Dissertation process

Royal Roads' dissertation process is defined by our academic regulations.

Guiding you through the process

As you approach the start of your dissertation, you'll learn more about the process from your program area and the theses and dissertations manager in the Office of the Vice-President Academic and Provost.

You'll have support to guide you through the process.

Definition of a dissertation

Our academic regulations define the dissertation at Royal Roads, including the requirements for completion.

The dissertation should constitute approximately 1,400 hours of effort by the student resulting in the awarding of 42 credits.

The candidate must defend their dissertation publicly in order to complete the requirements.

Doctor of Social Sciences

A dissertation completed for the Doctor of Social Sciences program must make a distinct interdisciplinary contribution to applied scholarship in the social sciences.

Doctor of Business Administration

A dissertation completed for the Doctor of Business Administration program must make a distinct contribution to applied scholarship in management and business-related areas.

Dissertation supervisory committee

In consultation with the Program Head, the student assembles a dissertation supervisory committee that will need to go through an approval process. Approval is given first by the Program Head and then by a representative from the Office of the Vice-President Academic and Provost.

The supervisory committee should meet the following requirements:

  • It must be composed of one supervisor, and a minimum of two and maximum of three committee members (for DSocSci students) OR a maximum of four committee members (for DBA students).
  • At least one supervisory committee member must be a full-time, adjunct or associate faculty member at Royal Roads University at the time of the committee nomination. In some circumstances, a supervisor or committee member who is not full-time Royal Roads faculty may be eligible.
  • Normally, all members hold a doctorate. In exceptional circumstances, individuals with extensive practitioner experience who are recognized as an expert in the field may be eligible to serve as a supervisor or committee member.

Dissertation supervisor

The dissertation supervisor must be qualified at the doctoral level. They must demonstrate relevant competencies of content, methodology and methods.

External examiner

An external examiner joins the supervisory committee to provide an independent assessment of the quality of the candidate’s research.

Choosing the external examiner

The external examiner must:

  • have an “arm's-length” relationship with the candidate, dissertation supervisor and other members of the supervisory committee (current Royal Roads University associate and adjunct faculty are not considered arm's-length)
  • not have had a personal or collaborative professional relationship with the student, supervisor within the last five years
  • have a doctorate in a related area of study

Role of external examiner

Prior to the candidate's defence, the external examiner will submit a report of the dissertation to the Office of the Vice-President Academic and Provost. The report will be shared with the candidate and supervisory committee.

Conflict of interest

It's the responsibility of the candidate and supervisory committee to ensure there is no conflict of interest when choosing the external examiner. To maintain the integrity of the examiner process, the student, supervisor and committee members should not contact the external examiner directly. The Office of the Vice-President Academic and Provost performs all communication with potential or confirmed external examiners.

Becoming a doctoral candidate

Work on the dissertation may not begin until a doctoral student has completed the written and oral candidacy examination. Once the exams have been successfully completed, the student becomes a doctoral candidate.

Record of dissertation progress

The candidate and the supervisory committee are required to use the Dissertation Manager's SharePoint site throughout the dissertation process. Information and correspondence shared through SharePoint constitutes the university’s formal record of dissertation progress.

Defence of dissertation

Each dissertation will need to pass an oral, public defence.

The candidate must:

  • defend the contents of the dissertation
  • demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of research methods appropriate to the topic and fields of study
  • demonstrate a comprehensive knowledge of the literature in the field(s) and the work of other scholars

The defence includes

  • a 15- to 20-minute presentation by the student, summarizing the major themes and findings of the dissertation
  • two rounds of questioning by committee members
  • a decision from the committee, by majority vote, that includes recommendations (see the dissertation process for the recommendation options and information about appealing the decision)

Normally, a defence should not exceed 180 minutes.

Publishing the dissertation

Unless an exemption has been granted by the Vice President Academic and Provost, all theses must be submitted for publication in Royal Roads’ digital archive, as well as Pro-Quest and Library and Archives Canada to meet final graduation requirements.

Dissertations in a non-traditional format, such as by portfolio, must be accompanied either a

  • 2,500-word synthesis paper for the DSocSci


  • 8,500 word summary for the DBA

These are the only components that will be electronically submitted and archived.