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Procedures for Qualifying Exams

1.  Graduate students progress to the Department of Sociology's qualifying examination after first completing their Master's degree.  Students must successfully complete the Qualifying Exam before being advanced to Ph.D. candidacy.  Qualifying Exams may be attempted twice; a student who fails in a second attempt ordinarily will not be advanced to Ph.D. candidacy.  Appeals may be directed to the Graduate Recruitment and Evaluation Committee, but will be granted only in exceptional cases.

2.  Students should take Qualifying Exams before the start of their fourth year in the program. Failure to complete the exams by this time jeopardizes a student's timely progress toward the Ph.D., and will be taken into account during Departmental evaluations and funding decisions.

3.  Each student will form a Qualifying Committee made up of two faculty members from the Department of Sociology.  The student will select one member as Chair.  A third member-at-large (“generalist”) will be appointed to each Qualifying Committee by the Department Chair in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies.

4.  In consultation initially with the Chair of the Qualifying Committee, and later with the other Committee members, each student will prepare a list of appropriate readings.  The length of the reading list will vary by research area, but as a guideline it should consist of about 30 books and 100 journal articles/book chapters.  Reading lists must be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies, in consultation (if necessary) with the Graduate Recruitment and Evaluation Committee.  Most reading lists will continue to evolve as a student prepares for the exam: new items may be added, unnecessary ones deleted.  Reading lists submitted to the Director of Graduate Studies for approval must be accompanied by: the names of the first and second readers, preferred dates for the examination, and a 1-2 paragraph description/rationale for the proposed research area.

5.  The reading list should define a broad substantive area of sociological research, including both contemporary and classical literature.  The broad substantive area should be roughly equivalent to a commonly recognized sociological specialty.  In general, the reading list should adequately prepare the student to do research and to teach a graduate level substantive course in the chosen specialty.  The Qualifying Exam is designed to serve as a bridge between graduate course work and preparation of a dissertation proposal.  There are no pre-approved areas or reading lists.

Note:   Examples of reading lists are available from the graduate secretary upon request.

6.  A student may not devise a Qualifying Exam exclusively in theory or methods; however, the substantive literature should be linked to broader issues of theory and method in sociology as a whole.

7.  Qualifying Exams may be scheduled for an exam period mutually agreeable to the student, the Qualifying Committee and the Director of Graduate Studies (who is responsible for administering the exam). Qualifying exams are normally scheduled to be taken during one of four exam periods offered throughout the academic year. Exams may be scheduled for the third week of the fall or spring semesters (including weekends), the week after Thanksgiving Break, or the week after Spring Break. Students may only take exams in the summer if the date is approved by all committee members and the DGS. At least two months before the scheduled exam date, the student must provide the Director of Graduate Studies with a reading list for his or her approval. At that time, the third faculty member-at-large will be appointed to the Committee, and he or she will have an opportunity to propose changes in the reading list.

8.  Students will answer three to five questions prepared by the Qualifying Committee, reflecting key sociological issues raised by the reading list as well as broader issues of theory and method that may be relevant to the area.  The answers together may be no longer than 30 typed, double-spaced pages (references and/or bibliography are not to make up any part of these 30 pages), with one inch margins, using an 11 or a 12-point font.

Students will have 72 hours (three days) to complete the exam. They may work at any site, and are free to use any books and personal notes during the exam period. Students are expected to work entirely on their own during the examination period. The Qualifying Committee will fail an examination without review if a student receives help from another person during the exam period or if a student shares the contents of the examination questions or responses with anyone during the exam period without the express permission of the Director of Graduate Studies. Plagiarism or collusion during the exam period are grounds for expulsion from the graduate program, as per University policy. If requested by the student, the Department will try to provide a quiet place to work and access to a computer.
Note:   Examples of qualifying exam questions and answers are also available from the graduate secretary upon request.

A student who, just prior to or during the exam period, encounters an emergency that would affect his or her performance on the exam should contact the Director of Graduate Studies as soon as possible.  The Director of Graduate Studies is empowered to consider the situation, as well as other special circumstances outside of the student’s or committee’s control, to determine whether some special accommodation seems fair and reasonable, and, if so, to implement that accommodation.

9.  If the exam is taken during the academic year it will be evaluated by the Qualifying Exam Committee within three weeks.  If it is taken during the summer the Qualifying Exam Committee has until the beginning of the fall semester to evaluate the exam.  Available grades are pass and fail.  A unanimous vote of the Committee is required for pass.  Students are encouraged to seek feedback from committee members about their performance on the exam.

10.  A successful Qualifying Exam will demonstrate a student's mastery of chosen readings, as evidenced by an ability:  to synthesize creatively diverse perspectives and findings in a way that has the potential to extend existing literature; to discuss relevant works at a detail sufficient to demonstrate that they have been read and understood; to think critically about the readings and to provide reasoned judgments about their worth and utility; to write coherent and organized prose.  Failed exams will display an absence of these qualities.

11.  Qualifying Examination procedures and performances will be reviewed annually by the Graduate Affairs Committee and the Director of Graduate Studies.  Suggestions for minor changes will go to the Executive Committee for approval, while suggestions for major changes will be considered by the full faculty.

12.  Students who wish to take the Qualifying Exam during the next year should inform the Director of Graduate Studies by the end of the first week of the Fall Semester.  Typically, the Qualifying Exam is taken only during the regular academic year -- which includes the fall and spring semesters.  Again, only under special, pre-approved circumstances will graduate students be allowed to complete the Qualifying Examination during the summer.