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Department of Geography | Faculty of Environment Simon Fraser University Calendar | Spring 2020


Doctor of Philosophy

The Department of Geography offers a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) that accommodates advanced studies across the discipline of geography including human geography, earth systems dynamics (physical geography), and geographic information science.

Admission Requirements

Applicants must satisfy the university admission requirements as stated in Graduate General Regulations 1.3 in the SFU Calendar. Applicants must have a Master of Arts (MA) or a Master of Science (MSc) degree in geography or a related discipline. Those admitted without an appropriate academic background may be required to complete additional coursework.

Program Requirements

This program requires a qualifying examination, a thesis proposal, and a thesis. The senior supervisor, student, and subsequently the supervisory committee determine a study program to suit the student's background and research objectives. After committee consultation, students can elect, or may be required to complete, certain courses to acquire relevant knowledge and skills, including language.

Students must complete

GEOG 600 - Introduction to Graduate Studies: Fall Semester (1)

Introduction to graduate studies in the Department of Geography at Simon Fraser University, covering formal requirements and practical considerations. Graded on a satisfactory/unsatisfactory basis. Students with credit for GEOG 700 may not take this course for further credit.

and any additional course work specified by their supervisory committee

and a qualifying examination

GEOG 671 - Doctoral Qualifying Exams (1)

A one term course that will allow students to complete the qualifying exam. Graded on a satisfactory/unsatisfactory basis. Prerequisite: GEOG 600.

and a thesis proposal

GEOG 679 - PhD Thesis Proposal (1)

A one term course that will allow students to complete the Thesis Proposal. Graded on a satisfactory/unsatisfactory basis. Prerequisite: GEOG 600 and GEOG 671.

and a thesis

GEOG 699 - PhD Thesis (18)

Graded on a satisfactory/unsatisfactory basis. Students with credit for GEOG 799 may not take this course for further credit.

Qualifying Examination

Written and oral qualifying exams establish competence to proceed with doctoral thesis research and are typically attempted at the end of the second residence term. Students who fail the written or oral exam may retake each exam once, after a one term lapse.

Both parts of the qualifying examination are usually successfully completed by the end of the fourth residence term.

Written exams comprise three or four papers jointly agreed upon by the qualifying examination committee. The oral exam must be held within three weeks of successful completion of the written examination. During the oral examination, the student is examined primarily in topics covered by the written exams.


The program requires the submission and successful defence of a thesis. The thesis involves the conceptualization of a problem and the collection, analysis, and interpretation of empirical data. A written proposal is submitted to the supervisory committee, defended in colloquium, and approved by the end of the fifth residence term, after the successful completion of qualifying exams and before substantive research has commenced. The completed thesis is judged by the thesis examining committee at an oral defence. If the defence fails, the candidate is ineligible for further degree candidacy as per the Graduate General Regulations.

Program Length

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

Other Information

Supervisory Committee

Students work under the guidance a senior supervisor, who is normally a faculty member in the department, and at least two other committee members, who may be from outside the department. The committee is typically determined by the start of the second term.

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.