PhD Exams: Requirements and Philosophy
PhD students must pass two comprehensive written examinations—one in the Rhetoric & Writing core, the other in the student’s selected concentration—and a third, the pre-dissertation prospectus exam. We highly recommend that students complete their exams in this order: core, concentration, prospectus defense. On rare occasions, a student’s guidance committee might wish to alter this order; in those cases, the committee chair should consult with the program director about the implications of such an alteration for the student’s success.
Students should arrange exam scheduling with their guidance committee during the regular process of annual review but well enough in advance of taking each exam that the committee has ample time to assist and advise the student for successful completion of each exam.
PhD students must also successfully complete an oral defense of the dissertation prospectus and preliminary bibliography and pass a final oral examination in defense of the dissertation. Students must be enrolled for at least one credit the semester in which they take the final oral examination. See “Standards for Maintaining Good Academic Standing” in Section 5.0 for information on exam assessment.
In this program we view exams as important for helping students develop professional knowledge and expertise about their core field and areas of specialization. Exams are designed to:
Exams are also opportunities for reflection and integration that move students forward as scholars and teachers. In short, we use exams to promote each student’s professional development. Given our view of exams, it should not be surprising to learn that portfolio work constitutes a significant portion (50%) of the PhD core and concentration exams.
PhD Core Exam
The core exam is based on the core courses in the PhD program. Thus, the core exam should be taken as soon as possible after the student has completed the core course requirements in the program. The core examconsists of two parts. Ideally this happens immediately following the second semester of the student’s second year in the program.
Part 1. Portfolio and Reflective Essay (50%)
For the PhD core exam, the student should submit a portfolio of work that draws from to the PhD core courses. This portfolio should provide samples of the student’s learning in those core courses, typically 3-5 papers. It must also include a reflective essay that shows the student synthesizing knowledge gained across the core courses.
The student must submit a copy of the portfolio to both the chair of the guidance committee and to the graduate secretary before s/he receives the questions for the take-home exam.
Part 2. Take-Home Exam (50%)
(15 pages each, double-spaced, not including works cited)
The take-home portion of the core examination consists of two essays in response to questions that engage and focus on the student’s experiences in the core courses. The essay questions will be cooperatively developed by the student and her/his guidance committee.
The process works as follows:
PhD Concentration Exam
The concentration exam is based on coursework the student has taken in a specialized field. Thus, the concentration exam should be taken as soon as possible after the student has completed the core exam, and the required nine credit hours of concentration coursework. The concentration exam is developed and evaluated by the student’s guidance committee. The exam itself consists of two parts.
Part 1. Portfolio and Reflective Essay (50%)
For the PhD concentration exam, the student submits a portfolio of work that pertains to the concentration. This portfolio should provide samples of the student’s learning in the concentration courses, typically, 3–5 products (course papers, syllabi and instructional materials, electronic material, conference presentations, any outside work that pertains to the student’s development in the concentration, etc.). It must also include a reflective essay that shows the student synthesizing knowledge gained across the concentration courses and that narrates the products included in the portfolio.
Part 2. Review Essay and Annotated Bibliography (50%)
The second half of the concentration exam consists of two parts: a review essay (25 double-spaced pages, maximum, not including works cited) and an annotated bibliography (40–70 sources) addressing the topic, issue, or question that has been designated as the focus of the review essay.
The review essay should:
The annotated bibliography should:
The Process for completing the concentration exam is as follows:
1. In consultation with her/his guidance committee, the student develops a guiding topic, issue, or question on a focus topic within the concentration area.
2. This process of consultation is informal but contains some important components: first, the guidance committee has a chance to consult with the student regarding the scope of the guiding topic, issue or question in order to insure it is narrow enough to be completed within the limits of the concentration exam requirements; second, the guidance committee has a chance to respond to a draft of the student’s list of sources to be annotated for the exam; third, the student will propose a timeline for the exam submission, generally within 12-15 weeks after the guiding topic, issue or question has been approved by the guidance committee.
3. When the review essay and annotated bibliography are completed, the student submits both parts of the concentration exam (portfolio, and literature review essay plus annotated bibliography) to the guidance committee chair and to the graduate secretary.
4. Two weeks after the exam is submitted, the guidance committee submits to the student a written evaluation of the exam. See Section 5.0 of this handbook for details on how the PhD concentration exam is evaluated.
5. The guidance committee chair completes and signs the appropriate section of the Examination Record form.