Program Structure

Residency Requirement

The residency requirement for the PhD program is three years (six full-time terms: fall and winter each year). Candidates for doctoral degrees must complete the degree within six years of entering the program.


Language Requirements

There is no specific second language requirement. However, students are expected to acquire knowledge of additional languages appropriate to their field of research.


Supervisory Committee

Each PhD student works with a supervisory committee normally composed of three members: the supervisor, an internal member (from within the School of Architecture), and an external member (from outside the School, but not necessarily from outside the University) who is a specialist in the area of research. The committee is formed to evaluate the student’s comprehensive exam (ARCH 701), and subsequently meets periodically to review the student's progress in the dissertation. Current students, please login to the Student Portal in order to access the Doctoral Supervisory Committee Form.

When forming the doctoral supervisory committee, supervisors submit a list of committee members for approval by the Graduate Program Director (GPD) with full contact information and a brief description of the reasons for selecting individuals for this committee- their particular areas of expertise or research interests. This is especially important for external committee members.

After the doctoral supervisory committee is formed, before any changes to the composition of the doctoral supervisory committee are made, a written request explaining the reasons for these changes must be submitted to the GPD for approval. If there are changes in areas of expertise occasioned by changing committee members, or changes in the PhD candidate’s research focus that formed the basis of the final dissertation proposal and Literature Review, a written rationale must be provided.


Annual Progress Tracking Reports

Annual progress tracking forms (found here) must be completed by the end of September of each year. The form must be signed by the supervisor, the internal committee member, and the student. Students may use the annual progress tracking report meeting as an opportunity to convene their full committee to discuss progress and next steps.


ARCH 700 Thesis Proposal

ARCH 700 consists of the preparation of a research proposal and a comprehensive framework for the doctoral thesis.

Timing: Students should enroll in ARCH 700 in the winter semester of PhD 2. The research proposal is evaluated by the supervisor and normally submitted in April of PhD 2.

Length of Document: The proposal is a document of approximately 10-15 pages (plus bibliography) that states the theme, argument, methods, and sources for the thesis project, and includes an outline of proposed chapters and a timeline. Proposals should include a bibliography of 10-20 pages.

The proposal should present the focused argument that will be the subject of the dissertation. It should outline both a topic and an approach, suggest some possible conclusions, and demonstrate a familiarity with previous work in the field.

Method of Evaluation: A PDF copy of the proposal should be sent by the supervisor to the GPC along with the grade to be kept in the School’s records.


ARCH 701 Comprehensive Examination

The PhD program in Architecture follows McGill University’s Comprehensive Policy (available here).

Arch 701 consists of the presentation of a comprehensive literature review, covering material that is central to the student's doctoral research, with an oral defense before the Doctoral Supervisory Committee.

Timing: ARCH 701 is the final step before beginning thesis research and writing. All coursework should be completed before undertaking the Comprehensive Examination. Students normally register for ARCH 701 in the winter term of PhD 3.

Length of Document: approx. 40–50 pages.

The paper, typically 40-50 pages in total, comprises a literature review of approximately 25-35 pages, which sets the project in a critical synthesis of relevant scholarship. It also includes a revised ARCH 700 proposal of approximately 10 pages that re-states the theme, argument, methods, and sources for the project, and includes an outline of proposed chapters and a timeline.

Proposals should also include a bibliography of an additional 10-20 pages.

At the exam, the student presents a critical summary of the project (20 mins) and answers questions from the committee about the written document and the oral presentation. The student is expected to demonstrate a knowledge of the broader field related to the argument and indicated by the preliminary bibliography.

Method of Evaluation: ARCH 701 is graded (pass/fail) on written paper and oral presentation by supervisor and two committee members. The paper is sent to the supervisory committee and to the Graduate Program Coordinator at least two weeks before the oral examination. The Grading Form can be found on the student portal.

The committee evaluates the document and the oral defence. It grades by consensus. A passing grade is required for students to continue in the program.

The School follows the PhD Comprehensives Policy with regards to feedback: “The assessment and reasons for the decision, including identifying specific strengths and weaknesses, must be documented and provided to the student in sufficient detail to allow the student to understand the decision.”

Failures: The School follows the PhD Comprehensives Policy with regard to failures: “In the event that the student is judged to have failed the comprehensive, units must allow, without prejudice, one repeat of the comprehensive (in whole or in part) within a minimum of four (4) months and a maximum of six (6) months.”


Requirements to complete our PhD courses:

The PhD program in Architecture is governed by the University Regulations and Resources (Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies).

The requirements include:

  • A minimum of three years in residency.
  • Completion of the program requirements in the first and second year of PhD studies, available here:
    Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) Architecture
  • Successful submission and defence of the dissertation.



Thesis Defence


Dissertation Examination

An internal examiner and an external examiner must both accept the dissertation before the student may defend his or her work at a formal oral examination. Every doctoral dissertation at McGill must represent an original contribution to the field of research.

The PhD in Architecture Program follows the University Regulations Concerning Theses with regards to thesis examination and defence.


Doctoral Oral Defence

Once the dissertation is accepted, the student must submit to an oral defence before a committee. Please see this webpage.


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