Comprehensive examination

The comprehensive examination covers two different areas of linguistics (normally corresponding to your primary and secondary areas of concentration) and consists of written and oral components. The written comprehensive may consist of two research papers, two closed-book or take-home exams, or some combination of these. At least one of the two papers or exams should deal with a core area of linguistic theory. The format of the written examination will be determined by your Advisory Committee on the basis of your areas of concentration. When you pass the written examination, you should proceed to the oral portion of the comprehensive within two weeks.

While the written exam format will involve a separate exam for each of the two areas (see below), students following the research paper format may write papers that reflect a combination of their areas of concentration (e.g., sociolinguistics and phonetics, historical linguistics and syntactic theory, etc.). However, the two papers should still indicate breadth of knowledge as well as depth, which could be shown by the use of different research methodologies or by focusing on different languages, for example.

Details specific to the different formats of the exam are given below.

A. Written comprehensive exam

1. Research paper format

Your first research paper will normally be a revised and expanded version of a paper written for a course (usually no more than 25 pages). The paper should be approved by the Major Professor, then submitted to the other members of your committee. Once the paper has passed, a 30-minute oral defense will be scheduled, the purpose of which is to test your understanding of the material covered in the paper and to give you practice for the oral comprehensive examination. At the discretion of the committee, if the student presents this work in the Linguistics Colloquium or at a conference, the defense of the first paper may be combined with the defense of the second as part of the official oral exam.

Your second research paper should be more original and more comprehensive than the first and must be of publishable quality (usually at least 25 pages). While it may also be based on a paper written for a course, it should go well beyond the original course paper in depth and/or breadth. The paper should be approved by the Major Professor then submitted to the other members of your committee. Once the paper has passed, the oral comprehensive examination is scheduled as outlined below.

2. Take-home exam format

You will prepare two reading lists with the help of the Major Professor. After the two lists have been approved by the Major Professor, they will be e-mailed to the other two professors on your committee. It is your responsibility to provide the two finalized reading lists to all three members of your committee at least two weeks in advance of the exam.

You will write a separate exam on each reading list, and may refer to items on the reading lists or other published sources. Each exam will be given to the student at 5:00 pm on a regular operating day of the university and must be turned in at 8:00 am on the third day following (e.g., from 5:00 pm Friday until 8:00 am Monday). You will write the exam in a format determined by the Advisory Committee and e-mail it to all committee members by the deadline. On each exam the student must demonstrate a good understanding of the subject matter and provide a level of detail and quality of argumentation commensurate with the time and resources allowed.

3. Closed-book exam format

You will prepare two reading lists with the help of your Major Professor. After the two lists have been approved by your Major Professor, they will be e-mailed to the other two members of your committee. It is your responsibility to provide the two finalized reading lists to all three members of your committee at least two weeks in advance of the exam.

You will sit a separate 3-hour examination on each reading list on two different days. The exam may be written by hand or using a computer, at the discretion of the committee. On each exam you must demonstrate a good understanding of the subject matter and provide a level of detail and quality of argumentation commensurate with the time and resources allowed.

B. Oral comprehensive exam

The Doctoral Oral Comprehensive Exam must be announced with the Graduate School, as it is technically a public event. You must contact the Graduate Coordinator or the Graduate Coordinator's Assistant to announce your Oral Comprehensive Exam two weeks prior to the scheduled event.

The oral comprehensive exam lasts for 90 minutes. It will begin with an oral defense of your second research paper (or both the first and second papers if the separate "mini-defense" of the first paper is waved by your committee) or a consideration of your performance on the written exams, but after this, questions may range over any material on the exam reading lists and/or your program of study.

Written and oral exams will be graded on the scale High Pass/Pass/Fail. Two passing votes are required to pass each portion of the exam.

If you should fail any portion of the exam, you may retake it once, no sooner than two weeks after the first attempt but within one additional semester. If you should fail this portion of the exam a second time, you will be dismissed from the program.

Dissertation Prospectus

Within one semester after passing the comprehensive examination, you should submit a dissertation prospectus to your Advisory Committee for approval. The prospectus should propose a problem for a doctoral dissertation, ascertain the originality of the idea with reference to the available literature, and demonstrate the availability of means and materials required to solve the problem. The prospectus need not be lengthy, and should not exceed 5,000 words (excluding references).

When you, your Major Professor, and your Advisory Committee agree that the prospectus is complete, a copy must be filed with the Department Head. The Head will publish for the faculty and students at least once per year a list of dissertation topics currently in progress in the department, along with the names of the students and their Advisory Committees.

Click here for more detailed instructions regarding the dissertation prospectus.

Dissertation and oral defense

Upon approval of the prospectus by the Advisory Committee, you will prepare a dissertation. The dissertation is based on original research which makes a significant contribution to knowledge in some area of theoretical and/or applied linguistics. Previous dissertations by students in the department are available for your consideration. You must present a bound copy of the completed dissertation to the department.

Theses and dissertations will be submitted electronically to the Graduate School. Consult the UGA Graduate School Policies and Procedures regarding electronic theses and dissertations.

The oral defense of a dissertation must be announced with the Graduate School, as it is technically a public event. You must contact the Graduate Coordinator or the Graduate Coordinator's Assistant to announce your Oral Comprehensive Exam two weeks prior to the date of the defense.

You will defend your dissertation in an oral examination of approximately 90 minutes, and at most two hours. When you and you Major Professor agree that the dissertation is complete, it must be circulated to the other members of the Advisory Committee at least three weeks before the date of the defense. The defense itself must be scheduled for at least one week prior to the deadline for submission of the completed thesis to the Graduate School prior to graduation.

Updated: 7/27/2015