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PhD Program

Joint PhD McGill/Université de Montreal Program in Social Work

Program mission and objectives

The School of Social Work offers a world-class, dynamic and personalized Joint PhD program in social work/social policy in order to promote the development of leading scholarship on social issues within Canada and Quebec. Students engage in small-course seminars designed to explore cutting edge knowledge on social work theory and practice, public policy and research methodologies. We have an exciting and growing faculty with a variety of research expertise in:

  • Ageing
  • Child Welfare
  • Leadership and Public Service
  • International Social Welfare
  • Aboriginal Peoples'
  • Violence Against Women and Children
  • Health and Disability
  • Poverty and Social Development
  • Community Organizing
  • Immigrant and Refugee Populations

Doctoral students work closely with their primary supervisor in the development of their area of research. Student networks are encouraged and supported at the school and beyond. There are many opportunities to be involved in faculty research projects and sessional teaching.

The program aims to:

  • Prepare graduates for careers in university teaching and research, policy development, social services leadership and management;
  • Offer students the opportunity to acquire advanced analytic and research skills and to apply these to a range of areas relevant to social work, including direct practice, theory and policy;
  • Stimulate original research on important social problems and issues which have the capacity to inform social work knowledge and practice.

Courses are offered in English at McGill. A parallel stream is offered in French at Université de Montréal. Students have the option of taking courses at either university.


Program Description

Curriculum Requirements

The program consists of 90 credits.

  • 15 course credits (five 3 credit courses)
  • 75 credits for the comprehensive examination and the dissertation.

After completion of 12 course credits, the student takes the Comprehensive Examination which includes written and oral components. Once the examination is complete, the student may proceed to the final course (SWRK721 Advanced Integrative Seminar) and the dissertation project. The student must present a dissertation project proposal to his/her doctoral committee for approval before undertaking the project. Evaluation of the dissertation project includes both written and oral components.

It is expected that a student has completed prior coursework in statistics and research methods at the university level. In consultation with the supervisor, students may be required to take one or more complementary courses as deemed necessary for their specific program.

Program Duration

McGill Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies Regulations prescribe a minimum of three years' "residence"—that is, registration on a full-time basis for three years, or paying the corresponding fees—after the master's degree for a doctoral degree. The deadline for submission of the dissertation is five years from the completion of residence requirements. Students entering McGill with a Masters' degree, as will be the case with all students in this program, have the student status of PhD II in their first year.


Admission & Applications

Please note that the School only admits new students in the Fall term. Applications for the Winter or Summer terms are not accepted. It is important that you select the correct term when completing the online application form. The University is not able to change the application term or refund your application fee if you enter the wrong term.


Admission Requirements

Normally, applicants must hold an MSW or, a BSW with a master's degree in a related subject from an accredited program, with a minimum CGPA of 3.5 on a 4-point scale. However, applicants who hold both a bachelor's and a master's degree in a related social science discipline with strong research interests in social work/social policy may also be considered.

Students are also required to have completed university level courses in both statistics and research methodology, within the last 5 years, prior to commencing the PhD program.  

Applicants to graduate studies must demonstrate an adequate level of proficiency in English prior to admission, regardless of citizenship status or country of origin. Normally, applicants meeting any one of the following conditions are NOT required to submit proof of proficiency in English:

  • Mother tongue (language first learned and still used on a daily basis) is English.
  • Has obtained (or is about to obtain) an undergraduate or graduate degree from a recognized foreign institution where English is the language of instruction.
  • Has obtained (or is about to obtain) an undergraduate or graduate degree from a recognized institution in Canada or the United States of America (anglophone or francophone).
  • Has lived and attended school, or been employed, for at least four consecutive years, in a country where English is the acknowledged primary language.

Applicants who DO NOT meet any of the above-listed conditions must demonstrate proficiency in English using one of the following options:

  • Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) – International applicants must achieve a minimum score of 96 * on the internet-based test. (* each individual component of reading, writing, listening, and speaking must have a minimum score of 24).
  • the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) –International applicants must achieve a minimum overall band score of 8.0**  (** each individual component of reading, writing, listening, and speaking must have a minimum score of 7.5).
  • MELAB (Michigan English Language Assessment Battery): a mark of 85% or higher.
  • University of Cambridge ESOL Certificate in Advanced English (CAE): a grade of "B" (Good) or higher.
  • University of Cambridge ESOL Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE): a grade of "C" (Pass) or higher.
  • Edexcel London Test of English - Level 5 - with an overall grade of at least "Pass".
  • McGill Certificate of Proficiency in English or McGill Certificate of Proficiency - English for Professional Communication: Certificate of Proficiency awarded. In each case, applicants must ensure that official test results are sent to McGill directly by the testing service. Applications cannot be considered if test results are not available.

Application and Required Documents

The deadline to apply to the Joint PhD Program is January 15th.  All admission documents must be uploaded and received by this date.

To submit an application to the PhD program, applicants are required to complete the GPS online application which includes identification of 3 referees (two academic and 1 professional/work), and instructions to upload all supporting documents including:

  1. PhD Prerequisite_Form
  2. Personal Statement (maximum length one page, single spaced)
  3. PhD Curriculum Vitae Form
  4. PhD Research Proposal (maximum length 5 pages, single spaced, including references. Do not append detailed CV.)
  5. Written work (upload one sample)

Applicants are not required to have a designated supervisor at the time of application. Applicants are requested to identify one or two faculty members with whom they would be interested in working in the Research Proposal which is attached to their application. Students who are deemed eligible for entry into the doctoral program will be matched with an available supervisor at the time of the offer of admission. Students for whom a match to a suitable and available supervisor is not possible will not be granted admission into the doctoral program.

Please note that admission to the School of Social Work is only available for the Fall term. The University will not refund application fees for errors in selecting the wrong term. 

To apply go to: www.mcgill.ca/gradapplicants/apply/prepare. 

Applications for the 2015-2016 academic year will be available as of the end of September 2014.


Admissions Decisions Results

You will be notified of the admission decision by early March.


Transfer of Credits

A maximum of one PhD-level courses taken at another University may be credited to the student's program under the following conditions:

  • It may only replace an elective courses, for example courses on social work practice, or social policy;
  • It may never replace courses SWRK 720 Thought&Theory Development in Social Work, or SWRK 721 Advanced Integrative Seminar, which must be taken in the Joint PhD program.

The procedure for transferring courses is as follows:

  • The student presents his/her request and necessary documents to the Joint PhD Program Director;
  • The Joint PhD Program Director considers relevant policy to determine if the request is acceptable, and may discuss the matter with the student;
  • The Joint PhD Program Director makes a decision and informs the student and the Student Affairs Coordinator in the Social Work Office;
  • If necessary, the Joint PhD Program Director may request a decision from the Joint PhD Advisory Group.

Admission Advising for Joint PhD Students

For inquiries related to the Joint PhD program, students may contact the following:

Administrative and Student Affairs Coordinator:

Lillian Iannone
graduate [dot] socialwork [at] mcgill [dot] ca (Email)
Phone: (514) 398-2679


Joint PhD Progam Director:

Dr. David Rothwell

david [dot] rothwell [at] mcgill [dot] ca (Email)

Phone: (514) 398-7061


Fellowships, Scholarships and Awards Coordinator:

Dr. David Rothwell
david [dot] rothwell [at] mcgill [dot] ca (Email)
Phone: (514) 398-7061
List of Fellowships


Grading Policy

Graduate level students (MSW and PhD) are required to obtain a grade of 65% (B-) or better in all of their courses. Students who have failed one course required by their department while registered as a graduate student may automatically write one supplemental examination if the departmental policy permits, or retake that course or substitute an equivalent course. For the purposes of this policy, "required course" includes either a course required by the student's program of study, or a course that has been designated by the department for an individual student's program of study. A student with any further failures in that course, including the supplemental, or a failure in any other required course, will be required to withdraw from their program of study. This policy does not pertain to the failure of comprehensive examinations, doctoral oral defenses, or thesis failures. PhD students and Master's students in thesis programs can also be required to withdraw from the program of study for a lack documented performance in research which must be substantiated in the Annual Social Work Doctoral Student Research Progress Tracking Report.


Tuition Fees

Information on fees can be obtained from the Student Accounts website.


Course Requirements and Descriptions


PhD students take five courses to fulfill the course requirements of the program. Students assessed as having insufficient knowledge in academic writing and or research methodology may be required to take one or more complementary courses as part of their program. Students may also take additional courses in order to fill gaps in existing knowledge or expertise. This is negotiated with the student's primary supervisor.

Two required courses (6 credits):

SWRK 720 Thought&Theory Dev in Soc Wk 3 Credits
    Offered in the:
  • Fall
  • Winter
  • Summer

SWRK 721 Advanced Integrative Seminar 3 Credits
    Offered in the:
  • Fall
  • Winter
  • Summer

 

Three complementary courses (9 credits). At least one of the following two courses:

SWRK 722 Adv Seminar:Social Wk Interven 3 Credits
    Offered in the:
  • Fall
  • Winter
  • Summer

SWRK 723 Adv Seminar on Social Policy 3 Credits
    Offered in the:
  • Fall
  • Winter
  • Summer

At least one of the following two courses:

SWRK 724 Adv Res Methds &Anal:Quan Data 3 Credits
    Offered in the:
  • Fall
  • Winter
  • Summer

 

SWRK 725 Adv Qual Res Methods&Data Anal 3 Credits
    Offered in the:
  • Fall
  • Winter
  • Summer

Optionally, the following may be taken to partially complete the 9 complementary credits:

SWRK 726 Independent Study 3 Credits
    Offered in the:
  • Fall
  • Winter
  • Summer

Any other masters or doctoral level course, in social work or a related discipline, relevant to the thesis. Permission to take this course must be granted by the Joint PhD Program Director.


Research Sequencing

To gain admission to the PhD program, “Students are also required to have completed university level courses in both statistics and research methodology, within the last 5 years, prior to commencing the PhD program.” Once in the program, Year 1 PhD students who will register for the advanced PhD research methods courses must now ensure they have the necessary background knowledge and skills to learn at the advanced PhD level. To do this, Statistics or Research Methods courses may be required as additional coursework depending on the students’ level of knowledge.

Recommendation: students who (a) have not taken a quantitative/qualitative research methods course in the past 2-3 years and/or (b) have not had direct experience in undertaking quantitative research-data analysis/qualitative research in the past 2-3 years should register for the Masters level research methods course. Currently the Masters-level qualitative course (SWRK 653) is offered in the Fall semester; the quantitative course (SWRK 643) is offered in the Winter semester. This sequencing allows you to take the Masters-level research methods course(s) to prepare you for the PhD level research courses.


Independent Study (tutorial)

An independent study exploring a relevant social work theme of interest may be permitted if the topic is not covered in any current course content.

    • An independent study cannot be used to do the literature review for the student's dissertation. It should be used to explore an area relevant to the student's dissertation but which covers only a definite segment of the relevant literature;
    • The instructor for the independent study should be someone other than the dissertation supervisor. If the supervisor is involved, an additional faculty person should also be part of the independent study and meet regularly with the student;
    • The independent study proposal should include the area of research, a work plan and schedule, and the method of evaluation.

The procedure for establishing an independent study is as follows:

  • The student presents his/her request and necessary documents to the Joint PhD Director;
  • The Joint PhD Director considers relevant policy to determine if the request is acceptable, and may discuss the matter with the student;
  • The Joint PhD Directormakes a decision and informs the student, the faculty involved, and submits the independent study form to the Social Work Office;
  • If necessary, the Joint PhD Director may request a decision from the PhD Advisory Group.

Ethical Requirements for Research

All students conducting research involving human subjects must meet the requirements set out in the McGill Policy on the Ethical Conduct of Research Involving Human Subjects. Information regarding this policy can be obtained at the following link.


Annual PhD Progress Reports

All students are expected to make systematic and consistent progress in their graduate studies. It is therefore essential to complete an Annual Progress Report detailing the achievements of the previous year and the objectives for the next year. This form must be completed by September 30 of each academic year by the student and his/her supervisor and submitted to the office for filing.

During each year of registration the School of Social Work will maintain a record of progress made during the previous year by all students enrolled in the Joint PhD program.

Download the Annual Graduate Student Research Progress Tracking Policy.

Annual PhD Progress Reports


The Doctoral Committee and Comprehensive Exam

The Doctoral Committee

A student's Doctoral Committee consists of three members. A maximum of 2 eligible faculty members from Social Work at McGill and/or Université de Montréal (this includes the dissertation supervisor) and one external member (either from another social work department or other discipline if appropriate).

The student should discuss the composition of this Doctoral Committee with his or her supervisor before the beginning of the second term. By the end of the second term, the Doctoral Committee should be formed. If problems arise in the selecting of the committee, the matter is brought to the Joint PhD Director.

The Doctoral Committee oversees the progress of the student through the comprehensive examination and the dissertation project.

Comprehensive Examination ( SWRK 701 Comprehensive Examination )

This examination is held after a student has completed four courses. The student submits a 10 page comprehensive exam proposal to the doctoral committee after which the comprehensive exam questions are set and the student registers for the comprehensive exam ( SWRK 701 Comprehensive Examination ). Success in this examination determines whether a student can continue in the program. The comprehensive examination requires the student to demonstrate substantive knowledge in the discipline linked to his/her dissertation project.

The Purpose of the Comprehensive Exam

The purpose of the comprehensive examination is for students to demonstrate mastery of knowledge in a given substantive area relevant to social work or social welfare. The exam is intended to demonstrate the student's ability to concisely communicate an integration and synthesis of empirical and theoretical knowledge, a critical analysis of prior research, and implications for future scholarly work. The comprehensive exam is viewed as the passageway to the dissertation and is intended to demonstrate the student's competence in bridging or linking his/her course work (i.e., related to studies in his/her substantive area, theory and methods), and his/her eventual dissertation research.

Comprehensive Examination Policy

The Comprehensive Exam is composed of two parts: a written part and an oral defense.

The written component:

The written component of the exam is composed of answers to 2-3 questions established jointly by the student and her/his Committee. The student and supervisor fill out the PhD Confirmation of Comp Exam Questions Form [.pdf] and have it signed by all committee members. Once the student has formalized the Comprehensive Exam questions, he or she is allowed a maximum of four months to complete the written part of the exam. At the end of the 3rd month, the student may submit a final draft to the Committee for review and feedback. The Committee needs to be given three weeks to provide feedback to the student, which can then be incorporated into the final submission. (Please note: The time period during which the Committee is reviewing the draft submission of the comprehensive examination (if applicable) does not count towards the 4 month deadline allocated to the student for completion of the comprehensive examination. Once the committee returns the draft to the student, the time clock resumes again).  The student has one month to submit the final comprehensive exam.  The committee then has three weeks to complete the final evaluation.  If the Committee, by consensus, or failing consensus, by a majority, deems the written part to be satisfactory, the student passes to the oral defense. If the Committee deems the written part to be unsatisfactory, the student is considered to have failed the written componet and is then allowed one retake of the written exam. The student is allowed a maximum of three months for this re-write. If the Committee evaluates the work to be unsatisfactory a second time, the student is then considered to have failed the exam and is withdrawn from the program.

The oral defense:

Once the student has passed the written component of the exam, she or he then passes to the oral defense. The oral defense takes place during a meeting of the student's Doctoral Committee chaired by the Joint PhD Program Director or delegate. The student is asked to summarize the comprehensive exam content (maximum 20 minutes). Questions are posed by the Committee in order to determine whether the student demonstrates the necessary knowledge to be permitted to continue in the Joint PhD program. Evaluation criteria include (this list is not exhaustive):

  • Knowledge of the discipline
  • Understanding of the proposed field of research
  • Ability to present and defend material orally

Should the student pass the oral defense, he or she is considered to have passed the Comprehensive Exam. Should the student fail the oral defense, he or she is allowed a second attempt to pass the oral defense ONLY IF he or she had passed the written component of the exam on the first attempt. In other words, a student is entitled to only one repeat during the entire Comprehensive Exam process(a repeat of the written component OR of the oral defense but not of both).

Comprehensive Exam Guidelines

  1. Students are typically involved in the process of developing the comprehensive questions, however, final approval of these questions is set by the student's doctoral committee.
  2. The comprehensive exam normally covers between 2 and 3 questions. These questions typically address the following areas: - theoretical framework, substantive area and methodological issues.
  3. The length of the comprehensive exam paper is approximately 15,000 words in total, excluding bibliography.
  4. Once the period of the exam has begun, the student may have contact with committee members for purposes of clarification regarding the direction and scope of the particular questions only.
  5. At the end of the 3rd month, the student may submit a final draft to the Committee for review and feedback. The Committee needs to be given three weeks to provide feedback to the student which can then be incorporated into the final submission.
  6. After successful completion of the written component of the Comprehensive Examination the student must take their final course SWRK 721 (Advanced Integrative Seminar).


The following table is an example of projected dates:

Mid April Doctoral Committee is formed
Mid May Student submits 5-10 page draft of the Comprehensive Proposal to the committee and receives feedback
August Student may meet with committee to discuss draft proposal
Early Sept Student receives approval of questions and begins writing exam
Early Dec Student submits final draft for review
Early Jan Doctoral committee provides feedback on draft
Early Feb Student submits final comprehensive exam
End Feb Doctoral committee informs the student if the exam is acceptable or if it needs revision before the oral examination can take place. If major changes are needed the student has an extension of one month.

Advanced Integrative Seminar (SWRK 721)

The student enrolled in the Advanced Integrative Seminar works with the course instructor and presents her/his work to the students attending the course. The goal of this seminar is to help the student progress in her/his dissertation project. This may be achieved by helping the student to gain mastery over the methodological aspects of their project and through the provision of a stimulating environment to help the student overcome the obstacles that confront her or him. Students may also develop their dissertation proposal as part of the course. Student progress will become the evaluation criteria for the Advanced Integrative Seminar which is graded on a Pass/Fail basis.

Approval of the Dissertation Project Proposal

Following the successful completion of the comprehensive examination, the student begins preparing the dissertation project. The student presents a 10-15 page dissertation proposal to the Doctoral Committee for approval. The approval of the dissertation project proposal is not a course requirement, but is a formal stage in the progress of the PhD candidate, indicating that the proposal is acceptable and the student may proceed with an REB (Research Ethics Board) application and their research project. Once the doctoral committee approves the dissertation project proposal, the supervisor completes the Dissertation Project Proposal Approval form and submits it to the Social Work Office.


Teaching and Research Opportunities for Graduate Students

Several teaching assistantships and research assistantships are available at the School. Some students, depending upon their qualifications and experience, may be hired as sessional lecturers. The availability of these positions can vary from year to year.

Students can also expect to have access to office space equipped with computers, and a wide variety of professional development programs to help students build their academic portfolios.


Faculty Research Interests

See McGill University School of Social Work Faculty by clicking here

See Université de Montréal École de service social Faculty by clicking here

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