PhD Qualifying Exams


LJ Shrum seeks information on current practice with respect to papers versus tests for PhD qualifying exams

 ARC: Connections: ELMAR: Posting

I would like to get information regarding current practices for the format of qualifying exams. Specifically, some schools have moved away from the traditional exam structure that tests specific knowledge and toward comprehensive papers that more directly test a student’s ability to conduct independent research. These papers are generally a very broad-based but comprehensive review and synthesis of a research area, and from this review and synthesis, specific testable propositions are derived. Presumably, this lays out a program of research that could lead to multiple studies and publications, and if appropriate, a dissertation. In fact, it may be viewed as even broader than a dissertation (depending on formats for the dissertation of course), and thus the dissertation may come from only a portion of the research program laid out in the paper.

I’m curious as to which and how many programs have adopted this format. It is my understanding that Florida and Illinois have instituted something similar to the comprehensive paper format, but I do not know specifically about other programs. Thus, if you have adopted this format, or something similar to it, I would appreciate hearing about it. If you have the time, I’d also like to know how well it has worked out, any potential problems, etc.

We are considering adopting this format for our doctoral program at UTSA, thus would like to know people’s experiences. In addition, we’d like to know if you had any problems in adopting the paper format (e.g., from the university), and if so, how you dealt with them.

I’d be happy to share the results of this inquiry with the listserv.

I appreciate any information you can provide.

L. J. Shrum, Ph.D.
Professor and Chair
Department of Marketing
University of Texas at San Antonio
1 UTSA Circle
San Antonio, TX 78249-0632
210.458.5374 (office)
210.458.6335 (fax)
210.545.6386 (home)
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