PhD in Science and Technology Studies

Up to two years (6 terms) of coursework will train students to identify and respond to crucial questions regarding:

  • the diversity of the scientific enterprise
  • its epistemological underpinnings in investigative practices and material cultures
  • its cultural embeddedness, including the ways in which scientific knowledge is gendered, raced, and classed
  • the interactions between concepts of the human, the social, and the natural within the sciences
  • technology as an ethical, political, economic and social force
  • the communication of scientific and technological developments, including its representational and pedagogical aspects
  • science, technology, and cross–cultural exchange

Degree Requirements

In preparing their doctoral dissertation, students will adopt a coherent and rigorous approach to the solution of such questions that will draw upon the quantitative and qualitative methodologies of the social sciences and humanities. Students will be provided with opportunities for both teaching and research assistantships, and will be expected by the time they have completed the degree to have demonstrated autonomy in conducting research through the pursuit of scholarly publications, research grants, and teaching.

Although the program is aimed at preparing students for a career in STS teaching and research, their knowledge and skills are meant to be transferable to other professions, including policy analysis, journalism, education, and law.

These objectives will be achieved through a combination of formal course work, comprehensive exams, and a dissertation normally completed in five years (15 terms).

Course Requirements

  • Students will be required to take the equivalent of three full graduate course (18 credits), of which one (6 credits) may be from another program, and of which up to 6 credits may be in directed readings.
  • Students will be required to take the 3 credit introduction to STS in the fall term of their first year (within the first 3 terms), unless they have already taken the course as an MA student in the York University STS program.
  • Students will be expected to complete all coursework by 30 April in the second year of the PhD (or PhD II).

Comprehensive Exams

Field comprehensives in the Graduate Program in Science and Technology Studies serve two primary and closely related purposes. First, they require doctoral students to situate their areas of research within a clearly defined field of scholarly study in Science and Technology Studies. Second, they require students to demonstrate a sound knowledge of the major scholarly works that define and illuminate their fields of scholarly study. Both are important in the formation of a scholar in Science and Technology Studies. Undertaking these exams will prepare and qualify students to teach undergraduate courses in the fields examined and will equip students with the specialized knowledge they need to undertake research for their doctoral dissertation. Normally, it is expected that students will take the exam by 25 August in PhD II. In the case of failure students will be permitted to re-sit the examination only once, and the re-examination is to take place within six months of the date of the first examination. A second failure will require withdrawal from the Program.

The Fields

Students will select three of the four following fields:

  1. Biosciences and Biotechnologies
  2. Human–Machine Interactions
  3. Public Science
  4. Physical Systems

Or they will select two of the four fields above and construct a field within a discipline, in consultation with the Program Director and the Supervisor, which does not substantially duplicate any of the four STS fields. Normally, to prepare for the disciplinary field, students will successfully complete a course in that discipline in addition to creating a reading list.

The Reading Lists

The composition of the reading lists must be done carefully. A large number of the works are selected by the student, but in close consultation with their supervisor. It is highly recommended that students also consult with the members of their examination committee. The reading lists will be composed of two parts:

  1. A list of 15 core works common to all students being examined in that field and compiled by faculty in that field.
  2. A list of 35 works selected by the student in consultation with their supervisor, and guided by the list of 60 recommended works compiled by faculty in that field.

In the case of disciplinary field, students will create a reading list composed of 50 works in conjunction with the relevant members of their committee.

The list of works for each field must be submitted six months before the comprehensive exam is to take place.

The Committee

The examination committee will be composed of four faculty: the Program Director or his/her representative; the student’s supervisor, an STS faculty member appointed by the Director in consultation with the student and the supervisor; and either another STS faculty member or a member of the Faculty of Graduate Studies from another program appointed by the Director in consultation with the student and the supervisor. The committee should be formed by May 15th in the first year of the PhD (or PhD I). The role of the committee is crucial. The members of the committee should be an integral part of the process of composing a list of works for examination, and to this end they should meet regularly. Each committee will determine the aspects of comprehensive examinations not specified in this document.

Demonstrating Comprehensive Knowledge

Candidates will be required to demonstrate comprehensive knowledge of the designated fields on the examination. Evidence of such comprehensive knowledge will be assessed on the basis of the candidate’s competence in providing answers to questions during the examination that address the material in relation to significance critical and theoretical issues. Examiners will want to know that candidates have a firm grasp of each of their fields: what are the key questions raised in this field? what methods of investigation are appropriate in this field? how is this field related to the other fields? who are the influential scholars, both past and present, who helped define these fields?

Comprehensive Examination Format

There will be one exam, three hours in length, covering all three fields. This will allow questions that ask students to explore connections between fields, enhancing the interdisciplinary nature of the exam. The exam will be oral, rather than written, similar to other interdisciplinary programs such as Social and Political Thought and Humanities. Before the exam begins the chair will send the candidate out of the room. The committee will then agree on the length and order of each round of questioning. Usually, the supervisor goes last. It is the chair’s job to ensure that members of the committee stay within the time allotted. The committee will also decide on the structure of the exam. A common model is detailed in the following. Once the committee is ready to proceed with the examination, the candidate will then be invited back into the room. The candidate can then be examined on each field, one by one. In the first round of questioning, each member of the committee has the opportunity to ask the candidate questions about the reading list for the first field within the agreed upon time. After an hour, the questioning begins again, but this time on the second field. The final hour is devoted to questions on the third field. Once the questioning has come to an end, the student is asked to leave the room so that the committee can make their decision. The committee can choose to pass or to fail the candidate. The candidate is then invited back into the room and the committee’s decision is announced. The members of the committee must sign the standard comprehensive exam form that records their decision and allows them to make comments.

Language Requirement

  • Students working in an area where the language is other than English must demonstrate to the members of their dissertation supervisory committee that they have the ability to read primary sources and secondary literature in that language.


  • Students will establish a Supervisory Committee of three members, at least two of whom will be members of the Graduate Program in Science and Technology Studies. The third member may be appointed in a Graduate Program other than STS. Deadline is 15 October in PhD III.
  • Submission of a dissertation proposal and its subsequent approval by the supervisory committee. Students must use the proposal template below and the deadline is 1 December in PhD III.
  • Completion of a dissertation that makes an original contribution to STS scholarship.