PhD Thesis

Any research topic related to the health of human populations is considered suitable for a thesis in the School. Specific research topics will be constrained by the availability of faculty with suitable content and methodological expertise to supervise the work. Students are encouraged to meet with many different faculty members to discuss potential research topics.

PhD students are required to prepare a thesis proposal and present it to the Thesis Screening Panel prior to embarking on major components of the thesis research.

The Panel holds three meetings per year, in the months of October, February, and June. Students must book their presentations to the Panel with the MSc/PhD Program Manager well in advance. Please note these dates in your calendar. Time slots for presentations to the Panel are booked on a first come first served basis. PhD Students who wish to present to the Panel will be given priority in terms of booking time slots.

For information regarding the proposal format, please view the section above.

At the meeting, the student gives a brief (10-12 minute) oral presentation and responds to questions from the Panel. The student's supervisor is expected to attend the Panel meeting; other supervisory committee members are also encouraged to attend.

The Panel's role is to evaluate the scope and content of the proposed research in light of the general expectations of the university and the School for masters or doctoral theses, and to provide feedback to the student and the supervisory committee on all aspects of the proposal.

The proposal submitted to the Thesis Screening Panel is expected to be no more than 10 pages (1.5 spacing), not including the title page, references, or appendices. Students are encouraged to use the following structure:

  • Title Page including email addresses of student and supervisor
  • Problem Statement
  • Background and Rationale, including a brief literature review
  • Research Plan, including
    • study objectives,
    • study design and methods (study sample, data collection, and analysis),
    • ethical considerations,
    • feasibility (previous/pilot work done, data availability if not proposing primary data collection, likely response rates for surveys/interviews, and subject availability if primary data being collected),
    • strengths and limitations.
  • Implications of the Study
  • Knowledge Transfer and Translation
  • References
  • Appendices describing following (maximum 1 page each)
  • time line
  • budget outlining anticipated expenses and source(s) of funds
  • composition and contribution of supervisory committee members

DO NOT include surveys, letters of reference or collaboration; these may be commented upon in the presentation and discussion with the Panel.

The proposal MUST be signed as 'approved for submission to the thesis screening panel' by at least two members of the supervisory committee. It must be submitted to the Panel members four weeks prior to the meeting date of the panel.

The cover sheet and signature page can be downloaded here.

The written thesis must adhere to the formatting requirements of the University.

There are no specific rules regarding thesis length or content. This should be determined by the student and the supervisory committee, bearing in mind that final evaluation of the thesis includes examiners external to the School and the University. Some theses will describe aspects of a single research project, others may describe more than one related project. A PhD thesis must be the result of independent work (even if associated with faculty research) and often includes a comprehensive investigation of related research questions. It is expected that a PhD dissertation will make an original contribution to the scientific

The School strongly encourages students to publish their doctoral research results in the peer-reviewed literature and supports thesis formats based on a unified collection of peer-reviewed publications. The final written thesis may include any combination of published and unpublished work (including 100% unpublished and 100% published), provided that the published work is that of the student. Work carried out and published prior to developing the thesis proposal should not be included. Please check the UBC formatting guidelines for inclusion of published papers in the thesis.

After the thesis has been approved by your supervisor and supervisory committee members, it must be externally reviewed and defended orally in a public forum at the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies. It must be submitted to the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies for transmission to School, University, and external examiners. Revisions are often required following the oral examination.

The Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies has detailed procedures for selecting external examiners and scheduling the defense. Students and their supervisors are responsible for ensuring that the necessary steps are completed. Please note that the minimum time between submission of the thesis to the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies and the oral exam is six weeks. At certain times of the year, this time is longer. Also, in the months preceding the oral exam, a number of administrative tasks must be completed, starting at least three months before the expected oral exam date. Students should ensure that their supervisors are aware of the various deadlines.