PhD Program

Screen Cultures and Curatorial Studies logo

A completed PhD comprises of coursework, a qualifying exam, development of a syllabus, a proposal defense, and a dissertation, which includes research and writing, and could also include creative practice, curatorial work, community engagement, or pedagogical endeavours. The Screen Cultures and Curatorial Studies program is designed to make it possible for students to complete their PhD in four years, consistent with the four-year funding period that the university guarantees.

Admission Requirements

MA or MFA degree from a recognized university in film, media studies, art history or cognate fields (e.g. communication, cultural studies, visual arts, popular culture).

For applicants who do not meet these requirements but have a substantial record of work, training, and education outside of traditional academic tracks, please contact the Graduate Coordinator before applying.  

Funding Packages

The minimum funding guarantee for Screen Cultures and Curatorial Studies PhD students is $24,000 per year, throughout years 1-4. The funding package is derived from a combination of internal and external awards (Queen鈥檚 Graduate Awards [QGA] and named internal Fellowships, and in most cases Teaching Assistantships (TAs). This funding does not cover all living expenses, but rather covers the tuition and contributes to living expenses. Students must maintain 鈥済ood academic standing鈥 in their graduate program and make 鈥渟atisfactory progress鈥 toward the completion of their degree requirements in order to qualify for funding.

Tuition costs are the responsibility of the students. Information about tuition and fees can be found on the . Annual enrolment is expected with three semesters of tuition.

External (and internal) awards

All students in the program who qualify must apply for external awards (OGS, SSHRC and other sources). The SCCS Graduate Chair will let you know which internal awards you qualify for, and Queen鈥檚 will automatically issue a $5,000 award to incoming PhD students who have won federal government tri-council awards (CIHR, NSERC, SSHRC). For more information, see the School of Graduate Studies and Post-Doctoral Affairs (SGSPA) webpages on awards and scholarships and the Faculty of Arts and Science (FAS) webpages on Funds & Awards.

Award for Project and Portfolio PhD (PPP) Research

The FAS Award for Project and Portfolio PhD (PPP) Research provides financial support for students pursuing doctoral research who are undertaking a project and/or a portfolio PhD. For a description of the options available to students pursuing a PhD, see the School of Graduate Study information sheet The PhD thesis 鈥 Enabling Flexibility.

The PPP Award supports costs directly related to the completion of the degree to a maximum value of $3,000. It is responding to increased student demand for non-traditional, or "alternative" doctoral formats that accommodate different research contributions and applications, new forms of knowledge mobilization, the development of new competencies (i.e. digital, entrepreneurial), and that foster student awareness of the transferable skills acquired in the completion of the doctoral degree. Funded by the FAS at $20,000/year for the first three years, the awards are available to doctoral students who have completed their comprehensive examination (QE & PhD Proposal Defense).

The application deadline is mid-May and the exact date will be listed on the FAS website.

Conference Travel Award

The SGSPA allocates a lump sum of funding for conference travel to each department/program based on a two-year average of student enrolments. Awards must be used to provide financial support for travel, accommodation, food and registration fees associated with a recognized conference (including those held online) at which the student is presenting their own or co-authored paper or poster. Some other conditions apply and the SCCS Student Representative co-ordinates the fund requests. The amount available varies each year and is distributed equitably (on average $600 per student).

Degree Requirements

Students are required to complete 3 Core courses, 2 Option Courses, a qualifying exam (QE), a PhD proposal, and a Dissertation or Project. Students are allowed to take additional courses, upon consultation with their supervisor and the Graduate Chair.


The is designed to provide you with the tools to manage all of your admission, registration, academic, financial, and personal information/contact details during 鈥 and after 鈥 your academic career at Queen's.

Find information on how to access and navigate the SOLUS Student Centre here.


Students should consult with their supervisor about course selection. All first-year PhD students must take SCCS 910, 912, and 914. Doctoral students with a Queen's MA in Screen Cultures and Curatorial Studies need only take 2 option courses, plus SCCS 910. The 2 option courses will be drawn from the list of available courses and determined in consultation with their supervisor and/or the Graduate Chair.

Students cannot self-enrol in courses and are automatically enrolled in core courses SCCS 910, 912, 914, and 999. Students must submit their option course choices to and will be sent a reminder in advance of enrolment period. It is the student鈥檚 responsibility to check their course enrolment each term in Solus and contact with any queries.

Core SCCS courses:

SCCS 910A/B (6.0) Professional Development in Screen Cultures and Curatorial Studies

SCCS 912 (3.0) Critical and Theoretical Approaches to Screen Cultures and Curatorial Studies

SCCS 914 (3.0) Histories and Methodologies of Screen Cultures and Curatorial Studies

Option SCCS courses:

SCCS 915 (3.0) Studies in Screen Cultures I

SCCS 918 (3.0) Studies in Screen Cultures II

SCCS 920 (3.0) Media Production Seminar

SCCS 928 (3.0) Critical Curatorial Studies Seminar

SCCS 930 (3.0) Curating in Context

SCCS 940 (3.0) Directed Reading

For detailed descriptions of all SCCS courses visit SCCS Courses.

PhD students may also choose Option Courses from Cultural Studies courses if there are spaces available. Relevant courses may also be found in Art History, Gender Studies, English, and International Development Studies.

CUST PhD Option Courses: CUST 806/3.0; CUST 892/3.0; CUST 816/1.0; CUST 800/3.0; CUST 804/3.0; CUST 807/3.0; CUST 893/3.0; CUST 817/1.0; CUST 815/1.0. For detailed descriptions of Cultural Studies courses visit Cultural Studies.

Courses outside SCCS require permission from the instructor, the student's supervisor, and the Graduate Chair of SCCS. A completed ACF (Academic Change Form) must be submitted to

Certificate in Media Pedagogies

Training in film, media, and cultural pedagogy is an integral part of the SCCS program. Such training can lead to career paths inside and outside of academia. PhD. students design a course in their area of study as part of their PhD proposal submission, and most students work as teaching assistants/fellows in a variety of courses. We offer a variety of training and support to facilitate these activities through a combination of specific sessions designed by us and offered through SCCS 810/910, and online modules are available from the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) and the Human Rights Office.

After completing the training available, students will receive a Certificate in Media Pedagogies. The certificate is internal to the Department of Film and Media and will not be reflected in a student's transcript.

Annual Progress Review

Each year, by 30 June, PhD students are responsible for submitting an SGS Annual Progress Report (APR) through the SGS Forms portal, detailing their progress since the last report, and plans/objectives for the next year.

This report is required by the School of Graduate Studies and its purpose is three-fold:

1. a source of information regarding your progress.

Your documented achievements (awards/scholarships, milestones accomplished, course grades, publications/presentations, community service etc.) assist us in determining opportunities that may be relevant to bring to your attention (funding, courses, professional development, conferences etc.).

2. a support mechanism for you in various circumstances.

Your documented special circumstances and/or impediments to progress assist us in suggesting positive strategies and in advocating for you for academic consideration, time limit extensions, transfers to part-time/off campus status, supplementary funding, and similar.

3. a goal-setting exercise.

Goal setting, together with your supervisor, for the next academic year helps you to stay on track, and in turn helps the program to support you in this regard.

It also provides SGSPA with information about student publications and conference papers as required by the Queen鈥檚 Quality Assurance Policy.

Please note that this report is required in addition to any such requirements related to a student鈥檚 funding (e.g. SSHRC Annual Progress Report).

Once the ARP is submitted, the student鈥檚 supervisor will review it and add comments; the student will then have a chance to respond to their comments. Finally, the Graduate Chair will review each APR before it is filed with SGSPA. Please contact if you have any questions.

Working closely with a supervisor in the development of a research project, thesis, or dissertation is an integral part of graduate degrees and a positive and productive relationship between students and supervisors is essential. To support a strong culture of graduate supervision, the SGSPA has developed a suite of resources for both students and graduate faculty as they navigate the supervision relationship. Underpinning all supervision activities and resources at Queen's is the Queen鈥檚 Graduate Supervision Policy.

Progress Through the PhD Program

  Fall Winter Spring/Summer
Year 1

3 courses:

  • SCCS 812 or 814 (Core)
  • SCCS 910A (Core)
  • 1 Elective

Meet with supervisor to confirm goals for the year.

Revisit PhD Proposal from application and start building an annotated bibliography of relevant works and materials.

Apply for external funding.

3 courses:

  • SCCS 812 or 814 (Core)
  • SCCS 910B (Core)
  • 1 Elective

Develop PhD Proposal outline and continue to build an annotated bibliography of relevant works and materials.

Confirm supervisor(s).

Submit Annual Progress Report via Online APR Form

Attend PhD proposal workshop.

Review goals for PhD and confirm committee membership.

SCCS PhD Form A Supervisory Committee Composition Notice

Start QE preparation: write short PhD proposal and develop annotated bibliography.

Year 2

Meet with supervisor to confirm goals for the year.

Submit 3000-5000 word PhD proposal and annotated bibliography to committee.

Meet with committee to discuss and set QE start date. Notify

Apply for external funding if needed.

Write QE.

SCCS PhD Form B QE Examiner Report

SCCS PhD Form C QE Result Report

Expand PhD proposal, including a budget (if necessary) and timeline.

Develop a syllabus for an undergraduate course.

Apply for ethics approval via GREB, if applicable.

Submit Annual Progress Report via Online APR Form

Arrange PhD Proposal defense

SCCS PhD Form D PhD Proposal Defense Arrangements Notice

Submit PhD Proposal and syllabus for an undergraduate course.

Defend PhD proposal.

SCCS PhD Form E PhD Proposal Defense Report

Advance to PhD Candidacy.

Year 3

Meet with supervisor to confirm goals for the year.

Begin PhD research / productions.

Apply for external funding if needed

Continue PhD research / productions.

Apply for conferences and seek other ways to share work

Submit Annual Progress Report via Online APR Form

Continue PhD research / production.

Year 4

Meet with supervisor to confirm goals for the year.

Continue PhD research / productions.

Apply for conferences, publication, and exhibition opportunities.

Apply for postdoctoral positions and jobs.

Complete PhD thesis/project draft.

Select external examiner.

Schedule defense and submit the Ph.D. Oral Thesis Examination Form.

Submit Annual Progress Report via Online APR Form

Defend thesis or project.

Submit all materials for archiving.

Throughout all years: 

  • Stay in touch with committee.
  • Pursue funding opportunities as available.
  • Attend pertinent events at Queen's.
  • Consult and share work with fellow students.
  • Reach out to potential colleagues, audiences, and supporters via conferences, community events, etc.

Selection of Supervisor and Committee


The SCCS Graduate Admissions Committee generally identifies a preliminary supervisor at the application stage. In consultation with the Graduate Chair, the preliminary supervisor assists the student in planning their year 1 Fall and Winter term courses and confirming the supervision the student requires.

During year 1 Winter term, students will revisit the PhD thesis or project they proposed upon application to confirm that what they proposed is how they do in fact wish to proceed or if they want to revise their project. Once the general project is in view, students consult with their supervisor to identify skills, knowledge, or experiences they need in order to do the kind of work they want to do.

If the project has changed significantly, and as long as we have supervisory capacity for the new project, a student can, in consultation with their existing supervisor, switch supervisors. Students must inform of any change in supervisor.

All core faculty members in SCCS are eligible to supervise students. Co-supervision is possible in exceptional cases: i.e., if, in consultation with the Graduate Chair, it is decided that the student鈥檚 PhD project can only be completed successfully with two supervisors.

Committee Composition

At the start of year 1 Summer term, after revisiting the PhD thesis or project they proposed upon application and confirming their plan with their supervisor, students must, in consultation with their supervisor, invite two other SCCS-affiliated faculty members to serve on their committee. In a situation where a community advisor, and adjunct instructor, or a non-SCCS-faculty member is desired for the committee, the student and supervisor should consult with the Graduate Chair.

By the end of year 1 Summer term in August, the student must submit SCCS PhD Form A Supervisory Committee Composition Notice to to confirm the composition of their committee. This committee, barring necessary changes, will be in place for the duration of the program.

If a change in committee composition is necessary, students must resubmit SCCS PhD Form A Supervisory Committee Composition Notice to

Short PhD Proposal and Preparation for the QE

At the end of year 1 Winter term (April or May) students will attend a PhD proposal writing workshop.

Students will then spend the summer developing a short proposal (3000-5000 words) for the entire PhD project. This proposal will include the background, an articulation of a research question/problem/intervention, identifying inquiry methods and output, and provide a breakdown of the elements (in the case of a portfolio) or chapters (in the case of a thesis).

In year 1 Summer term students will also develop a bibliography with 40-50 items. This list will be divided into categories (i.e., different theoretical frameworks, historical/geographical background, methods, relevant filmography, etc.). Students will read and annotate at least 20 items across the various categories. For guidance on annotated bibliographies, students may consult guidelines available from the ; the expectation for this purpose is that the annotation on each work should be about 200-300 words in length. In some cases, if the supervisor and student prefer, a literature review can be substituted for the annotations.

At the start of year 2 Fall term (and ideally after all courses have been completed), students will submit their short PhD proposal, bibliography, and 20 annotations to their committee.

The student and committee will then meet during year 2 Fall term to discuss the submitted materials. The committee and the student will discuss the theory and methods and explore content that the student will need to master for the thesis or project. They will check areas needing attention, suggest scholarship and other work the student should read or engage with for the exam, make suggestions on the areas to be focussed on by the QE, and help the student prepare during the time remaining before the exam. At the time of the initial meeting, all parties will also agree a QE start date and a date when the QE exam will be written (10-days from the start date). The QE exam should be taken in year 2 late Fall or early Winter term and the principle is to leave at least two months between the initial meeting the student has with their committee and the QE itself.

The goal of the QE is for the student to feel ready, and to be deemed ready by their committee, to write the full PhD Thesis/Project Proposal, advance to PhD candidacy, and proceed to do the thesis/project.

The QE is not a rough draft of the Thesis/Project Proposal, but rather groundwork for it. The QE paper reviews existing theories/methods and analyzes gaps the student wishes to address with their project, summarizing existing conversations in some of the fields most crucial for their project. Sometimes this may be learning a new area of theory or methodology; other times it may be diving deeper into frameworks or perspectives already somewhat familiar. It might be learning about new material, bodies of art, or fields of activity; or it might be focusing or casting wider from material already familiar. The QE may well engage with some areas of the Thesis/Project in detail rather than addressing the big picture. In the QE students look sideways to analyze what is existing, where in the proposal, students account for their planned original contribution. Ideally, the QE will later be integrated into the thesis either as a theoretical chapter, or throughout the chapters.

Qualifying Exam (QE)

At least ten working days before the agreed-upon QE start date in year 2 Winter term, the student submits to their committee, via email, the final version of an annotated bibliography of at least 30 items (some of which will likely be new since the draft they first submitted to their committee, reflecting priorities agreed upon at the meeting about the Exam Proposal).

The committee then crafts a question or questions for the QE exam, which they send to the student on the mutually agreed-upon QE start date. The general expectation is that the student will write 5000 to 7000 words, not including footnotes. The student will have ten working days from the mutually agreed-upon QE exam start date to complete the QE exam and submit their answer(s) (accommodations can be made in advance for a longer period if work or other responsibilities intervene).

Within ten working days of the student鈥檚 deadline for submission of the QE answer(s), each examiner will submit SCCS PhD Form B QE Examiner Report to the supervisor and the supervisor completes their own report. The supervisor determines the QE exam outcome based on a majority of the evaluations and notifies the student, drawing from the examiners鈥 reports to compile feedback for the student. If the exam is deemed a 鈥減ass,鈥 the supervisor records the result on SCCS PhD Form C QE Result Report and forwards it and a copy of the QE exam paper to

If the student receives a "Revisions required" the supervisor records the result on SCCS PhD Form C QE Result Report and submits it, all examiner PhD Form Bs, and a copy of the student's QE essay to The student then has 10 working days to complete the revisions and resubmit their QE, and the same process is followed as above. If the student fails the exam, the student will have one chance to re-write it within the next six months, with the same process followed as above.

Following the QE exam (that is, by the end of year 2 Winter term), the student will start to incorporate the learning from their QE exam into their PhD thesis/project proposal and start to develop an undergraduate syllabus in the area of their specialization.

PhD Proposal

By the beginning of the year 2 Summer term, students will return to their proposal, modify it based on the QE and expand it to its 30-40 page requirement for the PhD proposal defense. They will also annotate another 20 sources from the bibliography/works list. If the project is a Research-Creation project it is recommended to include a sample, experimentation, or a script for what the creative component will look like. The proposal has to include a chapter breakdown/list of portfolio elements and a timeline. If ethics clearance is required, it should be undertaken at the same time (the planning of the project and the ethics clearance are tightly connected when it comes to human participants).

The format of this proposal may vary and is determined in consultation with the supervisor and/or committee, but the general expectation is for a document of 30-40 pages (accompanied by a bibliography, with at least 40 items annotated). The proposal must identify a territory (area/field), a problem, an intervention the student plans to make, as well as the theoretical, methodological, and substantive elements and structure of the dissertation/project. The proposal should include a tentative section about the contributions to knowledge the project will make. All proposals will include a timeline. Projects that require expenditures will include a budget. Well before the proposal defense, students who require or may require ethics clearance do the initial CORE training online and consult with their supervisor and possibly the Unit REB about the appropriate timing for full GREB application. As of January 2020 all supervisors need to take as well and submit their certificate with the student GREB application.

Research-Creation and Curatorial projects (鈥淧roject Option鈥) Proposals

In consultation with the supervisory committee, a Research-Creation or Curatorial Project proposal may integrate artistic production or a curatorial project (see the Guidelines for Research-Creation for more information). If it does, the ratio between the production or project and the written component will be discussed and determined by the committee and the length of the written component will be adjusted accordingly: the production component or curatorial project is not to be considered over and above the written component. All 鈥減roject option鈥 students will describe in the proposal how they will document their work, and how they conceive the relationship between the project and the written component. Students whose work will involve community collaborators must show that they have identified and communicated with appropriate participants, and they must justify their choice of participants given the theoretical, political, methodological, and practical contexts of their thesis or project.

Dissertation Formats

The dissertation may be designed in one of three formats: Monograph, Manuscript, or Portfolio.

鈥  A Monograph dissertation is a singular text modeled on the traditional book-length dissertation.

鈥  A Manuscript dissertation consists of a minimum of three independent essays (published, or determined by the dissertation committee to be publishable) which are set within a larger document that includes introductory and concluding chapters.

鈥  A Portfolio dissertation consists of multiple components of scholarship based in analytical writing, applied writing, and/or research creation (to be determined by the student and dissertation committee) and presented alongside introductory and concluding writing.

鈥  A literature review spanning the range of literature cited in the Portfolio components must appear either in the introductory writing or as a separate document.

Dissertations in the SCCS program adhere to Queen鈥檚 SGSPA guidelines for each dissertation format.

Undergraduate Syllabus Development

At the end of year 1, through SCCS 910, students will obtain A Certificate in Media Pedagogy.

Alongside the preparation of the PhD proposal in year 2 Winter and Summer terms, the student consults the supervisory committee to set the topic, contents, and instructional setting for the development of a Syllabus in their research area for an Undergraduate course. The syllabus will allow students to practice the transfer of research knowledge to an Undergraduate educational setting. Effort will be made to enable students in years 3-4 to teach the courses they design.

The Syllabus is evaluated according to the following criteria:

The relevance of its topic to the student鈥檚 course of study and research programme.

The level of topical knowledge demonstrated by the course design.

The appropriateness of the course content, pedagogy, and learning outcomes for the target audience and level of instruction.

The syllabus must include a narrative rationale addressing each of these factors to the examining committee. The committee may pass the syllabus, or if revisions are requested, the syllabus must be revised and resubmitted within two weeks of its first evaluation. The syllabus should be approved before the end of the second year of study.

Students are welcome to register in a term-long instructional development course SGS 902.

The syllabus is to be submitted alongside the proposal and discussed in the proposal defense.

PhD Proposal Defense

Before the end of year 2 Summer term, as the PhD thesis or project proposal is approaching completion, the Supervisor schedules the PhD proposal defence, finds a Chair for it (normally the SCCS Graduate Chair; this person conducts the meeting but does not play a role in the evaluation of the PhD proposal) and submits SCCS PhD Form D PhD Proposal Defense Arrangements Notice to

Ten working days prior to the scheduled PhD Proposal defence, the student distributes the PhD proposal to all committee members. The PhD Proposal defence focuses on the relevant theoretical, methodological, and substantive areas germane to the student鈥檚 program. The committee assesses the student鈥檚 understanding of the discipline, the viability, scope and coherence of the proposal, and the preparedness of the candidate to undertake the proposed thesis or project and offers suggestions for refinements or changes as appropriate. Also, at the PhD Proposal defence, committee members will assess the timeline and (if applicable) budget, and each committee member will clarify what they understand their consultative role to be going forward. Some discussion of plans for the student to share their work in progress (at conferences, exhibitions, etc.) would also be appropriate at this time. The Graduate Chair reports the result of the PhD Proposal defense by submitting SCCS PhD Form E PhD Proposal Defense Report to

If the PhD proposal is deemed insufficient, the student will have one opportunity to re-write the proposal and defend the revision within the next six months.

PhD Candidacy and Doctoral Research

After successfully completing and passing all coursework, completing and passing the QE, developing an Undergraduate Syllabus, and completing a PhD Proposal Defense in years 1 and 2, docotral students are considered to have completed their Comprehensive Examination and are advanced to candidacy for the PhD (ABD, All But Dissertation) and begin doctoral research in year 3.

During years 3 and 4, students conduct original research and prepare written components and creative projects of the dissertation under the guidance of the supervisor.

After the student advances to candidacy and before a completed dissertation is submitted, the student in consultation with the Supervisor may begin to plan the composition of the Dissertation Examining Committee. Normally the Supervisory Committee members continue onto this committee, although they may withdraw, or the student and Supervisor may choose to ask additional faculty members to serve.

In final form, the Dissertation Examining Committee consists of the Supervisor, two SCCS faculty members, an Internal/External Examiner (from Queen鈥檚 University but outside of SCCS) and an External Examiner (from outside of Queen鈥檚 University).


General procedures concerning the doctoral dissertation required of all candidates for the PhD are defined in the Graduate Calendar of the University and resources are available on the SGSPA website.

Supervisors will advise on matters of scope, methodology, originality, and structure. For Research-Creation students, see Guidelines for Research-Creation.

Oral Thesis Examination

The supervisor will schedule the Oral Thesis Examination by submitting the Ph.D. Oral Thesis Examination Form. This form outlines the composition of the Thesis Examining Committee and the other details of the thesis examination. The completed and signed form must reach the School of Graduate Studies ( no later than 25 working days before the tentative examination date.

The candidate must submit one copy of the thesis, to each member of the Thesis Examining Committee including the Chairperson, at least 25 working days in advance of the oral thesis examination. Additionally, a PDF copy of the thesis must be submitted to the School of Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs ( to be reviewed for formatting. The student will be notified of any required corrections.