PhD Comprehensive Requirement

Breadth and depth examinations, and thesis proposal defence

Contents

Introduction

The PhD Comprehensive requirement in Electrical and Computer Engineering consists of the depth examination, the breadth examination, and the thesis proposal defence. A candidate must successfully complete all three components of the comprehensive requirement to pass CP600.

The breadth and depth examinations must be attempted within fourteen months of first registration in the PhD program.

The thesis proposal defence should occur as early as possible and must be attempted within one year of the successful completion of the breadth and depth examinations.

In exceptional circumstances, extensions to these deadlines may be granted by the Head of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department on written recommendation of the supervisor and the Chair of the ECE Graduate Studies Committee.

Breadth and depth examinations

The breadth and depth examinations will normally take place on the same day or on successive days. Candidates should begin arranging their breadth and depth examinations not later than the end of their second term of study, to allow adequate time for preparation.

The date for the breadth and depth examination should be chosen by the candidate in conjunction with the supervisor and the PhD Comprehensives Coordinator.

Breadth examination

The breadth examination requires the candidate to demonstrate a broad technical grounding in the chosen stream: one of electrical engineering, computer engineering, or software engineering. It is an oral examination based on pre-selected study materials.

Scope. The examination will cover material approximately equivalent to four senior undergraduate courses.

Selection of subjects. The PhD Comprehensive Coordinator maintains a list of subject courses available for examination, and for each subject course, a list of study materials. The candidate, in consultation with the supervisor, chooses four subjects from this list. The subject courses must represent a broad cross-section of the candidate’s stream and may include subject course from other streams. Subject choices must be approved by the PhD Comprehensive Coordinator in consultation with the coordinator for the candidate’s stream.

Selection of the subject examiners. Once a candidate has an approved selection of examination topics, the PhD Comprehensive Coordinator will identify appropriate subject examiners. These will normally be members of the Department with full privileges in the Graduate School, who are experts in the subject courses chosen, and who are not the candidate’s supervisor. A subject examiner may be responsible for more than one subject course; however, there must be a minimum of two subject examiners on the committee. Breadth subject examiners may serve as depth examiners for the same candidate (see below).

Candidates are encouraged to meet with the subject examiners well before the examination to ensure a common understanding of the required study materials.

Standard. The candidate is required to demonstrate an understanding of the subject matter that would be sufficient to teach an undergraduate course.

Committee. The examination will be chaired by the Head of Department or a delegate. The committee will consist of the appointed subject examiners and the candidate’s supervisor or supervisors.

Examination. Subject examiners will take turns posing questions on their subjects of examination until all examiners have made an independent determination of outcome. The chair and the supervisors do not pose questions.

The examination should not normally last more than two hours.

At the end of the examination, the candidate is asked to withdraw from the room while the committee deliberates. Immediately on an outcome being determined, the Chair informs the candidate. The chair of the examination is also responsible for informing the PhD Comprehensives Coordinator and the Chair of the ECE Graduate Studies Committee of the outcome.

Outcome. On the first attempt, a candidate will be judged either to have passed the examination or to be required to repeat. On a second attempt, a candidate will be judged either to have passed the examination or to have failed. An outcome of passed requires unanimous agreement of the committee, of which the chair is considered a voting member.

A student who fails the breadth examination is deemed to have failed CP600 and will be required to withdraw from the PhD program.

Repeating the examination. A candidate who is required to repeat the breadth examination must do so not less than three months and not more than six months after the initial attempt. The subject examiners will normally be the same for the second attempt; however, in exceptional circumstances the PhD Comprehensives Coordinator may appoint different subject examiners.

Depth examination

The depth examination requires the candidate to demonstrate a mature critical understanding of the literature in the chosen area of research. The candidate produces a written critical literature review (the “depth paper”) and is orally examined on the basis of that document.

Area selection. The candidate selects an area for the depth paper in consultation with the supervisory committee. The area’s scope should be broad enough to be of significant interest but narrow enough to be adequately explored within the size constraints of the depth paper.

Depth paper. The candidate must conduct a literature review including key materials representing the state of the practice (e.g., textbooks) and the state of the art (e.g., current research articles) in the chosen area. This review must be reflected in a depth paper that organizes the key topics and references in the area and that includes an element of critical assessment. The amount of space devoted to each topic should be proportional to its importance. Only significant references in the area should be cited in the final document.

The depth paper must be produced in an appropriate scholarly style, similar to a journal article in the field. It should have a title that clearly defines the research area examined. The body of the paper must not exceed twenty-five single-spaced pages of at least 11 point font, including references.

Standard. The candidate is required to demonstrate an understanding of the subject matter adequate to contemplate performing independent research in the area.

Selection of the committee. The examination will be chaired by the Head of Department or a delegate. The committee will consist of the candidate’s supervisor or supervisors, an internal examiner, and an internal or internal/external examiner. The chair is considered a voting member of the committee. The examiners are selected by the PhD Comprehensives Coordinator in consultation with the supervisor, at least one month prior to the proposed examination date. Depth examiners may be breadth subject examiners for the same candidate (see above).

Depth paper submission. The candidate must provide the depth paper to the examining committee at least two weeks prior to the scheduled examination date. The paper should normally be provided as a single PDF file; however, if examiners require a paper copy they may request one of the candidate.

Examination. The examination begins with a presentation of the depth paper by the candidate, lasting not more than thirty minutes. The committee will then examine the candidate in two rounds of questions, in the order internal/external (or second internal), internal, supervisors, and chair. Questions may include explanations or clarifications of material appearing in the depth paper, examination of the candidate’s understanding of underlying concepts, exploration important issues that were omitted, and explanations of the research area in a broader context. It is not appropriate to ask questions concerning proposed research in the depth examination.

The examination should not normally last more than one and one half hours, not including the candidate’s presentation.

At the end of the examination, the candidate is asked to withdraw from the room while the committee deliberates. Immediately on an outcome being determined, the Chair informs the candidate. The chair of the examination is also responsible for informing the PhD Comprehensives Coordinator and the Chair of the ECE Graduate Studies Committee of the outcome.

Outcome. On the first attempt, a candidate will be judged either to have passed the examination or to be required to repeat. On a second attempt, a candidate will be judged either to have passed the examination or to have failed. An outcome of passed requires unanimous agreement of the committee, of which the chair is considered a voting member.

A student who fails the depth examination is deemed to have failed CP600 and will required to withdraw from the PhD program.

Repeating the examination. A candidate who is required to repeat the depth examination must do so not less than three months and not more than six months after the initial attempt. The examiners will normally be the same for the second attempt; however, in exceptional circumstances the PhD Comprehensives Coordinator may appoint different examiners.

Thesis proposal

The candidate who successfully completes the breadth and depth examinations is required to write a PhD thesis proposal, and to present and defend the proposal orally before the candidate’s advisory committee. The purpose of the proposal is to establish a research topic and to verify its suitability for the PhD degree.

Advisory committee. On successful completion of the comprehensive examination, the supervisor shall identify an advisory committee. This consists of the supervisor or co-supervisors plus two other members, at least one of whom must be a full-time member of the ECE Department and a member of the Graduate Faculty. In accordance with the RMCC Graduate Calendar, advisory committee appointments must be approved by the Dean of Graduate Studies and Research upon the recommendation of the Head of the ECE Department.

Thesis proposal document. The thesis proposal is a written document that briefly reviews key literature, precisely defines the research problem to be addressed, describes the methods by which the research will be conducted, and explains the experimental or analytic techniques and facilities that will be required. Preliminary results may be presented but are not required. The thesis proposal must not exceed 30 pages singled spaced (of at least 11 point font) including references.

Standard. The proposed research must be sufficient that, if successfully executed, it would merit publication in a reputable journal in the area of study.

Examination committee. The examination will be chaired by the Head of Department or a delegate and will consist of the candidate’s advisory committee.

Thesis proposal submission. The candidate must provide the thesis proposal to the examining committee at least three weeks prior to the scheduled examination date. The proposal should normally be provided as a single PDF file; however, if examiners require a paper copy they may request one of the candidate.

Examination. The examination begins with a presentation of the thesis proposal by the candidate, lasting not more than thirty minutes. The committee will then examine the candidate in two rounds of questions, in any order acceptable to the committee.

Questions may include explanations or clarifications of material appearing in the thesis proposal, examination of the candidate’s understanding of underlying concepts, exploration of the appropriateness of the scope, risk and approach, and examination of relevance of the research in a broader context.

The examination should not normally last more than one and one half hours, not including the candidate’s presentation.

At the end of the examination, the candidate is asked to withdraw from the room while the committee deliberates. Immediately on an outcome being determined, the Chair informs the candidate. The chair of the examination is also responsible for informing the PhD Comprehensives Coordinator and the Chair of the ECE Graduate Studies Committee of the outcome.

Outcome. On the first attempt, a candidate will be judged either to have passed the examination, passed with changes or required to repeat. On a second attempt, a candidate will be judged either to have passed, passed with changes, or failed. An outcome of passed or passed with changes requires unanimous agreement of the committee, of which the chair is considered a voting member.

A student who fails the thesis proposal is deemed to have failed CP600 and will required to withdraw from the PhD program.

Submitting changes. Where a candidate is deemed to have passed with changes, the examining committee must provide the candidate with a clear list of required changes within one week of the proposal examination. The candidate must submit changes satisfactory to the advisory committee before proceeding with the research. Failure to do so within three months of the proposal defence will result in a report of unsatisfactory progress for the current semester.

Repeating the examination. A candidate who is required to repeat the thesis proposal must do so not less than three months and not more than six months after the initial attempt.

More information

For more information about our PhD Comprehensive Requirements, please contact the PhD Comprehensives Coordinator of the ECE Graduate Studies Committee, Dr Mohammed Tarbouchi.

Any suggestions for updates or improvements to this page should be directed to Dr Sylvain Leblanc.

This web site is not an official publication of the Royal Military College of Canada nor of the Department of National Defence. Ce site web n’est pas une publication officielle du Collége militaire royal du Canada ni du Ministère de la défense nationale.