Comprehensive field examination instructions
Department of History
Field Examination Instructions
(Revised 27 April 2012)
The comprehensive examination covers a field of study broadly defined. Students will be asked to demonstrate an acceptable level of understanding of the entire breadth of a historical field in terms of various subject areas and chronological coverage. Core readings for each field will serve as the basis of student reading lists. In general, the comprehensive examination focuses on historiography and historiographical debates. Students in U.S. history, medieval and renaissance history, and modern European history should consult the suggested reading lists compiled by the faculty for designated chronological and thematic areas. Students should use these suggested reading lists as the basis for putting together their own examination list. These lists are available from the graduate programs secretary. For students in other fields, please consult old examination reading lists (on file with the graduate programs secretary) as guides. However, each student is ultimately responsible for developing his/her own bibliography which will serve as the basis for the examination. The members of the student’s committee may add or delete works from the list, and ALL members of the committee MUST approve the final reading list no later than one month before the examination.
There is no magic number of books and/or articles for an exam reading list. However, reading lists generally will run in length as follows:
MA major field examinations and Ph.D. minor fields examinations: 50-70 works.
Ph.D. major field examinations: 80-120 works.
Students should complete their major field examinations as they complete the course work for their particular degree. If not taken during the last semester of course work, the examination should be completed during the semester immediately following the completion of such course work. Specifically, MA major field examinations should occur as students complete the 27 hours required for the degree. MA Public History students should take their examinations as they complete the 33 hours for that degree. PhD students should take their major field examinations at the conclusion of the 57 hours of course work required for that degree and before they take the Dissertation Proposal Seminar. Minor field exams should be taken within a semester after the course work for that portion of the degree is completed.
Major and Minor Field Examinations in U.S. History:
For the M.A. major field examination or the Ph.D. minor field examination in U.S. history, students should choose two of the three designated chronological areas. They should also choose one thematic area for the examination. For the Ph.D. major field examination in U.S. history, students should choose two of the three designated chronological areas. They should also choose two thematic areas for the examination. The three designated chronological areas are: early America (before 1800); 19th-century U.S. history; and 20th-century U.S. history. Thematic areas include: urban, women/gender, sexuality, Atlantic world, Indian, cultural, African-American/race, American west, immigration and ethnicity, labor, environmental, and legal. Other thematic fields are possible with the approval of all committee members.
Major and Minor Field Examinations in non-U.S. History Fields:
For the M.A. major field examination and the Ph.D. major and minor field examinations in areas outside of U.S. history (such as medieval/renaissance, modern/early modern Europe and other thematic fields), students should work closely with their committee members to create reading lists with a broad chronological sweep and a set number of thematic areas.
The designated take-home examination formats are as follows:
M.A. Major Field: Students must answer two examination questions (out of a possible four questions) by producing two 10-15 page essays. Examination essays should quote when necessary from readings and use formal citations of endnotes or footnotes in accordance the University of Chicago Press’s Manual of Style (available at: http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html), Kate Turabian, Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, or the MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing, 3rd edition. The student has one week to complete the examination.
Ph.D. Minor Field: Students must answer two examination questions (out of a possible four questions) by producing two 10-15 page essays. Examination essays should quote when necessary from readings and use formal citations s of endnotes or footnotes in accordance the University of Chicago Press’s Manual of Style (available at: http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html) or the MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing, 3rd edition. The student has one week to complete the examination.
Ph.D. Major Field: Students must answer three examination questions (out of a possible six questions) by producing three 10-15 page essays. Examination essays should quote from readings when necessary and use formal citations s of endnotes or footnotes in accordance the University of Chicago Press’s Manual of Style (available at: http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html ), Kate Turabian, Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, or the MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing, 3rd edition. The student has two weeks to complete the examination.
The take-home examination in the Ph.D. Major Field is followed by a two-hour oral examination. The oral examination is normally scheduled within two weeks of taking and passing the take-home examination. No oral exam is required for the M.A. Major Field or Ph.D. Minor Field.
Students must complete the examination within the designated one- or two-week period. Failure to complete the exam on time will result in a failing grade and the student will be required to retake the examination. Only in exceptional circumstances can this rule be waived.
Public History Oral Exam: The public history oral examination for M.A. students in the public history program and for Ph.D. students in the joint public history and U.S. history program is a two hour examination.
Designated hours for comprehensive examinations under the old format (open to students who entered the program before fall 2010):
M.A. Major field 3 hrs. Ph.D. Major field 5 hrs.
Ph.D. Minor field 3 hrs.
Public History Oral 2 hrs. Ph.D. Oral 2 hrs.
For all written comprehensive exams (MA major field , Ph.D. minor field, and Ph.D. major field), each professor supplies two exam questions and the student must answer ONE from each professor. The student will thus answer two questions for the MA major field examination or the Ph.D. minor field examination. The student will thus answer three questions for the Ph.D. major field examination. Sample questions from past examinations are available for student viewing from the graduate programs secretary. For the public history oral examination, please see the director of the public history program for exact procedures. For the oral examination portion of the Ph.D. major field exam, please see the head of your examination committee for exact procedures.
To ‘pass with distinction’ (the only other option outside of pass and fail), you must receive a ‘high pass’ from all members of the exam committee on all examination questions. Please make certain you mark which questions you are answering--this will eliminate some initial guessing on the examiner’s part when grading.
PART I. Setting up the Field Examination Committee / Constructing the Examination Reading List /Meeting with Committee Members
Setting Up the Examination Committee
In general, students should obtain a Field Examination Committee Form from the graduate programs secretary one year before they wish to take an examination. Once a student has identified the faculty member he or she wishes to serve as committee chair, the student and faculty member should meet to discuss the fields and potential committee members. Students are responsible for asking other professors to serve as members of their committee. In general, students should work with professors with whom they have taken classes or worked in a scholarly capacity. The major field examination for the M.A. degree and the minor field examination for the Ph.D. consist of two examiners (one of which is the chair of the exam). The major field examination for the Ph.D. consists of three examiners (one of which is the Chair of the exam). A student’s advisor generally serves as the chair of the examination committee. The public history oral examination for the M.A. and for the Ph.D. joint program consists of two examiners.
The chair and the committee members must sign the student’s Field Examination Committee Form, who then returns the form to the Graduate Program Director to review and place in the student’s file. Once all paperwork and forms are completed and signed and the Graduate Program Director has signed the Field Examination Committee Form, the committee is established.
Creating the Examination Reading List
The student will confer with each prospective committee member, discuss the parameters of the fields, and determine the relevant bibliography for which he or she will be held responsible during the examination. Again, students should consult the suggested reading lists (available from the graduate programs secretary) for assistance in creating their own examination lists. Once a preliminary reading list is assembled, students must distribute this list to all members of the examination committee for their approval. Please remember that committee members will usually make revisions to the list. A final (revised) examination reading list MUST be approved by all members of the committee at least one month before the examination date. The student is responsible for sending a final electronic or hardcopy of the final exam reading list to ALL members of the examination committee AND the graduate programs secretary at least one month before the examination date.
Black Chicago (Civil Rights, Great Migration, Politics, Social Conditions)
Colonial North American and British Atlantic History
History of American Sexuality
History of U.S. Immigration and Ethnicity
Modern Europe History
North American Indian History
North American Urban History
U.S. History, 1800-1860
U.S. History, 1861-present
U.S. History, 1900-1945
U.S. History, 1945-present
U.S. Women & Gender History
Comp Exam Schedule
Meeting with Committee Members
Students should meet with EACH individual member of their committee at least once during the exam studying process. Students should make sure that the final examination reading list is approved and that each member has a copy of the final reading list. Meetings with each individual faculty member should occur at least one month before the examination date.
Students may elect to meet with committee members more frequently to discuss potential topics for examination questions and/or to ask questions about particular readings. Students are encouraged to consult sample questions from past examinations in preparation for these meetings. The graduate programs secretary has copies of these questions on file. It is the student’s responsibility to keep in touch with the examination committee prior to taking the exam.
PART II. Scheduling the Examination and Taking the Examination
When a student is ready to schedule the examination, he or she fills out the Examination Request Form. This form goes to the Graduate Program Director who performs a file check to determine that the student has fulfilled all the requirements necessary to take the examination.
Students taking the take-home comprehensive examination will use the Examination Request Form to establish a date and time to obtain a copy of the examination from the graduate programs secretary. M.A. major field examinations and Ph.D. minor field examinations are due one week later at the same time that the examination was originally obtained. Ph.D. major field examinations are due two weeks later at the same time that the examination was originally obtained. A hard copy of the examination must be hand delivered or an electronic copy of the examination must be sent to the graduate programs secretary by the aforementioned time. Students must complete the examination within the designated one- or two-week period. Failure to complete the exam on time will result in a failing grade and the student will be required to retake the examination. Only in exceptional circumstances can this rule be waived.