The Comprehensive Exams Process

As I mentioned in my last post, this semester I am preparing to take my comprehensive exams. The structure of these exams varies greatly based on the university and department. For mine, the standard is that you work with your committee members to create reading lists (roughly 60 sources per list), which then prepares you to get four questions the week of your comps, and you have five days to write 15-20 pages per question.

Thankfully, I am able to take advantage of a new policy in our department where you can substitute two questions for a paper of publishable quality. Since I am currently working on an article for publication, my committee agreed to this substitution and I only have to do two questions in three days.

The plan is for me to take the exams mid-March, so I have roughly two months to prepare. My goal is to read 1 list a month, which equals roughly 15 readings each week (including a few books). Each list is centered around a specific topic that is decided upon with a committee member who specializes in that area of research. My two topics are on (1) nonprofit organizations and postcolonial representation; (2) the trajectory of cultural and practice approaches in language and social interaction (LSI) research.

If those two things make no sense to you, that is okay. They are VERY specific, which is necessary to narrow down the reading lists and give me a focus for the exam questions. Also, you get to learn what those topics mean as I take you along on this journey.

This month I am working on the reading list about nonprofit organizations and postcolonial representation. For the last two weeks I have focused on two themes under that umbrella: general research on nonprofits and research on faith-based organizations. My next post will summarize some of those readings.

For now, let me know if you have any questions about the comprehensive exams process. I look forward to hearing your feedback along the way!

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