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Why do your PhD in Law at Dal?

Take a deep doctoral dive into your area of interest 

We offer an advanced graduate program in law leading to the PhD (Doctor of Philosophy in Law) to a small number of highly qualified candidates.

Program Details

Doctor of Philosophy in Law

PhD residency requirement

Applicants must spend at least one full academic year (12 months) in full-time residence at Dalhousie after registration for the PhD program. The Graduate Studies Committee of the Schulich School of Law reserves the right in certain cases to require the completion of a second year of residency. It is to be noted, however, that consistent with other doctoral programs at Dalhousie University, PhD candidates must pay fees at the full-time rate for two years regardless of whether they have been required to spend a second year in residence at Dalhousie.

PhD pre-thesis requirements

Candidates in the PhD program must complete the following requirements:

1.  One directed reading course

The directed reading course is normally a one-on-one engagement with a faculty member, but may involve more than one faculty member. The area studied must be quite broad, e.g., 'modern legal theory' or 'international legal relations' or 'equality theory'. The syllabus is developed jointly by the student and the faculty member(s). The faculty member(s) and the student meet together once every two weeks for one term. The student then writes a paper which demonstrates a comprehensive and critical appreciation of the field. The paper, at the end of the direct reading course, ideally allows the student not only to reflect on some of the major issues in the field, but also begin to consider where his or her own ideas fit within that landscape. The purpose of the paper is not so much a test of knowledge acquired as an opportunity to engage critically with the field.

2.  One area exam

The area exam is a rather more self-directed exercise. It does not involve regular meetings between the faculty member and the student, though episodic meetings are encouraged. The student and the faculty member (who may or may not be the supervisor) agree on a syllabus, and the student independently analyzes the materials. The purpose of the area exam is to ensure mastery of a certain body of knowledge; it may be a body of theory but it may also be a body of law or a combination of the two. The evaluation may be by paper or by take-home exam.

3.  Thesis proposal defence

The purpose of the thesis proposal defence is to evaluate whether the proposal discloses a feasible doctoral project. The main concerns are the definition of the issues to be addressed, the theoretical perspectives, the methodology, and a detailed outline of the structure of the thesis. The thesis proposal defence should normally take place at the end of the first year of studies, and not less than one year before submitting the thesis. Failure to successfully defend the thesis proposal may result in dismissal from the program. However, the student may be permitted to repeat the defence within the subsequent twelve months.

4.  Course work and other examinations as required by the Graduate Studies Committee

The reference to course work and other examinations is meant principally to cover the graduate seminar, which will be required of any PhD student who has not taken a similar course previously. It is possible that other courses in law or in other faculties may also be required.

All requirements must be completed with no grade below B-. A student who fails to meet this requirement is automatically dropped from the program, but may apply for readmission.

PhD thesis requirements

After an applicant has been accepted, a thesis committee consisting of a supervisor and two advisors will be appointed by the Graduate Studies Committee of the Schulich School of Law. All candidates are required to comply with the decisions of their thesis committees.

The primary requirement for the PhD degree is the completion of a substantial thesis which should not only display original scholarship of a high standard, but also represent a significant contribution to the literature of the chosen subject. Normally, a PhD thesis should be between 300 and 400 typescript pages in length (double-spaced).

The Faculty of Graduate Studies requires that the completed PhD thesis be submitted to the Graduate Studies Committee within six years of the date of original registration in the program. Submission of the thesis must follow the rules and regulations laid down by the Faculty of Graduate Studies.

Each PhD candidate is required to defend the completed thesis in an oral examination. This defence shall be conducted in accordance with the Faculty of Graduate Studies Regulations for Oral Examination of a Doctoral Candidate.