programs/phd-international-studies/comprehensive-and-dissertation-proposal-exams
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Comprehensive and dissertation proposal exams

 

Comprehensive exam (ETI-8003)

Objective

Once students have completed PhD coursework, typically after three or four semesters in the program, they must undergo an examination that assesses their conceptual, theoretical, and methodological knowledge and ascertains their readiness to begin writing their dissertations. The comprehensive exam is prepared by an assessment committee made up of professors from the student’s two chosen core disciplines.

Composition

There are four professors on the assessment committee, two from each discipline.

Preparation for the exam

Before the end of the winter semester, a list of the professors chosen to sit on comprehensive exam committees during the coming academic year (which begins in fall) is compiled. These professors must provide bibliographies pertinent to their fields (or update existing ones). These suggested readings and the concepts acquired during program coursework constitute the basic knowledge on which the student will be evaluated. The bibliographies ( 20 to 30 titles per discipline) will be available from program administration no later than one month after the end of the winter semester and will remain valid for the following academic year (fall/winter/summer semesters).

How the exam is conducted

Exams take place in the fall (no later than October 31), winter (no later than February 28), or summer (no later than June 30), with dates announced at least three weeks in advance. During the examination, the assessment committee asks the student a question (possibly a multi-part question) about each of the student’s two selected core disciplines. The student then has 10 days in which to produce a 20-page written response (10 pages per discipline).

Within two weeks of submitting the written response, the student will be asked to appear before the committee to present an oral defence of the analysis, lasting approximately 30 minutes. The student must then respond to questions from members (approximately 15 minutes each).

The student leaves the room after the presentation so the committee can deliberate. Committee members must complete and sign the grade form immediately after the presentation. The committee spokesperson informs the candidate of the outcome—on a Pass/Fail (or P/F) basis—and  sends the result to the program director.

To successfully complete the exam, students must receive a passing grade (P) from at least three of the four jury members. The exam may only be retaken once. Retakes must be scheduled within two semesters at most.

Registration procedure

To register for the comprehensive exam during a given semester, students must contact the program director and complete form HEI-801, available in the section entitled Forms.

This step ensures that students have clearly identified the two disciplines selected for their PhD programs and confirmed their two co-advisors when they begin preparing for the comprehensive exam.

 

Dissertation proposal exam (ETI-8004)

During the semester in which they register for the dissertation proposal exam—typically their fifth or sixth semester in the PhD program—students are required to submit their dissertation proposals. The proposal, which must be in writing, is then defended orally before a four-person jury consisting of the student’s dissertation advisor and co-advisor, and two professors from the selected disciplines. The program director serves as the jury chair.

Written document

  • The proposal should be approximately 25 pages long (single spaced) and must be distributed to jury members as well as the program director at least two weeks before the presentation.
  • It must include the dissertation outline, problem description, methodology, and a preliminary bibliography.

Presentation

  • The program director serves as moderator.
    The student’s presentation should take approximately 30 minutes.
  • Each committee member poses questions (maximum 10 minutes each), beginning with the two professors who are not serving as advisor and co-advisor
  • The student and program director then leave the room so the committee can deliberate. Members must complete and sign the grade form immediately afterward.
  • The committee spokesperson informs the candidate of the decision (P/F) and provides an oral summary of comments made on the form (committee expectations).

If the proposal is judged unsatisfactory, the committee may decide to issue a grade of M and give the candidate a maximum of one semester to prepare to repeat the exam. In such cases, the student must be given suggestions as to how to improve the proposal. A final grade (P or F) will then be issued. In the event that the second attempt results in a failing grade (F), the student will not be allowed to pursue the PhD program.

Members of the dissertation proposal exam committee/jury generally serve as members of the dissertation jury as well.

Registration procedure

To register for the dissertation proposal exam during a given semester, students must contact the program director and complete form HEI-802, available in the section entitled Forms.

This form is used to confirm with the student’s co-advisors that he or she is ready for this phase. It is also used to identify the professors who will make up the examination jury.

 

For information

If you have other questions about exams for the PhD in international studies, please contact us at programmes@hei.ulaval.ca

 

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