Dissertation & Thesis

The Advisory Committee for the Ph.D. dissertation is comprised of at least three faculty members, including the Supervisor, and need not necessarily overlap with either of the Comprehensive Examination Committees. The Supervisor serves as chair of the Advisory Committee. At least two members of the Advisory Committee must be regular members of the Department. Co-supervision is allowed as long as one of the supervisors is a regular faculty member in Sociology. Please note that students risk not being able to find an Advisory Committee that is suited to their interests if they do not officially confirm their committee in writing by the end of their third year of study. Membership of an Advisory Committee can be changed, but changes cannot be made within a two month period prior to the scheduled date of the candidate's departmental defence, and all committee changes must be approved by the SGSC.

After satisfactory completion of coursework and comprehensive examinations, a dissertation research proposal may then be formulated for acceptance by the student's Advisory Committee. The specific contents of the proposal document are to be determined by the student’s committee, but generally include a discussion of the study aims and hypotheses, background literature motivating the project, methodology, and estimated project timeline.

While there are no formal procedures regarding the conduct of the proposal defense, the Advisory Committee is expected to meet with the student to discuss the proposed research. A common format consists of the student first presenting to the committee a brief (15 minute) powerpoint presentation of their proposed project and then engaging in a question and answer session with the committee members. Doctoral students cannot begin any formally supervised work on the dissertation proposal until all coursework and comprehensive examinations have been completed and the dissertation proposal has been formally approved by all members of the Advisory Committee.

Ph.D. students are required to complete a dissertation that makes an original contribution to knowledge. Dissertation work is supervised and evaluated by the student's Advisory Committee. As well, the dissertation is evaluated by two examiners from UBC outside the Advisory Committee and one examiner external to UBC. Copies of completed dissertations are available in the AnSo Thesis Room.

When the Advisory Committee agrees that the candidate's dissertation is ready to be defended, a Departmental Examination will be held to determine if the dissertation can be sent to the external examiner. The Departmental Examination will be conducted by the Advisory Committee members. No external Chairperson is required to conduct the defense.

The Advisory Committee must inform the SGSC in writing that a candidate is ready for a Departmental Examination. In consultation with the Advisory Committee, the student, the Supervisor and the SGSC will set a date for this examination. Two copies of the dissertation must be submitted to the Graduate Secretary at least two weeks before the Departmental Examination. One copy will be made available to the Chair of the Departmental Examination (typically, the Chair is the Dissertation Supervisor), the other copy will be made available to interested members of the Department.

The thesis will be evaluated by the Advisory Committee in a formal examination chaired by the thesis supervisor. The candidate will be asked to present an oral report on the thesis research and to respond to questions from the examining committee as well as from any other member of the university community who wishes to read the thesis and attend the thesis examination. A thesis may be passed as written, revisions may be requested, the examination may be adjourned, or the student may be failed.

Detailed information on the specific procedures for the conduct of a Departmental Dissertation Examination (including quorum guidelines) can be found in Appendix H of the grad guide.

These are the instructions which guide the conduct of the Department Ph.D. oral examinations. Students preparing for such examinations should be aware of these procedures and are advised to attend other students' examinations as preparation.

It is the responsibility of the Chair of the candidate's Advisory Committee to ensure that a quorum will be present at an examination. In addition, the SGSC assumes that in calling the examination, the Advisory Committee has assured itself that the candidate has fulfilled all requirements for the degree.

The examination generally lasts two hours. A quorum must be present for the examination to begin. The quorum consists of the Chair of the Examining Committee (a member of the student’s committee—generally the student’s supervisor) and at least two Advisory Committee members. If a quorum is not present, the Chair may delay the examination, postponing it until a later date.

Once the quorum is present, the Examining Chair can begin the examination and should follow these procedures:

  1. Announce that the Meeting has been called for the public examination of (name of candidate) for the Ph.D. degree;
  2. Request the candidate to present a 20 to 30 minute synopsis of his or her work (the candidate may speak from notes and/or use a blackboard or audio/visual equipment, but should not read the synopsis);
  3. Call upon members of assigned Examining Committee (the supervisor last) to question the candidate;
  4. Call for questions by any visitors in attendance;
  5. Call for further questioning from the Committee, and question the candidate him/herself.
  6. Request the candidate and persons not on the Examining Committee to withdraw.
  7. Call for discussion of the examination (quality of the presentation, answers, and thesis) and poll each Committee member. The Examining Committee will act in one of the following ways:
    1. approval of the thesis for transmission to External Examiner; or
    2. approval of the thesis as above, subject to minor revisions to be approved by the Thesis Supervisor by a specified date, before the thesis is submitted to the  External Examiner; or
    3. approval of the thesis as above, subject to substantial revision to be approved by the Examining Committee as a whole by a specified date, before the thesis is to  be submitted to the External Examiner; or
    4. adjourn the examination and set the date and conditions for re-examination, which may include a requirement for revision, reconstitution of the Examining  Committee or whatever other measures seem appropriate; or
    5. fail the candidate.

    [It is suggested that particular consideration be given to the use of category (d) in those cases where substantial revision of the thesis is required and where there is reasonable doubt that the candidate will satisfactorily complete such revisions within a specified period of time.]

  8. Call back the candidate and, in the presence of the Examining Committee, inform him or her of the Examining Committee's decision.
  9. Compose a brief written report, which should indicate the Examining Committee's decision concerning approval of the thesis and any dates for changes. In addition, the report should note attendance, and comment on any unusual circumstances related to the examination. The report is to be submitted to the SGSC within a few days.

After the Departmental Examination and before the University Examination, the thesis will also be evaluated by an "External Examiner" who will submit a written report and who may attend the University Examination. The Supervisor and the Head of the Department or Chair of the SGSC will submit the names and addresses of at least two prospective external examiners to the Dean of G&PS. No contact should be made between members of the Department and the prospective external examiners.

Following a successful Department Examination and upon completion of any required revisions, the candidate is ready to advance to the University Examination. The dissertation must be sent to the Dean of G&PS prior to the scheduled date of the University Examination. See G&PS guidelines and regulations regarding the submission of dissertations for examination. The University Examination Committee include two or more members of the Advisory Committee, two “University Examiners” from UBC (at least one of who comes from another UBC Department), an “External Examiner” from another university, a Chair and any other persons appointed by G&PS. The two university examiners are chosen by the Advisory Committee. The departmental Graduate Secretary will schedule the University Examination in consultation with the student, the Advisory Committee and G&PS.

Following a successful University Examination, copies of the final version of the approved dissertation must be submitted to the Faculty of Graduate Studies and to the Sociology Graduate Office. Consult P & GS deadlines for submitting dissertations for graduation.

Students are advised to consult the guide to procedures on the completion of degrees issued by G&PS, which outlines the style and format required for UBC theses and dissertations.

You must also refer to the Faculty of Graduate + Postdoctoral Studies website to meet their requirements & deadlines: