Queen's School of Computing
This overview is not intended to provide complete information about the PhD program. For more detailed program information, click here.

The PhD program in the School of Computing is entirely research-based, is typically completed within four years and is fully funded (i.e., students receive financial support and avoid accruing student debt).

First Steps: Research Topic and Supervising Committee

Upon acceptance into the program, your first tasks are to collaborate with your supervisor to select a research topic and to form a three-person supervising committee, including:

  • your supervisor(s), and
  • two professors from within the School
Your supervising committee must also be approved by the Graduate Coordinator. Although your supervisor manages you "day-to-day", your supervisory committee plays a significant role in approving how you fulfill requirements and monitoring your progess.

Breadth Requirement

To earn your PhD, you must learn about the variety topics within the diverse field of Computing Science and how they are interconnected. This breadth requirement is evaluated using a token system. A PhD candidate must gather 10 tokens across these four areas:

  • Theory of Computation (minimum 2);
  • Computer Systems (minimum 2);
  • Applications Within Computing (minimum 2); and
  • Multidisciplinary Studies (optional).
This is typically accomplished by:
  • taking graduate courses and achiving a grade of B- or better;
  • having written a MSc thesis;
  • completing a research project; and,
  • considering prior work experience.
You must complete a breadth proposal outlining each token and submit it to your supervisory committee and then the School's PhD program committee for approval. This proposal must be approved within the first four months of the program and completed within the first year.

Topic Proposal

All PhD candidates must complete a topic proposal of at most six pages (not including references) using the Queen's formal thesis format. The proposal must briefly describe:

  • the research area;
  • the topic you will pursue; and,
  • a brief literature review of the most relevant research.
It should be submitted to your supervisory committee before the end of your first year in the program. They will provide feedback regarding their expectations to the School's PhD program committee, which will then provide it to you.

Comprehensive Examination

To earn your PhD, you must also complete a comprehensive examination to ensure that you:

  • are as knowledgeable in the chosen field as current researchers;
  • can offer criticism and analysis of previous work; and,
  • identify research opportunities in the field and pursue them.
First, you must complete a PhD research proposal paper of at most at most 40 pages (not including references) using the Queen's formal thesis format and submit it before the end of your second year in the program. This proposal should include:
  • motivation;
  • literature review;
  • description of the research "problem";
  • approach;
  • expected results and evaluation; and,
  • current progress and future milestones.
Second, you must present your proposal in an oral exam with:
  • your supervisory committee;
  • an examiner who is not a member of your supervisory committee; and,
  • a Chair appointed by the Graduate Coordinator.
The exam will proceed much like a Master's defence, where the PhD candidate give a 20-minute presentation and members of the examining committee ask questions regarding the field and the proposed research. There are three possible outcomes for the candidate:
  • pass;
  • pass, but the candidate must address the concerns of the examining committee; and,
  • fail (a second and final attempt is permitted).

PhD Thesis and Defence

The final requirement for a PhD involves the completion of the candidate's thesis containing original research which represents a significant contribution to the field. Candidates should consult the School of Graduate Studies and Research for University Regulations regarding Ph.D. theses. The thesis is examined in accordance with the general rules of the School of Graduate Studies and Research.

Proposed Timeline

Month Milestone
0-2 Collaborate with your supervisor to select a supervisory committee
0-4 Write breadth proposal and obtain approval from your supervisory committee
0-12 Complete breadth requirement via graduate courses and/or research projects
4-12 Compose topic proposal and obtain approval from your supervisory committee
12-20 Write research proposal
18-20 Submit research proposal to the supervisory committee and schedule the comprehensive exam
19-20 Complete the comprehensive exam
20-36 Conduct research and complete your progress report
36-44 Continue conducting research and write your thesis
42-44 Plan thesis defence committee with supervisor and submit to the Graduate Coordinator for approval
44-45 Submit thesis to defence committee, schedule and prepare for defence
45-48 Defend and make final revisions before program completion