Doctoral Examinations

The PhD examination process involves two portfolio papers, an oral or written examination on a bibliography of a minimum of forty works central to the student's specialization, and a colloquy on the dissertation prospectus. One of the portfolio papers will have as its focus the student’s primary area of specialization while the other paper will address a different area. The bibliography will be constructed by the student in consultation with the committee, and will accompany the portfolio papers for formal evaluation by the committee.  Students should have an approved ipos on file and a committee appointed before submitting the portfolio. 

The Phd Literature Exam Structure has recently changed.  Students in literature have the option of the current structure (two portfolio papers, a written or an oral exam, and the colloquy) or they may choose the new exam process (one paper, an oral exam, and a colloquy). 

PART I - Portfolio

Students will send via email two papers,  the bibliography, and the PhD Examination, Part I--Portfolio Review and Statement of Intent   to sheila@asu.edu.  The committee will assess each of the papers and judge them (a) acceptable, (b) acceptable with minor revisions, (c) acceptable with major revision, (d) unacceptable. The committee has the option of awarding an extraordinary portfolio a "Pass with Distinction." A summary of the committee's evaluation, provided by the chair of the committee, will be made available to the student who should feel free to consult with the chair and members of the committee for clarification about revisions that might have been requested.  Revisions should be submitted to the committee by the date mandated by the committee chair, or at the latest by the end of the following semester. Students whose portfolios are judged to be unacceptable will not be allowed to continue in the program.
 
Portfolios must be submitted by October 31 for the fall semester and March 3l for the spring semester if a report is expected during the semester of submission. A student will normally present the portfolio in the semester prior to taking the oral examination, but if the portfolio is submitted early enough in any given semester to allow for an early report, and if all members of the supervisory committee are agreeable, it is possible to schedule the oral examination in the same semester.
 
Students preparing for the portfolio are expected to work closely with the chair of the supervisory committee as the primary source of advice in the preparation of the papers, including approval of the choice of papers. It is helpful to keep in mind that the portfolio’s intent is to demonstrate that the student is able to produce scholarly work at a level expected by the profession and consistent with the degree program. Essays may be revised versions of work submitted in courses, but they must bear no grade or comment. Because papers submitted in the portfolio will be read more critically than is often the case with course work, students should not assume that a term paper favorably evaluated in a course will meet the scholarly standard required of a successful portfolio essay (a student who expects to use a course paper in the portfolio might ask the professor for whom it is written to read and evaluate it with that goal in mind). In both length and in level of scholarship the papers should be modeled after articles published in specific scholarly journals in the field. Portfolio papers must be single-authored by the student.

Faculty will consider the following questions when evaluating:  What is the method of approaching the material? Are the arguments sound and is the analysis convincing? Is the essay well organized?  Is the student aware of the current literature in the field?  How well does the essay relate to this literature? Are the mechanics and style of writing satisfactory?

PART II – Exam

After the portfolio has been judged acceptable and in consultation with their advisors, students choose to take either an oral or a written exam.

Oral Examination:  For Part II of the examination, the committee will prepare questions for an oral examination based on the student's bibliography and will be responsible for evaluating the student's performance in that examination. Students should discuss with their committee when the exam should be scheduled and then contact Sheila Luna for a room. A few days before the exam, contact the Main Office at 965-3535 to reserve a tape recorder. Download the Doctoral Oral Exam Form and bring the form and a blank tape to the exam. After the exam, return the signed form and tape to Sheila Luna.
 
The purpose of the oral examination is to demonstrate that the candidate has an appropriate and readily accessible knowledge of representative primary and secondary works in the area(s) of specialization and the dissertation topic. During the examination session, students will demonstrate not only that they have a detailed knowledge of the material contained on their book list, but that they are able to think critically about the items and are able to generate ideas that bring various items on the list together competently and creatively. Students will be given a range of questions from specific interpretations of items on the book list to broader questions that explore general concepts and issues raised by the books on their list.
 
The oral examination will last approximately one and a half hours and will be conducted by the student’s dissertation committee. The examination will be tape-recorded for documentation purposes. The tape will be kept in the student’s file, accessible to the committee and the student, until graduation. Students will not be allowed to bring in notes, though they will be provided with a pad of paper and a pencil if they should want to jot down ideas during the examination. Before questioning begins, students will make a brief presentation (10 minutes) explaining the rationale behind their bibliography. Committee faculty will take turns asking questions, allowing for follow-up questioning. Each committee member will submit questions to the committee chair (approximately two questions per committee member). Approximately six questions, exclusive of follow-up questions, will comprise the exam. At the end of the examination, the student will be excused from the room, and the committee will discuss the student’s performance. Each committee member will fill out the form using a number equivalent (3=high pass, 2= pass, 1=low pass, 0= fail) to evaluate the student’s performance. The student will be called back into the meeting so that the committee can convey to the student its assessment of the examination. Students who fail the exam may re-take it once. Depending on the circumstances and reasons for failure, students are expected to re-take the exam no later than the end of the following semester. 
 
Written Examination: A four-hour written exam in the student's area of specialization will be scheduled by mutual agreement between the student, the chair of the committee, and the other committee members.
 
For Part II of the examination, the committee will prepare a written examination based on the student's bibliography and will be responsible for evaluating the student's performance in that examination.   Just as the portfolio is meant to test a specific attainment, the ability to produce professional scholarly writing, so the purpose of the written examination is to demonstrate that the candidate has an appropriate knowledge of representative primary and secondary works in the area of specialization and the dissertation topic. The student is not allowed notes for the exam other than the bibliography itself. The department expects that the examination will be broader in scope than the dissertation (which is the subject of the third part of the examination process, the colloquy on the dissertation prospectus). As with the oral exam, students can receive a high pass, pass, low pass, or fail.

Part III - Colloquy on the Dissertation Prospectus

Successful completion of the examination will be followed by a colloquy on the dissertation prospectus. This colloquy may be scheduled in the same semester as the written examination but no later than the semester following that examination. The subject and format of the dissertation will be decided in consultation with the student's supervisory committee and with the approval of the director of the PhD program. The prospectus, especially the research plan and procedure, constitutes the basis for the colloquy with the supervisory committee. An alternative format for the dissertation, other than a traditional monograph, must be approved by the dissertation chair and the supervisory committee. Students interested in an alternative format should contact the director of graduate studies or  the program director for details about alternative dissertation formats that may be considered and to seek approval.  After the defense of the prospectus, the student must submit the signed Report of Doctoral Prospectus form to the graduate program manager for processing.
 
Students can track the completion of milestones on their MyASU, such as the approved ipos, language requirement, PhD exams, prospectus. When all milestones have been met, the Schedule a Defense tab will become available. Please note: students taking exams in between terms, must be registered for the next session (e.g., after spring and before summer – students must be registered for summer).

Part IV - Defense of the Dissertation

The student should confer with members of the supervisory committee to determine the preferred procedure for submitting sections of the dissertation (for example, whether each member of the committee wishes to examine, along with the chair, each separate section or only the complete first draft).

Students may find it helpful to attend other oral defenses before their own is scheduled. Defenses are announced via e-mail in the Department of English, in Insight, and posted on the fifth floor of the language and literature building. It is the obligation of the candidate to observe Graduate College Graduation Procedures and Deadlines for both approval of formatting and the defense of the dissertation.  After the student and committee members agree on a date and time for the defense, the student can contact Sheila Luna to schedule a room.  Note:  date, time, and room must be determined before students can schedule a defense with the Graduate College.  Defense scheduling is done online through the student's MyASU - defense schedule tab.  Notes and documentation in doctoral dissertations are to conform to the latest edition of the MLA Style Manual, or the APA Publication Manual or any other format accepted by the Graduate College.

Oral defenses of theses and dissertations are announced in the English Department. A student preparing for his/her defense should send an e-mail to Sheila@asu.edu, which will include student name, thesis/dissertation title, date, time, room, committee chair, committee members, and a brief abstract. The abstract should be in the body of the e-mail, not as an attachment.

The PhD examination process involves an essay in the area of specialization, an oral examination on a bibliography of 60-80 texts central to the student's primary field and particular specialization, and a colloquy on the dissertation prospectus. Students may petition to take a written exam in lieu of the oral exam. The bibliography will be constructed by the student in consultation with the committee, and will accompany the essay for formal evaluation by the committee.  Students should have an approved ipos on file and a committee appointed before submitting the essay.

PART I – Essay

Students will submit to the graduate program manager the essay, an approved bibliography that will serve as the material for the exam, and the “Essay Review and Statement of Intent” form.  (These three documents must be sent via email to sheila@asu.edu.) This material must be submitted at least a month prior to the date of the exam, the date of which should be determined at the time of submission. In other words, students will indicate the date of the scheduled exam when they submit their essay. The committee will assess the paper and judge it acceptable or unacceptable. If an essay is judged to be acceptable, the committee will not submit a formal report; rather, the essay will be discussed during the exam, where any suggestions for revisions and further development will be made. The committee has the option of awarding an extraordinary essay a "Pass with Distinction." Students whose essay is judged to be unacceptable will not be allowed to continue in the program.

Students preparing the essay are expected to work closely with the chair of the supervisory committee as the primary source of advice in the preparation of the paper. It is helpful to keep in mind that the essay’s intent is to demonstrate that the student is able to produce scholarly work at a level expected by the profession and consistent with the degree program. The essay may be a revised version of work submitted in a course, but it must bear no grade or comment. Because the paper submitted will be read more critically than is often the case with course work, students should not assume that a term paper favorably evaluated in a course will meet the scholarly standard required of a successful PhD essay (a student who expects to use a course paper might ask the professor for whom it was written to read and evaluate it with that goal in mind). In both length and in level of scholarship the paper should be modeled after articles published in specific scholarly journals in the field. The essay must be single-authored by the student. 

Faculty will consider the following questions when evaluating: What is the method of approaching the material? Are the arguments sound and is the analysis convincing? Is the essay well organized? Is the student aware of the current literature in the field? How well does the essay relate to this literature? Are the mechanics and style of writing satisfactory?

If the essay has been judged acceptable, students will proceed to the scheduled oral exam on the material included in the student’s bibliography. (Under special circumstances, a student may petition for a written exam in lieu of the oral exam; in that case, the committee will provide written feedback on the essay along with their feedback on the exam.) The bibliography should consist of 60-80 texts, both primary and secondary, and should be constructed in close consultation with the student’s director and committee. It is expected that approximately 70% of those texts will be selected with an eye to breadth and will cover the general range of the student’s primary field. The remaining 30% will cover the student’s specialty, which should be chosen to advance the student’s dissertation research. 

Part II—Oral Exam

The committee will prepare an oral examination based on the student's bibliography and will be responsible for evaluating the student's performance in that examination. Just as the essay is meant to test a specific attainment, the ability to produce professional scholarly writing, so the purpose of the oral examination is to demonstrate that the candidate has an appropriate knowledge of representative primary and secondary works in the area of specialization and the dissertation topic. The department expects that the examination will be broader in scope than the dissertation (which is the subject of the third part of the examination process, the colloquy on the dissertation prospectus). Students can receive a high pass, pass, low pass, or fail.
 
The oral examination will last approximately one and a half hours and will be conducted by the student’s dissertation committee. The examination will be tape-recorded for documentation purposes. The tape will be kept in the student’s file, accessible to the committee and the student, until graduation. Students will not be allowed to bring in notes, though they will be provided with a pad of paper and a pencil if they should want to jot down ideas during the examination. Before questioning begins, students will make a brief presentation (10 minutes) explaining the rationale behind their bibliography. Committee faculty will take turns asking questions, allowing for follow-up questioning. At the end of the examination, the student will be excused from the room, and the committee will discuss the student’s performance. Each committee member will fill out the form using a number equivalent (3=high pass, 2= pass, 1=low pass, 0= fail) to evaluate the student’s performance. The student will be called back into the meeting so that the committee can convey to the student its assessment of the examination. Students who fail the exam may re-take it once. Depending on the circumstances and reasons for failure, students are expected to re-take the exam no later than the end of the following semester. 

Petitioning for a Written Examination

Students may petition the Director of Graduate Studies to substitute a written exam for the oral exam. The petition should include a one-page justification for the exam along with a letter of support from the chair of the student’s dissertation committee. If the petition is approved, a four-hour written exam in the student's area of specialization will be scheduled by mutual agreement between the student, the chair of the committee, and the other committee members.

Part III - Colloquy on the Dissertation Prospectus

Successful completion of the examination will be followed by a colloquy on the dissertation prospectus. This colloquy may be scheduled in the same semester as the written examination but no later than the semester following that examination. The subject and format of the dissertation will be decided in consultation with the student's supervisory committee and with the approval of the director of the PhD program. The prospectus, especially the research plan and procedure, constitutes the basis for the colloquy with the supervisory committee. An alternative format for the dissertation, other than a traditional monograph, must be approved by the dissertation chair and the supervisory committee. Students interested in an alternative format should contact the director of graduate studies or the program director for details about alternative dissertation formats that may be considered and to seek approval. After the defense of the prospectus, the student must submit the signed Report of Doctoral Prospectus form to the graduate program manager for processing.

Students can track the completion of milestones on their MyASU, such as the approved ipos, language requirement, PhD exams, prospectus. When all milestones have been met, the Schedule a Defense tab will become available. Please note: students taking exams in between terms, must be registered for the next session (e.g., after spring and before summer – students must be registered for summer).

Part IV - Defense of the Dissertation

The student should confer with members of the supervisory committee to determine the preferred procedure for submitting sections of the dissertation (for example, whether each member of the committee wishes to examine, along with the chair, each separate section or only the complete first draft).

Students may find it helpful to attend other oral defenses before their own is scheduled. Defenses are announced via e-mail in the Department of English, in Insight, and posted on the fifth floor of the language and literature building. It is the obligation of the candidate to observe Graduate College Graduation Procedures and Deadlines for both approval of formatting and the defense of the dissertation. After the student and committee members agree on a date and time for the defense, the student can contact Sheila Luna to schedule a room. Note: date, time, and room must be determined before students can schedule a defense with the Graduate College. Defense scheduling is done online through the student's MyASU - defense schedule tab. Notes and documentation in doctoral dissertations are to conform to the latest edition of the MLA Style Manual, or the APA Publication Manual or any other format accepted by the Graduate College.

Oral defenses of theses and dissertations are announced in the English Department. A student preparing for his/her defense should send an e-mail to Sheila@asu.edu, which will include student name, thesis/dissertation title, date, time, room, committee chair, committee members, and a brief abstract. The abstract should be in the body of the e-mail, not as an attachment.

  1. Discuss with your committee when the oral examination should be scheduled.
  2. After deciding a date and time, contact Sarah Saucedo (slsauced@asu.edu)   in RBH 170 to schedule a room for your examination.
  3. A few days before your exam, contact the English department main office at 480-965-3535 to reserve an audio cassette tape recorder for your oral exam. If you have a digital means of recording the exam, that is acceptable as well, providing you submit the disc or flashdrive to the Graduate Program Manager in RBH 125
  4. Download the Doctoral Oral Examination form. On examination day, bring this form and a blank audio cassette tape, or digital recording device, to your examination.
  5. After the examination, committee members will sign the oral exam form. Return the signed form and the tape or disc to Sheila Luna. Once the form is received, your exam status will be entered into the system as completed.