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Department of English | Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences Simon Fraser University Calendar | Summer 2023


Doctor of Philosophy

The department offers a doctor of philosophy (PhD) program, with the following major areas of study: English literature, language, and print culture. Library resources include the contemporary literature collection, the largest single collection of post-war experimental and avant-garde poetry in Canada; the Wordsworth collection, including one of the largest collections of Lake District writings; William Blake drawings, illuminations and engravings in facsimile. The library also has on-line scholarly databases and resources in all major areas of study and subscribes to a wide range of leading academic journals.

Applicants will have a well planned project that integrates with the department's areas of expertise. Cross disciplinary proposals and innovative studies are encouraged. Students are expected to contribute at all stages of the program.

Admission Requirements

Applicants must satisfy the University admission requirements as stated in Graduate General Regulation 1.3 in the SFU Calendar. Students must have a master of arts (MA) or equivalent with high standing from a recognized university and a solid grounding in English studies. To fill any academic gaps, extra undergraduate or graduate courses may be required. Before accepting a student into the program, the department will consider the proposed research in relation to faculty resources in the field.

Program Requirements

The program consists of course work, field exams, a thesis prospectus, and a thesis oral defence. The first two years involve course work, field examinations, and a thesis prospectus to provide necessary grounding before the thesis project. In the third year, students engage in thesis research and writing. The supervisor, in consultation with the graduate program chair, advises the student about course choices.

Students must complete

ENGL 880 - Pro-seminar I (4)

A professional seminar that provides students with a grounding in pedagogy and introduces professional aspects of English studies. Course will be graded Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory.

ENGL 881 - Pro-seminar II (4)

A professional seminar that provides students with a grounding in pedagogy and introduces professional aspects of English studies. Course will be graded Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory.

Section Instructor Day/Time Location
G100 TBD

and five additional graduate courses (including one course outside the student's area of specialization)

and both of

ENGL 892 - PhD Field Exam One (4)

Graded on a satisfactory/unsatisfactory basis.

Section Instructor Day/Time Location
G100 TBD
ENGL 893 - PhD Field Exam Two (4)

Graded on a satisfactory/unsatisfactory basis.

Section Instructor Day/Time Location
G100 TBD

and a thesis prospectus

ENGL 894 - PhD Thesis Prospectus (4)

The Thesis Prospectus helps to guide the student toward defining a significant thesis topic. The student will draft a thesis prospectus, describing the project and its relation to current scholarship, succinctly stating the theoretical approach and methodology, and outlining the thesis chapters. At the thesis prospectus meeting, the prospectus, along with a timeline for completion, will be discussed with the student, his/her committee, and the Graduate Chair. Graded on a satisfactory/unsatisfactory basis. Prerequisite: ENGL 892 and ENGL 893.

Section Instructor Day/Time Location
G100 TBD

and a thesis

ENGL 899 - PhD Thesis (18)

Graded on a satisfactory/unsatisfactory basis.

Section Instructor Day/Time Location
G100 TBD
G200 TBD

Language Requirement

PhD students must demonstrate to the supervisory committee an acceptable reading ability in a language other than English.

Program Length

Students are expected to complete the program requirements in 12 terms (4 years).

Other Information


Upon admission, the graduate chair is the advisor until a supervisor and supervisory committee are confirmed. Each student is matched with a potential supervisor, normally upon admission, and the supervisory committee should be formed during the first year and no later than the beginning of the field exams. Student and supervisor are encouraged to meet early. From the supervisory committee’s appointment, the student and supervisor meet at least three times a term through the field exam period, thesis prospectus term, and thesis research/writing period.

Field Exams

The field exam process begins at the start of the third doctoral term, normally in the first summer term, and must be completed by the end of the sixth term. There are two fields to be completed consecutively in the fourth and fifth terms. The thesis prospectus is written in the sixth term.

Field exams are a take-home essay, written within a week and graded "in progess/complete". In exceptional cases a distinction will be recognized. A field exam can be repeated not later than the following term. A second failure requires a review of the student's progress. Normally, those who fail two field exams must withdraw from the program. Once the field exams are complete, the student begins the thesis prospectus in preparation for writing the thesis.

Field Committees

The committee for the secondary field, which will be written first, consists of an advisor who is a field specialist and one knowledgeable faculty member. The primary field committee, which will be written second, consists of three faculty members: the primary field advisor (normally the thesis supervisor) and two faculty members in the field.

Secondary Field

The secondary field examination paper ensures a comprehensive expertise in an area of study distinct from, but providing a basis of, knowledge that is useful to the student's field of specialization. The department offers fields in three general areas (historical, geographical, and theoretical) and may consider other fields if faculty and library resources are sufficient and it is academically appropriate.

Primary Field

The primary field exam ensures that students have a broad knowledge and understanding of the literature, historical contexts and critical history of the primary field of English studies that is germane to their thesis area and in which they will be claiming expertise as university teachers and scholars.

Thesis Prospectus

The thesis prospectus guides students toward defining a thesis topic and is undertaken normally in the sixth term following the completion of the second field exam. The supervisory committee for the thesis prospectus will be the thesis committee that was formed for the primary field.


After the completion of the thesis prospectus, the candidate will write a scholarly thesis normally consisting of between 200 and 250 pages (not including bibliography). The completed thesis is defended in an oral exam. The (defence) examining committee consists of a chair (normally the graduate program chair), members of the supervisory committee (supervisor and at least one other department member), a faculty member external to the department, and an external examiner who is not a member of Simon Fraser University.

Academic Requirements within the Graduate General Regulations

All graduate students must satisfy the academic requirements that are specified in the Graduate General Regulations, as well as the specific requirements for the program in which they are enrolled.