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Department of American Studies College of Arts and Sciences

Ph.D. Qualifying Exam

AMST PhD Qualifying Exam Policy (for students who entered the program prior to January 2008)

Before the Exam

  • Students may take the exam after completion of the American Studies course requirements during any weekday from the beginning of the third to the end of the fourteenth week in the fall or spring semester; it may be repeated once if necessary.
  • Students preparing for the exam should plan on consulting the program's associate director about their exam areas and the American Studies Reading List in the semester prior to the proposed exam date.
  • All students must submit a draft bibliography list of 25 titles together with an explanatory cover letter at least THREE MONTHS in advance of the exam, in order to allow sufficient time for discussion and any needed revisions. Final versions of these documents must be submitted no later than SIX WEEKS in advance of the exam.

Exam Committee

  • Students will work with the director of graduate studies to constitute an exam committee.
  • Specifically, exam-takers will submit to the director of graduate studies the names of two faculty members, at least one of whom must be a member of the American Studies faculty. (Students will be encouraged to name faculty with whom they have worked in the past and who have already, informally, agreed to serve.)
  • The director of graduate studies will then confirm the participation of the two proposed examiners and appoint a third member to this committee from among the AMST faculty. This appointment should be based on some degree of correlation between the faculty member's area(s) of expertise and the student's research interests.
  • Either the chair or the director of graduate studies will serve as a fourth (ex-officio) member of the committee. This latter provision should help to ensure that standards and criteria remain consistent.

Exam Format

Five hour, written exam in which students will select and answer one question from each of the following two categories:

  • The Projects of American Studies
    Questions in this section of the exam will address the institutional contexts and intellectual history of American Studies with emphasis on the salient shifts in the understanding of the "field"--its objects, aims, and methodologies. While questions may foreground some issues and methods central to the student's research area(s), they should invite articulation of those topics with the evolving work of American Studies.
  • Critical Problems
    Questions in this section of the exam will address how the student's discipline-based research both benefits from and contributes to the work of American Studies. Students should expect to formulate their research interests both topically (by reference to a particular object of study) and conceptually (by reference to the stakes in constructing/investigating such an object). Questions will ask how students are influenced in framing their object of study by the interdisciplinary and increasingly transnational context of American Studies.
Last revised 11/2007