PHD Milestones

English Graduate Program Progress Norms and Expectations Milestones Chart: Doctoral program

This timeline lays out the recommended milestones for each year of the PhD in English. Students and supervisors are asked to consult this timeline as they complete the annual progress report in April and set goals for the coming year. If the student’s progress differs substantially from the recommended timeline, the progress report should explain why and should include an action plan for ensuring timely completion of the degree. In some cases, it may be decided that completing more frequent progress reports will help the student make steady progress. Students and supervisors are welcome to consult with the Graduate Director and/or the Graduate Academic Assistant for advice and help with any challenges that may arise.

The goal of the progress reports is not to judge or penalize students, but to help them assess what they have accomplished and what they need to have done each semester in order to complete the PhD within the recommended five years. It is understood that students’ circumstances and working methods differ and it is impossible to dictate a single timeline that will work for everyone. However, since tuition funding ends after the fourth year of study, it is in the student’s best interest to aim to complete the thesis by the end of the fifth year. The suggested milestones for completing chapter drafts are intended as a rough guide to help them accomplish this goal.

Year / TermExpectations / MilestonesDetails / Notes
Year 1, term 1 (Fall)
  • Two graduate seminars
  • ENG6302: Research Methods & Professionalization
  • ENG7900: Language requirement (departmental French test or equivalent)
  • Register thesis topic and supervisor(s) by December 1, or January 15th at the very latest. (Form available on FGPS website.)
  • PhD coursework must include ENG6304: Critical Methodologies in Literary Studies.
  • For information on the language requirement, see the Graduate Handbook and/or consult the Graduate Academic Assistant.
  • Students should meet with the Graduate Director early in the fall to discuss potential supervisors.
Year 1, term 2 (Winter)
  • Two graduate seminars
  • ENG6303: Research Methods & Professionalization
  • Language requirement (if not completed)
  • Meet with supervisor(s) in April to complete annual progress report (due April 30th) and discuss goals for the upcoming year.
Year 1 , term 3 (Spring / Summer)
  • One graduate seminar
  • Language requirement (if not completed)
  • Register for 3 credits of ENG 9998 (Comprehensive Examinations)
  • Students should meet with the Graduate Director early in May to confirm field for First Qualifying Exam and discuss Second Qualifying Exam.
  • For qualifying exam procedures and expectations, see Graduate Handbook and sample reading lists available from the Graduate Academic Assistant.
Year 2, term 1 (Fall)
  • First Qualifying Examination
  • Students should meet with Graduate Director by October 15 to confirm field and examiners for Second Qualifying Exam.
Year 2, term 2 (Winter)
  • Second Qualifying Examination
  • Confirm thesis supervisor(s) and/or supervisory committee and submit a new Registration of Thesis Topic and Supervisor form if needed.
  • Meet with supervisor(s) or supervisory committee in April to complete annual progress report (due April 30th) and define goals for the following year.
  • The Registration of Supervisor form does not include space for committee members; if there is a committee, simply cross out “co-supervisor” and write in “committee members.” All members’ names and signatures should appear on the form. 
Year 2, term 3 (Spring / summer)
  • Thesis proposal research.
  • Meet with supervisor(s) regularly (by email, phone, or Skype if in-person meetings are not possible). We recommend meeting every 2-4 weeks, whether or not there is a completed draft to discuss, to help the student stay focused, solve problems, set short-term goals, get feedback, and ensure steady progress.
  • Meet with supervisor(s) or supervisory committee in April to complete annual progress report (due April 30th) and define goals for the following year.
  • For information on preparing the thesis proposal, see departmental Thesis Proposal Guidelines (available from the Graduate Academic Assistant).
  • Students and supervisors should also consult the helpful downloadable Thesis Guide in the “Thesis and Research Papers” section of the FGPS website (www.grad.uottawa.ca).
Year 3, term 1 (Fall)
  • Complete and submit thesis proposal. Since the approval process can take 6-8 weeks, the proposal must be submitted by November 1 to ensure approval by the end of term. If it is submitted after that date, the student may need to register again for ENG 9997 (Thesis Proposal) for winter term.
  • Meet with supervisor(s) regularly (every 2-4 weeks), in person or by email, phone, or Skype.
  • When the proposal is ready, the supervisor fills out the supervisor’s approval form (available from the Graduate Academic Assistant) and submits it to the Graduate Director. The proposal itself is submitted by email to the Graduate Director for circulation to two specialist readers and the graduate committee. 
Year 3, term 2 (Winter)
  • Complete or revise thesis proposal, if not already approved. The revised proposal must be submitted by March 1 to ensure its approval by the end of term. In all cases, the revised proposal should be submitted no later than April 30 of the 3rd year.
  • Thesis research.
  • Meet with supervisor(s) regularly (every 2-4 weeks), in person or by email, phone, or Skype.
  • Meet with supervisor(s) or supervisory committee in April to complete annual progress report (due April 30th) and define goals for the following year.
  • If the proposal is sent back for revisions, the student will receive suggestions for improvement from the specialist readers and sometimes from graduate committee members. The student is encouraged to meet with the specialist readers for further advice on how best to implement the suggestions and strengthen the proposal. Requests for revisions should not be seen as a failure, but rather as an opportunity to do further work at the proposal stage to lay a strong foundation for a successful thesis. 
Year 3, term 3 (Spring / summer)
  • Thesis research. To ensure completion of the thesis by the end of year 5, candidates should aim to complete a draft of a first chapter by the end of the summer of their 3rd year, or the end of the fall term of year 4 at the latest. 
  • Meet with supervisor(s) regularly (every 2-4 weeks), in person or by email, phone, or Skype.
  • It is impossible to dictate a fixed schedule that works for everyone; the first chapter often takes longer than subsequent ones, and it is counter-productive to rush through a thesis project at the expense of rigor, depth or clarity. However, a student who has produced no chapter drafts by the middle of the 4th year may find it difficult to finish on time unless steps are taken to ensure steady progress.
Year 4, term 1 (Fall)
  • Thesis research. To ensure completion by the end of year 5, candidates should aim to complete a draft of a second chapter by the end of year 4, term 1 (fall), or end of term 2 (winter) at the latest.
  • Meet with supervisor(s) regularly (every 2-4 weeks), in person or by email, phone, or Skype.
Year 4, term 2 (Winter)
  • Thesis research. To ensure completion by the end of year 5, candidates should aim to complete a draft of a third chapter by the end of year 4, term 2 (winter) or end of summer of year 4 at the latest.
  • Meet with supervisor(s) regularly (every 2-4 weeks), in person or by email, phone, or Skype.
  • Meet with supervisor(s) or supervisory committee in April to complete annual progress report (due April 30th) and define goals for the following year.
Year 4, term 3 (Spring / summer)
  • Thesis research. To ensure completion by the end of year 5, candidates should aim to complete a draft of a fourth chapter by the end of the summer of year 4, or end of year 5, term 1 (fall) at latest.
  • Meet with supervisor(s) regularly (every 2-4 weeks), in person or by email, phone, or Skype.
Year 5, 6
  • Thesis research. To ensure completion of the thesis by the end of year 5, candidates should aim to complete a draft of the entire thesis by the end of Year 5, Term 2 (winter semester). This will allow at least one semester for feedback and final revisions, and for careful editing and proofreading, before the thesis is submitted.
  • Meet with supervisor(s) more frequently in the final months (biweekly or weekly) if necessary to ensure timely completion.
  • Meet with supervisor(s) or supervisory committee in April of year 5 to complete annual progress report (due April 30th) to set up an action plan for completing the thesis. [NOTE: Students who are on extensions must submit their progress reports by April 20th to ensure that they can be processed before the registration deadline. If it is submitted after that date, they may have to register late and pay the resulting late fees.]
  • Recommended completion within 5 years. Since tuition funding ends after the 4th year of study, it is in the candidate’s best interest to complete within 5 years. The PhD program must be completed within 6 years.
  • For important information about the timeline and procedures for submission of the thesis, see Section 15 of the Thesis Guide on the FGPS website.
  • The supervisor should submit a proposed list of examiners, along with an abstract of the thesis, to the Graduate Director about six weeks before the expected submission date. Arrangements for the evaluation and defence are made by thesis staff at FGPS. In most cases, the defence will be held about 10-12 weeks after the thesis is submitted.
  • Students who have taken a leave of absence at some point during their studies must still complete the program within 6 years. If more time is needed, an extension must be applied for before the end of the 6th year.
  • Students should be aware that submitting the thesis for the defence may affect their student status and hence their access to university services, their OSAP repayment schedule, etc. For more information and to avoid unexpected difficulties, consult the Graduate Academic Assistant well in advance of the expected submission date.

Faculty of Arts Memo re new policy on Graduate Student Annual Progress Reports, March 2015

The Faculty of Arts is announcing a new procedure for the completion and evaluation of the graduate student annual progress report. For the first time this year, graduate progress reports in the Faculty will have a standardized and fixed deadline at the end of April—the conclusion of the winter term. This new deadline will apply to all thesis students, even those who have submitted a progress report within the last twelve months. Previously graduate progress reports were due on the anniversary date of a student’s initial enrolment in the program, and there was often confusion and last-minute scrambling to submit the report. The new standard deadline will resolve that longstanding problem. (For students in our three fine arts departments—Music, Theatre, and Visual Arts—there will be a separate deadline early in the fall term.)

At the same time, with a fixed date for submission, the Faculty is also initiating a new procedure for completing the progress report designed to encourage a dialogue between students and graduate supervisors about the goals and expectations on both sides, and about the outcome of the previous year’s work.

Please note that the requirement to submit a progress report applies to students enrolled in research programs that include a thesis. Students enrolled in a Master with a major research paper (mémoire) or in a purely course-based Master’s program are not required to submit such a report.

The new procedure involves several key steps:

  1. In the month of March or early April, all graduate thesis students and their supervisors must book a time to discuss what they have accomplished in the academic year just past and what they are planning to accomplish in the year ahead (a plan of study for the year ahead). We wish to encourage a discussion about progress in which supervisors can be forthright about their appraisals of students’ progress and in which students can spell out their expectations.
  2. As part of this discussion students and supervisors are asked to gauge the progress over the previous year by comparing it to the normal rate of progress expected in the program. To facilitate this analysis, all graduate programs in the Faculty are preparing charts that indicate the expected milestones in the program; these progress indicators will be distributed to all students and supervisors in the program.
  3. Students and supervisors are encouraged to complete the progress report together. This year we will use the existing progress report, but a new progress report form is being developed by the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies which will build in the new procedure we are introducing this year.
  4. The reports will all be submitted by the end of April to the graduate program director, who will review the reports and, with the help of the graduate committee where required, follow up with assistance to students and supervisors in cases where there may be cause for concern.
  5. Students who have recently started the MA (with thesis) or PhD programs are also asked to submit a progress report. This practice allows students to familiarize themselves with the review process and promotes interaction with their supervisor.

The aim of this new procedure is to encourage communication between students and their supervisors, and in case where progress is slow or where difficulties are arising, to enable all sides—students, supervisors, and graduate program directors—to identify potential concerns early and address them, before they become serious problems. Our purpose is to change the current system of reporting from a reactive one to a proactive one that reinforces the student/supervisor relationship and models recommended practices.

Note: In certain cases, students may be asked for an extra progress report (for example, if they are granted an extensions beyond the normal time limit for the degree, or if it is decided that more frequent progress reports are needed to help the student make steady progress.) The new annual deadline of 30 April does not replace any special deadlines that are being required in individual cases. So, for example, if a student is asked for an extra report at the end of the summer or fall terms, the April annual report will still be required.

Graduate Studies Annual Progress Report Procedure Faculty of Arts

Background:

  • The annual progress report should facilitate an annual review process centring on discussions between students and their supervisors about what was accomplished in the year just past and what goals are to be achieved in the coming year. At the moment, however, the progress report process does not meet these goals. There is no single annual deadline for submitting reports, which means that they are handled inconsistently across the Faculty, not always taken as seriously as they should be, and often submitted at the last minute without time being taken for a proper review by graduate directors, committees, and the vice-dean`s office. They also generate unnecessary levels of frustration amongst students, faculty members, graduate directors, and academic assistants. Yet, these reports have potentially serious consequences for a student`s registration.
  • We plan, therefore, to reform the progress report system in the Faculty of Arts. We have the support of FGPS to undertake such an initiative. Moreover, the FGPS is working on revising significantly the progress report form, which is badly in need of revision.
  • What follows is an outline of principles that will inform the annual review process in the Faculty of Arts:
  • Create a system that can serve students and supervisors effectively, especially at the doctoral level, and that allows departments and the Faculty to identify students who are running into difficulty in order to render them assistance.
  • Evaluate the progress report of all graduate students registered in the Faculty of Arts once a year only. The end of the academic year (April) seems a logical deadline for the process. The exception to this would be Master’s students in Music, Theatre, and Visual Arts, who will be evaluated at the beginning of their second year (early fall).
  • Progress will be evaluated during the winter semester: meetings and discussion between supervisors and students during the winter term, with the report submitted sometime in April.
  • Progress will be reviewed against the expectations of what is considered good normal progress in the program. These expectations or milestones will drawn up in written form by each program (they already exist in various forms for some programs) and must be addressed specifically by both students and supervisors in the review. For example, a student could be expected to explain why she or he has reached the end of, say, year two without having completed comprehensive exams, or year three without having had a thesis proposal approved. We should in fact have doctoral programs in which it is possible for students to complete all program requirements except the thesis and thesis research by the end of year two.
  • Progress deemed problematic can be flagged and may need to be reviewed one or two terms later. In some cases a detailed plan of study would be required.
  • Reports are to be reviewed by graduate directors and/or graduate committees before the end of April, with identification and follow-up of problematic cases.
  • Each department/program will develop its own internal processes to implement these principles.
  • The FGPS is open to special arrangements in terms of deadlines for the fine arts departments, who have argued that early fall of the second year is a more logical time for them to do their reviews.

Procedure:

  1. The review process begins on 1 March and ends 30 April (or 1 September to 31 October for the MFA programs in Theatre, Music, and Visual Arts). [NOTE: Students who are on extensions or who for some other reason have a severe condition preventing them from registering for the spring/summer must submit their progress reports by April 20th to ensure that the report can be processed and the condition lifted before the registration deadline. If the progress report is submitted after that date, they may have to register late and pay the resulting late fees.] 
  2. The first step is for student and supervisor to meet and to review the progress that has been made in the past year. This is to be evaluated in light of the departmental guidelines for normal progress through the program (milestones) and in light of the goals for the current year set in the progress report for the previous year. Each department will furnish its professors with a copy of the expected annual outcomes/milestones for students in the program (i.e., what are students expected to have accomplished on 30 April of their first year, on 30 April of their second year, etc.). If students have not met the expected milestones, an account would be needed of the reasons for the failure to meet expectations.
  3. At the same time, student and supervisor should discuss goals for the upcoming year, again in light of the program expectations. In the case of a first progress report, this part of the discussion would probably be the most important: charting the future course of the student.
  4. Supervisors and graduate directors need to be frank in their assessments of students’ progress and be prepared to flag problematic cases and unsatisfactory progress. These cases will need follow-up on the part of supervisors and program directors, such as a further report one or two terms later or a request for a detailed plan of study.
  5. Program directors will review all the progress reports in their departments before submitting them to the Faculty Graduate Office.
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