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Department of Leadership, Higher and Adult Education

Application Tips for Doctoral Programs

Learn how to submit a strong application for LHAE doctoral programs.

Items to Submit when Applying:

  1. Statement of intent (t (comprised of several pre-determined questions, which can be found on the program webpage under ‘Admissions and Application Information’) 
  2. CV/Resume
  3. Academic Letter of Reference
  4. Professional Letter of Reference
  5. Sample of Written Work
  6. Transcripts (from all post-secondary institutions attended)


The Department welcomes applicants with diverse but relevant backgrounds. The purpose of the resume or CV is to share your past experiences and achievements with the Admissions Committee. Below are some tips to keep in mind when crafting your document:

  • Highlight relevant:
  • Education history (both academic and professional);
  • Employment history, including names of employers, job titles, position responsibilities, and dates employed;
  • Volunteer history;
  • Community activism, and participation/leadership in civic endeavours;
  • Academic and professional achievements;
  • Awards;
  • Publications;
  • Conferences or major presentations;
  • skills.
  • There is no minimum or maximum length.

Academic Letter of Reference

Providing a letter from a former professor or instructor (i.e. someone who has taught you in an academic capacity) is the strongest way to represent your academic abilities. A strong reference often provides impressions of an applicant’s:

·         Scholarly accomplishments and academic abilities

·         Leadership and interpersonal skills

·         Oral and written language proficiency

·         Research aptitude, problem solving and organizational skills

·         Technical expertise

·         Any other academic assets you would bring to our program

Professional Letter of Reference 

A professional letter of reference serves to highlight your professional and/or volunteer experience, competencies and accomplishments and how they relate to the program you are applying for and your success therein. These can be written by a current or past employer, or professional supervisor*. Often, professional letters comment on an applicant’s:

·         Professional experience, expertise, influence and responsibility

·         Interpersonal, leadership and communication skills

·         Professionalism, work ethic and ability to take direction and feedback

·         Organization, problem-solving, and planning ability

·         Curiosity, innovation, creativity, etc.

*See our FAQ page if your referee does not have an institutional email address.

Sample of Written Work 

A supplementary writing sample is used by the Admissions Committee to assess an applicant's readiness to succeed in rigorous coursework and to conduct systematic research for a PhD. 

  • The Admissions Committee will look for evidence that applicants understand how to, or have the potential to:
    • Craft an academic document
    • Define a research problem
    • Devise an appropriate focus for an inquiry
    • Assemble and analyze evidence
    • Develop conclusions in a rigorous manner. 
  • Examples include an undergraduate thesis, long essays or papers written for undergraduate courses, reports and studies written as part of employment, or other documents that demonstrate the ability to conduct research at the master's degree level.
  • The sample of written work is typically around 5000 words. 

Qualifying Research Paper (Adult Education and Community Development only)

Applicants who have completed an appropriate master's degree that did not include a thesis or research project are required to complete a Qualifying Research Paper (QRP) to a standard satisfactory to the Admissions Committee.

  • A QRP is an original, sole-authored, and rigorous piece of research that is considered equivalent to a master's thesis, with a length between 50 and 90 double-spaced pages, and methodology and theoretical perspective spelt out as appropriate.
  • The QRP must be submitted electronically to the LHAE Department, ( by January 21, 2022. Please note that in the case of an extension of the application deadline, QRPs submitted after the January 21 deadline will still be reviewed.
  • For general QRP information, please see OISE's Guidelines for the QRP.


For details on transcripts, please see the Office of the Registrar and Student Services’ Prepare Supporting Documents page.