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Graduate Student FAQ


What are the roles and responsibilities of my supervisor?

The School of Graduate Studies produces a Graduate Supervision Handbook along with a series of other resources. Review them and discuss them with your supervisor. Establishing a good foundation of communication and feedback practices early in the supervision process is important.


How can I improve my teaching skills?

The Centre for Teaching and Learning offers assistance to any Queen’s instructor or teaching assistant (TA) through a broad range of services, programs and activities. They offer workshops, consultations, opportunities to practise teaching skills, and access to information about teaching and learning. Learn about various TA Development programs.


How can I access Professional Development as a graduate student?

The School of Graduate Studies offers a suite of workshops and resources called Expanding Horizons that support academic, professional, and personal success.


What are some academic supports I can access?

Most academic support programs offered by QUIC and SASS are open to graduate students. They range from online resources from 1:1 consultations to workshops. Explore various academic support programming to see what suits your needs.

A program especially recommended for graduate students is the Grad Writing Lab. Graduate students can drop in and work on their writing in a graduate community space. There is a dedicated academic writing specialist on site who can help students with any writing questions. The lab runs every Monday and Thursday from 9am-12pm in the Graduate Reading Room on the third floor of Stauffer Library. Come for the full three hours or just drop-in to ask a question.


What are some terms I may encounter in graduate school?

Academic Integrity:

The practice of honest and responsible scholarship within the Canadian academic context. Violations can have serious consequences for an academic. Read about the possible violations on the Queen’s Academic Integrity website. Complete SASS’s Academic Integrity module to learn more.

Citation, Citation Styles, and Citation Managers: Academic writing depends on the ability to properly give credit to the ideas of other scholars through citation. Citation styles “are a set of rules or standards established by a specific society, association or publisher for documenting various sources of information” (Queen’s University Library –learn more about Citing Sources here). Citation managers help collect, organize, cite and share references. Explore the Library’s overview of Citation Managers.


A group of graduate students who start their program in the same year and progress together for the duration of their program. A cohort has the potential to become a supportive community as a student completes a program.

Conference Presentation:

An oral or poster presentation given at an academic conference to present research.

Doctoral Candidate:

A PhD student who has completed all their coursework and comprehensive exams and is working on a dissertation. They may also be referred to as ABD (All but Dissertation).

English as an Additional Language (EAL):

Students with “English as an additional language,” means students who learned to speak English after their first language or are multilingual. Queen’s has switched to using the term, “English as an Additional Language,” or “EAL,” instead of ESL. The reason for this is to acknowledge that some students speak more than two languages. Visit SASS’s EAL page for EAL support.

Graduate Chair/ Graduate Program Assistant: Every department with a graduate program has a Graduate Chair that oversees the program. The Graduate Program Assistant or Graduate Coordinator is responsible for the daily administration and operation of the program. Along, with your supervisor, these individuals should be your main sources of information and support.

Lecture/ Seminar/ Tutorial/ Lab:

The different kinds of classroom structures that graduate students may encounter as a student or as a Teaching Assistant. Lectures are classroom-based instruction where the focus is on the presentation of information. Tutorials and labs supplement lectures and allow for discussion and interaction. Seminars are also classroom-based instruction, usually in upper-years for smaller groups, and are also about engagement.


A detailed written study on a particular subject, usually in book form.


The process of evaluating the work of a scholar by a group of experts in the field to determine suitability for publication.


A habit of delaying that often causes stress at university because of the self-motivated nature of studying at Queen’s. Access some resources about Motivation and Procrastination on the SASS website. Book a Learning Strategies Advising 1:1 appointment where an advisor can help with improving academic motivation.

Qualifying or Comprehensive Exam:

An assessment that shows a graduate student’s understanding of a field of study and determines if they are knowledgeable enough to be a doctoral candidate. Departments and disciplines differ in the exam requirements.

Scholarly Journal:

A collection of research articles that is published regularly throughout the year on a specific academic field or area of research. The articles contain original research and are usually peer-reviewed.


An acronym for the Society of Graduate and Professional Students. It is the student society that represents and advocates for graduate, law and consecutive education students at Queen’s.


An acronym for the School of Graduate Studies. The School houses 125 Queen’s graduate programs. The School offers support services for graduate students, like The Habitat (a resource hub) and Expanding Horizons (a workshop series).

Thesis/ Dissertation:

These terms are often used interchangeably but, generally, a thesis is completed as part of a research-based master’s degree. A dissertation is completed as part of a doctoral degree. Both support the candidature for a graduate degree.

Writing Process:

Effective writing in graduate school is a process that takes work before getting to a final draft. Take advantage of writing and learning support programs on campus to develop skills to effectively engage in this process. Learn more here.