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Degree Requirements

Degree Requirements


Students of the program must  complete 18 units of approved coursework by the end of the second year, including: 4 courses, for a total of 12 units, to be completed in year 1; and two 3-unit doctoral seminars, taken in year 1 and year 2. At the discretion of the program’s Advisory Committee, those students lacking relevant experience in a minimum of two of the program’s three disciplines will be required to take 1-2 theory and methodology courses offered by ECS (CULTR ST 732) or CSMM (CMST&MM 700, 707 and/or 712), as part of the 4 courses to be completed in year 1. With the permission of the CNMCS Ph.D. Advisory Committee, students may take 3 units of electives from graduate courses offered by programs other than CNMCS.

Comprehensive Examination

Students in the program will be required to take the Comprehensive Examination in the area of their intended thesis research. This will involve writing two papers, a Field Survey and a Topic Paper, and defending both in an oral examination. The Field Survey should show broad expertise in the wider field of knowledge the candidate’s research will engage, i.e. one or more of the fields of Communication Studies, Cultural Studies, or New Media/Media Arts. The Topic Paper describes how the candidate’s thesis intervenes in the chosen field(s) and the particular contribution it will make. Both papers are to be researched and written concurrently by the candidate, are to be between 25 and 30 double-spaced pages in length, and are due in February of the second year of study. The Oral Examination of both papers will follow within 10 days of submission. The candidate’s mark in the Comprehensive Examination will be calculated on the average of the grades for the Field Survey, the Topic Paper, and the Oral Examination.

Qualifying Dossier

Over the course of their graduate study, students in the program will develop a qualifying dossier in consultation with their supervisory committee. Possible components of the qualifying dossier, of which the student will complete at least six, include:

  • a grant application;
  • presentation of a conference paper or artist talk;
  • a revision and submission of an article or artistic piece for peer-reviewed publication or juried exhibition;
  • a research ethics proposal;
  • a syllabus and a teaching philosophy statement;
  • an op-ed or other knowledge translation project (e.g., a blog, performance, artwork, website, new media project, etc.)
  • Education 750 (offered by McMaster’s Macpherson Institute for Leadership, Innovation and Excellence in Teaching)
  • participation in four professionalization workshops (academic or non-academic), offered by ECS, CSMM, or the Faculty of Humanities
  • a published book review/exhibition review in a scholarly journal
  • a community-engagement project
  • a guest lecture
  • participation in conference organizing

Work completed as part of course requirements may be included in the dossier at the discretion of the supervisory committee.


The candidate will complete a thesis in one of the following forms:

  • A traditional thesis, which will normally be between 200 and 250 pages (not including bibliography);
  • A research-creation or project-based thesis, which will consist of a body of work and written commentary on that work of between 100 and 150 pages; such a thesis may involve arts-based research, or it may involve the creation of such things as tool kits, social interventions, learning platforms, databases, new media archives, documentary films, or podcasts;
  • A sandwich thesis, which, in accordance with McMaster’s Thesis Preparation Guide, must consist of a minimum of three scholarly works on a unified theme, either previously published or exhibited, submitted for peer-review, or prepared for publication/exhibition but not yet submitted (in CNMCS, these works may include journal articles submitted for peer review, or art/media/performance pieces submitted for peer-adjudication); these works must be accompanied by substantial introductory and concluding chapters, addressing the methodologies, theories and approaches that unify and inform the research. If the sandwich thesis is used for a series of research creation projects, the student will present an explanatory narrative that connects the projects and argues for their significance. The typical length of a sandwich thesis will be about 200 pages, plus bibliography.

With the guidance of their supervisory committee and their peers in the year 2 doctoral seminar, students will develop a long proposal (10-15 pages plus bibliography), to be submitted for approval by June 30 of year 2.By January 15 of year 1 of the program, students will submit a short proposal (1000 words plus bibliography) for the thesis, identifying the area of their intended thesis research, for the approval of the Admissions and Review Committee. The proposal should be signed by a proposed supervisor and first reader. Should the committee feel a proposal needs further development, the student will be asked to revise and resubmit it within three months.

Years 3 and 4 of the degree will be dedicated to the completion of the thesis, which must be defended in an oral examination.