PhD Comprehensive Examination

The goal of the Comprehensive Examination is to write an original essay that investigates key issues of the assigned topic. Rather than being an "exam answer" or a summary of published literature, the Comprehensive Examination should be akin to a journal article 20-30 pages in length.

The University Calendar states the following basic guidelines regarding this format:

  1. The Ph.D. Comprehensive Examination shall be administered in accordance with General Regulations, Comprehensive Examinations. Students will prepare for three examinations by undertaking supervised readings in three fields decided by the Comprehensive Examinations Committee. The basic principle is to integrate knowledge within specific areas of folklore and folklife scholarship. The examination normally will be written with the format to be determined by the Comprehensive Examination Committee in consultation with the student. Assessment will be based on the examination of three papers each of one week duration or three open book examinations each of eight hour duration. The Committee will recommend to the Dean of Graduate Studies a grade of pass, re-examination, or fail.
Timeline for Comprehensive Examinations

1. In accordance with the University Calendar regulations regarding timing, the student notifies the Head (in writing) of their desire to write the comprehensive examination, and indicates that they will be doing the essay format. This request should be made at least four months before the projected start date of writing.

2. Upon approval of the student's request, the student and supervisor decide on three concentrations within the following categories. The committee may modify them.

  1. Theory/History/Research Methods
  2. Ballad/Song/ Narrative/Speech Play
  3. Custom/Foodways/Material Culture/Belief

3. The student and supervisor discuss membership of the comps committee. Five members, including three for their expertise related to the three topics, are required from the department faculty or from further afield when necessary for expertise. The committee must include the Head and/or the Graduate Coordinator, and the student's supervisor.

4. The student approaches potential committee members and confirms their participation. The suggested list of members is given to the Head who passes it on to SGS for approval and official appointment.

5. The student prepares three draft bibliographies and presents each to the appropriate specialist.

6. Each bibliography will consist of approximately fifty sources, for a total of 150 items, with nothing repeated from one to another bibliography. Each bibliography should be balanced in terms of fundamental or classic works and more recent material. It must conform stylistically to the departmental style format and be free of all errors. The bibliography will be regarded as the core of the student's preparation in each area of concentration, but the student's reading is expected to extend beyond this list of works.

7. The committee meets to review the areas of concentration and the bibliographies, to make a list of required revisions, to approve their final content, and to draft the comps questions. The supervisor reports back to the student on behalf of the committee with the required revisions. The chair of the committee arranges with the department office to place the locked-down questions on the electronic distribution system (e.g. D2L) or otherwise save the questions.

8. The student revises the bibliographies and – upon the supervisor's approval – submits the completed and corrected versions to the main office where they are filed as the official reading lists for that student's exams.

9. The Head confirms the formation of the committee and the scheduling of the exam with SGS. The Head also confirms the exam schedule with the student in writing. Normally this happens at least three months prior to the student's writing of the comps exam.

10. The comprehensive exams are normally written over a single three-week period. The student is given one question per week for three weeks at around 9 am on Monday morning and the completed question must be submitted before 5 pm the following Friday (five days later).

11. When all three papers are submitted, the committee meets to evaluate the exams. The result is one of Fail, Pass, or Pass With Distinction.

12. The supervisor or Head communicates the exam result to the student, and the Head conveys it plus the student's answers to the SGS. The committee will not provide feedback on the exam.