PhD in Geography

Graduates are expected to have acquired autonomy in their ability to teach, conduct research and prepare scholarly publications. They are also expected to have developed self-learning abilities and to apply critical and innovative thinking to problem-solving. This objective is achieved by providing a broad knowledge of theoretical and practical geography through courses and seminars, instructional experience through teaching assistantships and giving lectures, as well as basic research training and technical expertise through independent projects and research assistantships.

Broad knowledge in the field of geography is verified through the successful completion of course requirements and the passing of a comprehensive examination. Achievement in independent research is verified through the writing, presentation and successful defence of a thesis embodying the results of original research that provides significant contributions to geographic knowledge.

Admission Requirements

There are two routes of entry into the doctoral program. The first requires a master's degree in geography or equivalent. Normally only a master's student with an A- average on all graduate work will be admitted. The second route allows exceptional students early entry to the PhD program from the master's program. Such applicants must have completed all MA/MES requirements except the thesis, have demonstrated a superior academic record, and satisfied other conditions (details of which can be obtained from the director of the program).

Program Requirements

To meet the program requirements, students must satisfactorily complete the required coursework, the comprehensive examination and must successfully defend the dissertation.

Course Work

The course load at the doctoral level is normally one research seminar (selected from GG600, GG620, GG630, GG640, GG660). Additional course work may be assigned subject to the needs of individual candidates. To continue in the program, students will be required to attain a minimum grade of B+ in each course.

GG691 is required of all students. While in residence, all doctoral candidates must participate in GG691.

Comprehensive Examination

The Comprehensive Examination focuses on the student's field of specialization and includes both a written and an oral component. The comprehensive examining committee includes the student's advisor and three other members, one of whom will be from outside of the program. At least two members of the comprehensive examining committee must be members of the Waterloo-Laurier Graduate Program in Geography. A chair of the comprehensive examination is appointed by the appropriate graduate dean or designate.

The examination will normally be completed by the end of the fourth term of registration in the doctoral program. (This requirement assumes continuous registration once admitted into the program.)

A candidate has only two opportunities to complete the Comprehensive Examination successfully. Any appeal by the student concerning a negative evaluation should be made to the appropriate appeals committee of the university in which the student is registered.

Decisions in the Comprehensive Examination

  • Pass - No further formal work required. The supervisor will pass on suggestions as to areas in which work might be done to eliminate minor weaknesses.
  • Pass with conditions - Further work required. The supervisor, in consultation with other examiners, will inform the student what is to be done and by what time. After meeting the specified conditions a pass will be given.
  • Fail, opportunity to repeat - Major weaknesses noted. After further formal work, determined by the comprehensive examining committee, the student may retake the comprehensive examination.
  • Fail, required to withdraw - Major weaknesses noted. The student is required to withdraw from the program.

PhD Thesis Requirements

Upon successful completion of the comprehensive examination, a thesis committee consisting of four members will be established and approved by the dean of Graduate Studies. Normally, this committee will have the same membership as the comprehensive examining committee. At least two members of the thesis committee must be members of the Waterloo-Laurier Graduate Program in Geography. When the thesis committee has approved the thesis proposal, the student completes the research and submits a thesis for oral defence.

Decisions in the PhD Thesis Defence
Prior to the oral defence, a thesis examining committee is established. This consists of the thesis committee plus an external examiner and a chair, both of whom are appointed by the graduate dean of the appropriate university. The decision of the examining committee is based both on the thesis and on the candidate's ability to defend it.

Four decisions are open to the examining committee.

  • Accepted - Thesis may require typographical and/or minor editorial corrections to be made to the satisfaction of the supervisor, normally within one month.
  • Accepted conditionally - Thesis is acceptable but requires some changes in substance or editorial changes which are to be made to the satisfaction of members of the cxamining committee designated by the committee. The examining committee's report must include a brief outline of the nature of the changes required and must indicate the time by which the changes are to be completed. In any case, changes must be completed to the committee's satisfaction within one calendar year of the date of the defence or the student must withdraw from the program.
  • Decision deferred - Thesis requires modifications of a substantial nature, the need for which makes the acceptability of the thesis questionable. The examining committee's report must contain a brief outline of the modifications expected and should indicate the time by which the changes are to be completed. The revised thesis must be resubmitted to the dean of Graduate Studies for re-examination. Normally, the re-examination will follow the same procedures as for the initial submission except that the display period may be reduced or eliminated at the discretion of the dean. Normally the same examining committee will serve. A decision to defer is open only once for each candidate.
  • Rejected - Thesis is rejected. The examining committee shall report the reasons for rejection. A student whose doctoral thesis has been rejected will be required to withdraw from the PhD program. The dean of Graduate Studies will inform the student, in writing, within one week of the date of the examination, of the decision of the examining committee and of the requirement to withdraw.
  • If the examining committee is not prepared to reach a decision at the time of the thesis defence, it is the responsibility of the chair to determine what additional information is required by the committee to reach a decision, to arrange to obtain this information for the committee and to call another meeting of the committee as soon as the required information is available. It is also the responsibility of the chair to inform the candidate.

    Residence Requirements

    Normal: six terms from master's degree, nine terms from honours bachelor's degree.
    Minimum: four terms from master's degree, six terms from honours bachelor's degree.

    Time Limits

    PhD from honours bachelor's degree 18 terms (six years)
    PhD from master's degree 12 terms (four years)

    The number of terms specified in these time limits applies regardless of whether the student is registered full time or part time. For the purposes of these time limits, a term is one registration session, i.e., one term = one registration session regardless of full-time or part-time status.

    An extension of up to three terms may be granted by following the usual petition procedures at the appropriate university. Further extensions must be approved by the appropriate dean of Graduate Studies.