Exams Planning

By js, 27 January, 2009, No Comment

A friend asked me about the planning that I am doing for the qualifying exams. Every program has specific requirements and expectations about how the path set up toward the exams will help the candidate.

Texas Tech TCR program is specific. We have the following stages:

  • dissertation preproposal
  • reading list
  • discuss exam questions
  • take exams
  • dissertation proposal
  • submit dissertation
  • defend.

The first two, I think, must be worked on recursively although many students have said that they add things to their reading lists after they submit them.

Even though the preproposal has that “pre,” which gives it the sense that it is more informal, the experiences others have had show that the preproposal is a solid idea of what you will do although it needs to be phrased as if you don’t know the outcome yet. Most of us don’t do quantitative research so we don’t send up hypothesis, etc., but I think we do need to have an idea of what we will find through our research. Although, of course, that idea probably will change/shift as we work.

The preproposal, generally 10 pages long, provides the questions we will focus on, the rationale for that research, a discussion of relevant research, and a discussion of our proposed methods. This preproposal needs to be approved by the committee chair. Once it has his/her approval it goes on to the other two committee members.

After the preproposal is approved, the reading list is submitted and approved. The reading list and the preproposal give the committee members the direction for the questions they will write. We know we probably will get a topic question, a tech comm/rhetoric question, and a methods question. My committee chair has said that he will ask me for suggestions for questions. The committee uses the reading list, the proposal, and the suggestions to draft the reading list. We have four days for the qualifying exams. Our committee responds with the outcome and a meeting is held during which the date for the proposal submission is set. The student becomes a candidate after she has passed the qualifying exams.

The structure which the program has set seems logical to me, but what I have had issues with is writing the dissertation preproposal. I have spent much of the last semester doing background reading to help me understand cultural theory and chicano scholarship. It seems to me that I can’t have a good grasp of how I will provide a rationale for my project unless I do so.

I can provide a rationale by only turning to mainstream rhetorical texts and digitial rhetoric theory. But because of the focus of my subject, Chicana bloggers, I think it is important to understand cultural theory especially as it relates to Chicanos. This, of course, may be too large of an undertaking since it can take several solid years in the field before I feel confident of my understanding.

Not much of the cultural studies scholarship or the Chicana studies scholarship will probably end up in the preproposal, but I do think I need a solid understanding to solidly understand the direction I am going. One of my PhD colleagues said that she felt after she took exams that she did too much reading in preparation and instead should have concentrated on those texts which she had already read and which she knew were going to be central to her work. I’m beginning to feel the same thing.


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