To Learn More About the Exams:

Qualifying Examinations

Comprehensive Exam
Specialization Exam

Comprehensive Examination

The function of the Comprehensive Examination is to ensure that you have a broad yet focused understanding of the field of literacy. The exam is part of the larger process of the program that begins with establishing a broad understanding of the field providing the context for a deeper understanding of a specific domain within which you complete a very focused piece of research. At the same time, the exam does have a certifying or gate-keeping function in that a solid understanding of the broad field of literacy is a necessary expectation of an individual holding a doctoral degree from this institution. Consequently, the exam requires you to demonstrate to the members of the department, in writing, a thoughtful and critical understanding of the theory, research, and tensions in the broad field of literacy through each of the three domains--The nature and acquisition of literacy across the lifespan, Literacy and schooling, and Literacy and society.

These domains clearly overlap and are not intended to split a thoroughly interconnected field into separate pieces. Literacy acquisition across the life span is influenced by the institutional structures within which it is acquired, and these structures and the acquisition are influenced by society. Although literacy acquisition and learning happen in societies, in families, and in and out of school and other institutional contexts, these are not the focus of domain 1. Issues of gender, or of reading disability, for example, might turn up in all three domains, but would be cast differently in each. Texts children read could be located in any or all of these domains, depending on how they are framed. The domains are merely to provide divergent points of emphasis and thus ensure a broad understanding of the field.

Specialization Examination

When you have obtained agreement from faculty to serve on your committee, and appointed a chair, you and your committee will set the domains for your Specialization Examination. The Specialization Examination is the vehicle through which you demonstrate an understanding of the methodological and substantive issues in your area of specialization. It is intended to ensure that when the dissertation study is designed, it is current, significant, and theoretically and methodologically sound.

The Specialization Examination consists of two qualifying papers that integrate and critique the theory and research relevant to your dissertation research. One paper focuses on content issues, the second on methodological and related epistemological issues with which scholars in the substantive but narrowly defined domain of inquiry have struggled. These review essays will be comprehensive but selective in the material they include and will form the basis for the dissertation proposal and chapters in the dissertation. For example, the methodology paper will ultimately lead to, but not be the same as, the methods sections of the proposal or dissertation, which will detail a specific set of procedures with appropriate logic.