IDPhD Program Itinerary

All doctoral programs require exceptional focus, hard work, and enormous self-discipline. In addition to those qualities the IDPhD program also requires unusual self-direction and self-reliance. There is no department to carry you along. In our program, you are basically working on your own, with a supervisor and committee members. 

The IDPhD staff (director and secretary) are there to help you with any questions you might have about the mechanics of the program. The director is always available to discuss your academic trajectory, but because you will have undertaken highly specialized work, it is unlikely that he will be able to help you much in the actual direction and shaping of your work.

The importance of networks and connections in academic work is crucial. Your community will usually be provided by your supervisor and committee. Sometimes the supervisor will have a team of researchers, and you will be encouraged to join that community. But sometimes you will be working on your own, creating your own networks and connections. 

Your independence is needed from the very start, with the application. We ask you to generate a full research proposal in order to enter our program. This is almost impossible to do without prior research experience. That's why we expect you to have already completed a master's thesis.

We also require our students to come in with evidence of strong ability in academic work (the 3.7 entering GPA) because without the grades you will not be eligible for third-party financial support. At this time we have minimal financial support for our students.

Program Components

Credit courses

During your first two years you will be taking 4 to 6 courses in different departments. These courses will be decided upon by you and your supervisory committee. The courses will provide you with methodological and background preparation for your project.


Towards the end of your courses you will embark on comprehensive examinations. These examinations differ according to the requirements of your project and according to the procedures most familiar to your committee. Normally however there are three examinations consisting of 1) a review of the literature for your project, 2) a review of methodological practices for your project, 3) an oral that reviews the written results of the first two projects. Each of the first two examinations can be presented in formal papers that might be used directly in the thesis.

Thesis Proposal

On completion of the examinations, you will proceed to the examination of the proposal, which is normally a half hour presentation of the proposed project, following by detailed discussion with your committee.

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. The supervisory committee will provide you with guidance for this sometimes daunting submission process.

Thesis Defence

With the completion of the proposal, research students are often referred to as "PhD (ABD)" (or "all but dissertation") or as "PhD (continuing)" as though the dissertation is just an afterthought. Yet it is the dissertation, a document of 150 to 400 pages, that proves to be the greatest challenge. Many students begin their work  in year three, which is often the last year of funding (if they have been successful in the national competition), and find in their fourth year that new commitments to work prevent a timely completion. Although the work on the project can be exhilarating, the pressure to finish is very great.

Even in the regular PhD programs of the disciplines there is a high degree of solitude. For some of our students, this solitude can be even greater. And yet, as your work develops, you will become ready to engage with your field. One of the key parts of the thesis as you get near the end is the unstated but very important requirement that you present papers on your work to colleagues in the university and at conferences. This networking is a basic part of scholarly research and often leads to invitations for publication and other forms of involvement with colleagues. And sometimes publication and conferencing can also lead to an academic position.

On completion, there must be a general consensus on the part of the committee and the external examiner that the dissertation is ready to proceed to the oral defence. The defence itself is twenty-minute presentation by the candidate followed by very detailed questions on the actual thesis by the committee and the external examiner.

Many students look at graduation as an end point, but it turns out graduation from the PhD is actually a beginning with new challenges for employment, publication of results, and other calls on the graduate's attention.

It is your responsibility to initiate discussion of the format and timing of these components early with your supervisor and thesis committee. Information on this website will help you engage in a discussion with your committee and design a program that suits your specific needs. Although each IDPhD program is unique, a mock-up program could include the following sequence:

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

Year 4  

Thesis Completion, Thesis Defence