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Advice for Canadian university PhD applicants?

Notker the Stammerer

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I'm an American considering applying to a couple of Canadian universities (University of Toronto and Queen's) and I'm wondering if anyone has any first hand experience with the process.

I noticed that the University of Toronto asks for a research proposal, while Queen's wants a research statement. Are those the same thing? How much are you tied to these proposals? Unlike UK universities that require a research proposal for admittance, there's going to be at least a year of classes to go through before the hard work begins on writing a thesis, so I'm wondering if this is just an exercise to determine whether you're capable of articulating a research project in your chosen field rather than something you're actually bound to.

Edited by Notker the Stammerer
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Canadian PhD programs are structured the same way as American PhD programs (coursework, comprehensive exam, teaching and finally the dissertation, completed over 5-6 years). Approach the 'research proposal' the same way others are approaching their SOPs for US schools -- it is not a dissertation proposal, but of course you're expected to indicate the themes, questions and problems that interest you as a historian, as well as show that you have a sense of your field's historiography and its debates (what gaps are there in the current literature? what intervention(s) would your research make and why is that important?). That's how I approached all my SOPs, including UofT's (my alma mater).

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  • 1 month later...

I'm at U of T. I would make the additional comment that your research proposal should include attention to an appropriate faculty member (bonus points if you can say that you've touched base and the POI is amicable to your research) and, possibly, departmental resources that would contribute to your work. Be clear about these connections, it should make sense. I wrote in my proposal that a faculty member's stated specialization in (specific area within discipline) and recent publications on (specific topic) made them a suitable fit for my own research and aims in (something specific and parallel). As well, I mentioned that (specific research institution affiliated with university) would prove an apt resource for my area of scholarship. The research that you propose should answer the question of whether or not you have the chops for the field. The attention to "fit" in the proposal should answer the question of "Why THIS school/department?". Adcomms want to be excited about your app, and they get excited when they can PICTURE you there, growing as a scholar and contributing to the department; make this visualization easier for them by identifying the components of the department from which you can draw support and engagement for YOUR research.


Good luck!

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  • 2 weeks later...

I am applying to U of T to the program in the History and Philosophy of Science. The essay they require is called "a research statement and a study plan." Do they want to see something like, year 1 - will write a lit review, year 2 - will work in an archive, etc.? Or does that mean they simply want applicants to name profs they want to work with and classes they wish to take?

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