Program Details

What makes the Interdisciplinary PhD Program unique amongst doctoral programs?  While it still requires exceptional focus, hard work, and self-discipline, there is no home department in the usual sense to guide you along the way.  Self-direction and self-reliance are needed, as you maybe working more on your own than usual, even for PhD students.

Because the IDPhD program structure is very individualized, within the limits described below, the student experience will be heavily influenced by the culture of the disciplines they are involved with. Some students may be part of a large and active lab culture, others may be working in a fairly solitary way, with support from, primarily, a supervisor.

The IDPhD director and secretary are here to help you with any questions you may have about the mechanics of the program. We are also available to help guide you in resolving other issues that may come up throughout your time in the IDPhD.

If you are accepted to the IDPhD program, like all PhD students, you will be a student in the Faculty of Graduate Studies (FGS).  FGS regulations and processes for PhD students will apply to you.

Your program records (GSIS)

FGS maintains student records through an online system called Graduate Student Record Systems (GSIS), via DalOnline. You are responsible for ensuring that your program of studies, and your committee members are kept up to date and accurate. You do this by sending a Program Update Form to IDPhD. We then update your record and a notice is sent to you for your ‘signature’. Until you accept the change the invitation to accept will not be sent for further signatures, stalling your record. This is also the system you will use to submit your annual progress report.

To learn more about this system go to:

Within those regulations and processes, the IDPhD program has some unique requirements and processes that are detailed in our webpages.

Typical Program Structure

Year 1: Courses (4-6 half-credit courses)
Year 2: Comprehensive Exams, Thesis Proposal Preparation
Year 3: Thesis Proposal Defence, Research & Analysis/Thesis Preparation
Year 4: Thesis Completion, Thesis Defence

Program Components

Credit courses

During your first two years, you will be taking four-to-six courses in different departments, as decided on by you and your supervisory committee. The courses will provide you with methodological and background preparation for your project.

See more: Getting Started

Comprehensive Exams

Toward the end of your courses, you will embark on one to three comprehensive examinations. These examinations differ according to the requirements of your project and according to the procedures most familiar to your committee. Often, there are three examinations consisting of:

  1. a review of the literature for your project,
  2. a review of methodological practices for your project, and
  3. an oral exam that reviews the written results of the first two projects.

See more: Comprehensive exams

Thesis Proposal

Following completion of the examinations, you will proceed to the examination of your proposal, which is normally a half-hour presentation of the proposed project, following by a detailed discussion with your committee. At the completion of the proposal meeting, a report MUST be submitted to

Many IDPhD students undertake projects that involve human subjects, and for that, an ethics review is required. This is often a lengthy process and can slow down commencement of the research. Your supervisory committee will provide you with guidance for this portion of the submission process.

Thesis Defence

Many students begin work on their dissertation, a document of 150 to 400 pages, in year three of the program, with the thesis being completed and defended in year four.

As you get closer to completing your thesis, it is  important and helpful, both for your progress and further understanding of your work to present papers on your work to colleagues in the university and at conferences. This form of networking is a basic part of scholarly research and often leads to invitations for publication and other forms of involvement with colleagues.

Upon completion of your thesis, there must be a general consensus on the part of the committee that the dissertation is ready to proceed to the oral defence, although a student may choose to proceed without such consensus. The defence itself is a 20-minute presentation by the candidate followed by detailed questions on thesis itself by the committee and the external examiner. The process of a PhD defence at Dalhousie is entirely governed by Faculty of Graduate Studies regulations and processes, including submission of the required forms by the deadlines required. It is also important to be aware of the deadlines for submission of the completed thesis each term to the Faculty of Graduate Studies.

See more: Thesis and defence