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PhD student handbook 2014-2015

Dear PhD students,

The following handbook is designed to orient you to the McGill School of Information Studies PhD program and guide you throughout your studies.

Table of contents

I. School & administrative office Contacts; Facilities; Hours; Communications; Office space; Photocopying; Mail.
II. New students Minerva; IDs; Orientations; Getting around McGill; SIS Vision, Mission & History; Policies & procedures; Technology; Links
III. Program & courses Overview; Research seminars; McGill links; Supervision; Mandatory research tracking; Courses & timetables; Course registration guide; Expected timeline; Comprehensive exam information & procedures
IV. Policies SIS policies; McGill policies; Student Handbook of Rights & Responsibilities.
V. Resources & services McGill services; Travel grants & funding; Career & skill development.
VI. Student life Welcome from MISSA; Student associations & groups; Involvement.


I. School & administrative office


>Staff    >Faculty   >SIS contact guide


The School is located at 3661 Peel Street. The School is home to administrative, faculty, PhD and student group offices, a seminar room, and various common spaces and lounge areas for student use. The majority of classes and the SIS/Graduate IT Lab are located in the Faculty of Education Building at 3700 McTavish, adjacent to the School. A telephone is available for local calls in Rm. B14.

>More about facilities & SIS student areas


The School’s office hours are listed on the School’s contact page. Please note that the School's building and office hours can vary, in particular during the summer and holiday seasons.


PhD listserv: The SIS PhD listserv is a restricted email mailing list for SIS PhD students to post messages of interest to other SIS PhD students. The list is updated annually in September of each year. For information on subscribing and unsubscribing, or for any other questions related to the list, please contact the current list moderator, PhD student Jesse Dinneen (jesse [dot] dinneen [at] mail [dot] mcgill [dot] ca).

SIS website PhD profile: After your arrival at the School, you will submit a short PhD profile for the PhD students page in consultation with your supervisor. We strongly encourage you to submit a photo so other PhD students, faculty, and staff can get to know you more quickly. > PhD Web Profile Submission Form

SIS Wiki: The SIS Wiki is a collaborative, unofficial SIS community information spot used to host the shared internal School events calendar, knowledge continuity resources for student groups, and more. You can access the SIS Wiki as soon as you have a McGill email address. To activate editing access, use the web form after your first visit to the Wiki.

EMAIL POLICY: In accordance with McGill policy, the School corresponds with all students through their McGill email address.

Office space & other resources


SIS tries to give access to incoming doctoral students to a desk and a computer in various research spaces at the School, during their first three years of their studies or when they are in PhD 2, 3, or 4, depending on availability and need. The use of these resources on a regular basis is expected and is monitored. Reallocation of space is possible at anytime. Students are strongly encouraged to own their own laptop to be able to use it anywhere on the campus and in the SIS building. A telephone is available for local calls in Rm. B14. The General Office will take telephone calls for a student in an emergency situation.


SIS doctoral students admitted in 2014 are entitled to receive $100 credit for copying or printing. Students are given a series of prepaid uPrint Prepaid Guest Cards up to 1,500 copies (one copy is approximately $.063 each). The Administrative Coordinator in the General Office distributes these cards. If you are using your own laptop, you will have to download a driver in order to print. See the IT Knowledge Base Article 2658 for installing the uPrint driver for Windows, Mac & Linux. Students are strongly encouraged to download electronic publications when possible as the budget for printing is decreasing every year.


Fax service will be given as time permits during the normal work period. The office staff will send faxes for students at the following rates:

  • $.25 per page in Quebec/Montreal
  • $.50 per page outside Quebec in Canada or the US
  • $1.00 per page outside North America
  • $.25 per page for faxes received

Mail/Package receipt. With prior arrangement, the office staff will accept special mail or packages delivered to the School for a student during the work day. You will be advised by email of their receipt.

Mail slots. All students are given a mail slot at 3661 Peel St. Names are listed alphabetically. Due to the public nature of these slots, nothing of value or of a confidential nature should be put there.


There are two plastic poster carrier cylinders in Cathy Venetico's storage which can be borrowed for conferences.

II. New students

Minerva: Minerva is McGill's web-based information system for students, faculty, and staff. You will register for courses in Minerva, update personal information, etc. Please maintain your current and permanent addresses and phone numbers on Minerva as soon as you have new information. > Minerva login

ID cards: You can obtain your ID card after registering for courses. > McGill Student ID Cards


As a new student in the PhD program, you will attend a PhD orientation session which will provide you with more information about the program and the School. In addition, you are encouraged to familiarize yourself with the students section of our website. In addition to the SIS orientation, you are encouraged to participate in the McGill Graduate Orientation, and International student orientations (if applicable).

  • SIS PhD Orientation. An orientation and academic induction is generally scheduled in the week after the first class in September. You'll receive more information closer to the date.
  • McGill Graduate Orientation. Sept. 2, 2014. As an incoming PhD student, you're encouraged to attend this event to learn more about services for graduate students at McGill and meet other incoming students from various programs. For information, visit McGill's Graduate Orientation page.
  • McGill International Student Orientation & receptions. If you're an international student, check out a range of events in Aug. & Sept. to help you get settled in at McGill and receive valuable information for international students. More info


> McGill Virtual Campus Tour
> Map of McGill branch libraries


The School has a distinguished history, offering programs at McGill since 1897. The mission of the School of Information Studies is the advancement of learning through education, scholarship, and service in Library and Information Studies. As a student of the School, you're now part of our story. Take a moment to get to know the School's roots and goals.

> SIS mission, vision and history


Academic integrity. Since spring 2011, incoming graduate students must complete a mandatory online academic integrity tutorial accessed through MINERVA's Student Menu->Academic Integrity Tutorial. New students must complete the tutorial within their first semester, or a Hold will placed on their record. 

McGill student email correspondence policy: In accordance with McGill email policy, you are required to use your McGill email address (versus a personal email address) to correspond with the School’s administration and instructors and with McGill. As well, you are responsible to check this email address periodically throughout the duration of your studies for emails from the School and from McGill.

SIS forms, guidelines, and procedures. You’ll find links to internal funding forms, the SIS guidelines, and links to key McGill policies on the School’s Forms & guidelines page.

See more PhD-related policies in the Policies section, below.


> Technology at McGill and SIS


> New Students Website, Graduate & Postdoctoral Students Office. Info on how to proceed through your registration, get your McGill ID, etc.
> Campus Life & Engagement. If this is your 1st year at McGill (grad students included!), this is your 1st stop for info about settling into Montreal & McGill.
> Student Rights & Responsibilities site
> McGill Bookstore

III. Program & courses


The PhD in Information Studies provides an opportunity for exceptional candidates to study interdisciplinary research topics at the doctoral level. The program aims specifically to ensure that its graduates will be able to develop knowledge and critical awareness of relevant theories, principles and methods in Information Studies and to acquire the expertise to conduct and promote scholarly research in the context of Information Studies. The program prepares graduates for research, teaching, and senior administrative positions, in Quebec, Canada and internationally, contributes to the development of knowledge and to teaching/learning in Information Studies and builds national and international visibility of Information Studies from a research perspective.

Students develop scholarly and innovative expertise in the broad research area of Human-Information Interaction (HII) and the core research areas Human-Computer Interaction, Information Behaviour & Services, and Information & Knowledge Management, also developing an awareness of their interconnections.


SIS Research seminars are an integral part of the PhD program. Seminars are presented at the School by Canadian and international guest speakers throughout the year. The series offers a valuable opportunity for PhD students to learn about current research topics, developments and methodologies in the field of information studies and related disciplines.


> Graduate & Postdoctoral Studies. The best starting place for reviewing Graduate Studies policies at McGill.
> Degree progress. Info about progressing through your degree, time limitation, etc.
> Research tracking progress. Info on progress tracking forms (which must be completed annually by doctoral students and their supervisors), research ethics and safety, and research policies.
> Thesis. Info on thesis preparation and submission.


Supervision website - the main source of supervision information, including timelines, questions and answers, etc. The subsection "Being a Supervisee" includes: Discussing expectations, Finding motivation to study, Avoiding delays, Adapting to cultural differences, The work-life balance, Intellectual climate, Careers - academic or otherwise?

Mandatory research tracking

In 2003, McGill introduced a revised policy on mandatory annual research tracking. As well, a new, streamlined research tracking form is available.

> Graduate Student Progress Report Form

Guidelines on progress reporting based on the Senate resolution can be found in section 2.v. of the Guidelines and Regulations for Academic Units on Graduate Student Advising and Supervision. Please note that these guidelines refer to the old versions of the form and will be revised with the next scheduled update of the eCalendar in July 2014.

Courses & timetables

Course registration guide

Registration processes

McGill students register for courses through Minerva, McGill's self-service administrative system. Courses have letters and numbers, e.g. GLIS 702 and titles, e.g. Seminar in Information Studies. Courses also have unique Course Registration Numbers (CRN) assigned for each term.

Dates & deadlines

View registration dates on the GPS Registration Dates page. To avoid late registration fees, register for at least one course via Minerva before the normal registration period ends. If you will be attending SIS but have not yet selected or received approval for courses, register for the REGN course before the start of the term to confirm you are a student in that term. > You can also find a summary of dates on our SIS Important dates page.

Courses & timetable

For PhD courses and timetable, please visit the Courses & Timetables page.


If you are experiencing problems with course registration or have questions about registration or fee payments, please contact Kathryn Hubbard, Administrative & Student Affairs Coordinator. Email.


Incoming students will be sent a link to the McGill Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies Office (GPS) Registration & Courses page. This site includes key registration and withdrawal policies and procedures.

2014 registration for newly admitted graduate students opens on July 8. After this date, please register on Minerva for the courses listed below. If you will be attending SIS but have not yet selected or received approval for courses, register for the REGN course before the start of the term to confirm you are a student in that term.

Fall 2014

  • GLIS 702 (CRN 9689)
  • GLIS 703 (CRN 9691)
  • REGN (CRN 2334)*

Winter 2015

  • GLIS 704 (CRN 7716)
  • REGN (CRN 2262)*

*What is a REGN code? The "REGN" registration confirmation code is an administrative code McGill uses to confirm registration for graduate students. Registration in Minerva of the REGN registration confirmation course is mandatory for all graduate students each term. Notes: Advisor approval is not required prior to REGN registration. There is no charge associated with registering for the REGN.

Expected timeline

The expected timeline is as follows:


Fall Semester

Winter Semester

PhD 1*

Preparatory courses as deemed necessary by Admission Committee or supervisor

Preparatory courses as deemed necessary by Admission Committee or supervisor

 Year 1 (PhD 2)




GLIS 702 Seminar in Information Studies (3 cr.)

GLIS 703 Research Paradigms in Information Studies (3 cr.)

Graduate courses as deemed necessary by Admission Committee or supervisor

PhD Colloquium/Research Seminars

GLIS 704 Research Design in Information Studies (3 cr.)

GLIS 705 Readings in IS (3 cr.) (or Summer Semester)

Graduate courses as deemed necessary by Admission Committee or supervisor

PhD Colloquium/Research Seminars

Year 2 (PhD 3)


 GLIS 701 Comprehensive Examination

PhD Colloquium/Research Seminars

Preparation of Doctoral proposal/Data collection

PhD Colloquium/Research Seminars

Year 3 (PhD 4)

Data analysis

Dissertation writing

Year 4 (PhD 5)

Dissertation defence


* Normally students enter PhD 2.

Comprehensive Examination information & procedures


The Comprehensive Examination serves as a gateway to the dissertation as the means to ensure that students have the background knowledge to do a dissertation. It is proposed here that the examination should seek to assess whether students have general knowledge about the field of Information Studies, about research methodologies, and about their specific research area. The Examination thus serves as a preparation for the dissertation by facilitating the development of a conceptual base for research in the student’s area of study and ensuring that the student’s knowledge is sufficiently broad and conceptually structured to provide a solid basis for research in the field.


The Comprehensive Examination consists of a take-home, written examination, followed by an oral examination of that written document. This approach allows students to concentrate on expressing their ideas: demonstrating full integration of materials and displaying scholarly depth, creativity and initiative in their preparations for the exam. The format of an oral examination based on the written take-home examination is similar to a dissertation defence and thus gives students practice at defending their ideas, and offers an opportunity to engage in a structured dialogue with faculty members about research.


  • To assess the student’s general knowledge of the field;
  • To assess the student’s specific knowledge of their research area;
  • To assess the student’s ability to evaluate current and past research, particularly in terms of research design;
  • To assess the student’s ability to communicate effectively, orally and in writing, about research.


The Comprehensive Examination normally is scheduled during the term following the student’s completion of required coursework (GLIS 702, GLIS 703, GLIS 704 and other courses from other programs) and their directed readings course (GLIS 705) –normally by the third term in the program, depending upon course availability, and normally not later than the fourth term in the program. A student who has completed her/his coursework and directed readings and is ready to write the Comprehensive Examination should first discuss the examination with her/his supervisor.  See timeline above.

Examination Committee

The supervisor, in consultation with the student, shall identify two faculty members (normally SIS faculty members) with expertise relevant to the student’s research area and who agree to serve on the Examination Committee. The Examination Committee, after consultation with the student and with the instructors of the following courses -GLIS 702 Seminar in Information Studies, GLIS 703 Research Paradigms in Information Studies and GLIS 704 Research Design in Information Studies -will identify questions that normally will address methodological issues and the subject area of the student (identified in the course work completed in the three courses mentioned above and in the directed readings course GLIS 705). The Examination Committee is responsible for assessing both the written and oral examinations.


The Examination Committee will determine the grade of the student and agree on a grade of P (Pass) or F (Fail). In the case of an F grade, a student may be allowed to retake the examination once in accordance with the rules established by the Office of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies.



The student in consultation with the supervisor shall submit to the Examination Committee a 1500-word paper on her/his research area.  Note that the paper is not a research proposal.  The purpose of the 1500-word paper is to set the context and scope of the research area for the Examination Committee.

The paper shall include the following:

  • Introduction: What is the objective of the research?
  • Statement of the Problem: What is the problem that requires investigation?
  • Context: What are the theoretical or conceptual frameworks, in which the research may fit?
  • Significance of the research: What are the potential theoretical and applied contributions of the research to the field of Information Studies?
  • Methodology:  What is (are) the potential methodology (methodologies) that may be used to solve the problem?


  • A bibliography of 40-60 publications based on the readings undertaken in the directed readings course shall accompany the paper.


  • The paper and the bibliography shall be submitted to the Examination Committee prior to the written examination. 
  • The Examination Committee shall not provide feedback on the 1500-word paper on the research area, but may suggest additional readings be added to the bibliography. 
  • The written examination shall be based on the general research area and methodologies indicated in the paper and the amended (if needed) bibliography.


Written Examination

Length of time: Students will have two weeks to write their exam (exam received on Monday should be submitted on Monday fourteen days later) and will submit a copy to each member of the Examination Committee.

Length of the examination: Between 10,000 and 12,000 words, including tables and graphs and excluding the bibliography. Standard formatting and citation style should be used, in consultation with the student’s supervisor.

Evaluation: The examiners read the take-home exam, assign a grade and prepare their questions for the oral examination. Student will be notified of the result after the oral evaluation. Evaluation criteria include: clarity of the writing, relevance of the answers, appropriateness of the references, and general quality of the presentation.


Oral Examination

Timing: The oral examination should follow the submission of the written examination within a maximum of two weeks.

Format: The candidate presents a brief oral summary of the written submission (approximately 20 minutes; this may or may not include a visual component [Powerpoint]). Following this overview, the Examination Committee members question the candidate on the written submission and on the oral summary. The objective of the questions is to provide feedback to the candidate on the proposed research area and to determine the candidate's readiness to proceed towards the next stage in the doctoral program: the development of a dissertation proposal and the undertaking of research for the dissertation. Questions on the oral examination  must be limited to the scope of the take-home examination and must not stray into other areas. The time set aside for the oral examination normally is two hours.

Evaluation: Upon completion of the oral examination, the examiners consult and communicate the results to the student within 24 hours. Evaluation criteria: clarity of the presentation, appropriateness of presentation, relevance and precision of the responses to the examiners’ questions.

Revised June 2014

IV. Policies

Email policy: A reminder that in accordance with McGill email policy, you are required to use your McGill email address (versus a personal email address) to correspond with the School’s administration and instructors and with McGill. As well, you are responsible to check this email address periodically throughout the duration of your studies for emails from the School and from McGill.

Comprehensive Examination information & procedures are listed in the "Programs & courses" section, above.

SIS guidelines and procedures: Forms & guidelines page, including SIS Social Media Guidelines, SIS Meeting Representation & Attendance Guidelines, funding forms, etc.


> Guidelines and Regulations for Academic Units on Graduate Student Advising and Supervision (including mandatory research tracking)
> Research Policies and Guidelines
> Student Guide to Intellectual Property

> McGill Student Handbook of Rights & Responsibilities. Includes:

  • Charter of Students' Rights
  • Students with Disabilities, Policy Concerning the Rights of
  • Accommodation of Religious Holy Days, Policy for the
  • Harassment, Sexual Harassment and Discrimination Prohibited by Law, Policy on
  • Hazing and Inappropriate Initiation Practices, Policy on
  • Code of Student Conduct and Disciplinary Procedures
  • Text-Matching Software, Policy on
  • E-Mail Communications with Students, Policy on
  • Responsible Use of McGill Infomation Technology Resources, Policy on
  • Library Users' Code of Behaviour
  • Conduct of Research, Regulation on the
  • Ethical Conduct of Research Involving Human Subjects, Policy on
  • Research Misconduct, Regulations Concerning Investigation of
  • Conflict of Interest, Regulation on
  • Safe Disclosure, Policy on
  • Ombudsperson for Students
  • Student Grievance Procedures, Code of

> Other documents related to students. Includes:

  • Animals, Policy on the Study and Care of
  • Anti-doping Policy
  • End of Course Evaluation Policy 
  • Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Peaceful Assembly, Statement of Principles Concerning
  • International Mobility Guidelines
  • University Student Assessment Policy

V. Resources & services


In addition to the range of services listed on our services & resources page, we'd like to highlight the following resources:

Special needs and/or medical problems

The Office for Students with Disabilities (OSD) offers you support if difficulties and impairments are hindering your academic performance while at McGill, or if you require assistance with access. It is highly recommended that you contact the OSD even if you are being followed by a medical, mental health or counseling unit, as the OSD will be able to guide you in reducing the impact your diagnosis may have on your academic performance, attendance or learning. > McGill Office for Students with Disabilities

Physical & mental health

Your health is important. Don't hesitate to make use of health resources at McGill.

> Services & resources
> McGill Counselling support groups, including PhD support groups
> PGSS health & dental plan
> McGill International Student Health Insurance. McGill requires all international students and their accompanying dependents to participate in the compulsory McGill International Health Insurance Plan.

Travel grants & funding


The School disburses internal funding for doctoral students who are giving a paper or presentation at a conference. The maximum funding for each 12-month period is $500. Based on availability of funds. Applications should be given to the School's Administrative Office at least six weeks before the conference. The School also allocates several Graduate Research Enhancement & Travel (GREAT) Awards per annum. > Travel grant forms


> Funding

Career & skill development


The McGill Career Planning Services (CaPS) offers a range of services for graduate-level students, including one-on-one consultations. You're encouraged to familiarize yourself with CaPS early after your arrival to the School.

> CaPS page for Masters, PhD & Post-Docs

More information on working and careers:
> SIS student page on working, including McGill Work Study
> Career information for SIS students & graduates


  • The ABC's of the PhD is a seminar series sponsored by the Faculty of Education and open to all McGill graduate students. You will find the schedule here when it is finalized.
  • SKILLSETS is a program providing interdisciplinary academic, personal, and professional development offerings to all graduate students and post-doctoral fellows. The program is jointly hosted by Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies and Teaching and Learning Services. More information and calendar here.
  • Graphos teaches graduate students and postdocs how to become better scholarly communicators. The program offers courses, workshops, peer writing groups, and a tutorial service. Graphos is an initiative of the McGill Writing Centre in partnership with Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies and Teaching and Learning Services. Learn more.

VI. Student life

Welcome from McGill Information Studies Student Association

May 2014

Dear Incoming SIS Students,

Congratulations! On behalf of the McGill Information Studies Student Association (MISSA), we are thrilled to welcome you to the School of Information Studies (SIS), McGill University, and the city of Montreal!

MISSA is a student run group with a mandate to coordinate and promote professional development and social activities for students in the School of Information Studies. We are also responsible for representing your interests within the School, at McGill University, and in the community of Information Professionals at large. There are many ways to be involved in MISSA. These include running for an executive position in either our Fall or Springtime elections, taking part in a MISSA committee, and attending MISSA sponsored events.

The McGill Information Studies Student Association is here to help you enhance your experience at SIS by providing you with opportunities to get to know your fellow students, network, and develop your professional skills in the realm of Information Studies. Some past events include the September picnic, end of semester parties, the involvement fair, used textbook sale, career fair, and MISSA blog publications. We are excited to plan these events and more for you and welcome your ideas for further activities. We hope that these events will help enrich both your social and professional experiences at SIS!

In addition to MISSA, we encourage students to become involved in the many professional associations and student groups offered on campus. These groups include L’Association des bibliothécaires du Québec Library Association (ABQLA), the Association of Canadian Archivists (ACA), the Canadian Library Association (CLA), the Special Libraries Association (SLA), the McGill Multilingual Children’s Library (MCL), and Librarians Without Borders, among others. These organizations are great for networking, socializing, and learning. Student groups have access to a number of meeting rooms at the SIS mansion (3661 Peel) and a shared student association office.

For more information, check out the SIS student association web pages. We look forward to meeting you in the upcoming school year!

Christina De Longhi
MISSA President 2014-2015

Student associations & groups


The McGill Information Studies Student Association (MISSA) is the association for all students at the School of Information Studies. The role of MISSA is to "co-ordinate the activities of the students of the McGill School of Information Studies and to ensure representation of student interests in the school, in the university, and in the library and information profession."

PhD representatives sit on the SIS Departmental and Curriculum Committees as elected MISSA members. Both Committees consist of faculty and student representatives and meet about six times per year. The Departmental meeting deals with School business and the Curriculum Committee meeting deals with SIS academic information. MISSA representatives are charged with both representing and informing the student body. Students may at all times bring issues and questions to their student representatives for formal representation to the School.

> McGill Information Studies Student Association


As a PhD student at McGill, you are also a member of PGSS, McGill's Post-Graduate Students' Society. Be sure to check out the PGSS website for the many PGSS services, resources, and events.



The School is home to a range of student chapters of professional associations, and student groups, including ASIS&T and other chapters.

> SIS student groups, chapters, and associations site


There are many opportunities for meaningful engagement at SIS and at McGill (see intellectual climate & academic community). Here are some ways you can get involved in the life of the School as a PhD student:

  • Take advantage of opportunities for social contact with other students, faculty, and staff by attending SIS social events such as end-of-semester SIS parties and mixers held by student groups. SIS shared events calendar (Log in with your McGill password).
  • Attend the SIS Research Seminars, where you'll have the opportunity to learn about new research, meet local and international guest speakers, and mingle with other students and faculty.
  • Run for a position with the SIS student association, MISSA, with ASIS&T, or one of the many other student groups at the School. Give ideas and suggestions to elected representatives of School committees, attend committee meetings as an observer (see Meeting Representation & Attendance Guidelines here for protocol), and voice your thoughts at the Director's Forum.
  • Join or initiate a reading group at the School or at McGill.
  • Get involved with organizing and/or presenting at the annual EBSI-SIS Doctoral Symposium, the Association of Canadian Archivists McGill Student Chapter symposium, the Web 2.U Symposium, and other student-run events.


Questions after reading this handbook? Visit our contact guide.