RPE Process

The RPE process typically begins in the first four-month term of study (Term 1) of an incoming PhD or PhD-track student. Subsequent four-month terms are referred to as Term 2, Term 3, etc. In the absence of a formal leave from the program, it is assumed that these terms will be consecutive. So, for a student starting in September, with no leaves, Term 1 means September through December, Term 2 means January through April, and term 3 means May through August.

Identify a supervisor: Students need to have identified the faculty member with whom they will work on a research project for RPE purposes by the end of Term 1 of their study. In general, this faculty member will continue as the thesis supervisor throughout the PhD studies, so we will refer to this faculty member as the supervisor of the student. PhD students are expected to have formalized a supervisory arrangement very early in Term 1 of their study.

Strike an RPE Supervisory Committee: The student’s supervisor forms an RPE committee for the student. This committee must include the student’s supervisory committee (if one has already been struck) and must conform to all rules applicable to a PhD supervisory committee.

Formulate an RPE project: Early in Term 2, students and their supervisor should start a process that leads to the identification of an RPE research project. This step must be completed by the middle of the last month of Term 2.

  1. The student, in consultation with the supervisor, should first give a written proposal for a research project to the RPE supervisory committee based on preliminary research discussions.
  2. The RPE project can be part of a larger research project involving other students, as long as the individual contribution of the RPE project can be identified.
  3. The proposal can be up to two pages long. It should include both a start and termination date for the project.
  4. The committee must approve the proposed project as being suitable for the student to work on within the proposed timeframe.
  5. Approved proposals should be filed with the Graduate Program Administrator.

Complete the RPE Project: The student will work on the approved research project for a four-month period, typically term 3 of the program. The student will continue to have periodic meetings with the supervisor during this period, receiving guidance. The supervisor is expected to engage at the same level as during the rest of the student’s PhD studies.
It is recognized that the RPE project constitutes a four-month snapshot of work. Nevertheless, it is critical to adhere to this timeframe, rather than to extend it in order to produce a more polished/comprehensive outcome. Significant delays in the timeline may result in loss of good standing status, which will have implications on fellowships, tuition waivers, and other funding.

Prepare an RPE Project Report: By the middle of the first month following completion of the RPE project, the student is required to submit a written report of the research outcomes.

  1. The report, written in a style similar to a typical conference paper, will include a clear motivation for the work, its place in the context of related work, significance, and a detailed account of the contributions, along with necessary technical development.
  2. The suggested length of the written report is up to 12 pages, single-spaced, two-column format.
  3. The report must be submitted to the RPE committee, and be filed with the Graduate Program Administrator.

Schedule the RPE examination: The final evaluation for the RPE should be scheduled to take place two to four weeks following the submission of the RPE report. It is recommended that the student start scheduling the RPE examination well before the submission of the report.


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