Scope of a Doctoral Dissertation

A student's doctoral dissertation is a substantial piece of scholarly work that contains a significant contribution of new knowledge to the field of study. It presents the results and an analysis of the student's original research, and should be significant enough to be publishable in the refereed literature.

The dissertation must have a coherent structure that provides a complete and systematic account of the student's scholarly work. It may incorporate work from submitted, accepted, or published journal articles, which may or may not have co-authors. It may also include other scholarly artifacts such as film and other audio, visual, and graphic representations, and application-oriented documents such as policy briefs, curricula, business plans, computer and web tools, pages, and applications, etc., so long as they are also described and analyzed in a scholarly context.

The dissertation should reflect the student's ability to do the following:

  • Critically analyze the relevant literature
  • Use and describe in detail the appropriate methodology for the scholarly work undertaken
  • Conduct research and present findings that result in a significant and original contribution to knowledge
  • Verify knowledge claims and sources meticulously
  • Locate the work of the dissertation and its findings within the broader field or discipline
  • Communicate the scholarly work and analysis effectively

In most fields, a doctoral dissertation will range from 60,000 to 80,000 words in length, exclusive of footnotes, bibliography, and appendices. As a courtesy to examiners, if the dissertation will be over 100,000 words long the student must notify the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies when the Appointment of External Examiner for Doctoral Dissertation form is submitted.

See also The Instructions for the Preparation of the External Examiner's Report.