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Our Ph.D. students complete their coursework in their first year, selecting from a wide array of graduate-only seminars focused on diverse regional and thematic topics. All Ph.D. students take a mandatory course that offers an opportunity to engage in lively debates about field-defining and cutting-edge scholarship, to learn about the historian’s craft, and to participate in workshops on research, writing, and publishing. Students focus on defining and planning their own research early in the second year and present their research proposals for approval to their committee members, who remain involved in their projects over the four to five years it takes our students to complete their degrees. Several of our past doctoral students hold academic appointments in universities, prestigious post-doctoral fellowships, and museums and archives in Canada and around the world. Others seek out careers in government, media, education and business. Many of our PhD students publish their theses as highly-regarded books. We strive to provide our graduate students with training in research and writing that enables them to excel in these multiple career paths.

Why choose Graduate Studies?

Degree Completion Requirements

Doctoral candidates in History must satisfy requirements in the following areas:

  • Two session length courses and required course (Hist 901), taken in the Fall/Winter terms of the first year of the programme
  • Field requirements (1 major and 2 minor - one minor field is normally carried over from the MA degree)
  • Thesis proposal and qualifying exam
  • Defence of a doctoral dissertation
  • Reading proficiency in a second language

Course Work

The purpose of the course work in the candidate's major field is to introduce the candidate to the major historical writings and debates in the area covered, prepare them to teach and undertake original research in that area, and provide a context for the broad-ranging historiographical and interpretative portion of their thesis proposal. The purpose of the course work in the minor is to add breadth to the candidate's training, either to strengthen and widen the framework for the dissertation, to prepare for future teaching or to broaden knowledge of methodology and historiography.

At the time of pre-registration in the summer, after consulting with the thesis supervisor and Graduate Chair, students shall provide the Graduate Office with a list of their intended seminars. Upon arrival in September, they shall obtain the approval of their instructors, potential thesis supervisor, and the Graduate Chair for their entire programme (courses and major and minor fields). Normally the thesis is written in a major field. Students are encouraged to take graduate courses from a range of faculty members. No member of the faculty shall be responsible for more than two one-term graduate seminars or graded readings courses (for a total of 1.0) in a candidate’s Ph.D. programme. A minimum final grade of B+ (3.3) in all primary courses is required. Failure to fulfil this requirement will result in the student being asked to withdraw from the programme.

Graded reading courses can be taken in exceptional circumstances and only if no existing graduate seminar in the field is offered. Request for a graded reading course requires approval by the Graduate Chair, the supervisor and the instructor of the reading course.

History 901

All doctoral students are required to take History 901. This seminar introduces Ph.D. candidates in the Queen's Department of History to a selection of theories and methods that have shaped the contemporary discipline of history. The purpose of the course is threefold:

  1. to expose doctoral students to an array of approaches to history and debates about the practice of history, which, it is hoped, will help them to situate their thesis work in broader theoretical and methodological contexts;
  2. to provide students with a foundational vocabulary and conceptual resources for the field of history;
  3. to encourage the development of intellectual community among the Ph.D. candidates. Toward these ends, course readings encompass a wide range of different theories, methods, and examples of historical scholarship drawn from the department's three major ‘clusters' (Canada/North America; world; Europe). Individual weeks' readings will usually include one or two theoretical or methodological pieces alongside one or two examples of historical scholarship that incorporate the theory or method in question. This course is taught as a Pass/Fail graded course. All course assignments will be graded using the normal scale, but the final grade will be calculated as P or F, while expecting a rigorous and high standard of performance for a passing grade.

Royal Military College

Students may also take graduate courses offered at the Royal Military College. Offerings vary from year to year and interested students should consult both History departments well in advance. Note: Normally students taking courses at RMC must take, or must have taken, two other regular history courses in the Queen's History Department, either as part of a three-course M.A. program or as one of three Ph.D. courses. The cooperative Queen's/RMC programme permits students to take a course at either institution without payment of extra fees.

Instructors are asked to arrange their courses so that each student will have completed by mid-October sufficient written work to provide an objective standard upon which to judge his/her progress. The purpose of this regulation is to assist instructors and the department fellowships committee in the writing of references for scholarship applications which are usually due mid-October and also so that students may have an indication of their standing to date in each course.

All graduate instructors shall report to the Graduate Chair on the progress of students enrolled in their courses by the end of the first term of enrolment. The Graduate Committee may judge it appropriate to recommend to the School of Graduate Studies that a student withdraw, if it is thought that he/she is not capable of showing improvement in the second term.

Incomplete Work

The deadline for completion of incomplete work in any graduate course is 15 August of the year following initial registration in the course. Individual exceptions can be made to this rule only on the explicit permission of the Graduate Committee following appeal by the student to the Graduate Committee. If a student has not completed all requirements for a course the year following initial registration, then that student must sign a contract with his/her instructor that specifies exactly when those requirements are to be completed. A student may not register in the second or subsequent year of his/her graduate programme with an incomplete mark unless the Graduate Committee has ruled that an extension be granted.

Language Requirements

Ph.D. students are required to demonstrate proficiency in an additional language.

Students can choose in which language to satisfy this requirement but are expected to consult their supervisor(s) and to choose a language appropriate to their program of study. The test will consist of a passage of about 40-50 lines of a basic historical text to be translated into literary English in two hours, with the aid of a dictionary. The standard expected is that the translator must prove that he/she understands the passage for purposes of historical research, i.e. minor mistakes/infelicities will be tolerated (within reason), but major misunderstandings will not. This test is marked on a PASS/FAIL basis.

Normally a language examination is scheduled every November (a second language examination is normally offered in the spring), and all incoming PhD students are expected to sit the November examination. If they do not pass, they should at that time meet with the Graduate Chair to discuss plans for satisfying the language requirement.

Students have the opportunity to take undergraduate language courses at Queen's University without paying additional tuition, as long as the request is supported by a letter from the supervisor indicating that the language course is essential to the student's academic programme. If you would like to enroll in an undergraduate language course, please contact the Graduate Office.

Field Requirements

Fields are designed by students in consultation with their field supervisors. Fields may be defined geographically, chronologically, and/or thematically. Examples of fields done in the past include "Canadian Social and Cultural History," "Early Modern Europe," "South Asia," "Atlantic World," "Gender and Sexuality," and "'Race': International Perspectives.

PhD Students in First Year

Major Field

  • submit reading list to field supervisor and graduate office ( no later than April 30th.
  • submit syllabus to field supervisor and graduate office and defend major field by June 30th.

Minor Field

  • submit reading list to field supervisor and graduate office ( no later than April 30th.
  • submit syllabus to field supervisor and graduate office and defend minor field by June 30th

Qualifying Examination

The qualifying examination is an examination of a thesis proposal prepared by the candidate. The purpose of the Qualifying Examination is to provide the candidate with an opportunity to put together a detailed thesis proposal. The examination also enables an evaluation of the candidate's suitability for continuing in the doctoral programme. The examination should aid in the identification of weaknesses which need to be remedied, provide the candidate with the opportunity to organize material in a wider context than is normally available in an individual graduate course, and help the faculty to judge the overall intellectual abilities and scholarly qualifications of the candidate.

Candidates will not be allowed to sit for the Qualifying Examination until they have completed all outstanding coursework, the grade has been recorded on their official university transcripts, and they have successfully completed their major and minor field requirements. The candidate should begin to work out a preliminary thesis topic with his or her supervisor by the Spring of the candidate's first year in the programme. At this time the Qualifying Examination Committee will be set up by the supervisor in consultation with the candidate. The formation of a Qualifying Examination Committee (consisting at a minimum of the Graduate Chair or a delegate as a neutral chair of the Committee, the supervisor(s), one examiner from the Department and a second examiner either from inside or outside the Department) will be the responsibility of the thesis supervisor(s) in consultation with the candidate and subject to the approval of the Graduate Chair and Chair of the Department. It is desirable that wherever possible the members of the Qualifying Examination Committee should also serve on the candidate's final Thesis Examining Committee. However, an examiner from outside the University who serves on the Qualifying Examination Committee should under no circumstance serve as the external examiner of the thesis. Members of the Qualifying Examination Committee are also responsible for assessing the annual reports and writing samples of the candidate in Year III and beyond.

Students are encouraged to meet with committee members individually to receive early advice on the direction of their research and suggestions on additional background reading or primary sources. In preparation for this meeting, the candidate will normally circulate to the Committee members a short statement on the proposed thesis topic and a working bibliography on background literature.

During the summer the candidate will carry out more detailed research into the theoretical or methodological approach to be pursued, the major thesis or questions to be answered, the relevant historiography, and the location and relevance of major primary sources to be analysed. The candidate will begin to draft a thesis proposal of twenty to twenty-five pages and no longer than thirty pages (not including the research timetable and bibliography) addressing these topics and proposing a time frame for the completion of research and writing.

The thesis proposal will:

  • discuss the historiography, national and transnational (students are encouraged to consider the broad literature on their topic, including transnational, thematic, and comparative aspects of the literature)
  • discuss the conceptual, theoretical, and methodological issues pertinent to the thesis topic and the sources, with references to relevant, significant writings;
  • outline the overall working historical interpretation to be pursued in the thesis and comment upon its significance;
  • discuss in detail the primary sources to be analysed, including printed, manuscript, typescript and oral sources, noting the location of these materials and their relevance; and
  • provide a timetable of research and writing of the various chapters, with a projected date of completion. It should anticipate the completion of the thesis not more than 36 months after the completion of the Qualifying Examination. Any anticipated date of completion beyond these 36 months should be explained in writing to the Examination Committee and to the Graduate Committee by both the candidate and the supervisor(s).
  • provide a bibliography of primary and secondary source material.

Normally the thesis supervisor(s) will approve the thesis proposal in writing (by signing the proposal or by email) before it is submitted to the Graduate Office and circulated by the student to the members of the Qualifying Examination Committee. If the candidate and supervisor(s) do not agree that the thesis proposal is ready for examination, the candidate may inform the Graduate Chair in writing that he or she wishes to have the thesis proposal examined.

The thesis proposal must be submitted and defended by November 30 in the second year of the programme. The student must email a copy of their qualifying proposal to the Graduate Office and to their committee members at least 10 working days prior to their defence. The supervisor will be responsible for convening the defence of the proposal.

If the proposal is not submitted and defended by this date students are no longer eligible to resubmit and undergo a new exam if the proposal does not pass at the qualifying exam. If students have not submitted their proposal by the end of the winter term in their second year they will be considered to have failed. Should exceptional conditions arise which warrant a time extension of the qualifying exam deadline, the candidate should complete a Qualifying  Exam Time Extension Form and submit it to the History Graduate Office before November 15th and state the reasons for the request. A time extension will only be granted with a majority vote by faculty on the Graduate Committee.

Members of the Qualifying Examination Committee should provide the Graduate Office and the Committee chair with a written report on the strengths and weaknesses of the thesis proposal before the start of the exam.  They are encouraged to share their reports with the student at the conclusion of the examination.

The Qualifying Examination Committee will either pass the thesis proposal or ask the candidate to resubmit it with specified revisions required; the decision to pass must be unanimous and the Committee will specify in writing the nature of the revisions. The candidate may resubmit to the Committee within three months. Each member of the reconvened Qualifying Examination Committee will be asked by the Graduate Office to submit a brief written assessment of the resubmitted thesis proposal to the Graduate Chair at least three working days before the date set for the reconvened Qualifying Examination. The Qualifying Examination Committee will either pass or fail the revised thesis proposal; this decision will be by simple majority. Failure of the reconvened Qualifying Examination or the passage of three months without resubmission requires withdrawal from the programme. Candidates wishing to appeal the decision of the Committee after a second failure may consult the Graduate School Calendar (Section 8.9) for details of the procedure. The chair of the examination will inform the candidate of the decision of the Committee at the conclusion of the examination.

Annual Report on PhD Student Progress

All PhD students in Years III and beyond (post qualifying examination students) are required to submit an Annual Report by the first Monday of December to the Graduate Office.

This report is intended to ensure continuing communication among supervisor(s), student and supervisory committee members in the years after the thesis proposal defence, to provide continuing support to the student, and to ascertain that the student is making strong progress or to identify areas of difficulty and to suggest remedies. Students are required to submit ALL chapters or substantive parts of chapters written or revised in the relevant calendar year or, if the student is not yet in the writing phase, to provide a description of the research and relevant work conducted during the calendar year.  

Students should email the completed Annual Progress Report Form and their writing sample to their supervisor, committee members, and Cathy Dickison (

Supervisor(s) and supervisory committee members will then complete reports and substantive comments in response to this material and email the completed reports to the student and to Cathy Dickison (

A meeting of the supervisory committee will normally be called if the supervisor(s) or any member of the supervisory committee, after reviewing the annual report and student's work, deem that the student is not making satisfactory progress. If one or more members of the committee suggests that a meeting should be held, the Graduate Chair will arrange for a meeting of supervisory committee and student to discuss the annual report. This meeting will provide the student with the opportunity to hear concerns expressed and to respond to them. It will also provide the opportunity to explore collectively strategies to address the areas of difficulty. If in the subsequent year the annual report again indicates concerns over the student's progress, a meeting of the supervisory committee and the student will again be held to discuss the progress of the thesis, and to explore collectively constructive remedies.

A meeting of the committee can also be called if there are no concerns about progress but if there is a general sense that the meeting would be particularly useful for the student.

Thesis and Thesis Supervision

The regulations governing the thesis, including production of the thesis, composition of the examining board, are found at the following School of Graduate Studies site.

Doctoral theses should not be unreasonably long. Good practice dictates that a doctoral thesis be 300-350 pages and not exceed 400 pages.

Normally supervision is confirmed before the student begins the PhD programme. Until a student has decided upon a supervisor, the Graduate Chair or his/her named deputy will oversee that student's progress. Once a student and supervisor have agreed on a supervision, that supervisor becomes the student's adviser in the department. History Department expectations regarding Student/Supervisor communication are further detailed in these guidelines.

Thesis topics must be submitted to the Qualifying Examination Committee for approval before the candidate commences work on the thesis. The topic must also be submitted to the Graduate Office together with the names of the members of the Qualifying Examination Committee.

Students intending to write a thesis in military history under the supervision of an RMC staff member will be required to have dual thesis supervision - one adviser from RMC and one adviser from the Queen's History Department. The Queen's History Department will bear the ultimate responsibility for the supervision of the thesis. Similar arrangements will be made for students wishing to have a dual supervisor at another university (e.g. under the Trent/Queen's cooperative agreement).

Students are encouraged to meet regularly with the members of their Qualifying Examination Committee to discuss their research and writing. The annual reports, due annually in December, are designed in part to ensure that this committee continues to be a valuable resource and support throughout the student's programme.

Following consultation with the student, the supervisor is responsible for arranging the oral defence, asking examiners to serve on the board, finding a date and time, liaising with the Graduate Office and the School of Graduate Studies about all aspects of the defence (including room bookings and reimbursement for the examiner's travel expenses). SGS finds a Chair for the PhD thesis examinations. Please keep in mind that the thesis must be submitted five weeks before the tentative date of the oral defence.

Research Ethics

Any research project involving human subjects, whether funded or not, must receive ethics approval of the General Research Ethics Board [GREB]. To determine if your project requires ethics consult either the Tri-Council Policy Statement or the Ethics Office.

The following link will guide you through the process of applying for Ethics approval.


Year I

  • Course Work

September to April

  • Field preparation (meeting with field supervisors, preparation of reading lists, preparation of syllabi).


  • Submission of syllabi and defence of the fields


  • Preparation of the thesis proposal
  • Satisfy Language Requirement

Year II

  • Continued preparation of the thesis proposal


  • Submission of the thesis proposal.


  • Qualifying Examination.


  • Thesis Research
  • Satisfy language Requirement (if not Year I)

Year III

  • Continued Research and Writing
  • Submission of Annual Report


  • Satisfy language Requirement (if not Year I or II)

Year IV
(and subsequent years if needed)

  • Continued Research and Writing
  • Submission of Annual Report

Academic Regulations

Withdrawal on Academic Grounds

There are three situations which require withdrawal from the graduate programme in History:

  • failure on a primary course;
  • failure of the qualifying exam for the second time;
  • failure of the thesis (this is covered by the published regulations of the Graduate School).

Any student who receives a grade of less than 65% in a primary course has failed that course. A student who fails a primary course will be required to withdraw from a graduate degree programme in history. (A primary course is any course prescribed for a student's approved programme of study. Only courses additional to the student's approved programme -- e.g. language courses or remedial writing courses -- are designated as secondary. For these courses a mark of less than second class may be accepted.) Note, however, that a student will be asked to withdraw from the programme if he/she receives less than a 78 in the graduate course in their major field or less than a 77 average in their major and minor field courses.)

When a failing mark is reported to the graduate office, the graduate chair will confirm the mark with the instructor(s), ensure that the student is aware of the procedures for appealing the grade and any academic decision that may result from it as outlined in these regulations and in those of the School of Graduate Studies, and inform the student's supervisor(s) of the situation.

A doctoral candidate who fails the qualifying exam for the second time is required to withdraw.

Complaints and Problems

If individual students have a complaint or problem they normally discuss it in the first instance with the faculty member concerned. If they remain dissatisfied they then normally take the problem to the Graduate Chair. If they are still dissatisfied the normal procedure is then to go to the Chair of the Department. Students with complaints or problems should always feel free to seek the advice and assistance of the student members of the Graduate Committee. It should be noted that any student is free, at any time, to take a problem or a complaint directly or to either the Graduate Chair or to the Chair of the Department.

Grievance Procedures

If a student feels that he/she has a grievance and wishes to pursue formal grievance procedures he/she should in the first instance consult the Graduate Chair and the Chair of the Department. The full "Senate Statement on Grievance, Discipline and Related Matters" is available in the Graduate Chair's office for consultation by students and faculty members. A grievance should concern procedural (non-academic) matters only and should not be confused with an appeal of an academic decision (see below).
Graduate School rules concerning grievance and appeal of academic decisions are described in the School of Graduate Studies calendar. Appeals beyond the department are limited to procedural matters; the ruling of the department with respect to academic decisions is final.

Appeals of Academic Course Decisions

Procedures for appealing non-course related academic decisions are outlined in the relevant sections of these regulations and by the School of Graduate Studies. Regarding final marks in a graduate course in the department:

  1. Any student wishing clarification about, or who is dissatisfied with, an assigned grade in a graduate course should first discuss the matter with the course instructor(s) to ensure everyone is aware of all the relevant facts. The instructor(s) will review the work in question in a timely fashion. This discussion should take place within 14 days of the grades being available. If the instructor(s) agree to change a grade, a change of grade form shall be processed in the usual way. Either the instructor(s) or student may request that the graduate chair play an informal mediation role.
  2. If the instructor confirms the original grade, and if the student is still dissatisfied, then the student should appeal to the department chair for a formal review, stating clearly the grounds on which the grade should be raised. The appeal should be made through the graduate chair. If the department chair believes the grounds to be reasonable, then he/she shall initiate a review of the grade. The department chair, in consultation with the graduate chair, will undertake the review which may include asking an appropriate member of the department's graduate faculty to grade a clean and blinded copy of any written work which forms part of the appeal. He/she may also seek the advice of the faculty members of the department's graduate committee. The final decision will be made by the department chair.
  3. If the department chair does not agree to a review of the grade, then the student has the right to formally request a review of the grade through the Dean of the School of Graduate Studies. The Dean will forward the request to the department chair, who will conduct a review of the grade.
  4. The grade determined by means of the review shall be recorded as the final official grade, irrespective of whether it is identical to, or higher or lower than, the original grade. The department chair or graduate chair will inform all parties, including the Dean of the School of Graduate Studies, of the result of the review.
  5. Further appeal of an assigned grade can be made only on the basis of a specific procedural error or errors made in the departmental grade review procedures. This would be done through convening the Academic Appeal Board of the School of Graduate Studies (see Step 4 through Step 5, Appeals Against Academic Decisions).

Note: These procedures for review of an assigned grade do not apply when a failing grade (FA) has been received on courses numbered 899 (Master's Thesis) or 999 (Doctoral Thesis). Appeal of a grade of Fail on a graduate thesis is appealed through the Appeal of Thesis Examination Committee Decision, under Appeals Against Academic Decisions.

Department of History, Queen's University

49 Bader Lane, Watson Hall 212
Kingston ON K7L 3N6




Queen's University is situated on traditional Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe territory.