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Comprehensive Exams

Introduction and Overview

In the Doctoral Program in Developmental Education, the comprehensive exam is designed both to prepare students for the dissertation stage as well as demonstrate their readiness for dissertation research, and is achieved through a process that reflects the kinds of tasks that are a part of the vast majority of dissertations. In this section that process is described.

Each student will form a Comprehensive Exam Committee that is comprised of their advisor and two other faculty members from the program. There are TWO options for your comprehensive exams. You and your advisor (and your committee) will discuss each option and decide which better aligns with your background, program goals, and dissertation goals. Neither option is “greater” or “lesser” than the other, and both options are designed to cover the same processes and achieve the same control over salient aspects of empirical research. The main differences, as will be noted in the descriptions below, center around how the Two-project Option has a more scaffolded and formal literature review aspect, and the One-project Option has data collection and analysis aspects. In the table below, a brief description of each Option is presented side-by-side. Then, in the sections below, each option is described in detail.

Overview of Comprehensive Exam Options
Two-project Option of Comprehensive Exams
With advisor and the Program Plan Committee’s assistance, the student chooses which comps option to undertake
One-project Option of Comprehensive Exams
In the Two-project Option, students will complete two parts of the comprehensive exam. Part I is the Control of Literature and Part II is the Control of Research. Part I, Control of Literature, is a structured, critical review of literature in the field. Part II, Control of Research, is a complete proposal for an empirical research study. Part I must be completed before Part II, and students must successfully complete both the oral and written aspects of both Part I and Part II in order to pass the comprehensive exam.
In the One-project Option of Comprehensive Exams, students complete all aspects of a small-scale empirical research study—the Pilot Research Project—including research design, literature support, original data collection and analysis and producing a written manuscript of publishable quality. Students must pass both the written portion (the manuscript) and the oral portion (the committee defense) of the project in order to pass the comprehensive exam.

Note that while APA format is the default formatting expectation in these documents, if you are writing one of your comprehensive exam papers toward a specific journal and wish to use their formatting requirements, that is fine and just needs to be formally communicated to your committee. Each document should be 25-30 pages, not including references.

Click on one of the following links for specific information about the Two-project Option and the One-project Option: