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The PhD program includes coursework and a dissertation project. Students must also pass a comprehensive examination and present their dissertation proposals to the SPPH Thesis Screening Panel.

Applicants interested in part-time study are encouraged to contact that program because part-time study has implications for tuition, funding, awards, and loans. Part-time study options should also be discussed with potential supervisors.

Current students should refer to the PhD Canvas Site. Supervisors can find more information on the Supervisor Canvas Site. (Contact the program to request access.)


There are six required courses (16.5 credits) and students must also take a methods course (3 credits). There are four options for the methods requirement, students choose which course is most applicable to their research. Students may take additional coursework. The PhD program recommends discussing additional courses with faculty supervisors.

Statistics for Health Research (Required)

SPPH 521 (or 400): Planned collection, numeric and graphic summarization, and elementary statistical analysis of data. Examples primarily from health sciences illustrate standard techniques for parametric and non-parametric hypothesis testing; regression and correlation; contingency tables. Also randomization, “blindfolding” and other specifically biomedical topics in statistics. (3 credits).

Epidemiological Methods 1 (Required)

SPPH 502: Sources and uses of epidemiologic data for health services planning and administration including methods of data collection and study design. (3 credits)

PhD Research Seminar (Required)

SPPH 607: Required course in Ph.D. program. Topics of current interest will be presented and discussed by students and various faculty. (1.5 credits)

Approaches to Enquiry in Population and Public Health (Required)

SPPH 621: Research approaches in the area of population and public health; focus on developing research questions and the centrality of research questions in conducting research. (3 credits)

Analytical Methods in Epidemiological Research (Required)

SPPH 500: Basic epidemiological designs as a framework for commonly used biostatistical techniques such as the Mantel-Haenszel, chi-squared, linear and logistic regression, and survival analysis. Computer packages will be available for computation of assignments. (3 credits)

Epidemiological Methods 2 (Methods Option)

SPPH 503: Critical thinking in epidemiology; principles and methods of study design; context for epidemiological investigations of human health. (3 credits)

Quantitative Research Methods (Methods Option)

SPPH 506: Major quantitative research designs, measurement reliability and validity, common data sources used, internal and external validity, research proposals, and peer review. (3 credits) Syllabus

Qualitative Methods in Health Research Design (Methods Option)

SPPH 519: Purposes, context, procedures, and relationships within qualitative health research and methologies. (3 credits)

Epidemiology of Occupational and Environmental Health (Methods Option)

SPPH 530: Design and analysis of etiologic research in occupational health. (3 credits)

Application of Advanced Epidemiological Methods (Required)

SPPH 604: Statistical approaches for confounding, “missingness”, and complex surveys, the development of analysis plans, the analysis and interpretation of real-world epidemiologic data, and the communication of findings. (3 credits)

Doctoral Dissertation (Required)

SPPH 699: Continuing registration required; pass/fail on the basis of a completed doctoral dissertation. (0 credits)

Comprehensive Exam

The purpose of the SPPH PhD Comprehensive Exam is to provide PhD students an opportunity to demonstrate the integration of knowledge and successful application of learning from the core curriculum in the PhD program. Students are asked to demonstrate the ability to apply learning in the key areas of proposal development and the ability to critique published research studies, skills that are essential to progress in the program, and to succeed in a research career.

The exam is held in late May and/or early June each year. Students typically take the exam at the end of their second year. The exam is scheduled over a two-week period, with Week 1 focusing on two written submissions, and Week 2 focusing on an oral examination. The Week 1 written submissions include a research proposal developed in response to a simulated ‘Call for Proposals’ and a written critique of a published research article. The Week 2 Oral Examination will be up to one hour, with approximately 30 minutes allocated to review and defence of each of the two written components.

Thesis Screening Panel

PhD students are required to prepare a thesis proposal and present it to the Thesis Screening Panel (TSP) prior to embarking on major components of the thesis research. The TSP’s role is to evaluate the scope and content of the proposed research in light of the general expectations of the University and SPPH for doctoral dissertations, and to provide feedback to the student and the supervisory committee on all aspects of the proposal.

Students are encouraged to complete the Comprehensive Examination prior to presenting to the TSP. After students pass the Comprehensive Examination and present to the TSP, they can apply for Advancement to Candidacy.

The TSP Process document which includes standards for submitted thesis proposals, can be downloaded here.