PhD Thesis Proposal

Each student who successfully completes the PhD qualifying examination is required to write a PhD thesis proposal, and present and defend the proposal orally before a committee.


As indicated on the Schedule for Timely PhD Completion, ECE doctoral students are expected to achieve candidacy before the end of their fifteenth month of studies.

  • May starters must complete the PhD thesis proposal by July of the following year.
  • September starters must complete the PhD thesis proposal by November of the following year.
  • January starts must complete the PhD thesis proposal by March of the following year.

Format and Content of the Proposal

Please review the following guidelines and suggestions for the format and content of the PhD thesis proposal. The PhD thesis proposal should contain two fundamental components:

  • review of the “state of the art” in a reasonably focused contemporary area of electrical and computer engineering research;
  • outline of known problems to be solved or original developments that might be anticipated, accompanied by a line of approach to these problems or developments.

The “state of the art” review must refer explicitly to the relevant literature, with all references listed at the end of the proposal. The list of references need not be long, but it should be carefully considered. The list and review should show clear evidence that the student has sufficient knowledge to continue immediately into doctoral level research that will potentially lead to new results, without needing to do further background preparation in the area.

The outline of problems or developments must show that the student can formulate a line of research, including initial methodologies to be used, which should lead to significant contributions and new knowledge.

It is neither necessary nor expected that the PhD thesis proposal contain new research results, though such would be welcome. It is only necessary to be convincing that the chosen proposed area and topic of research has a very good chance of leading to new results.

PhD Thesis Proposal Committee

The supervisor will select professors to serve on the PhD thesis proposal committee according to the following regulations:

  • The committee must consist of at least three professors, including the supervisor.
  • Each professor must hold an appropriate graduate faculty membership (GFM) at the University of Toronto. To serve on this committee the professor must typically hold a full, associate (unrestricted), or emeritus GFM; an associate member with restricted duties can serve only if their graduate faculty membership specifically includes the privilege to serve as a member of a doctoral thesis committee.
    • Ideally, all committee members will hold a graduate faculty membership in ECE.
    • One of the committee members may hold a graduate faculty membership in a unit other than ECE, where appropriate for the thesis topic.

PhD Thesis Proposal Presentation

  • The supervisor will schedule the presentation. All members of the PhD thesis proposal committee must attend the presentation.
  • The written proposal must be submitted to the committee at least two weeks prior to the presentation.
  • The student will make a presentation at the meeting and orally defend the PhD thesis proposal.
  • If the committee does not consider the proposal to be satisfactory, the student must present and defend a new PhD thesis proposal within four months. If the new proposal is also unsatisfactory, the student’s registration in the PhD program will be terminated.
  • The supervisor must submit the PhD Thesis Proposal Report to the ECE Graduate Office within one week of the presentation.
  • Upon the successful completion of the PhD thesis proposal, the student will have achieved “PhD candidacy.” The date of PhD candidacy will be recorded on the student’s U of T transcript.