Skip to content. Skip to navigation
McGill Home SOCS Home
Personal tools
You are here: Home Academic Graduates phd
Grad Home
Grad Courses



Any questions concerning the program should be addressed to Diti Anastopoulos.

In accordance with the university regulations, the successful completion of the Ph.D. program includes the following:

  • Three years of residency plus one more year as a full-time student Two years of residency plus one more year as a full-time student if admitted with a completed M.Sc. in Computer Science.
  • Required coursework: Students must take eight graduate courses, of which at least five are computer science courses (courses taken during a Master's program may count towards the requirement, see details later). These courses should be chosen by the student in consultation with the supervisor (or co-supervisors) and the Progress Committee. To meet the breadth requirement, at least two courses must be taken from each of the following two categories.

    Category A, Theory and Applications: 506, 507, 523, 524, 525, 531, 535, 540, 547, 552, 560, 561, 563, 564, 566, 567, 598, 599 608, 610, 618, 623, 627, 642, 647, 648, 649, 650, 680, 690, 692, 760, 761

    Category B, Systems and Applications: 512, 520, 521, 522, 526, 529, 533, 535, 537, 557, 558, 575, 577, 598, 599, 612, 614, 617, 621, 630, 631, 644, 646, 652, 655, 656, 667, 675, 762, 763, 764, 765, 766, 767

    Which category 598 and 599 belong to will be determined each year by the PhD Program Committee according to the subjects taught in those courses. This course breadth requirement is waived for any student who has a Bachelor's degree in computer science. Conditional on approval by the Ph.D. Program Committee, courses taken during a Master's program can count towards the requirement, but at least two computer science graduate courses must be taken in the Ph.D. program and at least two graduate courses must be taken in the first year of the Ph.D. program. Upon arrival at McGill, a student wishing to obtain a course reduction must submit a request, with approval from his/her supervisor (or co-supervisors), to the Ph.D. Program Committee.

    Here is the course reduction request form

  • A comprehensive examination, COMP 700, taken by the beginning of the second year in the program. This examination is described in further detail below.
  • Annual Progress Reports to be reviewed by the student's progress committee. See further detail below.
  • A written research proposal and an oral examination, COMP 701, of it by the thesis proposal examination committee. This is termed the Ph.D. proposal and area examination and is described in further detail below.
  • A written thesis displaying original scholarship and written in good literary style. The thesis must be a distinct contribution to knowledge in the chosen field.
  • A thesis oral defense.

Progress Committee and Progress Report

Upon arrival at McGill a new Ph.D. student must, in consultation with his or her supervisor or supervisors, form a Progress Committee. This committee will consist of three professors who will monitor the student's progress in the course of the Ph.D. program. At least two of these professors must be from the School of Computer Science, one of which will be the student's thesis supervisor.

At the beginning of September starting in the third year (or the second year if a student was admitted in January), the student is expected to complete a Progress Report Form and submit it to the Progress Committee. At that time, an evaluation meeting between the student and the Progress Committee takes place. The meeting discusses the progress report in a round table question/answer format. Following the evaluation the Progress Committee will assign a grade of either satisfactory or unsatisfactory with comments. If the mark is unsatisfactory, the Progress Committee offers specific comments to guide the student towards improving his or her performance. Note that earning an unsatisfactory mark twice may be cited as grounds for requiring that a student withdraw from the Ph.D. program.

If the proposal and area examination was taken during the last 12 months, the Progress Report Form should be submitted to the graduate secretary and the evaluation meeting is waived.

Here is the progress report form: latex format, word format. Note that this progress report is different from the progress report for the PhD comprehensive exam use.

Ph.D. Comprehensive Examination - COMP 700 (0 cr.)

This examination must be taken around the beginning of the second year in the program. A student must register for COMP 700 the semester in which the exam will take place. The student is required to complete a Progress Report Form and submit it to the Evaluation Committee at least two weeks before the evaluation meeting takes place. The Evaluation Committee is formed by the Ph.D. Program Committee and the supervisor (or co-supervisors). The evaluation meeting has two parts. During the first part (approx. 40 min), the student meets with the evaluation committee to verbally discuss the content of the progress report, and in particular answer questions pertaining to the literature review (note that students are expected to know fundamentals related to what they present in the literature review). In the case of co-supervision, two co-supervisors share a unit of question time. During the second part, the committee meets (without the student) to discuss the student's performance (for the course component, a GPA of B+ or better is expected) and assign a grade of either pass or fail, which is decided by majority vote (in the case of a tie, the student fails). Four Ph.D. Program Committee members (decided by the Chair of the Ph.D. Program Committee) and the supervisor are voters (in the case of co-supervision, each co-supervisor gets .5 vote). In the event of a failure, the student must retake the examination in the coming January or September, whichever is closer. In case of a second failure, the student will be required to withdraw from the program.

The literature review constitutes item 7 of the progress report. After a student is admitted to the PhD program, the supervisor (or co-supervisors), in consultation with other Progress Committee members and with approval from the Ph.D. Program Committee, gives the student a syllabus in an appropriate research area for the student to review. The syllabus should include a title, student's name, supervisor's name, and objectives of the literature review. The review surveys the significant contributions to a particular research topic, including but not limited to conference proceedings, journal articles and theses. The number of publications to be reviewed depends on the research topic. But typically it is about 15. The review should demonstrate detailed understanding of some of the seminal developments in addition to familiarity with the broader chronological development of research in the area. The review report should be between 12 pages and 15 pages (including references), single-spaced in 12 point font.

Here is the progress report for the comprehensive exam use: latex format, word format.

Ph.D. Thesis Proposal and Area Examination - COMP 701 (3 cr.)

Students must register for this course the semester in which the exam will take place. This exam is a public, oral exam designed to test the research ability of the student in the area of the thesis as well as depth of knowledge in those areas of computer science closely related to the thesis topic. The exam consists of a 20-page (maximum) written report, single spaced in 12 point font, to be submitted to the Graduate Secretary at least two weeks before the exam, and an oral presentation by the candidate lasting no more than twenty minutes.

The exam must be completed within THREE YEARS of initial registration in the PhD program and after the successful completion of the PhD comprehensive exam; non-compliance with this rule will result in a failure. In the case of a first failure, the student will be given a single chance to retake the examination within six months; non-compliance with this rule will result in a failure. In the case of a second failure, the student will be asked to withdraw.