete the coursework in the fall and winter terms, and the Major Research Paper (MRP) in the summer term. Upon completion of the MRP, the student will have an oral exam.

The sequence for the satisfactory completion of M.A. requirements is as follows:

  1. 18 credits* of course work - (at least 12 credits must be Social & Political Thought courses)**
    - In order to ensure interdisciplinary breadth, at least 3 credits must be taken in another SPT field other than the student’s primary SPT field ( there are 3 fields and fields are designated by course code)
  2. The Major Research Paper
  3. An MA oral examination

*  A full course is a 6 credit course and is usually offered over two terms.
A half course is a 3 credit course and is usually offered over one term
** a maximum of 6 credits may be taken as a directed reading course (Social & Political Thought 6001 6.0 or 6001 3.0). No more than 6 credits may be taken with one faculty member, with the exception of a directed reading course.

All MA requirements are superseded by FGS policies

Course Work

Students create their own, unique, study program choosing from a number of interdisciplinary courses that are often cross listed by graduate programs in English, History, Philosophy, Political Science, Sociology, Humanities, and other relevant disciplines. All courses offered by SPTH are open to MA and doctoral students.  Course calendar

Language Competence

Competence in a language other than English is sometimes required for the MRP or PhD dissertation. In general the greater the importance placed on the interpretation of texts, the greater the linguistic competence required. Students requiring undergraduate language courses are encouraged to investigate the courses and their requirements through the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, Department of Language, Linguistics and Literatures. A placement test may be required if the student requires a language course at the intermediate or advanced levels. In addition, students will require the signed permission of the Social and Political Thought Director to register in an undergraduate language course. Forms are available at the Faculty of Graduate Studies website. Students interested in language courses should inform the Director.

Availability of places in undergraduate language courses is determined by the Undergraduate offices; therefore, students are highly encouraged to investigate language courses at the earliest possible date and to ensure that all paperwork is submitted promptly to both the undergraduate and graduate offices.

The Major Research Paper

MA Oral Exams

The MA Oral Examination is an exam that is held once all other degree requirements have been completed. It is a oral examination based on 3 books that the student and the two readers have agreed upon. Generally the books are drawn from the MRP (Major Research Paper) bibliography.  The MA Oral exam may be booked only after all coursework is complete and grades submitted, and the MRP has been read and passed by both readers.  The earliest date it can be booked after all other work is completed is 3 weeks from the date all other degree requirements have been finalized, and in order to book the date, the student must notify the Graduate program director and program assistant in writing of the names of the two readers, the three books to be examined for the examination. The Director will select a Director's representative for the exam.

Once the director reviews and approved the books, the program assistant will be asked to set up the exam by the GPD.

Exams cannot be held over the holidays when the University is closed, nor does that time count as three weeks should the student notify the program just as the University is closing for the holidays.

An MA oral exam is booked for a 2 hour period.

The student is asked questions directly and indirectly related to the texts that have been selected. Some aspects of the MRP that relates to the texts may also be asked at the exam. Students need to demonstrate a clear understanding of the texts and an ability to explain the main arguments and concepts.

The Examination Committee

The MA oral examination committee consists of three faculty members – the supervisor (first MRP reader) the second reader and either the Director or a Director's Rep. All faculty members must be appointed to the Faculty of Graduate Studies in order to be on the committee.

The Director's Rep

It is more common to have a Director's Rep, than to have the Director due to the time commitments of the Director.

Although the student and the supervisor may make recommendations for a Director’s Rep, the Director makes the final selection. Usually the student and Director will develop a list of two or three faculty member names and rank the list.  The Director may - but not always - selects a director's rep from the names provided by the supervisor.  Once the Graduate Program Director identifies the director's rep, the Program Assistant will ascertain the faculty members’ availability, and will set up the exam and notify all participants.  The exam must occur on the York (or Glendon) campus.  Off campus exams are not an option.

The Director’s Rep attends the exam, is responsible for handling the paperwork at the exam, ensuring all the committee members are present, explaining the process to other members that may never have sat on an SPTH comps exam (procedures vary from program to program at York), and aids in mediating the committee's questions.  The Director’s Rep ensures that the signed paperwork is returned back to the SPTH Program Office in a timely manner.

The student is requested to provide the Director or Director's Rep with a copy of the MRP at least three weeks prior to the date of the Oral Exam (this copy does not have to be bound).

The MRP must be read and passed by both readers (the to program office needs to have both “passes”) before we can begin booking the MA oral exam.

The student must then email the director (and copy the program assistant),

  1. the booklist (Title and author) of the three books in proper academic style (full reference).
  2. the date and time that the comps is tentatively planned for (both the student and the committee members have agreed on the time, and are available for that time and date)
    and – if a preference has been indicated by the student or committee members –
  3. any suggestions for the director’s rep.

Neither the student nor the committee members select or contact the director’s rep.  Once the director has approved the books and chosen a director’s rep (if necessary), the program assistant will contact the director's rep to check availability and set up the exam.

Three weeks is the minimum time to book the exam once the MRP has been passed.

PhD requirements* are as follows:

  1. Courses:
    Students must successfully complete the PhD course requirements exactly as described below.
    Take the  equivalent of 24 credits as follows:
    a) Social & Political Thought 6104 (6 credit program core course): Social and Political
    Thought: Theories, Approaches, and Methods – this course must be completed in the first year,  and
    b) Take an additional 18 credits**, including 12 credits of Social & Political Thought courses***
    - In order to ensure interdisciplinary breadth, at least 3 credits must be taken in another SPT field other than the student’s primary SPT field ( there are 3 fields and fields are designated by course code)

*All PhD requirements are superseded by FGS policies

**A full course is a 6 credit course and is usually offered over two terms. A half course is a 3 credit course and is usually offered over one term

***a maximum of 6 credits may be taken as a directed reading course (Social & Political Thought 6001 6.0 or 6001 3.0). No more than 6 credits may be taken with one faculty member, with the exception of a directed reading course.

Demonstration of suitable comprehensive mastery over general areas of social and
political thought relevant to the candidate’s program of study as  determined by the candidate’s supervisory committee.
The comprehensive requirements are to be successfully completed prior to the submission of a dissertation proposal.

Skype/Zoom Policy for the Phd Comprehensive Exam:  it is the normal expectation that all participants (faculty members and the student) attend the examination in person.  Only in exceptional circumstances, will the graduate program director approve the exam proceed with a  faculty member external to the event (skyped or teleconferenced in).  This approval must be requested when the student submits the booklist for GPD approval.    Motion made and approved by SPTH Executive April 27, 2017

3. Dissertation Proposal
The dissertation proposal can only be submitted upon the completion
of all coursework and the successful completion of the comprehensive examination. The dissertation proposal must be approved by both the Supervisory Committee, Graduate Program Director and the Faculty of Graduate Studies (in that order) at least six months prior to the PhD oral defense.

Comprehensive Oral Examination

The PhD Comps are a comprehensive examination, taken after all course requirement have been completed, and prior to writing the dissertation.
The purpose of the comprehensive examination is two-fold:

  1. To provide an adequate background and intelligible context for the writing of an interdisciplinary dissertation;
  2. To ensure sufficient breadth of scholarly knowledge to prepare the candidate for a career in university research and teaching.

The doctoral student, in consultation with the examining committee, defines two fields on which the student wishes to be examined. One field will be designated the major field, the other the minor field.
Determination of the fields should be guided by the following considerations:

  1. Fields must not be excessively narrow
  2. One field must not subsume another
  3. Both fields may not be primarily in the same discipline
  4. At least one field must not be limited primarily to the twentieth or twenty-first century.

Students should demonstrate a broad familiarity with the major texts, issues and critics in any given field.
Examples of acceptable fields include - but are not limited to:

  • Psychoanalysis/ Psychoanalytic Theory
  • Structuralist and Poststructuralist Theory
  • Postcolonial Theory
  • Queer Theory
  • Feminist Theory
  • Critical Race Theory
  • Kant and Enlightenment
  • Globalization and the Nation State
  • Im/migration, multiculturalism and cosmopolitanism
  • Social Theories of Religion and Modernity
  • 20th Century Historiography
  • Theorizing Social Determinants of Health
  • Philosophical Anthropology
  • Theories of the body
  • Aesthetic Theory and Public Spaces
  • Hegel and Marx
  • Theories of the State
  • Themes in Critical Theory
  • Theories of Art and Revolution
  • Theories of Narratology

Prior to the comps candidates will present a bibliography of the texts relevant to the chosen fields (these must be submitted in proper format ie. full references in an approved academic style). The bibliography should include a minimum of (and not much more than) twenty-five (25)  significant entries in the major field and a minimum of (and not much more than) fifteen (15) entries for the minor field. The examination will focus attention on the material listed in the bibliography. The bibliography must be approved by the examining committee prior to setting the date for the examination. Candidates are advised to consult with their examining committee when preparing the bibliography.

*Arrangements with respect to time, place, date and composition of the examining committee must be made through the Program office for the Director's approval at least one month prior to the examination*. The comprehensive examination committee consists of three members of the Program who are familiar with a student's work and the Director, or his/her representative. The student will consult with their committee members to determine a suitable date and time for the exam. The student will then provide to the Director (in writing or by email), the names of the three committee members, the proposed time and date of the exam, and the bibliography. Once the bibliography and committee is approved by the Director and a Director's representative has been selected, the Program Assistant will contact the faculty members nominated for the Director's Rep. and arrange the comprehensive exam. Official notification of the exam will be sent (by email) to all participants from the Program Office.

Dissertation Proposals

The dissertation proposal is submitted after the successful completion of the comprehensive exam requirement. The dissertation proposal may be submitted at any time of the year after the student has met with their supervisory committee. The proposal MUST include a completed TD1 form cover page (including all required supporting documentation relevant to human participant related research — see guidelines and links below). Once the supervisory committee has met with the student and submitted their written approval to the program office, the GPD - in consultation with another SPTH faculty member in the relevant field - will conduct a program level review of the proposal.

Please note:  The SPTH Reviewer will need at least 3 weeks to review the proposal, so please factor this into your timeline to meet any scholarship or ethics related deadlines.

There are three (3) possible outcomes for the program level review:

  1. Approved
  2. Minor Revisions (revisions completed within one to four weeks and re-reviewed by the GPD)
  3. Major Revisions (revisions to be completed within one to three months and re-reviewed by both the GPD and a SPTH faculty member in the relevant field)
    Any required revisions will be outlined to both the student and supervisor

Once the proposal has been approved, the program office will submit it to FGS.

The Format of the Proposal
Usually no less than 15 and no more than 20 double-spaced 12-point Times New Roman Font pages, 1 inch margins (excluding references and appendices) the proposal MUST have the following components:

  1. Format:
    Title of the dissertation (on a completed TD 1 form);
    Abstract + Keywords
  2. Content:
    The title needs to reflect the main argument of the dissertation
    The abstract summarizes the project (350 words) + a set of up to 5 keywords identifying the topic for the Graduate Faculty dissertation database.
    The proposal: Introduction, argument, theoretical framework, methods (if applicable) and possible conclusions.

    • The proposal should also outline the topic area of the proposed research: specifically identify one or more of the three SPTH fields, as well as generally identify the relevant area/s of academic study (eg. Political economy, Post-colonial thought, Critical theory, Transnational Feminist theory, etc.)
    • The interdisciplinary nature of the research and the traditions of social and political thought out of which it arises
      A clear chapter outline indicating the themes and substantive issues to be studied
    • Generally each chapter should have at least a paragraph of description.
      Key terms and concepts should be clearly defined in the proposal

    References: A basic bibliography set out formally in one of the three following styles: APA, Chicago, MLA. (Please note: the bibliography is not part of the page limit)

  3. Appendix:
    If not addressed in the proposal itself the appendix should include:

    • The languages other than English, if any, which are needed to complete the dissertation satisfactorily as well as an outline of how the student plans to develop competence in these languages
    • The travel, if any, needed to pursue the research (and the timeline for when the travel will occur)
    • A clear and achievable time-line for completion;

*The proposal must be submitted in a final (not draft) version.

Complete Submission
All proposals submitted to the Program office must include the following forms as well as the proposal itself:

  1. The Thesis and Dissertation Proposal Form (TD1) with all appropriate committee signatures.
  2. The Dissertation Proposals Appraisal Form with signed approval by committee members.
  3. If appropriate, the FGS Human Participants Research Protocol form (TD2 form) — found on the FGS website — or any other appropriate Research Ethics documentation. Students should contact FGS for information. All students using research ethics need to complete the on-line TCPS Tutorial form dated within the last 2 years.
  4. The program office will need one complete hard copy of the proposal as well as one complete electronic copy as the Advisory committee will received the electronic copy for review, and the hard copy is for submission to FGS.

Please note
The proposal will not be reviewed without all supervisory committee approvals and all relevant related paperwork must be handed in by the submission deadline. It is the student’s responsibility to ensure that all relevant paperwork has been submitted.

Review of the Dissertation Proposal
The dissertation proposal will be reviewed with particular attention to the following matters:

  • Completeness of the proposal (see above)
  • Significance, quality, and timeliness as a theoretical and/or empirical work that is relevant to at least one of the three fields in Social and Political Thought
  • Clear outline of the interdisciplinary nature of the research
  • Assessment of whether or not the necessary resources are available to the student to carry out the research. Also assessment of whether or not the student has the ability to complete the research.
  • Composition of the proposed supervisory committee in light of the topic and relevant faculty appointments to SPTH:
    • Please note: supervisors MUST already have a full appointment to the Graduate Program in Social and Political Thought (Important: faculty members will NOT be considered for appointment in order to only supervise one student). As well, a minimum of 2 out of 3 committee members (including supervisor) MUST have an appointment to the Graduate Program in Social and Political Thought.
  • Satisfaction of any and all applicable research ethics protocols and formal attestation to this effect
  • Clarity and comprehensiveness of the proposal, including bibliography and relevant appendices

The dissertation proposal must be submitted and approved by both the program and FGS at least six months prior to the PhD oral defence.

Students must be registered in the term in which the dissertation proposal is received and processed for approval.

Students are required to keep a complete copy of their dissertation proposal in their own personal records.

If a committee member changes after the dissertation proposal has been submitted, the member of record must agree (in writing or email) to step off, and the new member must agree (again, in writing or email) to join the committee. This paperwork needs approval at the program level as well as the FGS level so any required changes must be done as soon as possible in order not to create a delay before defence.

The Dissertation

By entering into the PhD Program, the student has made a commitment to devote the time and energy necessary to engage in research and write a dissertation which constitutes a substantial and original contribution to knowledge in Social and Political Thought.

Dissertations should adhere to the format set forth in the "Guidelines for the Preparation and Examination of Theses and Dissertations" published by the Faculty of Graduate Studies. Thesis Guidelines of the Faculty of Graduate Studies Copies are available in the SPTH office or in the Faculty of Graduate Studies.

In conjunction with the supervisor and supervisory committee, the PhD Candidate develops an intended timetable for completion of all stages of the dissertation, and works to realize that timetable, meeting appropriate deadlines. The Candidate should meet regularly with the supervisor to review progress, normally at least once a month, and not less than once each term. Interaction with other members of the supervisory committee should take place as appropriate.

Students wishing to view dissertations by SPTH alumni may have access to the bound dissertations through the Program Director, although dissertations may not be borrowed or used outside of the SPTH offices. In addition, the Scott Library maintains dissertations of all York graduate students.

Students who are working on their Dissertation may request Extended Library Loan Privileges. The form is available in the SPTH program office.

Supervision and Supervisory Committee

The success of a doctoral study greatly depends upon having a supervisor and a committee that work closely with the student. It is important that a supervisor and the committee be identified at the early stages of the study.

A supervisor* must be recommended  for student by the Director for approval by the Dean of Graduate Studies no later than the end of the fifth term of study (end of second term of PhD II).

A supervisory committee must be recommended for the student by the Director for approval by the Dean of Graduate Studies no later than the end of the eighth term of study (end of second term of PhD III).

* supervisors can only be SPTH appointed faculty and non-SPTH faculty members will not be appointed to the SPTH program just to fulfill this role

Tips for Putting Together a Supervisory Committee

  1. Initially, every student meets with the Program Director. This is a good place to start your search as the Director knows all the SPTH courses and has a good grasp of the research areas that SPTH faculty members work in.
  2. Your courses - the SPTH courses you select to take should incorporate your own research interests and therefore are an excellent place to look for a potential supervisor and supervisory committee members.
  3. Check out SPTH faculty member's publications. In this way, you not only know what they are researching, but also their interpretation of the field. Are your views compatible with theirs?
  4. Participate in SPTH committees. All the committees in the program have faculty members on them, and many (Admissions, Executive) need to discuss research interests within their purview. A number of students find potential committee members based on the discussions in these meetings.
  5. Meet with SPTH faculty members. Be prepared to talk about your research interests. Ask them about their research.
  6. Attend SPTH program seminars and social events: these give you a chance to learn about the research of professors in the program and to mix and mingle with other students and faculty. Talking in a relaxed environment is often a good way to find out about someone's research interests.
  7. If you still can't find the right people for your committee, meet with the Director who will be able to advise.  Although your supervisor must be already be a SPTH appointed faculty member, you may have one of your committee members from another graduate program here at York - only one of your committee members may be from outside the SPTH graduate program- the rest of your committee (including supervisor MUST be already appointed to the SPTH graduate program).
  8. When you have reached the stage to defend, the Director will consult with the supervisor for recommendations to the Dean for the appointment of external examiners for the dissertation committee.

Changing Members of the Supervisory Committee

Occasionally committee members have to be changed. Students seeking to change committee members should proceed as follows:

  1. The committee member who is being replaced must be contacted and agree (in writing or email) to the change.
  2. The new member must agree to join the committee. They must be appointed to the Faculty of Graduate Studies, and the SPTH graduate program (remember, you can only have one member of your committee from outside of the SPTH graduate program).
  3. The SPTH director must receive notification from both faculty members of the change as well as a robust statement from the student indicating the reason for the change.
  4. When a student has already submitted the dissertation proposal, the above correspondence must be submitted to the Associate Dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies for approval, and updated on the Dissertation Proposals Appraisal Form (TD1)

Timeline for the completion of PhD

Year 1 — Coursework
Year 2 — Coursework/ selection of supervisor
Year 3 — Comprehensive exams and dissertation proposal.
Year 4 — Dissertation research and begin writing.
Year 5 — Dissertation completion and defense
Year 6 — If needed finish dissertation & defend

Note: Funding in year 6 ends after the winter term.

Should I have taken classes with committee members before?

Although it is not required, it is strongly recommended that you take courses with the people you want to work with so that you have a sense of how they work and their approach to your areas of research interest. (Remember, you can only have one member of your committee from outside of the SPTH graduate program).

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How do I approach faculty members if I haven't taken classes with them?

If they are in SPTH, most of the faculty members would be willing to discuss your research areas and your supervisory/committee needs. You can contact them by email and/or make an appointment for a meeting. Prepare for the meeting with a short (written is preferable) overview of your areas of research interest. Also make sure you are clear about your expectations of their involvement if you decide to ask them to be on your committee, and it is recommended that you take information from the SPTH program guidelines to the meeting. In addition, if they have specific questions, they can contact the program office or the Director for additional information. (Remember, you can only have one member of your committee from outside of the SPTH graduate program).

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If I don't have anyone in mind, how should I choose a third person?

Talk with your readers and the SPTH Director about potential faculty members. Generally the choice will be driven by the books you have chosen to be tested on, and your academic interests. (Remember, you can only have one member of your committee from outside of the SPTH graduate program).

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Should all three members of my Comp Committee be on my Supervisory Committee?

Many students continue on with the same committee; however, it is possible to change members of the committee at this point. (Remember, you can only have one member of your committee from outside of the SPTH graduate program).

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How long does it usually take to prepare for the comps exam?

For the student
- his or her supervisory committee is the best judge of when the student's depth of knowledge is sufficient and broad enough to proceed to the exams.
Notice of exam for the program office and the faculty members
- one month minimum from when the comprehensive lists are submitted to the Director for review (this is after the Supervisor and committee members have approved the lists), as the program office needs to find a Director's rep, send out notices, book the room, etc.

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How long is the exam itself?

The examination is approximately two hours.

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Can I submit my dissertation proposal before I have my comps exam?

No - it is strongly advised that you do not do so as the proposal cannot go forward to the Faculty of Graduate Studies until the after the comps exam results have been received by the office.

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What happens if I fail the comps?

If you fail your comps, you will need to meet with the Director immediately. After discussing the exam, the director will meet with the supervisor. A second exam would need to be set up when both the supervisor and the director believe you are better prepared.

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