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All PhD students are required to complete a thesis project (also called a dissertation project). SPPH PhD theses/dissertations cover a wide range of topics. Any research topic related to the health of human populations is suitable for PhD thesis at SPPH. A dissertation must be the result of independent work, even if it is associated with faculty research, and it often includes a comprehensive investigation of related research questions. It is expected that a PhD thesis will make an original contribution to the scientific literature. An archive of past SPPH dissertations is available through UBC cIRcle here.

There are no SPPH-specific policies regarding dissertation length, citation style, or format. Appropriate length, style, or format decisions can be made by the supervisory committee as long as the overall thesis meets the standards set by the UBC Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies (G+PS).

Students are not required to collect original data. Many students use datasets from their supervisors or other sources (PopData BC, for example). Students should ensure that their dissertation projects obtain ethics approval from the Office of Research Ethics at UBC (if required).

The School strongly encourages students to publish their research results in the peer-reviewed literature and supports dissertation formats based on a unified collection of peer-reviewed publications. The final written dissertation may include any combination of published and unpublished work (including 100% unpublished and 100% published), provided that the published work is that of the student.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. Students who include published work in their dissertations should ensure they follow the G+PS guidelines.

Supervisor & Committee

All PhD students must have a supervisor or two co-supervisors. The supervisor or at least one of the co-supervisors must be an Assistant, Associate, or Full Professor at SPPH. The supervisor’s or co-supervisors’s role is to guide and support a student throughout the course of their degree program. Supervisors provide experience, expertise, resources, and mentorship, and help develop a student’s academic, research, and leadership potential. All supervisors must be approved to supervise doctoral students by G+PS. Clinical Faculty, Adjunct Faculty, or faculty from outside UBC may be granted special permission to supervise a student. Special permission must be approved by both the PhD program and G+PS.

In addition to a supervisor or co-supervisors, students also receive support from supervisory committee members. Supervisory committees must contain a minimum of three members, inclusive of supervisor or co-supervisors. Students work with supervisors to identify suitable committee members. All PhD committee members must be approved by G+PS to serve on the committee. Clinical Faculty, Adjunct Faculty, or faculty from outside UBC may be granted special permission to be supervisory committee members. Again, special permission must be approved by both the PhD program and G+PS. More information on supervisors and supervisory committee requirements for PhD students can be found on the G+PS website here.

External Examination and Final Oral Exam

The culmination of the dissertation research and writing is the External Examination and Final Oral Exam (or dissertation defense). This is the last step before the conclusion of a PhD program. The goals of this process are to allow students to showcase their work and to have student work critically investigated by the academic community both at UBC and beyond UBC.

At UBC, all External Examinations and Final Oral Exams follow the procedures outlined by G+PS (see here). The entire process usually takes between four and six months. The PhD program encourages students to review the process early, and to communicate with their supervisors about completing the appropriate administrative steps.