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Dissertation Projects: The Qualifying Exam


The Qualifying Exam consists of an oral defense of two written research propositions on different subjects prepared under the guidance of different faculty members. The nature and scope of the two propositions are chosen and approved in consultation with the student's advisor and the Graduate Advisor. Propositions commonly are the result of the student's work in Independent Study courses (499's) and form the basis for future thesis research. For students entering with a Master's degree, one of the propositions may be based on their Master's thesis, but only with prior approval of the student's advisor and the Graduate Advisor. The examination focuses on the significance of the research, the student's command of the relevant research fields, and the appropriateness of the methods used as outlined in the propositions.

As soon as practically possible, but no later than the end of the first year of residence, students should submit in writing to the Graduate Advisor the titles of the two research propositions they will defend in the Qualifying Examination and the name of the advisor for each proposition. This is a requirement before scheduling of the Qualifying Examination can proceed. To schedule the Qualifying Exam, students should contact the Graduate Advisor and submit a completed Outline of Ph.D. Requirements form.

Students entering with a Bachelor's degree are required to take the Qualifying Examination by the end of their fifth quarter in residence. Students entering with a Master's degree must take the exam by the end of the fourth quarter of residence. The Graduate Advisor will appoint an Examining Committee consisting of the two faculty supervising the propositions and one more faculty member. Propositions should be in the hands of the Examining Committee not less than 5 working days before the examination. The Qualifying Examination is open to the departmental faculty, in addition to the members of the Examining Committee.

Foreign students from non-English-speaking countries must meet the minimum score requirements in TOEFL and TSE as set by the Graduate School before taking the Qualifying Examination.

The student may (i) pass the Qualifying Examination, and be admitted to Ph.D. candidacy by the Graduate School; (ii) fail the examination, in which case the student's support will cease and the student is expected to leave the program at the end of the quarter; (iii) or in unusual cases, be invited to take another Qualifiying Examination, no later than one quarter after the original exam.

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