PhD Dissertation

The PhD dissertation is normally an original and significant contribution to knowledge. In most cases, it entails original research involving fieldwork in the form of ethnographic studies, archaeological excavation and analysis, or archival research. Research involving living humans usually requires the review and approval of the UBC Behavioral Research Review Committee as well as permission from communities affected. Supervisory Committees supervise and bear ultimate responsibility for approving research carried out by PhD candidates. It is critically important that PhD candidates keep their Supervisory Committees well informed of their research activities.

Scheduling the Department Exam

The dissertation is written under the supervision of the Supervisory Committee.  When Committee members agree that the thesis is ready for examination, the Chair informs the Anthropology Graduate Student Committee (AGSC). Upon receipt of a final draft of the thesis, the AGSC appoints one of its members to chair the Department examination. This examination may be scheduled no sooner than two weeks after receipt of the thesis. The examination is open to graduate students, non-examining faculty, and invited guests. Click here for detailed information on the final doctoral examination.

Department Examination in Absentia

Under exceptional circumstances, the AGSC may be petitioned to allow the Departmental examination to proceed in the absence of the candidate. In such cases, the normal schedule of notification, deposition of the final thesis draft, and examination are still followed.

Examining Committee

The Examining Committee is composed of the student’s Advisory Committee and a representative of the AGSC, who acts as the chair.

Department Thesis Examination: Procedures

The departmental examination follows the format of the University examination. The examination begins with a 20 to 30 minute synopsis by the candidate. (The candidate may speak from notes and use audio-visual equipment, but should not read the synopsis). The Chair then calls upon members of the Examining Committee to ask questions, ending with the Supervisory Committee Chair. Next, the Chair calls for questions from visitors. This is followed by a second round of questions from the Examining Committee after which the Chair may question the candidate.

Department Thesis Examination: Assessment

Following the oral examination, the candidate and visitors must withdraw. The Chair calls for a discussion of the examination and polls each committee member. The Examining Committee must act in one of the following ways:

(a)  Approve the thesis for transmission to the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies (FoGS);
(b)  Approve the thesis as above, subject to minor revisions to be approved by the Advisory Committee Chair by a specified date after which the thesis may be submitted to FoGS;
(c)  Approve the thesis as above, subject to substantial revision to be approved by the Examining Committee as a whole by a specified date after which the thesis may be submitted to FoGS;
(d)  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;
(e)  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 reasonable amount of time.

Following these deliberations, the Chair calls the candidate back and, in the presence of the Examining Committee, informs him or her of the Committee’s decision. Following the meeting, the Chair must compose a brief written report for the AGSC, including details of the Examining Committee’s decision (i.e., revisions and dates for changes). The Chair also reports on attendance and any unusual circumstances related to the examination.

University Dissertation Examination

Upon the successful Department examination and completion of any minor revisions required, the dissertation is sent to the Dean of the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, with a memo from the Department Head, for transmission to the External Examiner and to the University Examiners. A minimum time of six to eight weeks must be allowed between transmission to the Dean and the date of the University examination. The Faculty of Graduate Studies administers the University Examination. The Dean appoints the Chair of the Examining Committee and schedules the examination in the examination theatre of the Faculty.

Composition of the University Examining Committee

The University Examining Committee consists of the student’s Chair and a quorum of the student’s committee, one member of the Department who has not been a member of the Advisory Committee or connected with the supervision of the thesis, and one member of another Department of the University who has not been a member of the Advisory Committee or connected with the supervision of the thesis.  The thesis is also read by an External Examiner not associated with the University or connected with the supervision of the thesis, whose participation is normally by correspondence.

Selection of Examiners

The Supervisory Committee Chair, in consultation with the Head of the Department, selects the two University Examiners from within and external to the Department. The Chair is responsible for contacting the University Examiners. The Examiners’ names are sent to the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies at the time the student’s dissertation is submitted. The Supervisory Committee Chair, in consultation with the Head of the Department, also submits to the Dean of Graduate Studies the names and addresses of three prospective External Examiners. No contact should be made with prospective Examiners by members of the Department.

Date for the University Examination

The Chair schedules the University Examination in consultation with the Faculty of Graduate Studies and with the Department’s Graduate Secretary so as not to conflict with other Departmental activities.  The Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies does not permit examinations during December and August. For additional information and to ensure successful completion of the dissertation defense, Chairs of Advisory Committees should consult the Guide to Procedures on the Completion of the Ph.D., Ed.D., and D.M.A. Degrees issued by the Faculty of Graduate Studies.

Deposition of Examined Dissertation

Upon successful examination and final preparation of the approved dissertation, the student must submit an unbound copy to the Graduate Secretary and one further copy to UBC Faculty of  Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies Studies before the degree can be awarded.  Note that the dissertation must adhere to style guidelines set out on the Faculty of Graduate Studies web site.