Information on the doctoral programme in War Studies


The PhD in War Studies is a multi-disciplinary program that provides students with the opportunity to explore human conflict in any or all of its military, diplomatic, social political, psychological or/and economic dimensions. The core program and support to the program are located at the RMC's campus in Kingston, Ontario. The courses are offered either asynchronously (online, no fixed meeting schedule) or synchronously (online, fixed class meeting schedule). Exceptionally, some courses may be offered in a “hybrid” mode of synchronous (scheduled) classes which combine on-site and video-conference participants.

The courses will be offered from Kingston (ON) or from the Canadian Forces College (CFC) in Toronto. For more information, on the list of courses offered by year, mode of delivery of the courses offered, see the list by year at : War Studies programme timetables.

Program of Study

The PhD program in War Studies is a rigorous program of study aimed at preparing individuals for professional employment as independent researchers, university teachers or senior analysts. Individuals aspiring to this degree are expected to perform at superior levels of academic achievement.

The program of study includes:

  • Six 6xx-level course credits;
  • A methodology course (WS 607) of 1 credit;
  • A second language requirement;
  • Comprehensive examinations in three fields of study;
  • A dissertation.

Depending on their background and planned program of study, students may be required to take the two-credit course, WS 600 (Theories of War From the Eighteenth Century to the Present), as part of the seven credits required for this program.

Residency and Full-time Status

There is no residency requirement, however, doctoral students must complete two years of full-time study, meaning they must be registered as a full-time student for a period of two years and they must take doctoral-level War Studies classes from RMC during that period. The courses may be onsite courses, internet courses or a combination of both.

Fields of Study

Each doctoral student's program must include three fields of study: a major field, which is normally the dissertation field, and two minor fields.

Field Supervision

Students require a faculty supervisor for each field of study. The supervisor for the major field of study will normally be the student's dissertation supervisor. It is the dissertation advisor's responsibility,with the help of Chair of War Studies, to obtain field supervisors. No faculty member shall supervise more than one field of study for a particular student. On occasion, Non-RMC faculty can be engaged as supervisors of minor fields of study with the permission of the Chair of War Studies, but dissertation supervisors will normally be RMC faculty. For cases in which the required expertise to supervise a dissertation resides outside RMC, an RMC faculty member will be assigned as co-supervisor of the major field of study (i.e., the dissertation topic).

Field Content

The field bibliography should be developed by the student and field supervisor together, but must be approved by the field supervisor. Each student and field supervisor should agree on a field bibliography no later than three months prior to the field examination.

Fields of Study

There are three fields of study in the PhD program in War Studies

  • International Relations
  • Defence Policy
  • Military History

Rationale for Fields Study

Studying a field is aimed more at developing analytical skills than amassing a large number of facts. At the same time, students are expected to have a good grounding in the substance of their respective fields. Study of a particular area should focus on examining trends in the field, the exploration of new techniques of research, and the probing of complex problems.

The preparation of a field can be flexible. Because the students are, above all, learning techniques of analysis, no course is designed to cover all aspects of a field. Students must study independently aspects that are not covered in courses, since as potential teachers and scholars they must demonstrate a capacity to work independently. Field supervisors will advise students on further reading.

Field Examinations

The purpose of the field examinations (also called comprehensive examinations) is to assess the student's academic appreciation of the three fields of study and scholarly qualifications for the PhD in War Studies. Field examinations will be supervised by an examination committee chaired by the Chair of War Studies or a delegate and will include the student's dissertation supervisor, the student's field supervisors and other members as appointed by the Chair of War Studies.

The field examinations are taken before the dissertation proposal is approved and after the doctoral courses have been completed and the language requirement fulfilled. The student must register in CP600 Comprehensive Examination until completion of the examinations and pay appropriate tuition fees while studying for these examinations. Students should expect to complete their field examinations by the end of their second year of doctoral studies Field examinations must be held at least one calendar year before the dissertation is submitted.

Field examinations have both written and oral components. The written examination for each field will be a four-hour, closed-book examination. One oral examination of approximately two hours will cover all fields. The standard of preparation required for field examinations does not demand that the student be able to answer completely every question. Nevertheless, students are expected to reach a level of preparedness that will enable them to offer a sound undergraduate course in each field. They are expected to know the prominent theories in each field, the main themes of current research, major sources, and the areas where further investigation is needed and how this might be explored.

The essential points tested in the field examinations are the quality of the student's powers of interpretation and exposition. Field examinations thus focus on the following areas:

  • Knowledge of the field
  • Power of independent analysis
  • Capacity to apply techniques and interpretations encountered in one field in analyzing another
  • Capacity for synthesis, which is shown particularly in the written part of the examination
  • Powers of verbal and written exposition.

Students will take all their written field examinations over the course of one week. The procedure for arranging and conducting field examinations is outlined below:

  1. When students have been advised by their three field supervisors that they are ready for field examinations, the students should submit to the Chair of War Studies: (a) a request to take the field examinations, and (b) a copy of their dissertation proposal. At this time, field supervisors should submit their questions for the written field examinations to the Chair of War Studies.
  2. The Chair of War Studies will either chair the student's field examinations committee or delegate this responsibility to another War Studies faculty member. The chair of the examination committee will then schedule the examinations, over the course of one week (e.g., Day 1- written examination of first field, Day 2-  written examination of second field, Day 3 - written examination of third field, Day 4  - oral examination on all fields and, evaluation of the dissertation proposal.
  3. Written field examinations will be taken at a time and place determined by the chair of the examination committee. Only the student and chair of the examining committee are required to attend these examinations. After each written examination, the chair will collect the student's completed examination and forward it to the members of the examination committee.
  4. All members of the examination committee and the student will attend the oral examination. The oral examination will last approximately two hours and will include the following: (a) an oral examination of the three fields, (b) discussion of the written examinations (if required), and (c) discussion of the dissertation proposal.

The results of the field examinations determine whether or not the student will be permitted to continue in the War Studies program. If the results are not favourable, the Chair of War Studies will recommend to Faculty Council through the Graduate Studies Committee either that the examining committee reconvenes at a later date to re-examine the student, or that the student be required to withdraw from War Studies. Re-examination, if authorized, shall not occur for at least three months, but no later than twelve months, after the date of the first examination. If the result of the re-examination is favourable, the Chair of War Studies will advise the Registrar and credit for the comprehensive examination will be entered on the student's transcript. If the result of the re-examination is not favourable, the student will be withdrawn from the War Studies program.

Thesis Proposals

Thesis proposals should provide a brief overview of the topic, the primary focus of the research (e.g., the thesis statement or central research question), the research methodology the student plans to employ, and a bibliography. The proposal need not be long, but must provide sufficient information for faculty to evaluate the research plan.

Elements of a Thesis Proposal

The proposal should be approximately 10 pages long and must contain the following elements.

  • Outline of research question and approach
  • Draft table of contents
  • Bibliography of key sources


The outline of the proposed research should include a clear thesis statement outlining the question to be addressed or the hypothesis to be tested. This should be followed by a discussion of why this is a valid question or hypothesis to pursue, including some demonstration that this has not been done in other ways in the existing literature.

The outline should also include an explanation as to how the question will be addressed or the hypothesis will be tested, and why this is a valid approach.

Table of Contents

The draft table of contents should flow from the outline and at minimum should include descriptive chapter headings.

Bibliography of key sources

The purpose of the bibliography is to demonstrate to reviewers that the applicant knows the key sources that must be consulted as part of the research work.

Students are strongly encouraged to work with their supervisor in putting together their proposal. In addition, the course WS 607 will help students in putting together their proposal.

Thesis Submission

The following applies to all theses submitted for the degree Doctor of Arts in War Studies:

  • Doctoral dissertations in War Studies will not normally exceed 100,000 words (400 pages), including bibliography, notes and annexes.
  • Dissertations must be completed in accordance with guidance provided at Division of Graduate Studies and Research Thesis Preparation Guidelines
  • All dissertations must be submitted to the Chair of War Studies a minimum of eight weeks before the intended date of examination.
  • All War Studies dissertations will be reviewed by an internal examiner prior to being sent for external examination.
  • Theses must comply with the regulations of the Research Ethics Board


The War Studies program is limited in the funds it has available to support graduate student work. Students who have passed their comprehensive examinations and who have had their dissertation proposals accepted may apply to the Associate Chair for some research funding.


Teaching and/or serving as a teaching assistant (TA) is not a formal requirement of the PhD program. However, there are some teaching and TA opportunities for interested students.


Students should be aware that not all the doctoral courses in the War Studies Program are offered every year. To see an overview of all courses outlines, go the Graduate Calendar War Studies programme 


For information on tuition fees go to: RMC Fees

Directed Reading Courses

Students may take one directed reading course as part of their program, subject to the availability of a supervisor. The Chair of War Studies is the approving authority for directed reading courses. Once the student has arranged a directed reading course with a supervisor, the student must submit to the Chair of War Studies a course proposal to include the following: (a) substantiation on why the course needs to be taken, (b) a description of the content of the course, (b) a reading list, and (c) the proposed evaluation plan (e.g., describing work the student will be required to produce and the marking scheme) .

Dissertation Travel

The production of a doctoral dissertation in the humanities and social sciences may entail a period of research away from the student's university. Students, for instance, often travel to archives and libraries in other places (and, occasionally, in other countries) and reside there for a period of time to conduct research.

Program Duration

Program Reporting and Oversight

In May of each year, students are required to submit to the Chair of War Studies a PhD Program Progress Report.

The following document is available for downloading or viewing:

For more information on accessing this PDF file, please visit our help page .

The Chair of War Studies, in concert with the War Studies Committee, will monitor the progress of every student and, if any student is not making satisfactory progress, will recommend to the Dean of Graduate Studies that the student be withdrawn from the doctoral program.

Dissertation Examination

When the dissertation is completed to the satisfaction of the dissertation supervisor, the student will be examined on the dissertation by a committee established by the Dean of Graduate Studies and Research. The examination committee will consist of a chair, two RMC examiners (one with expertise in the field of study and one with expertise in another field), a non-RMC examiner with expertise in the field, and the student's dissertation supervisor.

The dissertation examination normally takes 2-3 hours and will consist of two elements: (1) a public presentation by the student on the dissertation research, and (2) an oral examination of the student on the dissertation. Normally, this examination will be open to the public, but may be closed on the authority of the Dean of Graduate Studies and Research if circumstances warrant.

Academic Regulations

War Studies students must comply with the academic regulations outlined in the Royal Military College of Canada Graduate Studies Calendar

Language Requirement

Doctoral candidates must have mastery of one of Canada's official language - English or French. In addition, students must demonstrate competence in a language of scholarship other than their first official language (i.e., English or French) and must: (a) pass a language test before being permitted to write the field examinations, or (b) show proof that the language requirement has been met elsewhere. Although responsibility for meeting the language requirement falls upon the student, graduate supervisors should encourage their students to meet the requirement before sitting the field examinations.

The language examination will be arranged by the Chair of War Studies. Students must translate text written in the "tested language" to their first official language.

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