PhD Degree Completion

PhD Degree Completion Guideline

Preparation of the thesis

All graduate theses or dissertations must conform to the minimum style and form requirements as detailed in SGSPA General Forms of Theses.  Candidates are advised to follow all necessary copyright rules described at Copyright & Your Thesis

Selection of the oral thesis examining committee

PhD examining committees are composed of the following members:

  1. Chairperson – not a voting member of the committee
  2. Supervisor(s)
  3.  Department Head (or Head’s Delegate) – may serve also as Chair 
  4. Internal Examiner – at least one faculty member from SKHS
  5. Internal/External Examiner – at least one faculty member from another department
  6. External Examiner – an examiner from outside Queen’s University
  7. Additional Examiner – an optional additional examiner
For conflict-of-interest conditions on committee members, please see Doctoral Oral Thesis Examination.
If assistance is required to secure a Chair, the supervisor should contact the SKHS Graduate Assistant as soon as possible.
Preparing for the Oral Thesis Examination

The candidate and supervisor must notify the SKHS Graduate Assistant of the oral examination by submitting a completed and signed PhD Oral Examination Form

This form must be submitted at least 30 working days in advance of a scheduled examination. The Graduate Assistant will submit the form to the School of Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs along with the candidate’s transcript and proof of completion of other degree requirements.

The candidate must provide the examining committee with the thesis at least 25 working days in advance of the exam. The candidate must also submit a PDF copy of the thesis to the SKHS Graduate Assistant and to the School of Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs ( for format review. The SGSPA Thesis Coordinator will notify the candidate if any corrections are required before the final version of the thesis is submitted to QSpace. 

The Oral Thesis Examination

The PhD oral thesis examination proceeds according to the following guideline:

The examiners and the candidate are introduced to one another by the Chair. The candidate will then be asked to withdraw briefly from the room (physical or virtual) while the committee members’ reports are read.

The candidate is recalled and gives a 10-20 minute oral presentation of their thesis. Note: this presentation is not required of candidates in Socio-Cultural Studies. 

Questioning follows in the order of: external examiner, internal/external examiner, internal examiner, head or delegate (including if the Head is serving in Chair role; i.e., read their own report), and supervisor(s). Each examiner has roughly 20-25 minutes for their questions. 

The candidate is asked to once again withdraw from the room while the committee deliberates.

The candidate is recalled and told of their results, which can be one of the following outcomes: 

Passed: A thesis is passed if it acceptable in its present form or pending minor revisions, and its defense at the oral thesis examination was satisfactory. 

Passed with Major Revisions: A thesis is passed with major revisions if it is not acceptable in its present form or pending minor revisions but could be acceptable pending major revisions. This result does not require a second oral thesis examination; however, all revisions must be completed within 4-months. All major revisions must be documented by the Chair and certified to the School of Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs. 

Referred: A thesis is referred if it is not acceptable in its present form and, after extensive revision by the candidate, required re-examination by the examining committee. The referred result may be used whether the committee determines that the thesis requires substantive changes or rewriting and/or if it determines that the oral thesis examination itself is unsatisfactory. In all cases of referral, the nature of the revisions and/or additional work, and/or the deficiencies associated with the oral examination, must be specified in writing by the Chair to avoid dispute or ambiguity. These comments will be passed on to the candidate in a letter from the School of Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs as revisions that must be met for the thesis to be reconsidered. The candidate has up to twelve months to complete revisions. 

Failed: A thesis is failed if the document is unacceptable to the discipline even with substantive revisions. If the committee returns two or more votes of Failed on the basis of the document, this means that the committee recommends that the student be required to withdraw on academic grounds. Failure may also result from an unacceptable second oral thesis examination, where the student was manifestly unable to adequately present and defend the thesis. A decision of failed on the basis of the second oral thesis examination requires agreement by the majority (more than half) of the examining committee. 

The Chair will complete and submit all exam documentation to the SKHS Graduate Assistant, who will then submit the records to the School of Graduate Studies. 

Oral thesis examinations are normally open, meaning that all members of the Queen’s community (any faculty member, staff member, or student of the University) may attend. Visitors (anyone who is not a member of the Queen’s community) may attend an open oral thesis examination if their attendance has been arranged by the candidate and the supervisor(s).

An oral thesis examination may be closed, meaning that only members of the examining committee may be present.

For a comprehensive outline of PhD Oral Thesis Examination procedures, please review: SGSPA Oral Thesis Examination Regulations

Student Registration and Completion of Degree

All students working on a thesis must register for each term until they have completed all requirements for their degree program.

Requirements are considered complete when an electronic copy of the thesis, in PDF-format approved by the oral thesis examination committee is submitted to the School of Graduate Studies through the E-Thesis Submission process in QSpace. Please review: Final Thesis Submission.

Other Resources

This guide should be read in conversation with the School of Graduate Studies’ Degree Completion & Resources guide and General Regulations