Comprehensive Exam

The comprehensive examination consists of two written exams and an oral defense. Students will submit two Annotated Bibliographies the term before their PhD exams (after completing their Guided Readings), which will then serve as the basis for their PhD exam reading lists. Each written examination covers a subfield that pertains to the student’s primary fields of interest. The subfields should be defined and prepared with three RL faculty members who will constitute the PhD exam committee. Students will be encouraged to include a fourth member from another UO department. By week 2 of the term of their PhD exams, students submit a form with the signature of each member of the committee, verifying that they have received the final reading list for exams and that they are prepared to participate in the examination committee. The exam committee is selected by the student and the advisor, according to the student’s fields of research and in consultation with the faculty members the student has been working with throughout their graduate studies.

In consultation with the members of this committee, students create a reading list for their designated primary field and secondary field. In consultation with their adviser, they may opt to add a third subfield. Students will prepare a list of critical, methodological, and/or theoretical works that support their primary and secondary fields, which they will then incorporate into their preparation for the second exam. This reading list must be approved by the exam committee no later than week 2 of the term of the exams. Students are responsible for distributing the reading list to each of the committee members as these members sign the exam form. Each written exam will take the form of an essay (maximum 25 pages, double-spaced) that responds to one of two questions formulated by members of the PhD exam committee, and will cover one or more of the subfields. Students will have two weeks to write each of these essays. Two weeks after the successful completion of these written essays, students will then take an oral examination. The oral exam will allow students to integrate the areas addressed in the written exams with the other facets of their declared fields of interest. In this two-hour conversation, the committee members help students to articulate how their written essays will best lead to the development of the dissertation project. Exam 1 should be received in Week 4, turned in in Week 6; Exam 2 should be received in Week 6 and submitted in Week 8; the oral defense should be in Week 10.

Undertaken by the sixth term of study following the MA, the comprehensive examination should result in clarification of both the subject matter of the dissertation and possible approaches to it. The exam should, in other words, yield a dissertation topic. It is the responsibility of the students to initiate the scheduling of both the written and the oral portions of the comprehensive examination. Upon successful completion of the PhD comprehensive exam, students are formally advanced to candidacy and may begin preparing the dissertation prospectus. Students who fail one or both components of the PhD exam will be allowed to retake it (in whole or in part) once. The Graduate Coordinator and the DGS will make sure that the student retakes the exams no later than 6 months after their first attempt. If their second attempt is deemed unsatisfactory, they are disqualified from PhD candidacy and must withdraw from the graduate program, the department will award them a terminal MA.