guidelines
guidelines

III. Comprehensive Examinations

3.1 In addition to the 2.0 regular course requirements, all students must enroll in two Comprehensive Examination courses (CDNS 6905 and 6907 at Carleton, or CAST 6070H and 6080H at Trent). Normally students register in these courses during the first year, concurrent with registration in their regular courses, although the comprehensive examinations will not normally be written until the second year of the student’s program. The grades for CDNS 6905 and 6907 or CAST 6070H and 6080H are reported as “in progress” until the comprehensive examinations are completed.

3.2 The purpose of comprehensive examinations is to provide an opportunity to demonstrate a detailed knowledge of the relevant literature within two of the following fields: Culture, Literature and the Arts; Environment and Heritage; Policy, Economy and Society; Identities; and Women’s Studies. These fields are meant to be broad-ranging, exposing students to significant works related to Canadian Studies. A satisfactory examination demonstrates analytical and critical studies preparatory to both research and teaching.

3.3 Comprehensive field examinations should provide students with a wide understanding of the field for the purposes of both teaching and thesis preparation. For each of the two comprehensive examinations, the following procedures must be followed. The student, in consultation with Director of the School or the Director of the Frost Centre and his or her Dissertation Supervisor (if the latter has been confirmed), will select a Field Supervisor for each comprehensive examination. The Field Supervisor, in consultation with the student, will identify the remaining members of the Comprehensive Examining Committee.  Each Committee will consist of three faculty members in total, selected from eligible faculty at Carleton or Trent. Normally these faculty members would be from the student’s home university, but if appropriate arrangements can be made, faculty members from the partner institution can be included. Normally a total of six faculty members should be involved in both comprehensive exams (three in each) as each committee is intended to be distinct. The Comprehensive Examining Committee must receive final approval from the Director of the School or the Director of the Frost Centre. The Dissertation Supervisor (if in place) will be informed of each Committee's composition prior to its final approval.

3.4 Students are required to have at least one dissertation committee member from the other joint institution. The formal designation of this committee member is the responsibility of the Director of the home institution. The Director can play an important role in identifying potential faculty members and facilitating communication between students, supervisors, and prospective (either dissertation or comprehensive) committee members. Consultation with the Director at a student’s home institution is normally advised in establishing such links. It is recognized, however, that if there are well established relationships between a supervisor or a student and potential committee members that such initial communication may not be necessary.

3.5 Comprehensive examination reading lists should contain 40 to 60 book titles, with 3-4 articles considered equivalent to a book. The Field Supervisor and the student will compile the initial reading list. Following consultation with and agreement by the Comprehensive Examining Committee, a final reading list will be forwarded to the Director of the School or the Director of the Frost Centre for approval.  A copy of the list will be forwarded to Carleton/Trent, but only for information purposes.

3.6 It is understood that the comprehensive exam process is intended in large measure to be an independent learning process. It is the student’s responsibility to consult with his/her comprehensive supervisor and committee members to develop a strategy to assess her/his eventual preparedness to the take the exam. This strategy should be documented in writing and must be agreed upon by the full committee early in the preparation process. Obtaining such documentation is the responsibility of the student. Any written work submitted as part of the comprehensive preparatory process, while not graded, is subject to each institution’s policies on academic integrity.

3.7 Students must complete a Request for Comprehensive Written Examination Form, available from the graduate program administrator of the School or the Frost Centre. All members of the Comprehensive Examining Committee sign this form, and by so doing agree to examine the student during the designated examination period. Students requiring special accommodations (e.g. accommodations for documented learning disabilities) or requiring use of a computer must indicate their needs on the form. The time, date and place of the exam will be announced at least two weeks in advance.

3.8 The Field Supervisor, in consultation with the Comprehensive Examining Committee will set the examination questions. For the both field examinations, students will answer three of six questions in either a four-hour time period or in a take-home examination. Students may bring a copy of their Comprehensive reading list into the exam for the four-hour exam.  No cell phones or other electronic devices may be brought to the examination room. In the case of the take-home examination, students will be given seven days to answer three questions out of six. Answers for the four-hour exam are expected to be between 800 -1000 words each; for the take-home each answer is to expected to be between 2,500 to 3,000 words. Answers for the take-home examinations are expected to be more polished than those written for the four-hour examination.

The written component of the examination will be read by the Comprehensive Examining Committee, normally within one week of the written examination. The Comprehensive Examining Committee must advise the Comprehensive Exam Supervisor and the Graduate Administrator within 7 days as to whether they agree that this written exam may proceed to an oral exam.

If the written examination is considered a “pass,” the comprehensive committee supervisor will recommend that an oral examination proceed and will ask the Director of the School or the Director of the Frost Centre to appoint a Chair of the oral examination. (At least two of the three-committee members must agree that the written exam should proceed to an oral).  The Director of the School or the Director of the Frost Centre will inform the student that the oral exam will proceed. The oral examination will normally take place within two weeks of the written examination.

If the student fails the written exam, s/he may re-take the examination at a later date. If a student fails the oral, s/he will be deemed to have failed the comprehensive exam, and may re-take both the oral and written at a later date. In any re-take, the Comprehensive Examining Committee will remain the same, but the content of the written and thus the oral examination will be changed.

3.9 Students will receive a copy of their answers on the written examination a full day before the oral examination so that they may review their exam. Questions in the oral examination will be asked by members of the Comprehensive Examining Committee. The oral examination will focus on the three questions answered by the student in the written component, but may also include questions related to the questions not answered. Upon completion of the questioning, the Comprehensive Examining Committee will deliberate and arrive at a grade for the combined written and oral examination. This grade will be conveyed at once to the student, and the Chair of the Examination will report the grade to the Director of the School or the Director of the Frost Centre. The Chair will also ensure that the questions have been filed with the School and Frost Centre along with the Ph.D. Field Examination Report. When a member of the Comprehensive Examining Committee is from the other university, the oral component of the examination will be conducted through a conference call.

3.10 Grades for the combined assessment of the written and oral components of the examination are “unsatisfactory,” “satisfactory,” and “pass with distinction.” Any appeals, by the student or examining committee members must be made in writing to the Dean of Graduate Studies of the “home” university within four weeks of the announcement of the results. The results of comprehensive examinations may only be appealed on procedural grounds.

3.11 A student who fails a comprehensive examination will be permitted one re-examination. Any student who fails a second comprehensive examination (either the initial examination and its re-examination, or the initial examination in two fields) will be withdrawn from the program.

3.12 To remain in the program, full-time students must complete their comprehensive examinations within 24 months of their initial registration in the Ph.D. program. The first field examination will be held in February of the students’ second year in the program (18 months of initial registration) and the second field examination will be held at the end of August of their second year (24 months of initial registration.) Part-time Ph.D. students should finish their comprehensive examinations within 48 months of completing course work, and before defending their dissertation proposal.

3.13 Unless there are extenuating circumstances, approved by both the Director of the School and the Director of the Frost Centre and the appropriate Graduate Dean, students who fail to meet the requirements in 3.10 will be withdrawn from the program.