More About the PhD Program

Application Deadlines

The deadline for online applications, complete with all supporting documentation, is:

  • January 5 for Canadian applicants
  • November 1 for International applicants

Late applications will not be considered.

Application Documentation

Students are required to submit the following:

  • A complete Application For Admission Form
  • Application Fee ($100 Canadian)
  • Transcripts from all universities attended
  • Two confidential letters of recommendation, preferably from professors under whom the student has previously worked (to be submitted directly to the Faculty of Graduate Studies by the letter writer)
  • A sample of the student's scholarly writing (maximum 20 pages)
  • A detailed proposal (approximately 1,000 words) explaining the student's intended research focus

Applications are considered by the Graduate Selection Committee on an individual basis.

PhD Program Requirements

Course Work

The PhD program is designed to enable completion in four years.  In the first year of full-time PhD study, a student normally will complete 18 credit hours of course work, as follows:

1) a minimum of 12 credit hours at the 7000-level in English, with (if possible) at least one course in the student's area of specialization; and
2) six ancillary credit hours from the 7000-level offerings in the English Department or, if appropriate to the student’s program, as determined by the Graduate Chair and Exploratory Committee, from courses offered at the 3000, 4000, or 7000 levels by any department.

Depending on the student's progress and demonstrated knowledge and ability in the first year of PhD study, a total of 18 credit hours may be deemed sufficient, or a further course or courses may be required as the Graduate Committee directs.

Language Requirement

Graduate students are required to have some knowledge of a language other than English. For a PhD degree, a grade of C+ or better in 6 credit hours of language course(s) (second year or higher) satisfies the requirement. Such courses may be taken at the University of Manitoba or at other universities. Students who have a reading knowledge of a second language but who have not taken a university-level course in it may satisfy the requirement by demonstrating competence in that language, which, in most cases, will be done by taking a reading test. These tests are administered and marked by the members of the department in which that language is taught. While some programs of research may require reading knowledge of a particular language, in most cases students may choose, subject to the approval of their advisors, the language best suited to their interests. Students who enter the program with English as a second language will have their language requirement waived unless they are carrying out research that requires reading knowledge of a third language. If there is any question about which language would be appropriate in a given program of study or about the level of competence demanded, students must discuss the matter with their advisors, who will advise them in consultation with the Graduate Chair (on the advice of the Graduate Committee) and, when necessary, the Head of the appropriate language department. All language courses/reading tests will be classified as X (Auxiliary) and the grade will not be included in the student’s final G.P.A.  The grade may be included in the G.P.A. calculation for certain awards.

Exploratory Conference

Normally one week before classes begin, the Chair and at least two other members of the Graduate Committee will meet with the student for an Exploratory Conference.  In cases where a student has completed graduate courses beyond the MA degree before entering the PhD program, credit may be transferred towards a PhD degree only after the student has undertaken the Exploratory Conference and only if the course or courses fits into an approved program of study. The regulations governing this Conference are as follows:

1. The student should begin the interview with a statement of his/her knowledge by reference to prior study, assessing both his/her strengths and weaknesses, and should be prepared to make a brief statement about the findings of the Master's thesis or previous graduate work.

2. The student should, in preparation for the interview, review some aspects of literary history or theory important to his/her prior or prospective study, and should come prepared to initiate discussion of this area with the Exploratory Committee.

3. The Committee, in turn, will be prepared to discuss widely the student's interests and concerns, and those areas in which it feels the student would benefit from additional course work required for completion of the doctoral degree.

4. The Committee will write an assessment of the interview incorporating its requirements for the first year of study and its recommendations to the Graduate Chair for the areas of further study.

Subject to the approval of the Graduate Chair, the Exploratory Committee, after consultation with the student, will establish a long-term course program, including language requirements.  The Graduate Chair will serve as the student's Acting Advisor until he/she has declared an examination advisor. It is in the student's best interest to select an examination advisor promptly to ensure efficient programming (normally, by the end of April of the first year). Midway through a student’s first year, the Graduate Chair will consult with the instructors of graduate classes and the student’s Exploratory Committee members to discuss the performance of each first-year student, referring also to the Exploratory Conference. Students whose performance at the end of first term is found to be unsatisfactory will be so advised by the Graduate Chair, in detail, and will be warned that lack of improvement by the end of second term may result in their being required to withdraw from the PhD program. After being so warned, a student who fails to reach minimum departmental standards by the end of the second term of the first year will be informed in writing of recommendation to the Faculty of Graduate Studies that he/she be required to withdraw and, where found appropriate, be advised of the conditions for readmission. Students whose performance in the first year has been found satisfactory will be advised in writing that they have qualified to continue in the PhD program. Students who under special circumstances enter in January will receive evaluations in both April and the following January, with the final evaluation taking place in April, sixteen months after their initial registration.  Annual progress reports are completed in May.

Satisfactory progress by a full-time PhD student in the Graduate Studies program in English is defined as the completion of 18 credit hours of course work by the end of the first year of study, completed candidacy examinations by the end of the second/third year of study, and a successfully defended thesis by the end of the fourth year of study. Exceptions to this timetable must be approved, in writing, by the advisor, the Graduate Chair, and the Head of the Department of English. In addition, a minimum Grade Point Average of 3.00 with no grade below “C+” must be maintained for continuance.

The PhD Candidacy Examinations


Candidacy exams are an important test of a student’s ability to proceed further and with success in a doctoral program.  The Department of English, Theatre, Film & Media requires PhD students to pass two exams before achieving candidacy and proceeding to the dissertation: the Period Exam and the Special Area Exam.   Both exams are intended to require students to demonstrate their capacity to produce a variety of coherent and sophisticated critical syntheses from a lengthy list of texts while also demonstrating command of the particularities of those texts.  The Period Exam allows students to demonstrate breadth of knowledge across a substantial reading list and to demonstrate capacity to teach at the undergraduate level in a conventionally-defined sub-field.  The Special Area Exam allows students to demonstrate the capacity to identify and articulate the significance of a focused topos across a broad range of texts and in a sophisticated critical idiom.  In both exams, students should demonstrate detailed knowledge and understanding of their texts, should be able to link multiple texts in synthetic frameworks, should be able to link texts with a variety of historical and theoretical contexts, and should demonstrate understanding of the formal and generic qualities of their texts, as appropriate.  


Both the Period Exam and the Special Area exam require students to draw up lists of works to be read over the course of approximately six months.  At the end of each reading period, students will take a written examination composed by their examination advisor and examining committee and based on the reading list. 

Both examinations consist of a four-hour written component and a one-hour oral component. The oral component takes place within one week of the written component. The written component is normally composed of three essays which constitute answers to three questions selected by the student from eight or nine questions, all based on the student’s examination reading list. Through the student’s response to oral questions, the oral component offers the student the opportunity to acknowledge and remediate weaknesses or limitations in the written essays and to demonstrate a grasp of issues raised by the examination list not covered in the written essays. Written and oral components of each exam are not given separate grades. Rather, the whole examination, taking into consideration both oral and written components, is given a pass or a fail by each examiner at the end of the oral component.  The grade of pass or fail is based on the examiner’s general impression of whether or not the student has successfully demonstrated the capacities tested by that examination, as above.

As soon as possible after completion of coursework, students should consult with the Graduate Chair about selecting an examination advisor. Once an advisor has been selected, the student should consult with the advisor regarding choice of a Period and development of an appropriate reading list.   An Examining Committee will be struck for each Candidacy Exam. The Committee, which will be appointed by the Graduate Chair, after consultation with the exam advisor, will consist of the Advisor and two other members of the Department with expertise in relevant fields. This Committee will be responsible for approving the student’s reading list and for the creation and assessment of the examination. Reading lists are submitted to the Graduate Assistant, with the Advisor’s written approval. Examination papers are also submitted to the Graduate Assistant, who formats the examination.

Students are permitted to attempt each Candidacy Examination twice. Students who fail twice in either component (Period or Special Area) will be recommended, by the Department, to the Faculty of Graduate Studies for withdrawal from the program.

The Graduate Chair will normally hold an information meeting each spring for PhD students proceeding into their examination year.  In addition, students are strongly encouraged to discuss these examinations with the Graduate Chair well in advance of writing them.  The student is also welcome to contact members of the Exam Committee (once established) for guidance regarding the exams.

PERIOD EXAMINATION: The Period Examination will deal with one of the following periods:

Old and/or Middle English
Early Modern
Restoration and 18th-Century
19th Century
1900- Present: Literature
1900- Present: Film

In consultation with their exam advisor and committee, student should draw up a reading list consisting of between fifty and sixty works by between twenty and thirty authors or filmmakers, at least fifteen of whom should be chosen from the core list for each period. Core lists are available in the Graduate Office.  A "work" consists of a novel or a collection of poetry, drama or fictional or non-fictional prose or a film by a given author or filmmaker or a substantial selection of thematically linked poetry or prose.

The reading list must include some balance in genres and a chronological range across the period.  The list must be approved by the examining committee and then by the Graduate Chair (or designate if the Graduate Chair is a member of the examining committee). The Period Examination should be written within six months of the completion of coursework.

SPECIAL AREA EXAMINATION:  The Special Area Examination is intended to provide the student with the historical or contextual background necessary for writing the doctoral thesis.  The reading lists should consist of between fifty and sixty works by between twenty and thirty authors.  A “work" consists of a novel or a collection of poetry, drama or fictional or non-fictional prose (including theory) or film by a given author or filmmaker or a substantial selection of thematically linked poetry or prose.  Topics should be formulated to ensure that they are manageable within these limits.  Each student will develop the reading list and a brief (one- to two-page) rationale in consultation with his or her exam advisor; it must then be approved by the examining committee and then by the Graduate Chair (or designate if the Graduate Chair is a member of the examining committee).  The range of chronological coverage will be left to the discretion of the examining committee.  This list should be drawn up and approved as soon as possible after the completion of the Period Examination, and the Special Area Examination should be written within six months of the successful completion of the Period Examination.
The Special Area Examination is distinct from the Period Examination in as much as it requires historical breadth of knowledge, as well as specialized knowledge of a genre (i.e.: the long poem), or mode (i.e.: parody), or theme (i.e.: quest narratives), or theory (i.e.: mimesis). Its scope should not be restricted by the exam advisor or committee to the literature, film or representational practices of any nation or culture, but may be broadly comparative in its reading of both literary/film history and theory. The Special Area list should not overlap by more than 25 % with the Period list. While the two lists will normally be related, they represent two distinct areas and differing types of knowledge.

PhD Thesis Proposal 

After successful completion of the candidacy examinations, the PhD candidate, with the Dissertation Advisor's approval, prepares a thesis proposal which the Graduate Chair circulates among the Graduate Committee. The proposal will typically be 2500-3000 words (excluding bibliography). A breakdown of methodology by chapters is also expected.

After receiving written evaluations from the Graduate Committee, the Graduate Chair writes to the advisor, conveying the Committee's views as well as his/her own. Any matters of concern thus conveyed must be resolved before the student is allowed to proceed with the thesis.

PhD Thesis and Oral Defense 

Students should review the FGS thesis information and guidelines prior to writing their thesis:

The nature of the PhD thesis should be fully explored in conferences with the advisor and other members of the student's committee. Technical standards are high, and the finished thesis should represent a substantial contribution to scholarship, a condition which lends emphasis to the need for consultation between the student and the committee. In brief, it is important that the candidate be assured, from the start, of the concurrence of the advisor in the suitability of the subject chosen and the mode of research.

The actual research on the thesis is done by the student in consultation with the advisor and any other faculty members to whom the student may be referred. The acquisition of rare research materials, travel for purposes of research, and other unusual situations relating to the project will be matters for discussion with the advisor. In every case, the candidate should remain in continuing contact with the advisor to avoid the possibility of fruitless labour.

Generally, the thesis is completed through the first draft in consultation with the advisor, and any other faculty members to whom the student may be referred. All committee members are required to read and offer comments on the draft.  When deemed ready for distribution, each member of the internal committee verifies that they have read the complete version of the thesis, and have provided the candidate with a detailed review and comments including any necessary revisions.  Distribution of the thesis by the student is done electronically through JUMP and must include the "Approval to Proceed to PhD Thesis Examination" form duly signed by all internal examining committee members.  Every thesis must also be read and approved by one person who is considered to be a professional authority in the subject and who is not a member of the faculty of the University of Manitoba.  The external examiner will be chosen by the Faculty of Graduate Studies Associate Dean and will remain anonymous until the external examiner’s report is received.

New distribution procedures as of Fall 2019 can be found under "PhD Thesis Distribution Instructions" here:

NEW "Approval to Proceed" FORM:

Deadlines for distribution:

All examiners will have 3 weeks to submit a detailed written report of the thesis to the Dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies.  If advancement of the oral examination is approved, the Dean of the Faculty of Gradaute Studies shall provide electronic copies of all reports to each of the advisors, examiners and Head of the unit.  Upon tentative approval of the thesis by the candidate's committee, and following the completion of all required changes to its satisfaction, an oral defense of the thesis will be scheduled. In addition, the candidate must submit, in electronic format, biographical information and an abstract of the thesis to the Faculty of Graduate Studies.  Notice of the oral defense is published by the Faculty of Graduate Studies, and it is open to any member of the academic community. Specific details of the University requirements in this respect are available from the Faculty of Graduate Studies.  Link to PhD Oral Exam Information:

After a successful defense and corrections to the thesis are complete, the candidate must submit an electronic copy of the thesis to MSpace, and 2 bound copies to the Department of English, Theatre, Film & Media (instructions on binding format to be obtained from the department Graduate Program Assistant).

Students convocating in October do not need to reregister; all others must register in GRAD 8000 PhD Thesis in September for any later convocation after the first year of PhD Thesis registration.

The maximum time allowed for the completion of the PhD requirements is six years.

More information regarding Graduate Studies at the University of Manitoba can be found at the Faculty of Graduate Studies web site.

E-mail inquiries regarding graduate studies in English may be directed to

Detailed program requirements and regulations may be found in the Supplemental Regulations on the FGS website here.