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History and Geography

Comprehensive Field Exams

Students in the Digital History Ph.D. program at Clemson take a written exam in each of their three fields (digital, primary, concentration). Once a student has satisfied the exam for each field, they will complete an oral comprehensive exam. Graduate readings courses (HIST 8860) are meant to help a student prepare for their field exam. This page describes the exam process.

1. Graduate Readings Courses

  • A graduate readings course is the capstone course to a Ph.D. student’s primary, concentration, or digital field. The course is designed to prepare them for the comprehensive field exam.
  • While students will enroll in Hist 8860 for both their primary and concentration fields, Hist 8820: Digital Historiography fulfills this purpose for the digital field.
  • For the concentration or digital field, reading lists should include roughly 50 books and for the primary roughly 100 books (with 3 articles counting as the equivalent for a book).
    • The student should begin this list and the faculty should add and contribute to the list to ensure historiographical coverage. The list can (and should) include relevant scholarship that the student has read and engaged with in their coursework.
    • The student should meet with the professor 6-8 times over the course of the semester to discuss a representative portion of the reading list. They should also discuss potential questions and themes that may appear on the field exam.
    • To register for HIST 8860: Graduate Readings, students must submit a Graduate Readings Request form the semester prior to taking the course. Forms must be submitted by either Nov 1st (for courses taken in the spring) or April 1st (for courses taken in the summer or fall).
  • The timing of these classes will differ for every student, but for full time students its expected that they will begin taking graduate readings courses in the Spring of their second year.
  • Grading for Graduate Reading Courses: The output and grading for a graduate readings course should be evaluated at the instructor’s discretion. However, at a minimum, the output of the course should include a syllabus related to the content of the field. The grade for the graduate readings course is independent from the result of the field exam.

2. Written Field Exams

  • Every graduate readings course will culminate in a Field Exam (take-home). For this assessment, the student will write two 10-page essays, answering broad historiographical questions about the field. The goal here is to map the field and to think about the large-scale conversations that are taking place in the scholarship.
  • Assessments are open note and open book, and students have 7 days to complete them. Questions will be loaded into Canvas and released to students at 5:00AM on Monday and are due by 11:59PM the following Sunday.
  • To initiate an exam, the supervising faculty should consult with the student's advisor and submit the Comprehensive Field Exam Questions form to the Ph.D. director no less than 7 days before the exam begins.
  • Timing of the exam: Students are eligible to take their exam at the conclusion of the semester in which they complete the graduate readings course for that field but they should consult with their field supervisor and advisor about the timing of the exam. In some cases a student may wish to wait until the following semester to take an exam. Exams are offered twice a semester – in the first two weeks of classes during the fall or spring semester or during finals week.
    • For the digital field, students are eligible to take their field exam at the conclusion of the semester in which they complete 15 units.
  • Result of exam: The exam is read by both the field supervisor and the student's advisor who will determine if the student has passed or failed the exam. In the result of a disagreement over the result of the exam, the Ph.D. director will weigh in. The result of the exam should be recorded on the Field Exam Result Form and forwarded to both the student and Director of the Ph.D. program.

3. Comprehensive Oral Exam

  • Timing of the Exam: The oral exam will occur after the completion of all the field exams. The student should consult with their advisor to determine the timing and when the advisor feels the student is ready to take the exam. The exam may happen as soon as the week following the final written exam or bleed into the following semester.
  • Scholarly Profile Statement: No less than 48 hours before the exam, the student should submit to the advisory committee a five-page scholarly profile that discusses the student’s intellectual trajectory during their coursework in the doctoral program. It should describe who the student is as a scholar and their interests and expertise as a historian.
  • The oral exam covers both the concentration and primary fields and should last no longer than 2 hours.