Your PhD Milestones

Proposing your Program of Study

New students must make an appointment with their supervisor and/or the Office of Student Services to discuss courses and program options.

After consultation, students are required to complete the PhD Proposed Program of Study form, which outlines all the courses the student intends to take to fulfill their degree program requirements.

Required Core Courses

Some courses are core to the PhD Degree Program and must be taken.  Students must ensure that all applicable core courses appear on their Proposed Program forms before they will be approved.

For all PhD students: JDE1000Y - Ethics in Graduate Research

For transportation related PhD students: CIV1505H - Transportation Research Seminars (for at least two terms)

  • The PhD program in the Transportation Engineering and Planning Research Group is the standard Departmental program, typically consisting of six courses, divided into a major and two minor areas.  If, however, an incoming student does not have adequate background in one or more of the core areas defined in the Master's program, then the student may be required to take as many of these courses as deemed necessary.  Normally, these courses would be in addition to the standard six course program.

Submitting the Form and Making Changes

The form must be approved by your supervisor and submitted to the Office of Student Services, GB105, 35 St. George Street, before the end of the student's first term in the program.

Changes to the program may be made at any time, with approval of the supervisor and Associate Chair, Grad Studies.

PhD Supervisory Committee Meetings

The supervisor appoints several graduate faculty members to serve on the student's PhD Supervisory Committee.  This committee is formed before the Comprehensive Examination is completed (preferably as soon as possible after the thesis topic is selected).

The membership of this committee consists of the thesis supervisor and at least two other members, normally from within the Department.  The thesis supervisor acts as chair of the committee.

The PhD Supervisory Committee is responsible for advising the supervisor and student on issues relating to the student's research and progress within the PhD program.

The PhD Supervisory Committee must formally meet at least once per year.  At each meeting, the student provides a written progress report to the committee.  Soon after, the supervisor must provide a PhD Supervisory Committee Meeting Report Form to the Office of Student Services which outlines the result of the meeting.

Comprehensive Exam

The PhD Comprehensive Examination is a written and oral examination conducted after the student has completed most of the coursework and preferably within one year after the first enrolment in the program.  The purpose of this examination is to test the student's knowledge of his or her designated major and minor areas of study and to evaluate the candidate's research potential.

The student must complete a PhD Proposed Program of Study, have it approved by the supervisor, and submit it to the Office of Student Services for final departmental approval before starting the comprehensive exam.

  1. Booking a Comprehensive Exam

    Once the supervisor, student, and proposed exam committee agree on a time and date to hold the written and oral parts of the exam, the supervisor requests a booking through the Office of Student Services.  Bookings must be made at least four weeks prior to the requested exam date.
  2. Composition of the Comprehensive Examination Committee

    The committee consists of a minimum of four graduate faculty members, of which at least two are from the major field of study and at least one is from the first minor field.  These members are to be nominated by the student's supervisor approximately two months prior to the date of the examination.The Department will appoint a chair to the committee that is from an area other than the major area of the candidate.  The chair is a voting member of the committee, and is responsible for conducting the examination.
  3. Written Questions and Responses

    The first part of the comprehensive examination consists of written questions requiring a written response from the candidate.  Each member of the comprehensive examination committee will contribute at least one question to the examination.  These questions are then given to the student for response within a designated period of time - not normally more than five working days.The candidate may be permitted to prepare a response without direct supervision.  The responses, however, are to be made independently, based on his or her own knowledge and any available references, but with no assistance from others.  Failure to adhere to this condition will constitute a failure of the student.
  4. Oral ExamAt a pre-arranged time shortly after submission of the written responses, the comprehensive exam committee will meet with the student to conduct an oral examination to obtain further assessment of the student's knowledge and research ability.
  5. Results of the Examination

Following completion of the oral examination, the examination committee will make one of the following recommendations:

  • That the candidate be allowed to proceed with his or her PhD program
  • That the candidate improve his or her knowledge in designated areas
  • That the candidate be asked to withdraw from the program

When improvement in knowledge is required, the department may require the candidate to prepare for another comprehensive examination after the deficiencies in his or her knowledge have been corrected.

Departmental Oral Exam

  1. The Departmental Oral Examination

    Once the student and supervisor agree that the research work and written thesis are complete, the supervisor notifies the Office of Student Services that the PhD candidate is ready to defend the thesis in a formal presentation.The student must successfully complete the Comprehensive Examination before proceeding to the Departmental Oral Examination.
  2. Booking a Departmental Oral ExaminationOnce the supervisor, student, and other members of the Departmental Oral Examination Committee agree on a suitable date and time to hold the exam, the supervisor requests a booking from the Office of Student Services at least 4 weeks prior to the requested date.
  3. Composition of the Departmental Oral Examination CommitteeThe committee consists of four to six members of the graduate faculty, including members of the PhD Supervisory Committee and the exam chair.
  4. Conduct of the Departmental Oral ExaminationBefore the examination begins, the examining committee meets to review the Departmental policies for granting a degree program, the duties of the Chair of the Examination Committee, and the academic history of the student.

    As part of the examination, the student is asked to make a 20-minute presentation in defense of his or her thesis, followed by a question and answer period.  There is no time limit for the question and answer period.

    At the end of the question and answer period, the candidate will be asked to leave the room for the committee to deliberate on the final recommendation.  The student is informed of the committee's recommendation soon after the recommendation is made.

SGS Final Oral Exam

The purpose of the School of Graduate Studies Final Oral Examination is to determine if the candidate's research is original, and has accomplished the breadth and depth of the findings of research in his or her area required for the granting of a PhD Degree.  The examination consists of both the written thesis and the oral defence.

Students must successfully complete the Departmental Oral Examination before proceeding to the SGS Final Oral Examination.

  1. Booking a Final Oral Examination When the student, the supervisor, and the PhD Supervisory Committee agree that the thesis is ready to go forward for the Final Oral Examination, the supervisor nominates an external appraiser to assess the thesis.  When the supervisor, student, external appraiser and other members of the examining committee agree on a date and time for the Final Oral Exam, the supervisor requests that the Office of Student Services arrange for the exam with the School of Graduate Studies.  This request must be made at least 8 weeks prior to the proposed exam date.
  2. The External Appraiser The external appraiser must be a recognized expert in the subject of the thesis at his or her University.  The School of Graduate Studies must approve of the supervisor's nomination.  The external appraiser must have an arm's-length relation with the PhD candidate and the supervisor.  The external appraiser, once approved, must receive a copy of the thesis as soon as possible.  The external appraiser reads the thesis, evaluates it, and provides a one to two page appraisal to the Office of Student Services for dissemination to the student and examining committee at least two weeks before the date of the Final Oral Examination.
  3. Composition of the Final Oral Examination CommitteeThe Final Oral Examination committee is comprised of four to six voting members.  The committee must include one to three members of the candidate's PhD Supervisory Committee, one to three members who have not been closely associated with the supervision of the thesis, the external appraiser, and a non-voting committee chair appointed by the School of Graduate Studies.

    The committee may also include up to two non-voting members.  The School of Graduate Studies must approve the composition of the Final Oral Examination Committee.

  4. The Conduct of the Final Oral Examination The Committee Chair is the representative of the Dean of the School of Graduate Studies and is responsible to guarantee that the candidate is given reasonable opportunity to defend the thesis, to ensure that the candidate alone defends the thesis and not the supervisor or other members of the committee, and to protect the candidate from harassment.

    Before the candidate enters the room, the Chair of the committee confirms that a quorum of four voting members is presented and discusses in detail the procedures of the examination.  If there is no quorum, the Chair may decide to either delay the exam or postpone the exam to another date.

    The Chair invites the candidate to orally summarize his or her research and conclusions in a 20-minute presentation.

    The chair invites each member of the committee to ask questions of the candidate.

    After the examination, the Chair invites voting members to vote "yes" or "no" on the question of whether or not the thesis and its defense are acceptable.  More than one negative vote or abstention will cause the examination to be adjourned.

    Those committee members who find the thesis acceptable must also indicate whether the thesis is acceptable "as is" or if it requires minor corrections or minor modifications.  Minor corrections involve typographical errors, errors in punctuation, or problems in style and must be corrected within one month.  Minor modifications involve small clarifications or the qualification of research findings and must be completed within three months.

    If minor corrections or minor modifications are required by any of the voting members, the supervisor must certify that the thesis has been corrected or modified accordingly before the thesis can be submitted and the candidate recommended for convocation.

Submitting Your PhD Thesis

The Department of Civil Engineering and the School of Graduate Studies now requires electronic (PDF) thesis submissions.  It is no longer required that you bind and hand in a paper copy of your thesis.  Please note that your supervisor may still require a bound copy.

Students must successfully complete the SGS Final Oral Exam before proceeding to PhD Thesis Submission.


An abstract not exceeding 350 words, must be included in all bound copies.

Colour of bound copy covers (if required by supervisor): DARK GREEN

You must submit a PDF copy of your thesis to the School of Graduate Studies.  Please visit the electronic thesis and dissertation page for complete information on uploading your thesis. Please remember to submit all the required forms to SGS as well:  "Library and Archives Canada Theses Non-exclusive Licence", "UMI Subject Categories", and "University of Toronto Authority to Distribute". These forms are all available through the SGS website.

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